Allie Gallerani’s journey to a UX Design career was atypical. Aside from having zero related work experience or education in the field, she was also attempting a career change in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic—a time when companies were rapidly downsizing.
To build her technical skills and knowledge, Allie enrolled at renowned tech bootcamp General Assembly and joined the User Experience Design Bootcamp. Armed with her acquired skills from the bootcamp and perseverance in the job search, Allie landed a role with Chegg, successfully starting her dream career.
Here’s her story.
Tell us about your background. What were you doing before attending General Assembly?
I was an actor in my 20s and took on many odd jobs to support myself, from nannying to wine imports and working as a personal chef. I fell in love with screenwriting and eventually transitioned to freelance creative writing.
What motivated you to explore a new career, and why did you decide to pick General Assembly?
In 2019, I was living in New York and trying to figure out what I could do outside of the entertainment industry. When my husband got a job that brought us to San Francisco, it was a catalyst for making that career change.
I talked to people I knew working in tech, and several recommended General Assembly. I took a lot of free workshops before finally choosing the UX Design program.
What did you like about the program? Are there any highlights that stood out to you?
Right from the start, we dove into exercises that got us thinking about interesting problems and designing creative solutions. That built my confidence quickly and made me feel like I could do this as a career despite not having a tech background. The program was incredibly interactive and collaborative. We learned by doing.
How did you fit the program into your schedule?
I was freelancing at the time, so I already had a lot of flexibility. Even so, the part-time program I chose had classes twice a week after regular working hours. It was perfect for my schedule.
Can you give us any examples of projects that you worked on during the program?
By the end of the program, I had created a fully-designed product, from idea to high-fidelity prototype. Everyone in the class presented their projects and received feedback, which was a fantastic way to not only build my portfolio, but practice for job interviews.
Do you have any advice for someone considering this program?
If you can, opt for the in-person program. UX Design is incredibly collaborative and creative. At General Assembly, you don’t passively listen to lectures. There’s a lot of time dedicated to practicingthe methodologies with your classmates.
Did you find a new position after the program?
It took about two years, but I eventually found a new job as a UX Content Designer.
How did the program support you in finding a job?
We had a few discussion panels with designers as part of the course, which was incredibly helpful in building my network and learning about different roles within UX. My instructors also hosted bonus sessions afterward on how to design and present our portfolios.
Was the job search process different from what you expected?
I completed the program right before the first COVID-19 lockdowns, so there was much more uncertainty than I expected. I remember applying for a UX Writing internship, and then I suddenly stopped hearing back from the company. I learned later that they had laid off tens of thousands of employees.
My instructor said we would likely have to do some freelance and unpaid work before we landed a full-time role in UX, so I was expecting it would take some time to find a job.
How many companies did you interview at? How did you choose which one to work with?
I interviewed with three companies for UX roles but wasn’t getting much traction. Like I said, it was a tough market. I took on a lot of freelance UX gigs to build up my portfolio before landing a content strategist role in marketing.
I worked there for a little over a year and took on UX writing in addition to my core responsibilities. That experience allowed me to transition into a full-time UX content design role at my current company.
How are the skills you gained from the course useful in your current career?
General Assembly taught me how to approach problems with design thinking. I learned how to ask questions, consider the research, and iterate before jumping in and building something. The skill I probably use most in my career is telling a story, not just through the product experience itself but also in how I communicate with my co-workers.
What do you think is different about your life now versus before the program?
Before the program, I was interested in UX Design, but I didn’t have the skills or knowledge to launch this next career phase. Now, I have a full-time role and a solid foundation in UXmethodologies and best practices.
Do you have any job search advice for someone considering a career in your field?
UX Design is difficult because it’s pretty saturated and companies rarely hire for entry-level roles. During my job search, I was frustrated that seemingly every role I applied for required three to five years of UX experience.
The best advice I can give is to leverage your experience and interests and build your own projects while you search for your dream job. Most companies are more interested in how you think about your work than the brand you worked with or how much you got paid. Being able to tell a story through your portfolio will make you stand out.