Miami coding bootcamp Ironhack recently launched an intensive course in UX/UI Design, where students learn everything they need to know about user research, rapid prototyping, user testing, and front-end web development to land their first job in UX design. We sat down with instructor (and UX superstar) Jacqueline Pastore on their first day of class to find out what makes a great UX/UI Designer (think: listening skills, empathy and communication), how the school produces User Experience Unicorns by incorporating HTML/Bootstrap skills into the curriculum, and the teaching style that future students can expect at Ironhack Miami.
How did you become a successful UX Designer? Did you get a degree in “UX Design?”
I’m a career changer! My background was first in film and creative writing, and I worked in the film industry in Miami before I ended up in Boston, temping as a project manager for a venture capital company with an incubator focused on Harvard and MIT startups. I learned from really smart people about computers, software, graphic design, and project management; and IBM had their Lotus Notes usability labs next door, so I got to participate as a usability tester. I went back to grad school at Bentley University for my Masters in Human Factors in Information Design, and had a magical career doing ethnography and user research at Microsoft, Staples, Adidas, and Reebok, and UX design for Fidelity Investments, Staples, the Federal Reserve, JP Morgan Chase, H&R Block, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, and Zumba Fitness.
Two years ago, I moved back to Miami and started my own product, UX Gofer, which is a UX research tool.
After spending years learning User Experience and even getting a Masters degree, why do you believe in the bootcamp model as an effective way to learn UX Design?
I went through my grad program very quickly (in one year), so I believe that you can learn this material very quickly and then continue learning on the job. That’s exactly why I’ve had a successful career, by specifically going after different verticals, technologies, and platforms. If I hadn’t used something before, I wanted to try it. I believe that you can learn the fundamentals quickly and then refine them throughout your career.
What made you excited to work at Ironhack in particular- what stands out about Ironhack to you as a professional UX Designer?
It was the people. I was referred to Ironhack by someone I’ve respected in the industry for years, and they were right. The people running Ironhack are what convinced me to work on this UX Bootcamp.
Did you have teaching experience prior to teaching at the bootcamp? What is different about teaching at a coding bootcamp?
I teach now at the University of Miami, at conferences, and bootcamps. At Ironhack, my personal teaching style is to lecture very little, and focus on hands-on work. It’s important to know the foundations and principles and science behind what we do, but at the end of the day, you have to deliver. So we spend the majority of our days doing activities, which means running surveys, doing interviews, running usability tests, designing products. I think it’s so important for students to create their portfolio pieces throughout the bootcamp, instead of just having one portfolio project at the end of the course. For someone breaking into the UX community, the portfolio is how students demonstrate their knowledge and how they approach projects.
This is Ironhack’s first foray into UX/UI design courses! Tell us about the curriculum.
Marcelo Paiva and I created the Ironhack curriculum based on what we would have wanted to learn in a bootcamp if we were to just get started in this field. We follow the user and product development lifecycles to make sure that our students have all the skills they need to be useful right now in the current marketplace.
We start with user research – how to talk to your target market, the methodology behind that research, what to do with that data, deliverables, and turning that data into concept design.
We move into information architecture and interaction design, with low-fidelity all the way into high-fidelity, and micro interaction models. We use Invision, Sketch, and Principal as the tools for that piece of the curriculum. Then we move into visual design for mobile and web, because they are two different beasts.
Then we move into front-end development, where students learn how to implement the designs they’re creating. This is what the industry is looking for right now: the unicorns that can do the HTML and bootstrap to implement their own designs. That will make Ironhack students really effective and marketable.
Finally, we move into individual projects. Ironhack students are building portfolio pieces from Day One, but towards the end of the course, they work on more specific projects and breakouts for additional topics that we haven’t covered yet.
I’m so super excited about this bootcamp and I think it’s really valuable.
Is the push for designers to learn to code the biggest trend in the UX/UI field right now?
It depends on where our graduates choose to work. As part of a smaller team, a UX Designer will have to be more of a generalist, and need to do research, design, and development. If they’re working for a larger organization, they can specialize in a particular field within UX like ethnography, or mobile design, or design thinking. As a whole, I think careers in the UX community are becoming both broader and more specialized. The UX community is both coming together and breaking into niches.
How many instructors, TAs, and/or mentors do you have? Is there an ideal student:teacher ratio?
The student:teacher ratio for the UX/UI course is 10:1. Many of the required activities are tackled in groups among the students in groups of 3 or 4. As the principal instructor, I lead and teach the main flow of the course, and we have subject matter experts and mentors come in to teach sections of the curriculum that are more specialized e.g. design thinking, front-end development, etc.
Can you tell us a little bit about the ideal student for Ironhack’s UX/UI Design Bootcamp? What’s your class like right now? And how do the UX students differ from the coding bootcamp students?
The ideal student for the UX/UI Design Bootcamp is someone who possesses strong communication skills, can use empathy to jump into other people’s shoes, and has a passion for user-experience. The current class is a wonderful mix of many professional backgrounds: for example, some profiles include a former Marketing Manager for Sony Music, a Research Director from the non-profit space, and an MBA grad looking to use their previous Business Process skills to crack into the UX sector.
This is a full-time bootcamp, but how many hours a week do you expect your students to commit to Ironhack Miami?
In addition to the daily schedule of 9am to 6pm, we expect students to spend approximately 20 hours outside of class time to work on assignments and projects- so about ~65 hours/week.
In a UX bootcamp, is the style largely project based? Can you give us an example?
Yes, students will work on 2 projects during the first 6 weeks (one individual project and one group project). These projects are a sum of the individual units we cover on a week-by-week basis. The capstone of the course is a 2-week final project that each student completes individually, as they go through the entire user and product development lifecycles. The result at the end of the course is that each student has 3 prototypes that they can use as portfolio pieces moving forward.
What’s the goal for a student that graduates from Ironhack (in terms of career and ability)? For example, will they be prepared for a junior UX/UI role? A senior role?
The goal of this course is to provide students the skills to carry out a UX/UI design process from beginning to end in multiple circumstances with varying goals. As a result, students will be prepared for junior and entry-level roles in UX/UI fields, depending on which part of that process most interests them.
For our readers who are beginners, what resources or meetups do you recommend for aspiring bootcampers in Miami?
We also really love the free Hack Design course which is a fantastic resource for someone who wants to delve more into this world!
Is there anything else that you want to make sure our readers know about Ironhack’s new UX/UI Design Bootcamp?
If you have any more questions about the course, coding, or Ironhack in general, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d be happy to help you figure out what next steps might work best for your profile and individual goals!