Welcome to the latest in our series of UX Academy success stories.

Last month we talked to Wendy Pei, who went from a customer service role to UX Designer at Microsoft. This month, we meet Celeste North, a UX Academy graduate who made the transition from a job as Country Manager for MUBI to become a UX Designer with Backbase, based in Amsterdam.

Before Celeste joined UX Academy, she was working as Country Manager for MUBI, a subscription video-on-demand platform serving curated, high-quality cinema. With a background in entrepreneurship and filmmaking, she worked mostly on business strategy. Building on her previous experience of building a startup, NuFlick, Celeste wanted to get more involved in the product design process. We talked about her time as a UX Academy student with Designlab and how it helped her get her new job.

What got you interested in signing up for UX Academy?

I am excited about being part of the process of creating a product, and solving complex design problems through prototyping and testing. I decided to take the leap and enroll in UX Academy so that I could polish up what I’d learned from personal experience, and reach for more challenging projects. Although the mentors and syllabus were a powerful motivation for me to enroll, what finally convinced me was the 6 month money-back job guarantee.

Did you have any concerns or reservations about enrolling?

I wasn’t sure that three months were going to be enough to get me ready for a new job, especially a remote one. I was also unsure the companies I was planning to approach would be comfortable with my lack of formal experience. Initially, I was also unsure whether I would have enough time or budget to pay for the program. Luckily, I had some savings and was able to quit my job and enroll in the 40 hour week program to focus solely on Designlab.

How did UX Academy help Celeste overcome these concerns?

Phase 2 of UX Academy is made up of 2-3 "Capstone" projects, with a final portion dedicated to professional practices. 

In each Capstone students work on a series of real-world design projects. The goal of these projects is to learn how execute against a UX project brief both independently and collaboratively, and to see the project through from start to finish. Each project involves research, analysis, interaction design, and user interface design.

The final Professional Skills module shows you how to position yourself as a prospective hire through designing your personal brand and website. It also teaches best practices for a job search, including building a portfolio and how to prepare for job applications.

Celeste North UX Project iPhone Mockup

One of Celeste's projects as a UX Academy student

UX Academy Experience

How did UX Academy work out for you?

It was a great program. I enjoyed the lessons and interaction with the mentors, staff, and other students. My favourite part of the experience was doing the projects in the second phase of the program. That was where I put in most work, and everything from the previous lessons came together.

So what was the hardest part?

Sticking to a schedule and presenting my work. Getting feedback is crucial to improving our work, but it's not always easy to give or to receive. Learning how to do a design critique really helped me with this.

What tips would you give to the next intake of UX Academy students?

Find a way to get organized so that you have enough time to complete the work without feeling overwhelmed. Also, read and listen to as much further information about design as you can.

Celeste North UX Website Project

An example of Celeste's website design work for desktop

I Got the Job!

How long after completing UX Academy did you start your first job? What was it?

I got my first job before completing UX Academy… actually, right before the final lesson about building your portfolio and looking for a job! Now I'm a UX Consultant for Backbase, an omni-channel customer experience platform for financial institutions. I'm currently working with a client in Ecuador to design their online banking service with a UX strategy in mind. It's quite a challenge! I’m excited about the impact my work will have on millions of users, and the challenge of working with the client to build a meaningful service.

Are the skills you gained in UX Academy serving you well in the new job?

Yes — I definitely learned how important it is to build a discipline of completing work to a schedule, and to avoid falling behind. You have to create rhythm in your process and sense when to continue iterating and when to stop. In terms of technical skills, I learned sketching, wireframing, prototyping, and how to produce deliverables like UI kits, personas, and user flows. These are all key skills for my work at Backbase.

Celeste North UX Project iPhone Mockup

Another of Celeste's UX mockups for iPhone

What skills are you planning to work on in the future?

I want to continue improving my visual design skills, gain proficiency with Sketch, and focus more on animated prototyping. I want to be able to test ideas faster, with a rich user experience from the start.

Do you have any advice for those considering a transition into UX?

Just go for it if you feel it is your calling. Dive straight into hard work mode. UX is actually a lot of fun, and a rewarding experience — though you may have to sacrifice some social activities if you take UX Academy! By the end of the course you'll be confident and have a strong portfolio to help sell your newly acquired skills.

What would you say to students who are at the toughest part of the learning curve and feeling defeated? 

Remember what you are working for, and power through. When you graduate and start working as a designer, you will see your hard work pay off.

Would you recommend UX Academy?

Yes. With UX Academy I learned what I needed to feel confident in my first job and grow as a UX Designer. A final piece of advice for new students: try to immerse yourself into design and study mode as much as you can. Use Slack to keep connected with your fellow students and mentors. With their help, you will stay motivated and produce your best work.

You can find Celeste at celestenorth.com and on social media as @celestenorth

Interested in changing careers or building valuable new skills? Check out UX Academy and apply before the next cohort. There are very limited available seats and a waiting list for each cohort. Apply now to UX Academy

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