UX Academy Alumni Spotlight: James Everett

Read about James Everett's journey from a background in health and fitness into UX/UI design, and how he decided to come back and mentor at UX Academy.

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Jan 8, 2024
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We recently sat down to chat with UX Academy alumni James Everett. James has built a successful UX career since graduating in 2018, leveraging his background in nutrition and wellness to help move into the healthcare sector. He’s also returned to mentor at Designlab, with a commitment to supporting students through his unique experience as a UX Academy grad himself.

So I would love to hear a little bit about what you were doing before you became a UX designer. What was your impetus for making a career change and what were you up to before that?

I used to be a nutritionist, believe it or not, and I did some personal training in health coaching, which is actually why UX in particular was very interesting to me. I had started to move into more graphic design work, doing some freelance, but UX was like, “oh, this is a combination of that design work plus research, and really talking to people”, which went hand in hand with my previous experience. Coaching, getting to understand people's needs and motivations and pain points, that kind of thing. So I felt like it was a good fit.

That is a really big career switch, but I can see how there would be some transferable skills there! So how was the process for you coming through a bootcamp? Challenges, things you really enjoyed. I’d love to hear more about your experience.

Yeah, it was a great experience. The course curriculum was great. Guiding from the whole end-to-end process of what UX design is, that was really beneficial once I landed that first real full-time job afterward in UX. But mentorship was honestly very impactful for me. I had some great mentors and they really helped build my confidence and guide me along.

I had some work to do on the UI side of things initially. I'm not a naturally gifted design person, and I don't have to create that design eye that some people just have. For me, I had to really work at it. So going through the program, that was a constant challenge for me, just comparing myself to my peers and thinking that I wasn't good enough. ‘How is this going to all turn out for me? Is this the right decision?’

But the mentors were excellent in telling me, just trust the process, that it’s all part of the course. You're going to get better. That was my biggest challenge throughout the whole thing, but that's why I think having a supportive community was helpful.

I had some great mentors and they really helped build my confidence and guide me along.

You mentioned your first role after you graduated— what was that position? Can you tell me a bit more about how that all went for you?

After I graduated, I landed a very small role with a digital marketing agency contracting. My real first full-time role after graduating where I was just strictly UX was with a different digital marketing agency called Smart Bug. And that was my real full-time engagement with the position, and it took around six months. And that's pretty normal. Getting that initial little contract role was cool though, because I could put that on my resume, and gained a little extra experience through that.

Nice! And how was that for you, that process of finding a job and stepping into your UX career from a bootcamp?

It was a little overwhelming and a little scary. It takes time, and you face a lot of rejection. When you first get that initial interview, you're so excited, but it's very rare that you're actually going to get that first job that you're interviewing for. So you got to get used to rejection and everything.

"Going through it with other students and sharing our experiences, we were all going through the same thing. That was helpful to know that I wasn't the only one. "

My Career Services mentor was helpful and she helped guide me along. But being part of the Designlab community and going through it with other students and sharing our experiences, we were all going through the same thing. That was helpful to know that I wasn't the only one.

Yeah! We've all been through the process of applying for jobs and not getting them. It takes perseverance, and it's a journey, but you'll get there and you'll make it work. So what made you want to come back to Designlab and be a mentor with us?

I had a good experience, and the fact that I was able to really launch a new career because of Designlab made me very grateful. And then I just felt like, ‘well, if I could give back and help other students, the way my mentors helped me, why not just apply and see what happens?’

It's really just about gratitude for me. It also kind of goes back to my previous career, with health coaching, helping people and all that. So it seemed like it was just a good fit for me. And so far it's been great. I really like it.

What do you find most rewarding about mentoring and working with students, or even just working with the next generation of designers?

It's all rewarding in terms of helping people switch careers, reach their goals. There's a lot of logistical steps along the way that I can provide input and feedback for.

But honestly, it's more of the mental emotional support that is most rewarding for me. I had so much insecurity about my skill sets, making that leap. So I think I can sense that a lot of students go through this, but not everyone is that comfortable talking about it. I think talking about that, and really helping students just take a deep breath and realize it's going to be okay, they'll get there.

Reassurance is something that students, and probably people in general, don't get enough of from others. That part of mentoring for me is the most rewarding.

That's awesome. And what are you doing now in UX? Can you tell me a bit more about your career?

So officially being a full stack UX designer, it’s been about six years. Right now I’m actually a UX lead contractor, so I'm mainly working with partnering companies. I work on Salesforce projects in particular because I'm certified through Salesforce. That's been a great route for me.

I come into a project and lead the end-to-end UX experience, mainly within the healthcare field. I've kind of carved a little niche there for myself. I've worked on big projects with EmblemHealth, Humana, Blue Cross Blue Shield, stuff like that. It's been a rewarding experience.

It's great to hear that you're still using the skills that you had from your prior career and continued that thread through UX. That's awesome. Is there anything else you'd like to share about Designlab or UX in general?

I guess I would just say UX is a wonderful career choice. It's a great combination of creativity, psychology, and I think that there's a promising future for the career. There's a lot of different directions you can go, a lot of upward mobility, and a lot of different areas you can get into, whether it's research or strategy or more visual design.

It's a great career field. I'm grateful for Designlab, and I hope to continue to be a mentor for a while. It's been a wonderful experience.

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Launch a career in ux design with our top-rated program

Top Designers Use Data.

Gain confidence using product data to design better, justify design decisions, and win stakeholders. 6-week course for experienced UX designers.