U.S. Navy veteran Josh Abenojar was always interested in human-centered design, and when he left the service, he immediately focused his attention on starting a new design career. With no previous experience, Josh enrolled in the UI/UX Design Career Track at Springboard, and thanks to his bootcamp portfolio, he now works as a Senior Consultant in User Experience Design at Booz Allen Hamilton! Josh shares what he built for his final project and how his projects helped him stand out in the tech hiring pool.
What inspired you to launch a career in UX design?
I’ve been interested in human-centered design engineering for a long time, but when I tried applying for a scholarship with the Navy they didn't accept human-centered design engineering as an applicable major. They gave me a choice between losing the scholarship to pursue a design degree or keep the scholarship and do physics, so I chose the latter and came back to UI/UX after I got out of the Navy. I ran across Springboard and started my UI/UX journey!
There are so many UX design bootcamps — What stood out about Springboard?
I found Springboard through Google by looking up UI/UX bootcamp and UI/UX master's programs. Money was a concern, so I leaned toward bootcamps rather than a college degree program. What stood out about Springboard was that it felt more personal. Other bootcamps had mentorships through email, but Springboard had 1:1 Zoom calls, which made me feel like I had somebody there going through the program with me.
Were you able to use any of your veteran’s benefits towards the Springboard tuition?
I probably could have, but I started Springboard immediately after I got out of the Navy so it was more important to me to start the program versus trying to fund it through the benefits that I didn't really have knowledge of at the time. Looking back, I probably could have waited a few months and finagled something with my veteran’s benefits, but at this point, I have no regrets.
Overall, what did you learn in the UI/UX Design Career Track at Springboard?
I learned so much so quickly, but wireframing was the most important part in the process of learning UI/UX from scratch. Wireframing is how designers communicate their design to developers.
Did you work on a lot of projects at Springboard?
Springboard had four main projects, compared to the two or three that other bootcamps offered. I loved the projects I did at Springboard!
Tell us about your project, Tiny Tales! What problem does it solve?
The original problem was: How can we efficiently and quickly choose a book for story time for kids? I didn't like the solutions to that problem because I feel like since they're for kids, the words “quick” and “efficient" aren't even in their vocabulary! I reinvented the solution and thought instead, “How can we maximize fun with our kids while we choose and read a book together?” This brought me to how I created Tiny Tales, which is a card-based game for kids where they are offered choices to select a book.
How much time were you given to build your final project?
What are the main features of Tiny Tales? How would a user interact with it?
This is a tablet-based application and it’s supposed to be fun, so the shapes are like playing cards and the idea is that you're giving a deck of cards to your kids. They choose a card, and it asks how long we have for story-time, which the parents can be involved in. I was intentional about making the words and pictures big so they’re not squinting or getting too close to the screen, and I tried to use words that kids know. I wanted kids to feel comfortable and interactive, choosing the selection for how they feel at the time.
You can scroll through just like any other type of media application, except this one is for books. When you swipe left it feels as though you’re turning a page. They can also choose a book for the next night, to continually grow that interest in books and your time spent together. This is a solution that if they liked one book, they might like this other book tomorrow.
What technologies and programming languages did you use to build this project?
I used Figma to build this project.
Did you use everything you learned at Springboard?
I didn't use everything that I learned in Springboard — I don’t think I even did a wireframe for this project. I skipped some steps to finish it in one week, which isn't standard. But given the timeframe and my inexperience at the time, I did what I could to get where I did.
When you ran into an issue as you were designing Tiny Tales, did the Springboard mentors help you?
Springboard is great about having mentors available when you need help! There were a couple of times when I needed a second set of eyes outside of my scheduled mentor-time and I was able to get the help I needed.
How did Springboard prepare you for the tech job hunt?
In between courses of technical and physical skills, Springboard also offers Career Track modules for extra support that explain: how to build a resume for a design interview, how to build a LinkedIn, how to get ready for an interview, and the steps of an interview. They also host practice interviews with mentors and the career track coaches, which helped me hone my previous experience into a design career.
Were employers interested in your capstone project or bootcamp experience?
They were definitely interested in my project portfolio. I don’t have a design background and I was very technical in my managerial skills from the Navy, so I had to figure a way out to speak to these design recruiters, which my portfolio did for me!
You’re now a Senior Consultant in User Experience Design at Booz Allen Hamilton! How did you land the job?
Booz Allen is a government contracting company, so my Navy background definitely played a part in that, but I think my portfolio is what made me stand out. Even though I wasn’t the smoothest interviewer, I think they saw my passion and knew I could do the job even though I didn’t have any experience in design.
What do you work on these days?
One project I’m working on is a software that helps new veterans get in touch with a Veterans Affairs medical center as soon as they need it. If they feel like they need one immediately, even before they transition out of the Navy, the software will help them get in touch with the right people. It's also a resource for veterans who've been out for years who still don't know where their medical center is or who to contact. This software will help alleviate that gap between veterans and that information.
You’ve been quite successful in just one year after Springboard – Do you have any advice for future UX design students at Springboard?
Bootcamp certifications are credible in the sense that they teach the foundation, but not in the sense that it's a certification. There's this facade that getting this certification is equivalent to getting a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, but it’s not.
Once you get your certification, you have to continue to build on that.
My advice is to set yourself apart. Figure out what part of the curriculum you love and speak to that — and your passion toward the job, project, and company will shine in interviews!
At this point in your tech career, was Springboard worth it for you?
Absolutely! For anyone that doesn’t have any skills in UI/UX, data, or analytics and wants to learn from a structured program, Springboard is worth it. You get four projects, 1:1 mentorship, and career mentors whenever you need them. As long as you're passionate about completing the course and really want to learn and enhance your skills, Springboard is a great investment!
Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps.
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