"UX Design is one of those careers where you could never be bored, because you become motivated by the continual improvement of the thing you're working on."
Before she became a Product Designer, Janelle Academia’s education and career was focused entirely on marketing.
After majoring in Business Marketing in college, Janelle worked a year abroad in Paris, France to do conference & events planning. This was followed by a return to the United States, where she worked as a Marketing Communications coordinator at a university in San Diego.
“After taking time to think about what the next step in my career journey would be, I realized that I had no interest in continuing to pursue marketing,” Janelle said. “That was a tough pill to swallow considering I had majored in it, but after taking some time to evaluate the things I did enjoy working on, I realized that I loved asking people questions, being creative, and the process of creating strategic designs.”
For Janelle, it became clear that a career in UX design would be the perfect fit.
How Janelle Discovered our UX Academy Bootcamp
Janelle dove wholeheartedly into researching and comparing the various UX bootcamp options.
“Ultimately, I was moved by a vlog of Estie Choi, a Designlab alum. She had chronicled her times during the program and gave her real take on her experience with UX Academy.”
Getting a real-life glimpse into how much another student enjoyed the program, and hearing her discuss what she was learning, really helped give Janelle the extra push to sign up.
UX Academy Experience: Impactful Curriculum and Sincere Mentors
“The curriculum is actually impactful, it's definitely not just busy work,” Janelle notes. “Every exercise helps refine and strengthen your skills as a designer.”
A large part of the UX/UI bootcamp experience with UX Academy is the 1:1 mentorship that each student receives from experienced designers.
“The mentors I had were incredible people who always went above and beyond to make me feel supported and challenged. Their real world insight to the design world was so helpful for me when I did eventually transition into it after graduating. From my experience, Designlab mentors are there because they genuinely want to help students flourish.”
LinkedIn (And a Strong Portfolio) Leads to An Interview
Finding a UX design job was the natural next step after graduating from UX Academy, however Janelle had another, more pressing deadline: her wedding.
“I had actually just graduated UX Academy and made a rule that I wasn't going to apply for jobs until after my wedding (at this point, it was only a week away),” she says. “One day, I was randomly perusing LinkedIn and saw a job posting for a Product Designer role for a start-up called Carry. I ended up breaking my rule for this one job and applied.”
Two days later, she had an interview with the CEO and Founder, and was fired up by the responsibilities of the job itself—as well as the mission of the company as a whole. Despite her status as a new graduate, the amount of work that Janelle had poured into her education and portfolio allowed her to stand out.
“The CEO actually let me know that even though I didn't have previous design experience, he was so impressed by the work on my portfolio that he decided to learn more about me.”
The next phase of the interview process was a design challenge, where Janelle had to analyze the current product and propose a way users could get to the 'Aha-moment' faster.
“I let the CEO know that my wedding was just a few days away, so he expedited my 2nd interview/design challenge presentation to accommodate,” Janelle says.
Fortunately, despite her newness in the field, Janelle had a wealth of resources to reach out to for support.
“Before my 2nd interview, I contacted my UX Academy & Career Services mentors and they extended their advice for the challenge and practiced interview questions with me. I even posted in one of the Slack channels and was messaged by a few people wishing me luck and offering their advice as well.”
Her next interview went so well that Janelle received a job offer on the spot.
“I was so mindblown that I had landed the job after 1 application and 2 interviews!”
Celebrated our honeymoon AND my job offer in Cancun, Mexico
A Versatile, Rewarding Job
For Janelle, the new job has been everything she hoped to find in her new career—and more.
“I love my job! I cannot emphasize this enough,” she says. “I have never been the type of person who enjoys their time at work, but that simply is no longer the case. I wake up excited to work on our product and am so moved by its mission. We're a start-up so I definitely enjoy wearing different hats and having full responsibility over the design of our app.”
“I have a really fun team who I work closely with. Our CEO/Founder is residing in Tasmania, Australia and our Product Manager is in the UK, so I'm the only American on the team,” Janelle shares. “Asynchronous work is our norm, but it does work really well. Even though I've never physically met either of them in person (though we do plan to all meet up sometime in the future), I definitely still feel the company culture is alive and well despite the thousands of miles between us all.”
In addition to the company culture, the work itself has been full of rewarding milestones.
“I got to completely redesign our app,” Janelle says. “And getting to see how my work has transformed the product and dramatically increase retention is something I’m pretty proud of.”
Are there any fun perks to working at your company?
In addition to being a Co-founder of the app (“so I have a number of shares in the company, which is pretty cool”), Janelle has also found support in expanding her skillset.
“My company paid for me to take a growth design course which has further refined me as a researcher and UX designer.”
A Bright Future in Product Design
Janelle affirms that her career switch into UX design is “the best thing ever.”
“It's always new and evolving and there's always room to push yourself more, and evolve as a designer and researcher,” she says.
“It's one of those careers where you could never be bored because you become motivated by the continual improvement of the thing you're working on. Making the switch to UX Design was the best career decision I have ever made. The fact that my work excites me every day is priceless.”
Advice to Those Interested in UX Design
Janelle has a few tips for anyone who might be considering or pursuing a career in UX design:
1. Be Intentional With The Projects You Add To Your Portfolio
I would say that if there is an industry or type of product you'd like to work with, try to do a project on it for your portfolio. Your portfolio truly is the bridge that covers the gap of your lack of prior design experience.
2. Take Advantage of Your Mentors and Networking Opportunities
Additionally I would say really lean on your mentors and the networking opportunities that are at your fingertips in the (Discord) community. Do work together with your video cameras on and get to know the people on your same journey...it really enhances your experience.
3. Avoid Lazy Design Habits
This is super important advice: do not enable bad design habits while you're in UX Academy. There were a handful of bad design habits I developed while being a student—like getting lazy and forgetting to use Auto Layout or having messy Figma files.
This just sets you back as a designer, so I would advise to treat every single Designlab project as if it were a real job, not just a project for your portfolio. Build and maintain your good habits even with the little things, and you'll have an easier adjustment to the real world of design.
4. Take The Time To Tailor Your Portfolio Appropriately
I took the time to make a company specific page on my portfolio to send to the CEO before my job interview. It was pretty much like a cover letter, but represented as a page in my portfolio and directly addressed my interviewer by name. It also listed specific points of why I would be a great fit for this company, which I found to be a nice touch.
Screen Break Time Consists Of …
Anything that gives me a break from the screen! I love cooking meals and getting outside in nature. I play on a worship team at church and volunteer with the youth.
Hanging out with Kangaroos at the San Diego Zoo
While her career is already off to a strong start, Janelle continues to look for new ways to grow in the field.
“I'd love to upskill myself in mastering Webflow and also committing to regularly attend webinars for UX Design & research,” she says. “The design world is always changing and I want to do my best to keep up.”
See Janelle's work on her portfolio and connect with her on LinkedIn.Inspired by Janelle’s story and looking for an opportunity to shift careers into UX design? UX Academy is an intensive online program that equips you with the skills you need to land your first UX design role.