Here's How I Became A Lead Design Instructor Without A Degree

How do you go from working in sales to earning six figures as a lead instructional designer? CareerFoundry Alumnus Corey tells all…

by Jaye Hannah on 30 August 2019

corey clifton

Going from salesman without a degree to UX/UI designer earning six figures is no small feat. In our latest interview, Corey lifts the lid on his journey to success…

Corey has always been creative. A former songwriter and musician, he first dipped his toes into the world of design when faced with the task of tackling his band’s branding and web design. While music may have been his passion, Corey’s bread and butter was sales. During his successful career as a salesman, Corey was able to develop some of the soft skills that are so central to his current job as a lead designer—including empathy, communication, and a growth mindset.

Successful as he was, Corey began to sense that his true calling lay in tech. There was just one problem: he wasn’t sure exactly what career path he would take. As a jumping-off point, Corey began researching coding bootcamps, and stumbled upon two terms he was unfamiliar with: user experience design and user interface design. When he dove deeper into these two vocations, a lightbulb went on in Corey’s head.

“I felt like UX and UI design were engineering meets art; both analytical and creative. These things are a huge part of who I am, so it felt like a great fit.” 

Fuelled by the revelation that he’d finally found a career path that excited him, Corey set off on a mission to find a bootcamp that would take him from total beginner to job-ready. When CareerFoundry’s UI Design Program cropped up in his search, Corey felt that it ticked all of his boxes; the comprehensive nature of the course content, the safety net of the job guarantee, and the flexibility to enable him to maintain his job while he made the switch.

Corey immersed himself in the UI Design Program and loved getting to grips with industry-standard tools like Sketch. But I was surprised to learn that for Corey, it was the UX Design portion of the UI Design Program that engaged him the most.

“I had so many crazy ideas with the app that I was making. But when I stripped them down and took the time to understand what users actually wanted, I was able to majorly fine-tune my concept. Seeing the delight of the users when they used the app was really gratifying. Learning UX in conjunction with UI set me up well for the job I’m currently in.”

UX design and UI design may be two different disciplines, but they often overlap—it’s not uncommon for UX designers to master UI design skills, and vice versa. For Corey, competency in both UX and UI design was a high priority, as he felt he had an affinity with both vocations: he loved the analytical nature and the user-centricity of UX, and he was equally enamored by the visual components of UI.

With the UI program complete, Corey skipped the job prep course and dove straight into a UX design internship—although, he tells me, he still uses the materials from the job prep as a useful reference. Armed with some invaluable real-world experience, Corey went on to become UX certified.

When quizzed about his job hunting experience, Corey describes himself as “the luckiest person in the world”—and I soon find out why. Within three months of graduating, Corey had landed himself a leading designer position with a six-figure salary. The secret to his success? Having a top-tier LinkedIn.

“After spending some time curating my LinkedIn, I was contacted by a recruiter for a junior position in my area. They gave me some design homework to do, and they liked my design homework so much that they encouraged me to apply for a leadership position instead. Pulling on my background in sales, I was able to negotiate on the salary, and they gave me the very top of what I asked for.”

Corey loves working with people who are as passionate about design as he is. Despite having to abide by design standards, he enjoys discovering fun new ways to put his own creative spin on his work. For Corey, finally being stimulated, engaged, and challenged by what he does is a priceless feeling. “I don’t have to fake it. This is actually something I genuinely love doing.”

So far, I can’t help but feel inspired by Corey’s story. It’s a common misconception that technology-related qualifications—or at least a solid background in tech—are prerequisites for landing a job in the field. Many think that employers won’t give the time of day to a candidate without a relevant college degree.

Corey is a testament to the fact that you don’t need a college degree to break into the world of tech. So, what advice would Corey give to UX/UI hopefuls without a degree?

“Curate your resume. Find the soft skills you have from other jobs and put that at the forefront. Don’t be afraid to list everything you learned on the course on your CV. Above all, make sure your portfolio is the best it can be.”

As Corey has demonstrated, all you really need to succeed in UX and UI design is drive, motivation, and a can-do attitude. If you put the work in, you’ll reap the rewards.

I ask Corey for a summary of his CareerFoundry experience, and I’m overwhelmed by the positivity in his response:

“I would 100% recommend CareerFoundry. I can’t tell you how much the experience changed my life. When I started, I stopped for about two months. I hit a wall. I even had to extend the course for the month, and I was so worried that it all wasn’t going to be worth it. Now, look at what I’m doing. All it takes is determination, and keeping your eyes on the bigger picture.” 

What You Should Do Now

If you’d like a step-by-step intro to find out if a career in design, development, data, or digital marketing is right for you — sign up here for a free short course in the field of your choice.

If you’d like to speak to an expert program advisor for free about how you can get a new job in tech — connect with us here.

Curious to learn more about CareerFoundry graduates and their unique career change journies? Check out these success stories:

by Jaye Hannah on 30 August 2019

About the author

CareerFoundry Marketing Content Editor Jaye Hannah

Jaye Hannah

Jaye Hannah is a freelance content writer and strategist, based between London and Lisbon. She's worked in EdTech for over five years, inspiring career changers on their journey into tech. When she's not writing, you'll find her whipping up new recipes in the kitchen.