Some of our Alumni discover design through an affinity with tech. Some fall into it accidentally through related subjects. For Amanda, becoming a designer was her childhood dream. In her words, “I wanted to be a designer since I was nine years old.”
Growing up, Amanda’s determination to become a designer remained unwavering. After pursuing design throughout her school years, a university degree in graphic design felt like the most obvious next step. However, mid-way through university, she began to feel disillusioned with her studies. After envisioning a career in design for almost her entire life, she started to lose interest in the subject—finding it vacuous and unchallenging. Realizing that it was no longer her passion, Amanda placed design firmly on the shelf.
During her third year of university, Amanda was volunteered by her peers to join the social media and PR committee of a local student fashion show. Upon discovering she had a real knack for it, Amanda turned her attention towards pursuing a career in digital marketing.
After spending a few years on the startup scene, Amanda felt mounting pressure to enter the corporate world. In her eyes, this was the only way she could truly compete with her peers who had business or e-commerce degrees. While Amanda initially imagined that switching to corporate would fast-track her career, the reality was soberingly different.
“Getting a corporate job was the end of my digital marketing career. I realized I didn’t enjoy it at all. Going from B2C to B2B meant I lost that sense of community, and everything became super automated. I started thinking: what do I want to do now?”
Meanwhile, Amanda’s fiancé had some life-changing news of his own: he’d landed his dream job, 400,000 miles away in New York.
With her future up in the air, Amanda reflected on what a relocation might mean for her career. She was ready for a fresh start—but what would she actually do in New York? Thinking back on her previous roles, Amanda realized that it was the design aspect of digital marketing that she found the most stimulating. She loved creating visual assets for social media, providing input on platform redesigns, and communicating with developers. Was it time to return to her graphic design roots?
While Amanda grappled with the thought of a career change, her company began making company-wide layoffs, and it wasn’t long before Amanda was next to lose her job—a decision that, as she tells me, didn’t come as a surprise. “My mind was already in New York. It was time for me to go.”
Amanda wasn’t out of work for long. About a week later, a family friend reached out and asked Amanda to design an app for his company. The universe, it seemed, was finally aligning in her favor.
“I thought, what else am I going to do? So I agreed. I just wanted to know whether design was really what I wanted to do, and this seemed like the perfect way to find out. I realized that this time, I wanted to approach design differently. I wanted to use my brain more.”
Upon further research, Amanda discovered that what she was actually interested in was user experience and user interface design. These were terms she’d heard mentioned briefly by colleagues in the past, but had never taken it upon herself to look into further. Now, it all became clear: UX and UI design would allow her to delve into the psychology behind consumer behavior while still enabling her to apply her creative flair to her work.
Amanda knew what she had to do. In addition to designing an app for her family friend, she enrolled in a design course at the Interaction Design Foundation—a subscription-based online design school. While she enjoyed the foundational nature of the course, she felt that something was missing.
“The interaction design course was great, but I soon realized I wanted a much more focused, in-depth, and practical education in UX and UI design. I knew it needed to be online because I was moving to New York. That’s when I discovered CareerFoundry.”
Amanda felt that the flexibility of our courses paired with the comprehensive curriculum suited her needs down to a T. She quickly enrolled in our UI Design Course, dedicating six months to full-time study.
So, what aspect of the course did Amanda find the most engaging?
“I loved the fact that our work was reviewed regularly. It taught me not to take feedback so personally. In the real world, people will always offer criticism—and your product is going to change to suit different people’s needs continuously. As I always had to get second and third opinions on my work, I learned how to listen to people’s thoughts and adopt a collaborative mindset.”
For Amanda, the comprehensive UI Design Course curriculum renewed all of the core design skills and practices that she had neglected over the years. Above all, she loved that her mentors made sure she had more than enough portfolio pieces to show future employers.
Once her portfolio was robust enough, Amanda dove right into the job hunting process.
“It might have seemed premature to start looking for jobs while I was still enrolled as a student, but the app that I’d designed for my family friend paired with my portfolio from CareerFoundry meant I felt well-equipped to start job hunting. I even applied for jobs that I knew I wasn’t going to get, just so that I could get a better sense of the job market and what people were looking for.”
With the course drawing to a close and her wedding fast approaching, Amanda found herself becoming ever more frustrated by the job search. When her dream job as a designer at Ellevate Network—a community of professional women that Amanda was incidentally already a member of—surfaced on the scene, Amanda applied for the job. To her surprise, she was contacted for an initial phone screening two weeks later.
“On the call, I was asked to break down my entire educational experience from CareerFoundry. She wanted to know just how thorough my education had been, and how well prepared I was for a job as a UI designer. She was highly impressed.”
Amanda was then invited for an interview, which (spoiler alert!) she totally nailed, landing her a position as a designer at the company. Ellevate is a company that truly reflects her own values, and for Amanda, the fit couldn’t be better. For the first time in years, she wakes up every morning excited to go to work.
“I can’t just work for a corporate dinosaur. I can’t endorse or create a product I don’t care about. As the community at Ellevate actually encouraged me to make the switch into design, it just felt so right.”
As the first designer the company has ever had, Amanda feels like she has the freedom and the creative license to put everything she learned at CareerFoundry into practice. Currently, Amanda is streamlining the look of the website and completely re-configuring the company’s membership application process.
While she’s over the moon to finally be doing something she loves, Amanda has no plans of slowing down.
“In 5 years from now, I see myself as a unicorn: I want to be a UX and UI designer, but I also want to be a front-end developer. I want to be able to not only design something amazing but to build it too—or at least properly communicate my designs to the developers. If I can’t speak their language, they won’t know how to build the product properly. That’s my next step.”
Amanda’s advice for people making a journey into UX? Try it for free first. Reach out to local start ups, network with industry professionals, ask to take on small projects. That way, you’re able to decipher if this career path is truly for you before you’ve invested any real time or money into it.
It hasn’t been an easy journey for Amanda, but I’m inspired by her drive. When you’re in the thick of a gruelling job hunt, or feeling confused about your future, it’s easy to want to give up. Amanda’s story is a testament to the power of keeping the momentum going, no matter what. It’s an important lesson to learn: without risk, there is no reward.
When I ask Amanda for a closing statement, I’m blown away by her positivity:
“UX and UI is now my full-time job, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve done so many different things, and now I know that this is my passion. I want to use my brain to make design better for normal people. I absolutely love what I do. Above all, I get to do it in the big apple. If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere!“
Shine on, Amanda—we couldn’t be happier for you!
What You Should Do Now
If you’d like a step-by-step intro to find out if a career in development or design is right for you—sign up here for a free 7-day short course in the field of your choice.
If you are interested in becoming a designer or developer, check out our full courses here.
If you’d like to speak to an expert Career Advisor for free about how you can get a new job in tech—connect with us here.
by Jaye Hannah on 11 June 2019