When Georgie Gow had a taste of data-driven UX design, she decided to upskill in her marketing career, and get into more digital roles. She enrolled in BrainStation’s part-time Data Analytics course, and found it immensely helpful, then decided to take another BrainStation course, this time in UX Design! Georgina tells us how she balanced her full-time job in Australia with learning online, and how her new skills are allowing her to take on new responsibilities and improve her performance in her job!
What’s your education and career background?
I have a bachelor's degree in Business with a double major in marketing and management at the University of Tasmania in Australia. My first job was in local government at a council. Then, I moved onto a design school, Foundry, where I was in the marketing and social media team. I wrote a course for them on Social Media and taught it as well. I now work at St. Luke's Health as a Digital Specialist.
What made you decide to do BrainStation’s Data Analytics and UX courses?
I started getting into the digital side of marketing at work. At the design school where I worked in Tasmania, we had a conference on data-driven design which was attended by top Australian designers. That fascinated me! I found it interesting to see how many companies were using data, what it can inform, and hear about data for social good. I wanted to learn how to make that experience better and unlock that next level of understanding.
I also became passionate about UX and I'd had a bit of experience with it at work. I wanted to be able to show how and why I wanted to design something and have the knowledge to back those ideas up. The data skills back up the UX skills, and inform a lot of decisions in general, especially in a digital marketing role.
Did you try to teach yourself any data skills or UX before enrolling with BrainStation?
I wanted to do a program. I taught myself a bit about data analytics. With UX, though, I had only learned about it through experiences with UX designers at work. It's something that I really wanted to learn properly. I didn't want to teach myself.
Did you take the BrainStation courses in person or online?
I started off doing Data Analytics in person in Toronto, Canada. I was moving to Canada to work. But I wanted to return to my job and my boyfriend in Tasmania, so I decided to move back to Australia and continue with the Data Analytics program remotely. The time difference meant the classes started late at night and ended around 4am which was a bit painful, but it worked out.
I’m now finishing up the UX course. The UX course worked out better because I do it every Wednesday morning my time in Australia. My job allows me to do that in the office, which is amazing.
What made you choose BrainStation as a way to upskill?
I had on my list of goals last year to do a UX course. While I was still in Australia, I was researching and found BrainStation. I got the Women in Tech scholarship so I figured it was meant to be. It all just kind of fell into place from there.
I had looked at many courses in Australia. My university degree scared me away from going through a university because the content there is so outdated. None of the universities or short programs in Australia hit the mark. A lot of them were also very expensive and require you to pay upfront. When I discovered BrainStation, it looked like they had nailed the student experience. The content, the website, how much they're involved with business and communities. I saw a lot of courses in Australia that had horrible looking websites. The course might look good but the website doesn't and that's not a good sign for a design course. It was awesome to be in Toronto for the first few Data Analytics classes to get that in-person experience. Transferring online was even better!
What was the application and interview process like?
It was over the phone. I found the team to be so helpful. They asked me about my background and one of their staff members actually recommended the Women in Tech scholarship to me based on what I was doing at work! It was pretty casual, basically like a good chat. It seemed like they wanted to see if I was a good fit and if I had the background knowledge to make sure I wasn’t set up to fail.
When you started the program in Toronto were you in a cohort in a classroom?
Yeah! It was awesome both online and offline to be in a class with people who were working for many different companies. It's also inspiring to be able to bounce ideas off of your cohort. People online were also interesting. It's amazing who these courses attract across the different industries. It was such a diverse cohort. More diverse than when I was at university! It was pretty even in terms of gender but there were people from all different ethnicities and backgrounds.
How were the learning experiences different, in-person versus online?
It depends on how you work best. For me, in-person works better because I don't have distractions – I'm present. Online, especially doing it in an office, I sometimes found myself paying attention to work during my class. The experience was awesome, though. The teachers are interactive and they relate everything back to their own experiences. That aspect is amazing because it makes it more practical. It was certainly the most engaging online course that I have done.
How was the curriculum taught in the online UX course?
They go through an online lecture. The UX course had such a cool layout where you do a little bit of the final assignment week by week. At the start of each class, we talk about what we’ve learned, what we've done, the pain points we've had, where we went wrong, and give an update. I think that keeps us accountable. Each week, the class subject is on a topic related to an assignment so that you can learn as you go. That is such a good way to teach it. It holds you accountable and helps you understand it better.
What was the schedule of the courses like? What was your study setup like?
Both of the courses were a set date and time each week with an online live lecture. You can see the other people in the class, the teacher talking, and a screen share of the content.
For UX, I was doing it at work. It was every Wednesday from 8:30am to 11:30am. I used noise-canceling headphones because I did the class in my office. I found my coworkers to be supportive of this. They wouldn't come to talk to me unless it was important so that I could focus. I found it handy that I have two computer monitors at work and a laptop. I would pull up the video on one monitor and study materials on another.
Outside of those three hours each week, how much other study did you need to do?
I just had to do my assignment, which took a few hours each week. If you keep up with the week-to-week schedule, you won't get stuck at the end doing the final assignment in one week.
In the online class do you have personal interactions with instructors and other students?
I had one-on-one chats with the teacher via Slack. There is also a group for the class. A lot of people would post in there to discuss their ideas, their work so far, or issues that they were having. If we were stuck on something we could use Slack to ask questions. The teachers were very responsive.
Did you find your background in business to be useful in learning UX design and Data Analysis?
Yes, for sure. The data analysis course helped me to articulate the information I already knew about data, look at things in a different way, and build on my knowledge. It wasn't starting from scratch. It almost scared me how many things you can do with it!
With UX, I found the first half of the course quite easy to understand because I already had a good solid knowledge of those topics. It was easy for me to understand and engage in. The technical stuff later on in the course like tree testing, card sorting, and that sort of material was where I found I didn't know as much.
Throughout both of those programs did you have a favorite project?
I think the UX project was my favorite because I didn't realize how much data would be a component. I didn't expect there to be SQL in there but it was handy to know! For this project I took a look at the local transit app in my area and aimed to improve the user experience. That evolved to doing interviews with people to get personas, creating user profiles, mock-ups for the app, sketching, and wire-framing. This is the first time I've had the chance to do these things properly because I haven't done that at work before.
Overall, did you have a preference between the courses?
User Experience is definitely more attractive. It's more fun to learn for me because I like the creativity. Data was awesome and it's helped me so much but it's very practical and not as fun.
It sounds like your work has been really supportive of you doing these courses!
Yes! When I came back from Canada and I was finishing my Data Analytics classes they allowed me to stay home from work on Mondays. I would have to start my class Sunday nights and wouldn't finish until about 4am. They also let me do my UX class on Wednesday mornings in the office, and let me take a day of study leave once in a while to finish my projects. They've been super supportive.
How have you found your new skills useful in your job so far?
My team is launching a healthcare data app. The UX course has given me the skills to do the testing properly, do interviews, ask the right questions, that's been immensely helpful. Data has helped me mostly with solving problems. It's helped me to get my thinking into one line. I can now figure out what the questions and problems actually are instead of looking at a bunch of different variables.
What are your future plans for your career trajectory?
I would like to get more into a management role. These skills are all part of the plan to give me a broader understanding so that I'm not limited in knowledge and understanding. Even if I don't know these things with a lot of depth, if I do work with different people in these fields, I can understand them better. The app that we're launching has been a good test of that. It will help me showcase the knowledge that I've gained.
What has been the biggest challenge for you in learning these UX and data skills?
Understanding data ideas. I'm more of a creative person. I completely understand UX – it feels natural. Whereas with the data analytics I had to concentrate. Learning data analytics in the middle of the night was also more challenging!
What advice do you have for people thinking about going through online programs?
Do it and make the most of it! The best thing for me was to sit for an hour after the class to get the work done. Almost like a power hour. Your class is done, you get your homework done, and you can make a plan all in one day. If you're doing it at your workplace, try to talk to people in UX or data roles because they can give you more insight to make the material more practical. Those correlations are incredible.