Matthew Curtin used to work as a chemical analyst for a pharmaceutical company. That was until he realized that there wasn’t much space for creativity in the field for those without higher degrees. So, Matthew started looking for alternatives. The pandemic eventually compelled him to enroll full-time at Springboard, particularly in its UI/UX Design Bootcamp.
Now, Matthew works as a Product Designer at nate, a social shopping and payments startup, where he earns over $80,000. In his words, “I’m undoubtedly happier in my new career than I was in my old career.” Read more of his experience below.
Tell us about your background. What were you doing before attending the program?
In college, I studied bioengineering with the goal of working for a company that I was passionate about and mission-aligned with! As a student, I realized that there were various directions to take my degree, and most seriously considered working with either medical devices or in the pharmaceutical industry. Ultimately, I chose to work as a chemical analyst working for a San Francisco-based pharmaceutical company.
What motivated you to explore a new career or upskill in your existing field, and why did you decide to pick Springboard?
I quickly realized that there was little creativity in the field I was working in without a higher degree. I knew I wasn’t interested in committing to some specialization in the bio space so I searched for other options.
Living in the San Francisco Area, almost everyone I knew was working in tech…specifically as UX designers. Ultimately the pandemic pushed me to search for a job in the field, but I quickly realized that I needed a portfolio and body of work that I didn’t have. I found that attending a bootcamp would provide me with useful foundational knowledge I needed to switch careers successfully.
How did you finance your education at Springboard?
I paid using savings that I’d made the first year working.
What did you like about the program? Are there any highlights that stood out to you?
The course framework that reinforced the foundations of product design was great, and the projects that ultimately made up my portfolio were invaluable. But the best part was certainly the mentorship program. Springboard paired me with a truly talented and intelligent mentor. Having the ability to ask real questions about the industry, get honest feedback, and build a relationship with an experienced senior designer really accelerated my learning.
How did you fit the program into your schedule?
I actually left my job and committed to bootcamp as a full-time job. Springboard was a significant commitment, and I imagine it would have been difficult to complete the [full-time] course and maintain a full-time job. It required several hours a day, and if you have a 9-to-5 job, you’d probably need to devote at least three hours a day after work.
Can you give us any examples of projects that you worked on during the program?
I worked on several projects that were conceptual and one that was with a real organization. The project that took me the longest was my first conceptual design project as I was learning the foundations of the design process.
The real project I worked on involved creating an AR application over several weeks. This ended up being a great opportunity to work with a real organization and team. It really informed my understanding of what real product design looks like.
Do you have any advice for someone considering this program?
Research the industry as much as you can. See if there’s anyone you can reach out to who works in the field and ask them about their experience. Try and learn about the good and the bad! If you are still interested after that, then maybe consider a bootcamp.
How did the program support you in finding a job?
Springboard had great resources to support the job search. They set up clear markers that encourage you to remain steadfast in your search. Product design also has a lot of barriers to entry such as a portfolio and experience, and Springboard makes getting past these barriers a lot easier.
Was the job search process different from what you expected?
It’s hard to find a good job in any situation. It takes a lot of work! But, ultimately, you get out what you put in. I found a position pretty quickly but had to apply and network a lot more than I anticipated. I probably applied to 50 companies a week and aggressively pursued about 10 companies a week by reaching out to connections at the company or just people on the product teams.
How many companies did you interview at? How did you choose which one to work with?
I interviewed with three companies. One was clearly a better culture fit than the others. I was mainly looking for a passionate and enthusiastic team where I could take on a lot of responsibilities quickly.
How are the skills you gained from the course useful in your current career?
Figma is definitely important to everyday duties. Aside from that, the foundations of the design process are crucial for building great products that put users first.
What do you think is different about your life now versus before the program?
I’m undoubtedly happier in my new career than I was in my old career. It certainly takes some patience and hard work to transition, but it was well worth it!
What do you find fulfilling about your current line of work?
I enjoy working collaboratively, receiving feedback, and the continuous tasks associated with refining and building compelling products.
What do you enjoy about working at your current company, are there any specific perks you enjoy?
Great company culture, unlimited time off, friends with the team, growing organization, wellness benefits, an education stipend, a bunch of free meals, frequent events, etc.
Do you have any job search advice for someone considering a career in your field?
The same as I said earlier. Research UX. That’s half of the product design anyway, so make sure that you like researching.