02 July 2023


What to do when you find yourself in it to win it.


The anti-climatic graduation of a wild 6-month UX/UI bootcamp inspired me to learn if I weren't alone in an emotional rollercoaster. I never assume my experiences are uniquely my own though in some ways they are. Most of the survival guides that pop up in a Google search focus on tactical steps rather than the embodied experience of decisions that occupy your mind all the time for six whole months. At the end of this program, I felt duped by the career services counselor, grief by the time lost, and excluded from other classmates. But I was also overwhelmingly determined to make something out of what I accomplished learning.


I began this bootcamp with the thought of bridging my project management background to product management, thus an increase in salary by the end of it as the win. It was a huge risk being laid off six months prior with no regular source of income. I landed on this decision after a career training services counselor persuaded me from my original pivot into medical billing. I really just wanted to pursue something with a lower barrier to entry and that would be economically recession proof. But she was convinced I should stay in my current field of marketing communications. In the course of our last call before the bootcamp started, the counselor just kept asking the same questions over and over - Why UX? Why UX? I want you to think about this. 


Lying in bed with a terrible headache, I told her why: for product management and that it was something I always wanted to do actually. I was already in the process of being certified as a Meta Digital Marketing Associate. When I asked her the reasons for these successive questions - she retorted that I was being defensive and I never heard from her again.


So let's pause here. If you’re a career counselor witnessing someone making a decision that is going to utterly jack up their situation - do them a favor: Ask powerful questions, put on a mentoring hat, and say, “Hey, you’re on a more difficult path to securing the bag!”, especially after detouring them from their original goal. (Folks would appreciate it.) She didn’t implore me to consider the PAID internship that’s part of the marketing track and not in the UX one. In any case, from a coaching and user research standpoint, notice when asking why 5 times is an ineffective method and be more self-aware in how you’re listening to the responder.




This survival guide is meant to provide some real talk for Hungry Job-Seekers who need to work - not just looking to transition from another background, uplevel a current position, or learn a new skill. A Hungry Job-Seeker means your immediate livelihood hangs upon this journey being successful. What I’ve noticed in UX is a kind of entry point requirement for people with the luxury of space and time to burrow a pathway. If you don't really have these commodities or a referral to light the tunnel and you find yourself in deep - start now to prepare yourself for the road ahead.


What I wish I knew before going in:

  • This kind of certificate is more of a knowledge gain than a skill gain unlike PMP certification, for example. It’s not the kind of certification that reads like you know what you’re doing nor does it show up as a preferred requirement in job descriptions. It seems to function more like a continuing education credit program more than anything else and is ultimately unattached to any industry level certifying body or license. 

  • Keep searching for a job if you need one despite the pressure exerted on you to keep pace with the gushing curriculum being shoved down your throat. Take time to apply to two jobs on off days instead of spending hours trying to perfect an assignment. Include part-time or contract work. Make use of the bootcamp’s job board too.

  • Transitioning in the marketplace seems to favor a good long history or story in one field of expertise and your ability to connect it to UX. Because UX is half branded as “anyone can get into it”, work on your personal brand story continuously throughout the program. Make notes of the methodologies and tools that particularly appeal to you and how.

  • Weigh your real continuous bills, support systems available mentally, emotionally and/or financially against the impact of having a fluid employment status for at least a year. Looming unpaid expenses, worrying about getting behind and catching up, and frustration from not finding something quickly enough muddles creativity, focus, and motivation.

  • Ignore any contrarian pressure to know and do things you’ve never done before to avoid anxiety in the overlapping structure of the schedule. This schedule looks like learning during one week to submit project challenges the following week. Learning new things and turning in homework sounds reasonable until you realize that the homework for that day may take an additional 3-5 hours for you to understand and then the module challenges are designed to take approx. 20 hours to complete. These challenges are not simple exercises to drive home the main points. You will submit full 20+ slides pitch decks for them as well to demonstrate the hours of work performed in each section of the challenge while still learning new things, which is literally mind blowing. There may be times to catch up with holidays and a couple group projects but don't count on them. 


Where you start out is not where you'll end up. I started out thinking product management was the path for me. But upon learning about the myriad of cross-sections and developments in UX, my happy meal combo is Digital Experience Designer and Strategic UX Research. In the next part of this guide, I’ll provide some tips for survival that helped me through these months followed by a survey analysis and insights from a few of my classmates.


Until then, here’s an article from uxfolio that I wish I had found before my enrollment that may give you food for thought. It shines light on the landscape of UX bootcamps and what you can realistically expect from them. There are also some insights on portfolios if that was a selling point for you as it was for me.





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