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Today we’re talking to UX Academy graduate Emily Ho, who studied with the Disney cohort back in 2016!

Before joining the course, Emily was working as a Senior Level 2 Support Genius at LevelUp, a mobile payment and rewards solution provider. We talked about her UX Academy experience, and found out what happened next!

Hey Emily! So, how did you decide to join UX Academy?

I'd been working in retail and customer service for over 10 years and needed a change, but I still wanted to continue helping others. All I was sure about was that I wanted something that was creative, but still process driven.

Were there any obstacles that might prevented you from re-training?

Cost was a huge factor, and I needed the flexibility to keep my full-time job. UX Academy solved both of these issues for me, so enrolling was was a no-brainer!

What got you interested in UX design?

Honestly, it all started when a friend of mine finished up a UX bootcamp. I got intrigued because I had heard the term “UX” before, but hadn’t known what it actually meant. When I found out that it was basically a happy combination of all my experiences and knowledge, I knew it was something I had to consider. UX design intrigued me because I saw it as design with purpose. I was never a fan of art, but I appreciated products and services that were well thought out and helped people in their lives.

Wireframes from one of Emily's UX Academy Capstone projects

Did you have any fears coming into the course?

Oh absolutely – taking risks is NOT something I do frequently, and I had to weigh up the pros and cons of even considering a career change. Not knowing what opportunities were actually available to me, and not coming from a traditional design background, made it a much harder choice.

However, since I was able to keep working my existing full-time job while doing the course, I was able to focus on actually completing the course to its fullest before starting the job hunt. I’m also someone who enjoys many things, but commits to very few of them. So for me to complete the program, make a career transition, and fully enjoy what I do on a day-to-day basis was a massive achievement for me and big win!

Wireframes from one of Emily's UX Academy Capstone projects

UX Academy Experience

What did you think of UX Academy overall? How did it go?

I had a great time. It could've gone more smoothly – because I was also keeping my job, it was really tough to stay on track with coursework. There was a point where I almost gave up, but deep down I knew that this career change was important for me, and I pushed myself to finish.

Did you face any challenges that you hadn’t considered? Were there any pleasant surprises?

I didn't anticipate that I'd be traveling for work for almost two months straight, and that really derailed my plan to graduate on time. I think the biggest surprise was finally feeling that I know where I belong, and feeling for the first that that this is the work I should be doing for the rest of my career.

A web layout from one of Emily's UX Academy Capstone projects

What was your favorite part of the course experience?

Meeting like-minded people – it was like speaking to people who spoke my language! It’s also awesome to have made friends through the course who I still keep in touch with frequently, even though we’ve never physically met.

What recommendations would you give to current or future UX Academy students?

Don't doubt yourself. Imposter syndrome is real, but don't let it control you. Challenge yourself daily by learning a new tool or skill. I lack confidence in my visual design skills, so I actively push myself to practice UI design whenever I can.

I got the job!

How long after completing UX Academy did you start your first job or contract? What was the job?

Just 2 weeks after graduating the course, I became a Visual Designer at The Lambesis Agency! After that (until last week) I was on contract as an Interaction Designer at Intuit, and have just started (yesterday!) as a full-time UX/UI Designer at Certona.

What skills from UXA are serving you well in your new position?

I already had a firm grasp on the principles of UX design from my customer service work, but the visual design side was a challenge throughout the program. Without the help of my mentor and Group Crits with classmates, I don't think I'd have been able to offer the feedback and perspective I find myself giving to others now.

What skills are you hoping to work on moving forward?

Visual design always – it's one thing to be able to visualize something, but another to make those visualizations come to life. I’m good at seeing things from multiple perspectives, but this makes decision-making difficult! It’s still hard for me to decide what's the right visual direction.

Any advice for individuals considering a transition into UX? Is there anything you did that you’d strongly recommend? Anything that you wouldn’t do if you had a chance to do it over again?

Keep asking questions. Asking the right questions – asking better questions – will allow you to be the best UX designer you can be. Have an open mind and take some risks. You'll be surprised at what you can achieve. Continue to challenge yourself every day.

Student Advocate

After completing UX Academy you also became a Student Advocate (SA) for some new UXA cohorts. What does that role involve?

It’s mainly about being a point of contact for students – to answer questions, direct them to the right resources, and generally guide them through their UX Academy journey. I made it a goal to check in with students at least weekly.

My aim is to make the course experience as smooth as possible, and remind each student that I’m here as a resource. With each new cohort, I look at my interactions and findings from previous cohorts and use that information to figure out if I need to change my approach at all.

How have you found it being on the “other side” of the student experience – helping out with problems and facilitating group crits, having been a student yourself?

There’s nothing too drastically different, other than not having my own work to complete :) but it is nice to be able to have a voice for those who do come to me with feedback, improvement ideas, etc. I always like to encourage students to voice their suggestions (constructively, of course) because that’s how I got involved on the “other side”!

As a student, I saw areas for improvement based on my own experiences and shared those with my SA (Madi) who eventually said, “I’m passing this baton over to you.” Because my experience was so great as a student, I’m super stoked that I get to continue my journey with Designlab and see all the improvements that are happening!

Would you recommend UX Academy? Why?

Yes! UXA is one of the few things I've committed myself to completing. I'm a habitual quitter once the passion fizzles out, so this is a first for me. UXA is such a great program that provides the same benefits as other immersive programs, but allows you to do it remotely without the need to quit your job. Once you're in, you get so much from a community that's so open and supportive.

Any final thoughts?

Thank you :) UXA was probably one of the best decisions I've ever made for myself.

Find out more about Emily's portfolio and process at embyemily.com

Unlock your potential with UX Academy

We recently launched a major update of UX Academy, including a curriculum revamp, and the full rollout of Group Crits & Career Services. Apply by Monday January 8th to join the next cohort. Find out more – including admission criteria and details of our unique 6-month job guarantee!

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