Written By Liz Eggleston
Jamie Raymond was using her degree in Graphic Design at a startup job in New York City, but realized that working with front-end web development was the most thrilling part of her job. Jamie chose to do an online course and was impressed by Skillcrush’s commitment to teaching women. She had a successful 10-day trial with Skillcrush and took both the Web Developer Blueprint and the Web Designer Blueprint. We talk to Jamie about using Mightybell to collaborate with other Skillcrush students, the freelance work she’s getting with her new skills, and the extensive advice and support that she still receives from the team at Skillcrush.
Tell us what you were up to before you decided to do Skillcrush, your career as a graphic designer and all that.
I have a degree in graphic design- mainly print-based. I took a couple of Intro to HTML and CSS courses in college, but I didn’t use it extensively. You have to keep up-to-date with industry standards and things definitely changed since I was in college.
I was working in New York at an e-commerce startup as the Graphic and Web Designer, although the startup had a separate development team. Occasionally, I did front-end development, but not as much as I wanted. I wanted to get more experience in the tech side of things.
Had you done Codecademy or any other online self-guided learning?
What were your motivations for doing a Skillcrush Blueprint?
I did the Blueprint to further my career path as a whole. I actually ended up leaving my last position because I wanted to focus more on learning and on the roles available to me. At the time, I just knew I needed more tech skills and that I was interested in web, but I didn’t know exactly what. I have a much better idea now.
When did you do the Skillcrush Blueprint?
In October 2014.
Did you ever consider doing an in-person, immersive bootcamp?
I did look into them. I actually applied to General Assembly in New York because I saw a scholarship they had for women. They had a scholarship for women and I went and applied. Unfortunately I wasn’t accepted, but Skillcrush was a great alternative.
Did it influence your decision that it was geared towards women?
Yeah, it did. It was attractive to me. I attended a few meetups too with Girl Develop It - and then the fact that men can join if they want but I like that it’s geared towards women.
Are you still in New York?
Presently, I am not working in NYC; I live in New Jersey. While pursuing opportunities in Web Design and Development, I am working on a freelance basis mostly from home.
Which Blueprint did you take?
First, I did the Web Developer Blueprint. I was really happy with that so I signed up for the Web Designer course. Even though I was doing web design, I had such a great experience with the Web Development Blueprint, I figured I’d take another.
Were there requirements to be accepted to the Skillcrush Blueprint?
The only requirement was wanting to learn more tech skills. As a designer, I was impressed with how the site looked. It was easy to navigate, and it wasn’t a huge price point. Skillcrush also puts out a lot of informative materials, and they let me do the 10-day trial. So I tried it for free, thought it was awesome and then I signed up.
What did you learn in that first week?
We learned HTML and possibly CSS. The way the course was laid out was very easy. I was working in New York at the time, and living in New Jersey, so I was busy from 7am-7pm. In my trial week, I was still able to complete the tasks each day, so I was confident that I could do it.
Were you working with other students in the course or going through the material on your own? How much interaction did you have with other students?
Actually, you do feel like you have a lot of interaction because there’s so much communication through Mightybell. It’s almost like an online classroom. Everyone in the Mightybell chatroom with you is in the Blueprint, so you all talk about what’s going on that week. You get daily emails from Skillcrush with your goals for the day, which makes it easy to keep up. But it’s also self-paced, so if you miss four days, it doesn’t matter; likewise, you can jump ahead and still talk about it in the chatroom.
How does Mightybell work for communicating and sharing code?
Mightybell is like Facebook, in that you’re posting on a feed that others can see. There’s also a chat section so if you see someone is online you might want to message them and get an answer immediately, or you can just post your question and wait a little while for someone to post back.
There are a couple of ways to share code on Mightybell, but I think most often I would just take a screenshot. You could also put a link or just copy and paste the code.
There was always someone on Mightybell, even though sometimes it was just another student; they may still have a different perspective and be able to help you out.
Other than working with other students, did you work with a mentor or instructor?
There was a main instructor who you would communicate with mainly through Mightybell.
What’s in those daily emails?
The daily emails were just great; you got your goals for each day and the material you needed to cover.
How many weeks long is the Skillcrush Blueprint?
Did Skillcrush assign projects in each of those modules?
We had mini projects as we went through the materials and then at the end, we had a bigger project that we had one week to complete.
I picked up a few new Photoshop tricks even though I had already been working a lot in Photoshop. I learned how to work better with developers and how to create designs that work better for developers. You might be able to design something that looks like a website but when it gets to the developer, you realize it’s not really going to work as a website. In the blueprint you learn what’s actually going to work and not work. Even as a designer, I need to know what the browser is actually capable of.
How long were you spending on Skillcrush each week?
First of all, it depends on the student; you could just cover the basics and get it done within a half hour or an hour and you would still learn something. But I think with coding you always have to teach yourself things. If you want to spend more time and take it to the next level, no one will stop you! I’m interested in web design and development so I would want to spend more time.
Did you find that Skillcrush had enough content in the curriculum? If you wanted to look more in-depth at a certain topic, could you?
They provided links to other resources as well – which is good because when you Google, you don’t know if it’s really a reliable source.
How do you plan to use your new skill set?
I’ve recently evaluated my career goals, and I have narrowed down where I want to go in my career. I am very interested in UI/UX design. These positions usually require a good understanding of technology and development, so I’m on my way.
Were you motivated by Skillcrush to start freelancing? How did they support you getting into freelancing?
Before my last full time position, I was doing freelance work. Skillcrush has a HUGE amount of information on freelancing and the best sites to get started.
How did you get your first freelance job?
Flexjobs.com. Flexjobs is a site like Indeed but for remote jobs. My first freelance job was for front-end development work with no design involved, using the terminal and GIT to push and pull code.
How did you decide how much to charge for your first freelancing job?
I had an hourly rate in my mind. My client told me what the project was and I estimated based on the amount of time I thought it would take me, multiplied by the hourly rate that I wanted to charge. Skillcrush actually put out a PDF on how to calculate your hourly rate.
What is the alumni support like? Are you able to still ask questions?
Yeah, it’s great. Skillcrush probably got so many emails from me because I was always emailing them questions when I was stuck. They try to answer the best they can. If you have a job interview and need to know what kind of projects you should put in your portfolio, they’re really good at responding that way.
Once the course is done, you still have access to the content if you want to go through it again. The webinars are also great; I’ve learned a lot through those.
Would you recommend a Skillcrush Blueprint to a friend?
I would say that the Blueprints are good for all levels. You could have no experience or some experience like I did. Even though I had some technical experience, I still got a lot out of it.
Skillcrush is honest- they tell you that you’re not going to learn everything but you’re going to have a really solid place to start, and it’s completely true. They don’t go super deep into every topic but you have the skills to go branch out and start your career.
Liz Eggleston is co-founder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students choosing a coding bootcamp.
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