From Graphic Design to UI: How My Career Changed After I Took an Online Bootcamp

With a background in graphic design, Denae already had some design fundamentals down. However, she wanted to apply her skills to the world of tech, and to have a hand in shaping user experiences. In this interview, she shares what led her to take the CareerFoundry UI Program, the highs and lows of doing a bootcamp, and some great advice for fellow career-changers.

by Emily Stevens on 8 June 2021

Denae Nelson, UI designer and CareerFoundry graduate

Hi Denae! Thanks for speaking with me today. Can you tell me a bit about yourself? What were you doing before you took the UI Design Program?

Hi Emily, sure, no problem! I’ve actually been into hand drawing and crafts for a while, so I started selling portraits and stuff as a kid. I officially started freelancing back in 2015 when I earned my Associate’s Degree in Graphic Design. Later on, I got my Bachelor’s Degree. Before the CareerFoundry UI Design Program, I had gained experience through internships and contract jobs in the design industry.

What made you want to switch from graphic design to UI?

As I looked for long-term graphic design opportunities, I noticed that things like “UI” and “Sketch” kept popping up in job descriptions as nice-to-have skills. From there, I became interested in upskilling what I already knew about design and moving toward a focus on interface elements as they relate to the overall experience that a person has when interacting with a product. After discovering the Nielsen Norman Group, I fell in love with the idea of being able to craft the way another person experiences a product. There was so much to learn about UX processes. The more I learned, the more interested I became.

What made you choose the CareerFoundry program?

I ended up choosing CareerFoundry because they are one of the few bootcamps that have a Voice User Interface Design specialization course, which was something that I had been curious about. They also have a solid 1-on-1 mentorship structure and an optional Job Prep course for after you complete the program. The free UI short course was really helpful, too.

Can you tell me about your experience with the CareerFoundry UI Design Program? What were the highlights and challenges?

I would say the highlights were the Slack community resources and the support I received. I worked directly with a tutor, two mentors, and a career specialist. One of the main challenges was the fact that a huge chunk of the material had to be read. I am a slow reader when it comes to retaining new content. There was not much video or lecture material. It was also self-paced, so some days got pretty lonely—especially after the pandemic restriction announcements. This is why having the online community was great.

What was your relationship like with your mentor and tutor?

They were pretty awesome. I had a tutor and a mentor during the UI Design Program and a mentor during the VUI Specialization course. I received regular feedback from my tutor via messaging and more in-depth video feedback from my mentors. All of them gave me valuable feedback on my assignments and portfolio. My career specialist was also extremely helpful during the job search process.

Do you feel that the program helped you upskill as you had hoped?

The program did give me the structure that I needed to upskill successfully. Before CareerFoundry, I was just picking up random skills—watching random skill tip videos and reading books with no long-term goal felt like searching for a bunch of random recipes to save for later, but never actually cook. I needed more than random recipes to flip through during my free time—I needed a structured meal plan. CareerFoundry was the meal plan that worked best for me in sustaining my long-term goal of becoming a UI designer.

What has been the steepest learning curve in terms of moving from graphic design to UI? How did you navigate that?

It was a cross between software tools and UX thinking processes. With graphic design, my main squad consisted of Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign. Getting familiar with other programs like Sketch, Figma, and Adobe XD was challenging at first, but I made sure to complete projects using each program at least once. I got familiar with UX thinking processes mostly by studying and executing UX whiteboard challenges until I could structure a solid framework for presentations of my own.

You recently started a new job as a user interface designer at Chefman. Congratulations! How did you get that job?

Thank you! Having a LinkedIn profile and an online portfolio website definitely helped me get the position. I had been developing my online presence for the past few years, so it really paid off in this case.

UI designer and CareerFoundry graduate Denae's post on LinkedIn announcing her new job

What was the interview process like?

I went through multiple rounds of interviews that included presenting my case studies, completing a design exercise, and presenting the exercise within their given time limit. It was similar to the standard processes I had been going through for other UI & UX design positions.

What kinds of tasks and projects are you working on? How does it compare to your previous career as a graphic designer?

My main task for right now is getting familiar with their existing visual design system and their work processes. It requires fewer tasks relating to printing processes and more tasks focusing on digital interfaces and flows.

What are you enjoying most about working as a UI designer?

Team collaboration, honestly. I love working together to solve problems and advance a product that we all desire to see flourish for the better. I enjoy getting to see everyone during meetings and brainstorming sessions. I also like the fact that I have a voice within the team and that my point of view is valued. Everyone has something to bring to the table. I love getting feedback from the team.

How has your life changed since you completed the UI bootcamp?

I got to officially transition from graphic design work to UI design work. I also gained a solid understanding of Voice User Interface Design and Conversational Design as I continued to explore my voice assistant devices. Designing voice skills for Amazon Alexa devices has been a completely mind-boggling experience because I have a design background that is so visual-based.

What advice would you give to anyone considering taking an online course in order to kick-start their career in UI?

I would say that it will most likely take you more than one course to pursue UI design long-term. I had a head start in the UI Design Program because I already had a design background. If UI or UX is a new concept for you, I would recommend taking courses with an accountability buddy or some type of group class. Make sure you have time management down to an extent and are disciplined enough to initiate studying.

Oh, and do your research. Take time to weigh your options. Finding the right course or program usually looks different for everyone because most people have different values. Just because something worked out for someone else, does not mean it will automatically give you the same results. How much free time do you have? What type of background are you coming from? What type of learning style do you thrive best in? How much support do you have from other people? These are only a few variables that scratch the surface to help you decide.

Figure out what your long-term goals are before you decide to commit to a full program, otherwise, you will find yourself saving a bunch of random recipes that you never cook for later. Figure out a meal plan now. Eat and benefit from the food later. Get the big picture hard work out of the way first. It’s essentially delayed gratification, ya know?

Great advice! What are your future career plans now that you’re a fully-fledged UI designer?

I never want to become stagnant in my growth as a designer. I hope to stay committed and continue to grow long-term in the UI design role I am privileged to have right now. I really enjoy giving feedback to other CareerFoundry students in the Slack community, so I would love to do some mentoring in the future for sure.

VUI is something that is bound to become more advanced in the future, so I want to keep up with that as well. You never know what type of new programs might be launching in the next 5 years, ya know? 5 years ago, Figma technically didn’t even exist. But today? Figma is one of the top UI/UX design programs I know of for web-based remote collaboration.

Thanks, Denae!

Whether or not you have a background in design, the CareerFoundry UI Design Program will take you from beginner to fully-fledged UI professional. Want to update your design skills or start learning from scratch? Book a call with a program advisor today to learn more.

If you’re looking for more inspiration from others who have made a career change to UI design, check out these success stories:

by Emily Stevens on 8 June 2021

About the author

Emily Stevens

Emily is a professional tech writer and content strategist. She spent over a decade in tech startups, immersed in the world of UX and design thinking. In addition to writing for The CareerFoundry Blog, Emily has been a regular contributor to several industry-leading design publications and wrote a chapter for The UX Careers Handbook. She also has an MSc in Psychology from the University of Westminster.