How to Kickstart Your Tech Career with Career Foundry

Wednesday, September 24

12-12:30pm EST

Career Foundry combines the flexibility of online learning with the proven guidance of mentors, training students to become employable developers and UX designers in three months. Join us for a FREE webinar with Career Foundry's CMO, Emil Lemprecht.

  • Hear from Emil Lamprecht, UX Designer and CMO of Career Foundry, who will share tips and tricks to breaking into the world of UX Design.
  • Find out how to make a career change and the types of jobs available to a UX designer. 
  • Learn about the Career Foundry UX Design program!

Remember, the Course Report community is eligible for 10% off tuition to Career Foundry!

 

 

The full webinar is transcribed below: 

Kickstart Your Tech Career- Lunch & Learn with Career Foundry

 

Today in the lunch & learn we are joined by Emil from Career Foundry. Emil is a designer and also the CMO of Career Foundry. He’s going to share his journey into UX design and share some tips and tricks on how you can make a career change into tech as well. So I’m really excited for that.

I want to remind everyone that this will be a sort of a student answer webinar, so please us the questions tab to send in any questions or you can tweet @coursereport and we will try to get to all of them.

One other reminder is that we have a pretty sweet discount for all of you who are tuning in, so use Course Report in the referral section of the application when you apply to Career Foundry and you’ll get 10% off tuition. I’m also happy to answer any questions about discounts and scholarships after the webinar.

So I will pass it off to Emil. Emil, just introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about your background and your journey into UX design.

Emil: Hi everybody, thanks Liz, for having me. It’s great to be working with course report and we love doing this session, so thanks everyone who is joining and watching as well, I appreciate your time.

My name is Emil, Lamprecht and as Liz mentioned, I’m the CMO at Career Foundry. That means that my responsibilities range particularly between marketing products and as part of that, UX design is a big part of what I do; it always has been.

My career actually started not in tech; it started in toys 7 or 8 years ago, designing toys, building them up to launch and then helping launch them to markets across the world. I’ve been doing things in media, both traditional advertising media but also on the film side, working on a lot of film festivals; again, making the process of creating products for a very distinct market.

And then playing with options in different industries till I ended up in tech about 4 years ago.  Realized that in tech what I was doing had actual names, one of which was UX designer, user experience design which was sort of a process that I had hatched for myself but hadn’t really attached a name to. And then over the past few years, I really made that a large part of what I do.

Obviously, my position states that. But the UX course that we designed at Career Foundry was really a large part of what brought me to the company. It was an opportunity for me to develop something that isn’t really available yet as a course and as an ideal. {Inaudible} about trying to help define the UX fields.

Some people really think of UX as something that is inherent to strategy, is a thought process that is not necessarily a separate role, while many others feel that it really is a distinct and separate role that is an individual’s responsibility within a company or within a firm or within a small startup or a website.

What’s interesting for me is that I articulated thee introduction to UXS with of my own history. I started with toys. When we’re talking about user experience design, we’re not necessarily just talking about a digital technique. We’re talking basically about a social science technique; we’re talking about a study of human nature in reaction to experience. And that involves a lot of psychology and a lot of marketing knowledge. It involves a lot of understanding and awareness of people, particularly the people that are the target or your market and being able to go out and find those distinct personalities and habits and being able to study them to create something that’s appropriate for them specifically.

That’s not necessarily true of UX tech. When we talk about UX today and certainly when we talk about Career Foundry within the context of the course with regards to careers; UX design as a career in technology is growing and expanding very rapidly, so of course we’re going to talk about it mostly within the technology field. But we should be aware that there is a side to it that’s not technological; that doesn’t necessarily only incorporate the need to understand computers and technology but it’s really the way this glass is shaped, the way this wine tastes, the way this phone is built; all elements that require a human reaction and those have to be designed, be catered to. UX is just one more way of thinking and approaching that.

I think one of the reasons Liz invited me to do this – and feel free to interrupt me, Liz if there’s questions- one of the reasons we wanted to have this session as we discussed when setting up was really, again a continuing discussion of definition specifically of the UX field. I’d be interested to know; maybe all of you here would be interested in writing a comment. How many of you understand what the actual differences are between UX and UI. What the actual differences are between UI and graphical or visual branding design. These lines are all pretty blurred. They’re pretty hard to put a finger straight on.

UX design for me is a separate field but something that is really a very distinct skill set/ So whether or not you incorporate it as part of many things that you do as a professional or as strictly, purely that, I think you’re capable of doing both and I think it‘s important to understand that it is something that you have to get to in some stage of UX. So you’re going to be multiple things. You’re going to be a UX/UI designer. If that’s what you want to become, you’ve got to understand both processes as they are separately as much as they are together.

To that point, Career Foundry; our courses are really a UX Course. What we try and teach is a process of what others would call basically product development. Your goal is to go and formulate that into something that can be tested.

Every iteration of that throughout the entirety of not only the course but the creating and developing a UX product - and that includes products that are currently active, not just new products – is trying to formulate a testing environment for the goal at hand So if the goal at hand is to create a project management app the specifically does this best, or maybe you don’t know what it needs to do best Maybe it needs to do something distinctly that the rest of the market or project management doesn’t. You need to be able to formulate that and structure that into a questionnaire or some sort of interaction for testing your product with users to have them tell you what you need. To help them define themselves as potential users of this product so that you have a clear idea of that profile, who that s and what they need to accomplish in their daily activity through an app like this.

This exchange, this testing environment is consistent throughout the entire development of the product; it’s a lot of the process that we focus on.

Liz: So Emil, Clay just wrote in saying: This is what I think UX is about: the experience and creating a business solution and UI is the digital aspect that solution. Would you agree with that?

Emil: It’s a very interesting way of putting it. To a large extent, it’s true. And it’s mostly true because UI, unlike UX is strictly a digital application. User interface applies in its definition – if you look it up in the dictionary – it implies that it has to do with a digital interface.

S user interface is digital, therefore any sort of design around it is a digital format design. UX is not necessarily that.

To some extent yes. I would say that…the only thing I would say differently is that the design to a business goal is equal responsibility because you’re basically trying to say, okay, this is everything that the user needs to accomplish this business goal effectively. This is the priority of information, this is the structure of how the product should be laid out/ the features that are most important for that to be effective for that user to accomplish that goal. UI’s responsibility is to then say, okay, from this user, from these goals, how do we use digital elements and responsiveness to a user when they’re touching the button or interacting with the product, to draw them in and through that line of thought and through that storyline very succinctly?

So UX sort of lays out the story, if you will and UI is articulating it, making sure that your eye is drawn to a certain place. That it’s really taking the user and grabbing them so much than saying okay, this is the pleasantries of it but within that we want you to get here, go there and go there.

When you think about UX design, what are the baseline skills that are going into that? Do you consider hard business skills being part of that role? Are you interacting a lot with non-technical people and project and product managers on a team? Tell us about those hard skills that people need to have in order to break into the industry.

Emil: For any role it really helps a lot to have a base understanding of all the roles around you. In large corporate tech, it’s not as critical. The process is going to be succinct and not include as much interaction. Not meaning that you shouldn’t, just meaning it’s not necessary.

But in a startup environment, everyone has to wear multiple hats. It’s something you do all the time as long as the startup is still a startup. That means that the UX role particularly tends to be kind of a liaison. It’s a liaison between product people if there are product people. It’s a liaison between them and the developers and the other designers on the team because part of what the UX process involves is trying to understand what pieces of the communication or what pieces of the articulation.

And that means that marketers in a way, as part of their continuing market research and development, it’s their responsibility to incorporate that to how they design the content and refine the content to be perfect for those users.

Even in the course that we teach, you write content for the product that you’re building. Not necessarily because you need to be a content expert, We don’t expect you to be doing phenomenal marketing copy but by going through the exercise of creating the whole breadth of product and having to spend that time and understand how, where, who, how, you kind of gain a breadth of vision.

So yes, it is a liaison dynamic role. There’s no simple version of a UX designer except maybe in the very extreme of a large corporate context where you’re given very specific things to test and very specific things to answer for. That’s a little bit different but for the most part; you’re going to be across mixed roles to some extent.

Liz: Right. And maybe because it’s a new and evolving field, I feel like you can’t major in UX design, right, in undergrad? How do you suggest that people best prepare themselves for a career in UX design? If somebody’s doing their undergrad right now, what could they major in potentially? Psychology or graphic design? What are your thoughts on that?

Emil: It’s a really interesting question because UX is still so young. Let’s look at it in practical terms. The term, user experience design was invented in 1998-99 as an ideal for testing interaction with a certain product. It didn’t really become a profession or a succinct skill set until about 2006 so it hasn’t really existed very long.

However, UX is an adaptation of many different elements of skill. At the moment, it’s an adaptation of design skills or testing skills related to technology, at least for this discussion. That means that there are many fields that at least lead you in the right thinking direction.

There are several universities in the United States, also here in Europe – not very many but a few – who have very intense interaction design courses. Interaction design as a university program means you’re studying many different elements of design. But it also, because it has to do with interaction which is the human touch, the human element, you’re dealing with basically a human thought process; UX thought development through learning that.

Now, there is no university that teaches UX design. There’s hardly websites that teach proper UX design. Even if you look at many of the free courses that exist across the platforms and everything else, very few of them are actually UX design. They’re usually some form of mixed UI design with some of the testing processes in there.

Again, the lack of sufficient definition between the different disciplines’. So I’ll just quickly loop this quickly back because at Career Foundry that’s what we built, we built this because it didn’t exist; creating a curriculum to become a UX design nerve, to start off of in this course.

However way you choose to go about it, this will provide lots of opportunities to bring people out, which is actually, as a professional setting because each person who decides to call themselves a UX designer has the opportunity to contribute to that definition and contribute to what education of the topic should become or should be in the future, which I think is a very phase in the eyes of UX designers.

But it’s also an interesting opportunity from the standpoint of the academics in the world. The academics working in universities who are trying to develop curriculums that are helping students grow into new industries, specifically into tech which is one of the largest growing spaces in the world. So there’s an opportunity there but there’s not a lot available yet. It is very limited, particularly in the academic world.

To answer your exact question, there are interaction design programs; psychology is certainly a great place to start whether you want to be a marketer or any sort of research designer.

Technical visual design programs, ones that really focus on technical design, that’s going to teach you a lot. It may not give you the UX process but it’s going to teach you about research, it’s going to teach you how to look at users from the perspective of ‘this person’s going to like this color’, which is an important piece of theory to understand.

So I definitely think those are good venues to go start but to have the UX process, you still need to find one of the very few resources that exist in the world that are going to be able to lay that out for you succinctly.

Liz: In sort of the same vein because UX design is a new role, what kinds of roles do you see? What’s the job market like? Does every company have a UX designer? Do certain types of companies have UX designers? Do they do freelancers? What are the job prospects?

Emil: The good news is that the job prospects are growing at a psychotic pace; UX is one of these terms that is blowing up. The problem that happens is that not everyone who’s looking for a UX designer – or actually, I would say a large majority of people that are looking for a UX designer don’t really know what they’re looking for yet. They don’t know what that is because they don’t necessarily understand it themselves yet.

You’ll see job posts that are very mixed. You’ll see job posts for UX designers that include requirements for being a coder. You’ll see a lot of UX/UI. Sometimes they really are UX and UI designers that they’re looking for; sometimes the just call it UX/UI but the actual job really implies just a UI job.

It sort of depends on the market as well. Obviously, if you’re in San Francisco, if you’re in New York, is you’re in L.A., if you’re in London, you’re talking about a technical job market which is much more informed, is much more trending around the limits or pushing the limits but it tends to get more succinct in other regional markets like here in Berlin; it will sort of be more c confused.

You have to look at it very subjectively. You have to say okay, this is what’s being asked for and {20:30 Sound breaks up} therefore, this is the right job for me. Do I want to be a UX specialist or do I want to be a mixed role person? There are such things as good UX and UI designers. There are even such things as unicorns, UX. UI and graphics developers. However, it’s very, very hard to stay good at all three all the time. It’s hard enough being an expert at one thing; try being an expert at all three. It’s really tough.

So I really encourage people who are looking to do UX design to earn that process; to adopt it, to stick to it and really look for the opportunities to y be real UX designers. They’re sometimes hard to find, they sometimes take gently explaining to a potential employer what they’re actually going to do for them. It’s your job as a UX designer again, to start defining that more and more. If you can learn UI as well, if you can balance it with that it will definitely grow your job opportunities because there’s always going to be opportunities for other mixed roles, for one or the other.

So you have to be good at two things and you have to stay good and stay up to date on those two things and be able to constantly sell yourself in that way – and that’s tough.

The first part of your question; there’s lots of freelance; there’s lots of actual jobs. Freelance is going to be more on the startup end, real solid, long-term jobs are going to be more on the corporate end; it depends what you’re looking for.

Liz: Clay has a really interesting question. He says, “My goal is to become a UX designer for my current company. We’re a CRM company, I currently work in marketing.” He says, “Our application is weak in UX/UI. Do you have any advice on how to convince my employer that UX is important and is a needed role at the company?”

Emil: It’s an interesting question, something that a lot of our students come to us with. We even have people from major German corporates and UK corporates and actually a few U.S. corporates who are coming to us with this question. They realize as marketers or as designers that UX is going to become a very important perspective as the company becomes more digital.

When you’re talking to your employer about it, tee are very practical things you can point out, which is UX is the study of the user experience, the user process, of that story. The business goal of most companies is going to be very defined. It’s going to be this person has to sign up or this person has to buy X or this person has to be accountable for XYZ for whatever period of time.

And what UUX’s goal is, is to look at that process and refine it; make it easier, make it more natural, make it more interesting for that target user. So essentially, what UX should be doing, particularly with an interactive product is a very refined version of conversion optimization. That’s really what you’re going to be doing.

So you’re going to be taking whatever the business goals of that company are and breaking them down into, okay, the user has to go through this process to get there. How can we make that more enjoyable for them, more natural for them, more interesting for them and specifically for that person; for that profile of users?

And if there’s a subset of user profiles, what do they need? Can we bring them in through a different entrance or is there a different storyline for them to get them to the same goal quicker and more efficiently and more happily?

So that’s the most basic one. For employers, it’s “Listen; this is our way of seriously advancing our conversion optimization within our products...

The second one to be frank, a lot of employers – and this depends on your employer; I know two students that this worked for recently, which is why I bring it up, otherwise I wouldn’t really think of it. A lot of employers are just looking to invest in whatever that next thing is. A lot of employers really need you to say okay, this is on the horizon; this is becoming very important, particularly on the low level, on the startup level and the building level. This is what we need us a big company to jump the gun and be on the trendy end and use techniques that help us grow in a way that small companies are doing, and use that as leverage both internally to bring new staff and new interest in but also externally. Maybe it’s a PR story, maybe it’s…

Again, it’s not something I would’ve thought of except that’s exactly how two of our students have sold it to their employers who then proceeded to happily pay for them to take the course and have seen huge improvement as we speak.

I can’t answer the question too succinctly without knowing what kind of company it is or what the actual goal is but conversion optimization really being the optimal answer; a really good perspective on that, a process of executing it.

Liz: Absolutely. That’s awesome advice. I want to spend just a few minutes talking about Career Foundry’s actual UX design program, just because you talked about different ways to learn. We’ve got the source right here so we might as well get some of these questions answered as well. Does somebody need to have a certain background in order to succeed in the Career Foundry program? You all have been evolving over the last year; have you seen sort of an ideal student in the UX program?

Emil: The ideal student is…You have to do your research. You’re not going to pay for a course unless it’s something you really want to learn. I mean, some people do and it’s fair; they want to try it out or they’re not really sure and they want to see if this is an experience for them.

But do your research; see if this something you really want to do. See if what the idea, the philosophy behind UX design is meets your interests or not. Because ultimately what it comes down to from a motivational perspective, from a learning perspective and from an execution perspective... I mean the product you build as a core piece of portfolio as you go through the course comes from the fact that you have to be interested. You have to be very dedicated to it like ay earning, I suppose; like any career, I suppose.

We have students of all levels. We have students who are total beginners. We have one student who was a history major in university but really likes using mobile apps and technology. Just looking at the span, okay, regardless of my past. what interests me for the future? She looked at the range of what she can learn to make an impact on the tech industry, to bring herself into it. UX design was a philosophy that fit for her and she’s a phenomenal student – with no understanding previously of what it is. And she’s doing great.

We have other people who are longtime designers; guys who were in the ad world or print world for 10-plus years who said okay, technology is just way more fun to work on now. It’s easier to get more work for that or its more interesting or it’s the next development of whatever I’ve been doing. Now I’m going to go take this UX course and add it as a toolkit or an extra tool set to my entire approach to design and offering as a designer and then take that forward and make that one big jump forward, so I can really build products not just pan them but build them.

So in the end, does it really matter if you have experience? Do you need prerequisites? No. As I said, the best students are the ones that are really driven to the topic, to the philosophy. And it you’re not sure how we define UX design, there’s an article on our blog called The Difference between UX and UI design. It was a very important piece for us because it makes some very strong claims about our opinion about UX design. But it also articulates the philosophy that we follow in the course.

What we teach in the course is more than anything a process {30:14 Sound breaks up}.

You have to be open and honest with yourself when you’re dealing with people. We can give you {30:30 Sound breaks up} and you know what the execution points are beyond that to meet that end goal of your employer or your interest in your product or clients, however your interaction is based.

That process is really the strongest takeaway. For 3 months, you learn how to build products. You learn all the elements that are incorporated in UX design. It’s a first step towards taking that career. It’s not necessarily definitive. If you have no previous experience in the tech field at all, it’s going to hard to walk into a high-level position after 3 months of practice of training. But we can certainly provide you with a very strong infrastructure and a great portfolio to kick off and go get those few first small clients or even that internship or junior level position and star building on that idea and that career.

Liz: That’s a very realistic goal. Christopher Lewis has a question. He says, how easy or hard is it to complete your program while working a 9 to 5 job? This was one of my questions as well.

Emil: The ultimate question! Christopher, there’s no regular answer to this. Again, we have people who really struggle with it – like really; a lot. But we also have people who fly through it.

The main thing you have to realize is that like with any learning process or any course, it is a commitment, it comes down to the situation of your personal life and your job. If you are the type of person who is I n a job that’s draining and you come home at 5 p.m. every day burnt and just want to sit in front of the TV, it’s going to be really tough.

It’s going to be hard because you’re talking about 5 lessons a week if you’re executing it on a 3-month schedule. You can do it fast or you can do it slower. If you’re doing it on a 3-month pace, 5 lessons will be between 2 and 5 hours. Some are a little bit shorter; some are a little bit longer. If you want to do a really great job, it’s going to take more time. If you really want to experience the whole breadth of learning and get the most out of your mentor, whom you get to meet with once a week messages and guide you through questions and messages you reviews and whatever…

All the interaction combined, it is a time commitment. Not to sound scary but we do have students who come in, “Oh, 10 to 15 hours a week; no problem.” If you’re running a fulltime job and you’re coming home tired from it, it is a problem. You wither have to really commit your weekends to it or agree to a pace that’s going to let you study for 4, 5, 6 months which is fine; you can do that with our product but you want to make sure that you can stay motivated.

Whatever it is you need to do to make sure that you can stay motivated and have the energy to do it; that’s the most important stuff.

You had mentioned mentors; so everyone is assigned a mentor. Can you tell us about the mentor’s role, how they’re facilitating the learning process. Are they there to answer questions or are they there to teach you the curriculum? What’s their role?

Emil: The Curriculum is to some extent self-taught. We built this curriculum very specifically so you can go through it and follow a line of thought and complete practical tasks every day. So for every lesson – there are 60 lessons in the whole course – every lesson has a practical task at the end of it.

Among those 60 lessons, you get 4 mentor sessions a month but that’s just one point of interaction. The mentor sessions are basically weekly if you’re going to them regularly; a weekly Skype session with your mentor which is an hour or so to hash through the details of what you have been doing, what you will be doing and how to cater and hone what you’re doing down to a better portfolio to launch your career with it.

But the other places where they interact is you can ask questions within the course and take notes within the course, which are all contextual, so you select text or select a paragraph and ask a question within that, so the mentor can come back and see what you were looking at and answer as directly as they can.

But also, when you submit your tasks at the end of every lesson, you can submit them to the mentor to be reviewed if you want. They’ll look at it and send you feedback and/or help in answering your questions; or “hey, maybe before you move on, consider X, Y, Z” so that you’re really honed for the next stage. And that’s really their purpose. Their purpose is not to teach you so much as literally mentor you; to try and push you, motivate you and keep you accountable for learning ability that allows you to step outside of the course towards actualizing what you’ve learned.

Liz: Awesome. Okay Emil, so when does the next Career Foundry program start? Can you start at any time?

Emil: We’ve actually started this month. They all start every Monday. They will have certain limitations in terms of space. So if and when people want to book, we definitely encourage you to try and decide on your date now. Either let us know via email, you can reach out to Annie through our platform, who’s our student advisor or me personal at Emil@careerfoundry.com and we’ll try and make sure you’re hooked up for that specific start date.

But definitely, is this is something you want to do…I don’t care if you go and learn UX from us or with someone else. If you want to do it, just do it. Don’t spend too much time thinking about it and letting yourself doubt. It’s the same with all things. If you say okay, I want to do this but I want to think about it for a week, there’s an 80% chance you’re not going to do it. Because by the end of that week you’re going to be thinking of all the things that could go wrong.

If it’s something that you really want to do, that you’re really genuinely interested in, throw yourself at it. And if it’s with us, we’re going to help you get the most out of our curse as we possibly can. With our mentors, with our career services internally, with Annie our student advisor as well as myself. We’ll try and work with you as much as possible to help you reach that goal of becoming a UX designer.

Liz: Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Emil and thanks to everyone who’s joined us for this course report and Career Foundry Webinar. Emil, we can’t thank you enough for being here. If you have any additional questions for Career Foundry, I’ll send out all of their contact info after this. You can get in touch with Emil or with Annie, who is wildly helpful. If you have any questions for Course Report, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. We’ll send out a recording of this webinar so check your inboxes for that and you can share it with any of your friends who may have missed the live webinar. And please visit Coutrsereport.com, sigh up for our email list and you’ll get all of our future updates on webinars and interviews, and you can tweet us or tell us what school or topic you’d like to see at the next webinar.

Thanks so much for joining in, have a great rest of your day, and thanks, Emil.

Emil: Thank you guys, it was great to talk to you. Thanks for having me, Liz. And don’t forget the discount, guys.