If Gabrielle were ever to become a high school teacher, we’d see an entire generation of UX designers a few years down the line, all inspired by the verve, passion and enthusiasm with which she talks about the field.
I’ve managed to catch her for a thirty minute chat in her lunch break at her new job. She’s now a voice user interface designer (VUI: a subset of UX and, yes, an achingly swish job title) at a leading insurance company, and she’s loving every minute of it. So much so, in fact, that she’s a little concerned it might all be a dream, and that any moment now she’ll awake at her old job. She needn’t be worried, of course.
Not only does she have the certificate and the skills to prove that she excelled during her UX Design Course with CareerFoundry, she’s also effortlessly charming, gregarious and quick-witted – just the kind of colleague you’d want in your company and never countenance letting go.
Enough with the flattery though. Let’s dive right in and discover exactly how Gabrielle became a sought-after VUI designer.
“I was a graphic designer – well, technically I was a print designer – and I did a little bit of freelance, but I was mostly working in-house at a consulting agency, and I was unhappy there for a variety of reasons. There was very limited creativity, because it was a very strict brand.”
She echoes the sentiments of many career changers who consult our Career Services Team – afflicted by a feeling of stagnation and helplessness, and unsure of the direction in which to take her next step. Her interest in UX was borne from a chance encounter with a colleague, after which she immediately started investigating the field.
“I was very down, thinking that my portfolio wasn’t going to get me anything much better. Within the company there was a UX designer who interviewed me about a webpage they were doing, and it was the first time I’d heard of UX. That was my lightbulb moment: ‘This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen – I can’t believe you care about what is effective for the user! And you even make the world a better place!’ So I started looking into it, and the more I looked into it, the yummier it became.”
She was also intrigued by how UX aligns design with business goals by being research-driven and quantifiable. One’s work is intimately connected to business outcomes – much more so than in other design disciplines – which means the role is not only potentially lucrative, but exists at the fulcrum of a company’s aesthetic and functional aspirations.
I wonder how she stumbled across CareerFoundry. As a marketer, I’m always curious about this: Of course we’re battling for the top spots on Google, but such is the nature of the internet that people often end up in rabbit holes of research and emerge from the unlikeliest maze of links and resources. At that moment we aim to take our wannabe UX’ers by the hand and show them just how much we can offer, from the unparalleled calibre and comprehensiveness of support to how we’re structurally invested in their success. For Gabrielle, it wasn’t verbose marketing that convinced her – it was a few of the fundamental advantages of a CareerFoundry course: the flexibility, the fair price, and the job guarantee – and the fact that she could stay at home with her cat on her lap. She left her job in order to apply herself fully to the course:
“I wished I’d known about it ages ago - and wondered whether I’d been living under a rock the entire time. Immediately I was regretting not doing this a long time ago – so I wanted to make up for lost time, and just did it. I focused on CareerFoundry pretty much full-time as well as taking on some part-time stuff – the goal was to get it done in under 5 months, as the programme is 8-10 months if you do it part-time. It took me a little longer – about 7 months.”
It wasn’t all plain sailing though. To paraphrase Roosevelt: Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort – and studying for 7 months to qualify in UX design is no exception.
“As a creative, you know, I’m a bit prone to procrastination, so there were times I was doing awesome, and a few times when I got a bit hung up – usually when I didn’t completely understand a task. That’s when I’d get all over my mentor and ask lots of questions and get feedback. Motivation changes here and there. It’s ok to have doubts in the beginning. If you’re going to do this, you have to be motivated.”
The support network made available to you from the very beginning of your course at CareerFoundry is second to none. It consists of a student advisor, a tutor, a mentor, a career coach, and, of course, your fellow students. This is essentially your new team, all of whom are driven to ensure you get the skills and the career you want. It’s very common for our students to wax lyrical about their team, and Gabrielle is no different. She highlights the indispensable contribution made by her mentor and her career coach.
“My mentor was the glue that made everything happen – sometimes I had lots of questions and wasn’t sure what was happening, and I would just kind of unload on her. She was so supportive – what a cheerleader! I mean, do they get cheerleader training? It was exactly what I needed: positive reinforcement to keep me going. She’d always direct to the right places to get more information, and it never seemed like I was annoying her or taking up her time. It was like a therapist for your work – it’s rare ever in life to just have someone unconditionally listening to you and helping you 100%, so that was very refreshing and very motivating.”
When you’re approximately fifty percent of your way through the course, our Career Services Team starts to work with you. You complete a Job Preparation Course which covers everything from application techniques and personal branding to best practices for resumés.
You’re probably thinking right now that you know how to apply for a job, so why do you need to do a course on it? Marketing yourself is a skill like any other: Your ability to create and deliver a convincing application is something that can be studied, learned and honed. Indeed, the course has been such a resounding success among our students that we’ve had requests to offer it as a standalone option.
“I went into the job prep course feeling pretty confident about my resumé, and then I started reading and thought: this is some good stuff – there’s a fine way to apply for jobs and there’s the expert way to hustle for jobs. You have to be active – you have to go after it. There were so many tips and suggestions, and I just ate it all up. I did everything they said.”
And go after it she did – Gabrielle applied for a job as a UX designer at one of the largest insurance companies in the US. However, when the hiring managers saw that she had studied Voice User Interface Design as a specialization at CareerFoundry, they asked her whether she’d be interested in interviewing for that instead. Excited by the opportunity to work in a truly cutting-edge area, Gabrielle decided to give it a shot. Her Career Coach stepped in to help her prepare for the interview:
“My career coach was another cheerleader – he had some really great stuff to say. As soon as I got my first real phone interview, he did a walk-through interview with me. And my actual interview was really similar, and if I hadn’t prepped with my mock interview, I wouldn’t have been as confident and I wouldn’t have had specific answers in my mind. You need to plan for success. I couldn’t believe how well it worked out.”
She landed the job and currently finds herself working on a chatbot, adapting the tone and collaborating with the UX researchers and UI designers in her team to perfect the graphical interface. I ask her whether it’s all living up to expectations. Her response is a further affirmation of the overwhelmingly positive and far-reaching effect a career change can have.
“It feels too good to be true. Every day I’ve been coming to work knowing what I’ll be doing and thinking: oh, this is so cool! I was literally giggling with my colleague today. I’m feeling pretty useful, which is awesome. I feel like I’m making an impact. People are listening to me, and the day’s going by pretty quick. I’m never looking at the clock thinking when am I going to get out of here. It’s also so chill here, and I can’t believe how respectful people are and how reasonable things are, and they’re just treating us like human beings who have ideas. I’m still in shock. It’s pretty great.”
We notice that Gabrielle’s lunch time is dangerously close to coming to an end, and I don’t want to keep her from some all-important brain food. I remark how wonderful it is that she’s found her calling, and she smiles gleefully: “You know what my friends say: ‘You’re one of those success stories – you hated your job and then you quit it and then you got a job you loved;’ and I keep thinking, yeah, I can’t really believe it – that kind of thing just happens in movies.”
I imagine how my colleagues will momentarily allow themselves to swell with pride when I relay this message to them. I bid Gabrielle farewell and she returns to her day job as a voice user interface designer, and I return to my desk to write about it.
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by Ed M. Wood on 12 May 2018