Mary Schwab has always felt passionately about enabling others to learn better and outside of her full-time job, she also tutors elementary school children. She attributes this experience, paired with her UX Academy education and resulting portfolio, as a key reason why she was recruited for her dream job as a UX Researcher at National Geographic Learning.
Before enrolling in UX Academy, Mary was working as a Senior Account Manager at a digital marketing agency. She worked with well known apparel brands, and managed their digital marketing campaigns with a focus on driving new customer acquisition and brand awareness.
“While I enjoyed my digital marketing job, I really craved a new challenge, and a career that I was a bit more excited about. At the time, I was always working for other brands, and at the end of the day, I wasn't really the decision maker. I craved the ability to make something from scratch, and really own it,” says Mary.
Mary knew if she was going to change her career path she wanted it to be more tech-focused, but she also wanted to continue interacting with people one-on-one. UX Design felt like the perfect fit for Mary as she could take her communication, problem solving, data analysis, and project management skills from her years in client services and apply them to a completely new discipline.
Mary’s UX Academy Journey
“I chose Designlab for my UX design education because I could do it all online, while still working and maintaining an income. I was also enticed by the 1:1 mentorship. I felt more comfortable knowing there was an expert I could utilize as a resource, and go to them with any and all questions I had regarding UX design. Also, it was clear that at the end of the course I'd have an extensive portfolio of projects that would allow me to be considered for UX design jobs,” Mary says.
Mary thoroughly enjoyed her time in UX Academy, and she especially loved the Group Critiques every week—so much so that she’s now a Group Crit Facilitator here at Designlab!
“I always knew I would get valuable feedback from my peers in Group Crits, while also working on my presentation skills. It was relieving to know my peers were going through a lot of the same highs and lows that I was. It was also inspiring to see their work, and how they were approaching the design briefs in a different way to me. Now that I'm a Group Crit Facilitator, I get to give back a little of my expertise to current students, and I'm also still constantly learning from them, too!”
Mary continuously looked forward to her weekly mentor sessions in UX Academy, saying, “My mentor, Sarah Harrison, had a background in climate design, so I got to learn a lot about that path and industry, which was an added bonus! Overall, the mentor sessions were invaluable. Sometimes we would talk through job search tactics and interview preparation, while other times we would dig into technical aspects of Figma and how I might use their tools to make my designs and prototypes even better.”
For Mary's 2nd capstone project in UX Academy (seen above) she added a feature to Amazon Prime Now to allow users to communicate their grocery packaging preferences, which allows users mirror their in-store packaging preferences. "This would help to eliminate the amount of plastic bags used to package their order, because users could communicate their preferences at the individual item level (for example, they could let Amazon know that they do or do not want their produce in plastic bags)."
For her 3rd capstone project (seen above) she prototyped an app balled "Bikeway". Mary says, "As a cyclist in Chicago, I often use Google Maps to obtain directions and it usually directs me on the route with the most bike lanes. Unfortunately, what Google Maps doesn’t tell me is anything about current road conditions. It is very frustrating to cycle down a street that is covered in potholes, or having to suddenly reroute because a street is closed for construction. These frustrations led me to an idea. Cyclists are constantly seeing and experiencing adverse road conditions. What if there was a quick way for cyclists to alert each other of current road hazards and conditions? Might this create a safer cycling environment, and a more close knit community, which would ultimately encourage more people to use a bicycle for transportation?"
Now that Mary has graduated the program and landed an amazing job, she has some advice for incoming, current, and graduating UX Academy students:
- Get comfortable with the feeling of not always having the right answer (or even ANY answer). There will always be something new to learn, so be prepared to become a lifelong UX student—nobody knows it all!
- Remember that UX design is super collaborative, so don't be afraid to lean on your peers or coworkers for feedback and advice. No designer should work in a silo!
- Sometimes when you're stuck, or frustrated, the best option is to step away for a while and come back to your work. Fresh air or rest often does wonders!