Despite years of success in her career as a senior financial analyst and accountant, Jennifer O. felt dissatisfied and hungry for something more out of her career. Realizing she could use her analytical skills to explore her creative potential, she signed up for the three-month General Assembly UX Design bootcamp.
Now she works as an associate UX designer at KPMG—a job, she says, makes her feel fulfilled and happy. Read on to hear her story.
Tell us about your background. What were you doing before attending General Assembly (GA)?
I spent a few years working at a public accounting firm (Ernst & Young). I worked in both the audit and tax practice departments, where I performed external audits and obtained my CPA [Certified Public Accountant] and CA [Chartered Accountant] designations. Then, I moved into the industry and became a senior financial analyst.
What motivated you to explore a new career or upskill in your existing field, and why did you decide to pick General Assembly?
As an accountant, I felt unfulfilled and actively searched for new opportunities to discover what jobs suit me better. I started my journey as an auditor for both private and public clients before working my way up the tax field.
Although I met many amazing people along the way and was offered great opportunities, I still felt as though something was missing. So, I started looking for my next role as an in-house accountant. However, I found myself in the same situation while having this role and was experiencing the same feelings. At this point, I started asking myself what I really enjoyed doing and what I wanted for my future.
After thinking long and hard, I realized I wanted something different. I wanted to take advantage of the analytical skills I had gained and use them creatively. And after performing diligent research, I learned about UX Design, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What did you like about the program? Are there any highlights that stood out to you?
I really liked that the instructor had many years of field experience and was able to invite ex-colleagues as guest speakers to talk to us. Also, I appreciated the Slack channel where opportunities were shared, which acted as a medium to connect with GA alumni.
How did you fit the program into your schedule?
The bootcamp was pretty extensive and required a time commitment of three months. After each class, I was always on my computer, going over the lectures or working on group assignments. For this reason, before signing up, I knew I had to quit my full-time job to focus on the program, which is what I did.
Can you give us any examples of projects that you worked on during the program?
During the program, I worked on three major projects. The first was an individual assignment to improve the UX design for a company of our choice. I chose a local juice bar for this one, as I really loved their products, and this made the project exciting for me.
The second and third projects I did as part of a group. We were given a pre-set list of options for these, and I chose WhatsApp and Flipp. The projects allowed us to put what we learned into practice as we had to go through the whole design process of conducting research. This involved creating low-high fidelity wireframes, testing, and iterating while working with other designers under certain constraints like lack of time, access to the companies, and paid user groups, to name a few.
Do you have any advice for someone considering the UX Design program?
For those considering this program, I would say reach out to people who have graduated from the program (you can do this by searching for GA alumni on LinkedIn or the email they have in their portfolios, especially if you don’t have Linkedin Premium). Ask them about their experiences and any questions that you may have. You may feel nervous, but I think people do want to help.
Did you find a new position after the program?
I found a new job [as an associate UX designer].
How did the program support you in finding a job?
We had career coaches throughout the program and after we graduated. My career coach provided feedback on my resume, cover letters, and LinkedIn page during my program. After I graduated, the career coaches constantly posted opportunities that they found on job boards.
They set up regular Zoom meetings for alumni who wanted to discuss their search experience, which helped us learn what others were doing. When I had interviews, I scheduled meetings with [my former] instructors to practice my portfolio presentation, which was beyond helpful and helped me feel prepared for the real deal.
Was the job search process different from what you expected?
No. In general, the job search process was as expected. Before I signed up for GA, I asked many questions about the program and the job search experience for recent cohorts, so I feel I came in with a realistic expectation. Coming from a completely different background, it took me about six months to secure a full-time opportunity.
How many companies did you interview at? How did you choose which one to work with?
I don’t recall the exact number, but it must have been around six or seven. I did receive an offer before securing my full-time role but rejected it for multiple reasons. I accepted my current employer because I really enjoyed the interview process and the people on the team who interviewed me.
Obviously, they were great designers with mentorship experience, which was really important for me at that stage in my career. Furthermore, the company was building a tax software, and I thought it was such a beautiful blend of my previous life as an accountant with my new career as a UX designer.
How are the skills you gained from the course useful in your current career?
The skills I gained from the course are helpful in my career because now, I can employ different design processes with so much confidence in my day-to-day tasks. I do this either by planning and conducting research, synthesizing, or finding ways to increase efficiency (with design systems / Figma tricks, etc.).
What do you think is different about your life now versus before the program?
Before the program, I was in a very confusing place. I felt dissatisfied. To be honest, I was not enjoying my daily routine. After the program, as I transitioned into my new position, I felt so excited to start a new journey. I can finally flex my creative and analytical skills while doing something I enjoy. Overall, I feel much happier and now enjoy my day-to-day routine.
What do you find fulfilling about your current line of work?
I truly enjoy being able to make a difference in a user’s experience by making decisions that impact their daily lives. For example, as someone who used to be on the other side (doing the daily accounting), I understand first-hand how complex and challenging the workload can be. So, to know that I can help make design decisions that increase efficiency and decrease workload is super fulfilling to me.
Ultimately for me, my motivation comes from directly seeing the impact of my work on the lives of thousands of users.
What do you enjoy about working at your current company? Are there any specific perks you enjoy?
I enjoy the people and culture the most. We are a tight-knit group that works incredibly closely with one another. And I can say that I work with some of the brightest and best people. I love that we get a training budget to further our personal development, and recently, they announced we would get all Fridays in July and August off this summer so that’s really cool.
Do you have any job search advice for someone considering a career in your field?
I would say make an Excel sheet of all the jobs you apply to, save a copy of the postings, and keep track of your rejections and successes. It helps to set small goals and track your progress.
Another thing I would say is, don’t underestimate the power of networking. It is such an incredible thing.
The job search process can be mentally exhausting. Make sure to take breaks when your body needs them. Talk to your friends about your frustrations. Talking it out helps. Just know that your time will come soon, so don’t give up!