User Experience Design · Career Development

Do bootcamps or immersive classes really help you career switch?


April 28th, 2016

I'm contemplating doing a design immersive course either full or part time at GA and it's not a small amount of money. I'm wondering if it really helps you career switch (I have no design background) or if it's more for leveling up? If it did help you career switch did you have to do an internship like term afterwards. I just know that hiring a designer who only has experience of 12 weeks would scare any startup company I know of. Curious to hear your experiences.

Daniel Turner Available

April 29th, 2016

As someone who's been in UX for years, after two years of graduate school in it, having taught an intro course at the university level... I'm seeing a lot of UX hiring managers veer away from "I have only gone to a bootcamp/GA for X weeks so now hire me" people. And for good reasons.

Those programs can be (and sometimes are) great introductions to and overviews of a large and complex field. The problem is, they are introductions and overviews. The average GA graduate comes out with some lovely but static portfolio/Dribble pieces and has been coached to present and interview well, and is fully buzzword- and processname-compliant. 

The problem is that design is discovering and solving problems for people (users and stakeholders) and, as such, it's a messy and iterative process. I and hiring managers have found that people coming out of these programs -- and many can be talented, and passionate for the right reasons, and smart -- have been taught that something like "user research" is a black box: just follow these steps, in this order, and you have a result. As with some of the underlying sciences behind UX (cognitive research, vision research, the sociology of, say, computer-mediated communication), there's a lot more and black-boxing it will give you an "answer" that is simple, comprehensible, elegant, and probably wrong. (To be fair, I see a ton of startup founder approach their work in the same way: just make a signup page, done, just do a concierge service, done -- when the value in these is to stop and invalidate and analyze what you've learned.)

This is not to say one of those programs can't be a great first step. You'll probably get an overview and sense of the general scope of the field. I wish they wouldn't present it as "done, you're ready to go get those same jobs Dan is applying for", but then worked with people and companies to make apprenticeships. 

Maybe check out your local university extension catalog. If someone with experience is teaching a night course over a few months, you might get the same overview and "here's how to explore this, whether it's user research, or usability testing (both can be careers in themselves)" while saving enough time and money to be working on, say, hackathon or local Code for America projects, where you will learn a TON.

Rob Mitchell Independent Software Contractor

April 29th, 2016

In my 30 years of software engineering, I've only attending 2 or 3 bootcamps and can truly say, they are awesome! I wish I could attend more because they are life changing. Just my opinion. 

Dan Maccarone Co-Founder/CEO at Charming Robot

May 17th, 2016

I finally consolidated my thoughts on this in a much better way than what I said above. For the problem with these classes, see this:

James Tucker Director of User Experience

April 28th, 2016

Who do you want to work for and where do you want to work? 

In the Bay Area, there is a lot of competition so a GA candidate will have an uphill battle. At the same time, there is desperation for people at early stage startups. In geographic areas where a UX designer is hard to come by you should have success. 

Teresa Demarie Bilingual Organization Development Consultant, Career and Executive Coach Working with Growing Companies

April 28th, 2016

Having done career counseling for many years, I help clients market their transferable skills when changing careers. Consequently, if you have other talents that complement the designer skills, you may be more marketable than someone who has just done the immersive course. For example, if you can write copy you would much more valuable than other candidates who are simply designers. An internship with a seasoned, well-known professional design firm wouldn't hurt either.

Tom Jay

April 28th, 2016

Bootcamps are great. I try to have 4 a year, 2 weeks each, total immersion. Actually live in tents, eat meals together, learn side by side. I have 10 Acres that everyone comes to. These are technology based bootcamps, Mobile and Server side programming. It is very focused on startups.

As far as a Designer or Graphics/UX bootcamp, I would not recommend this. Learn on your own, get a few books, check out the major design web sites for inspiration. You need to have the pressure to produce, signup on or and then do some jobs, even if you do not finish them you will get the experience. Do this part time and keep your current job. Changing your career can be done but you should really love what you do. If you can make any money on Fiverr or eLance then you should be able to make it on your own.

Dan Maccarone Co-Founder/CEO at Charming Robot

May 5th, 2016

If you want to work in UX, find UX people that you admire and reach out to them and talk to them. Most of us who have been in the industry for awhile are excited that people are finally into what we're doing and are happy to chat and mentor. Overpaying for a 1 week, 8 week, 12 week class will not help you be taken seriously by most people who you interview with. That's not to say you can't learn some basics, but I've always found the best UX people to come from a variety of backgrounds because they bring a new perspective as to how we solve problems. These immersive classes can teach you the tools but they can't teach you how to think. Experience and the right collaborators will do that. These classes are way to expensive and honestly I think they over promise on what you'll get out of them.

Celeste Combs Director Design and UX | Web, Mobile, Devices, Emerging Tech Expert

May 24th, 2016

With no design experience, I would recommend a deeper education or training to get into UX.   UX is not just design so explore all the types of skills and different types of fields under the UX practice umbrella as well. 

 Find a couple of good mentors, really, spend time with them, volunteer to help with something they are working on or find an internship or help sr freelance designer.  Do keep you current job during this transition until you have solid skills in the area of UX you want to practice.

I guest lecture at GA occasionally; and I have hired a couple of GA grads for projects with each having deep background in design already.  I felt the overview was good but critical thinking and practice are not taught until you're on a project of some type.