After working for a decade in aerospace engineering, Jack Henstridge wanted to tap into his creative side and shift gears into UX design. After extensive research, he decided to enroll in the UX Academy program at Designlab because of the hands-on curriculum and mentorship opportunities. Jack shares how his Designlab bootcamp experience and portfolio helped him land his first design role as an Associate UX Designer at Travelport – before he even graduated!
What inspired you to pivot from an engineering career to UX design?
I am originally from the United Kingdom and completed a four-year technical degree in Aeronautical Engineering. I spent ten years working for an aerospace company, mainly as a Test and Usability Engineer. About halfway through my career, I became more frustrated with engineering. I was interested in being more creative in my work, but engineering can be limiting and by-the-book. At this time, I also began to travel more and met my (now) wife while visiting the United States. Once I moved to the United States, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to look at a new career. I enrolled in a UX Design course at Udemy and began learning with YouTube tutorials. In 2020, the perfect opportunity came around to enroll in a long-term bootcamp, and I chose Designlab.
Did you have any design experience before going to Designlab?
Between Udemy courses and my freelance photography experience, I was familiar with Adobe Suite, including Photoshop, Illustrator, and Lightroom. However, I was not familiar with the theory behind UX Design. I knew when things looked nice but I didn’t understand the "why" behind it.
There are so many design bootcamps now – why did you choose Designlab?
I can be quite neurotic about research, so it took me about a year to decide on a bootcamp to attend. I considered Thinkful, CareerFoundry, General Assembly, University of Denver, Flatiron School, and Designlab. Eventually, I reached out to Admissions at CareerFoundry and Designlab. Both schools offered similar pricing and curriculum. I chose Designlab’s UX Academy because it offered more facetime with mentors, alumni, and fellow students.
Do you have any advice for future UX bootcampers who are in the research process?
Know your learning style! I know I learn by doing rather than having someone talk to me, and Designlab is good for that. They put what you learn into practice. And if you value having a mentor, then Designlab is great! I had a no-nonsense mentor who didn't caudle me and pushed me to succeed. That’s how I learn best, so it worked out really well.
How did you prepare for Designlab?
Designlab prefers that you have some background knowledge on UI Design before you go into UX Academy. When I spoke to the admissions representative and mentioned my previous Udemy coursework, they suggested that I take a four-week Design 101 course to learn design basics—they’ve now updated this prerequisite course to UX Academy Foundations. A benefit of passing this course is that they take the price of the course off of UX Academy tuition. Once I finished the course, I submitted my work to the Designlab admissions team, and this was taken into consideration as part of the application process.
What was a typical day like in Designlab's remote UX Academy program?
In Phase One, you go through virtual lessons, which include readings, videos, and timed-quizzes. The lessons focus on UX Design Theory, including research, information architecture, design process, and design thinking. At the end of Phase One, you complete your first capstone project.
Phase Two consists mainly of real-world application of lessons learned during phase one. This phase consists primarily of capstone projects, which you can add to your portfolio.
Phase Three is all about the career search! I actually landed a job before we even started Phase Three.
How much time did you spend on Designlab each week?
I was enrolled part-time, so I was expected to complete 20 hours of work per week. Designlab has a tracker on the website to help you keep track of your time. You are responsible for your own time, but the real focus is on completing the projects.
Which UX design tools and software did you learn in Designlab’s UX Academy program?
Besides Adobe Suite, we learned Figma, Sketch, and InVision. Designlab offers students a free one-year premium subscription to Figma, along with other perks. They also have units on handoff software, like Zeplin. We also learned to use Usertesting.com and other resources for design research.
Since Designlab is an online and remote bootcamp, how did you connect with your mentor and other students in the bootcamp?
Designlab pairs you with a mentor during your bootcamp. On the part-time track, you have one planned mentor meeting per week on FaceTime or Zoom, although you can meet more. My mentor was a Senior UX Designer based in Toronto. She was great and we spent our time chatting about my questions and her work in the UX Design field. My mentor has ~10 years of work experience so she was really helpful.
Students also have to engage in one group critique session per week. The group critique sessions can include up to twelve students and one facilitator. During these sessions, students share work and exchange feedback. From those calls, I was able to interact with students one-on-one who were regularly in my session.
Everyone in Designlab also uses Slack and has various channels you can engage in, including a channel for each cohort.
What kinds of UX design projects did you build for your portfolio at Designlab?
By the end of UX Academy, you'll have completed at least four capstone projects. Designlab encourages students to seek out local businesses to work with on your project, because those could lead to a job opportunity. For my first capstone project, I created a website for a local gym based in Denver. In the second capstone, you have to design an additional feature for an existing project. I developed a feature for Netflix where you could watch movies together with your friends virtually. For my final capstone, I designed a mobile app that ranked brands based on their environmental impact.
What has been your biggest challenge in this journey to becoming a UX Designer?
The biggest challenge has been searching for a job during COVID! You need experience in order to find a job and you need a job in order to get experience – it’s a classic cliche. I had never done a design interview either. I had a 30-minute phone interview with a recruiter, then a 30-minute interview with my (now) design manager, and then I had a Zoom interview with Travelport’s Global Head of UX where I presented one of my capstone projects. For another application process, I got a design challenge. Those interviews were pretty intense!
Congrats on your new job at Travelport! How did you get the job?
Thanks! I was very eager to get a new job, so I began working on my resume and portfolio earlyon in the bootcamp. Designlab provides the bulk of career support during phase three, where you’re assigned a different mentor who is solely focused on getting you a job. You also have to submit a portfolio and resume to graduate from the UX Academy. During this phase, you complete mock interviews, apply for jobs, and attend networking events. Luckily, I didn't have to complete phase three because I found a job before then!
What is Travelport and what types of projects are you working on as an Associate UX Designer?
Travelport is one of the top three Global Distribution Systems (GDS) in the world. Anytime you search for a flight or hotel, it goes through a GDS. My team includes four UX Designers and a group of UX researchers who work across several products at Travelport. I am currently working on a product called Smart Point Cloud, a cloud-based travel agent software that allows agents to use a graphical interface rather than a terminal interface. We are developing that for all our travel agents.
Any advice for other UX bootcamp grads who are searching for their first job?
It's tough! There are a lot of jobs, but there are also many designers competing for those opportunities. If you have minimal experience, you'll likely get shut down a lot. I applied for a lot of jobs. I submitted about 50 applications, and Travelport was one of two interviews I ended up having. Luckily, they were looking for a new junior designer to mentor into a designer within their team.
So far, is this career what you expected when you signed up for Designlab?
For the most part, yes. I had to realize that UX and UI design are not always about creating these incredible user experiences. Often, it can be about the small details. Overall, this is a great creative outlet, which is what I was looking for. Even as an Associate UX Designer, there is a lot of creative freedom.
The company I work for now is large so we have separate teams of UX Designers, UI Developers, and UX Researchers. Before I went to Designlab, I would have expected to be involved in the full product design process. In reality, my day-to-day work consists primarily of just designing. I'm sure UX Designers at smaller organizations have a different experience with their job roles.
Reflecting on your career change over this past year, was Designlab worth it for you?
Yes! I went into this bootcamp thinking that it would be worth it, regardless of whether I landed a job right away afterwards. Learning with Designlab gave me the tools and knowledge I needed to start a career in UX Design – they did what they said they would do. I keep in touch with other alumni through our Slack channel and it seems like a lot of Designlab alumni are achieving their goals and posting their new jobs.
Find out more and read Designlab reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Designlab. You can also chat directly with their Admissions team by emailing or booking a call!
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