Hey there! I’m Manuela, and I lead Business Development here at Designlab.

Today I’m super excited to tell you all about the official launch of Designlab Talent. It’s a new way for UX Academy graduates to access opportunities with companies in our Talent network.

But it’s not just that. As well as creating opportunities for our alumni, we’re also connecting our hiring partners with the very best designers coming through UX Academy—one of the most rigorous UX design programs out there.

The story of Designlab Talent

Today’s launch has been many months in the making. So before getting into the details, here’s a bit of back-story.

After the relaunch of UX Academy last year—which massively boosted the rigor of the program—we spent time listening to feedback, tweaking the curriculum, and continuing to improve the platform and course experience. Generally, we wanted to ensure that UX Academy was in the best place it could be.

After that, we began to shift our focus to hiring partnerships, both as a way to maximize the employability of our graduates, and to reach companies in need of high-quality junior designers.

In the early days, putting the Talent program together was mainly about building a network of partners—emailing and calling people, making new connections, and following up opportunities.

Personally speaking, one of the nicest things about being responsible for this work was the fact that Designlab pretty much sells itself. 

I’ve been in positions where it was my job to endorse a product that wasn’t great. But at Designlab, the rigor of the course is plain for all to see, and it’s reflected in the quality of the graduate portfolios I was able to share with new hiring partners.

The product is one thing, but one surprise from the process of building the Talent network has been how excited partners got about our overall culture. Designlab is a community of driven students and mentors, working remotely and internationally. 

It turns out that hiring partners understand and connect with that energy.

Piloting the partnerships

True to the design principles we teach, we extensively prototyped and piloted the Talent program before today’s launch. As a result, we’re confident that the model we’ve built works, that it conveys important value to both graduates and partners, and that it is ready to scale up.

In the second quarter of 2018, we set up 52 interviews between Designlab graduates and hiring partners. For us, one of the exciting things is that we’re getting some big names involved—including Intrepid, TBWA, and Siegel+Gale.

We’ve also been able to make a great start with global opportunities by expanding the network—for example, we connected one of our grads in Singapore to a local opportunity, and they’ve since been hired.

One thing we can’t control, of course, is the kind of culture fit that hiring partners are looking for. But what we have learned is the value of our admissions process: we look for students who not only have design potential, but who are also driven to contribute meaningfully to the design world. 

On top of this, we only connect people to hiring partners if they get the highest scores on their portfolio panel review. As a result, we end up putting forward highly competent, interesting, well-rounded people for these opportunities. 

The value of our design community

The piloting process has also brought home the value of the learning model we promote. 

Students come into UX Academy with a range of communication skills and understanding of the need for feedback and iteration. We feel that it’s one of the strengths of the course that we seek to develop these soft skills as well as simply teach a dry curriculum about UX design principles.

Key to this development is the fact that UX Academy students begin in cohorts and establish a group dynamic, through Slack channels, Group Crits (design critiques run via video call), and even the occasional IRL meetup. This is on top of students’ weekly 1-on-1 mentor calls, and continual critical feedback on assignments throughout the course.

As a result, we find that by the time students graduate, they are not only strong designers ready for a junior position, but also individuals with a strong support network and skin thick enough to receive critique well and act on it creatively and constructively. 

Designlab mentor Stephen Bau, who has 30 years’ experience in the industry, recently shared his reflections on what our learning model offers to students:

It feels like Designlab provides a missing piece for me by connecting designers around a vision of mentoring and collaboration that has been mostly missing from my professional experience of departmental silos and compartmentalized job descriptions.

And, of course, being part of this strong community always leads to new opportunities—and considering that students usually come into UX Academy without any design connections, that’s a significant development for our grads, both personally and professionally.

Feedback on Designlab Talent so far

Our hiring partners are so impressed with our designers, in particular their coachability. UX Academy’s mentor-led, collaborative model encourages an open attitude that is receptive to feedback and able to act on it. That turns out to be a huge advantage when entering the industry.

Although we’re only just launching the Talent network, we’ve already had some great feedback, both from graduates and from partners. Here are a few picks:

We have been incredibly pleased with the candidates coming out of Designlab. They have been extraordinarily well-prepared and have consistently demonstrated a high level of talent. Designlab is our preferred design bootcamp! —Intrepid

Our designer, Edyta, always made herself available via Slack and phone calls. She was transparent about her thought process and provided her own feedback. We actually learned so much about design hierarchy! —Marty at LockAware

At Big Spaceship, everyone is encouraged to share and all opinions are taken seriously, regardless of title or seniority. Because of this, I was able to contribute directly to client-facing work and found my experience here was more akin to a junior design position than a typical internship. —Belinda

I’m truly enjoying working at Corel. It’s a great opportunity. I work with smart, kind, and interesting people. I’m able to meaningfully contribute to the product. I’m growing as a designer and learning more about product design process. This is all I wanted when I started UX Academy! It’s a dream come true! —Edyta

From my point of view, I’m working as a recruiter in a lot of ways. That’s definitely something missing from a lot of design programs, and it feels great to be helping launch people’s new careers. 

I also get to know a lot of students through this work, and it’s fair to say that the Talent program has already become an extra source of support and encouragement for people as they begin their new jobs. 

Developing the program

As well as the obvious aspirations for the future—growing the hiring network and connecting partners with more awesome new designers—we’re excited that these new connections with the industry will help us to give new UX Academy students up-to-the-minute information about industry trends.

To that end, we’re also exploring ways to facilitate deeper collaboration between graduates and hiring partners—including portfolio review nights, studio tours, and piloting custom capstone projects within the UX Academy curriculum itself. 

We also see opportunities for hiring partners to help open up access to design education even further through sponsored scholarships. Above all, though, we want to keep talking to hiring partners, and to listen and understand how this program can continue to evolve.

If you’re interested in hearing more from our hiring partners, check out this Q&A with Andrea Garvey and Christine Pizzo from Intrepid. They were kind enough to share with us their experience as a company, what they look for in junior designers, and where they think the industry is heading in the next few years!

Designlab Talent: Key Takeaways

  • This is a chance for our best graduates to access additional opportunities

  • We only put forward graduates with the best scores in Portfolio Review

  • It’s also a way for hiring partners to reach today’s best new UX designers

Become a hiring partner

Interested in accessing the best new UX/UI and product design talent? You can find full details over on the Designlab Talent homepage.

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Manuela Odell



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