How to survive a Career Foundry Boot camp

I finished my UX design boot camp in 2020 and am thrilled to have become a certified UX designer. I found that by having more than twenty years’ experience in project management, graphic design and building print prototypes proved invaluable as they form the arsenal of tools needed for UXD.

I was completely satisfied with my boot camp experience and if I were to do it again or any other Career Foundry course, there’s little I would want changing. Here are my recommendations to other students who are thinking about taking up the challenge.

(1) If you’re working with the Arbeitsamt with a Bildungsgutschein, then the pace is fast. In order to complete the course within the five months window, you should aim to complete one task per day. I would say 90% of the time I managed this without a problem. Most weeks I would be so ahead of schedule that I could take at least one if not two days to focus on something else, reviewing content perhaps or brushing up on software skills. There were three of four assignments which were not approved first time and required extra work. There are important assignments like wireframing and portfolio building that take much longer to build, but these are marked in the course content and your tutor can advise you further.

(2) Be original – you’ll get a lot more out of the course if you don’t just copy everyone else. As you’ll soon see, there are a lot of people who have already done this course and you’ll find three examples of students’ work for each task. These tasks are recently approved examples, but the idea here is not to copy the examples – that would be plagiarism. For me, there’s just no point in viewing these examples until I’m 75% of the way through my own work, otherwise it influences my creativity and I’m unable to come up with anything original. I found that so many students produced almost a carbon copy of previous students’ work, copying table headings, structure, approach and style. What’s the point in doing a design course if you’re just going to copy from everyone else? Be original and at least try and come up with something new instead of taking the safe option all the time.

(3) Writing. Be prepared to do a lot of writing. For me, that’s easy – I have a degree in creative writing, I’m an introvert and a visual thinker. The words spill on the page and within a few minutes I’ve written down all my thoughts. However not everyone is the same. If you’re more of a talker, then don’t get disheartened – I’ve always believed that talkers get further in business life than writers, but that’s down to you. Find ways to get your words from your head onto the page. Record your voice whilst pacing up and down your room. If you’re moving your body, then your mind has less chance to edit your words. Play back your recording and make a transcript, or find an app that does it automatically for you. Don’t forget to spell check your work – better still, a quick proof-read. I saw spelling and grammar mistakes on assignments as tutors are not here to mark you down for these.

(4) Software. Unless you’re already a master in Adobe XD, Sketch, Figma, Invision and Zeppelin, then you’re going to be learning a lot of new software. I first started learning Microsoft Word in 1991 (yes, I’m that old) and as much as new software can still feel overwhelming, remember it’s easy to master any software package with time. Just dive right in and play around. Pick one software to create your wireframes and prototype and master that during your big project. Once you’ve mastered one software, trust yourself that you will easily be able to master another one. It’s acceptable to answer an interview question with, “ I don’t know that particular software, however I know that I’ll pick it up within days or weeks.”

(5) Be prepared for a lot of competition when you’ve finished your course. There are a lot of new UX designers out there – and I mean a lot, in particular in you’re here in Berlin. I saw a job advert today that had been posted for just 11 hours and already had 127 applicants. It seems that the job centre has found a way of deferring hundreds of people searching for work by placing them on a six month re-schooling program. When you’ve finished the course, be prepared that you’re not guaranteed to walk into a job straight away (but fingers crossed you get lucky!). Even the Junior UX Design jobs have a lot of competition. LinkedIn is great, but it’s disheartening to see how many people apply for the same job. It’s a better strategy to start applying for the smaller companies where you’ve at least got a better chance of getting an interview. So many people are “determined to get their dream job at Apple / Google / Facebook” – but remember, these companies are not for everyone. I’ve worked at large corporate companies such as HSBC, WalMart, Coca-Cola, Procter&Gamble and Morgan Stanley – all are filled with driven, fierce and sometimes narcissistic megalomaniacs intent on walking all over everyone else to in order to reach their goals.

All in all my Career Foundry course was a positive experience. I was able to complete the course in four months instead of five, but admittedly there are some recommended articles that I didn’t delve into. If you read, studied and remembered every link that’s provided, then you’d need a lot more than 5 months to trawl through everything. UX design is very much like good writing. At first you think it’s easy, but it actually gets harder the more you learn as there’s more to consider. See this as positive growth, take a deep breathe, have faith that you’re on the right path wherever you are on your journey and enjoy the experience.

Photo by heylagostechie on Unsplash

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