Nisha Haider was an aspiring actress in New York City who worked two jobs to make ends meet. After drawing the curtains on her dream, Nisha packed her bags and set on to a new chapter in Iceland, where she worked as a remote social media manager for Deaf Kids Code (DCK) and an artist-in-residence.
But when she heard about Kenzie Academy from DKC’s founder, Nisha realized that you don’t have to starve to be an artist. She brought her creativity into tech and gained knowledge and skills in UX and UI design. Now, she’s a visual designer for Accenture, earning over $80,000. Read more of her story below.
Tell us about your background. What were you doing before attending the program?
I was living in NYC and pursuing an acting career. However, the cost of living was so high and after quitting [my job as a sales associate at] Deutsche Bank and working part-time at Macy’s, the everyday struggle… was too hard. I romanticized living the ‘starving artist’ life but [I] had a rude awakening. So I took what little savings I had and went to Iceland while working remotely for Deaf Kids Code [as a social media manager].
What motivated you to explore a new career or upskill in your existing field, and why did you decide to pick this program?
I was completely burnt out working as a sales associate in the financial industry. With the massive amount of uncertainty and lower demand for the role, I decided to quit and pursue a career that lets me use my creative skills.
At first, I was a virtual social media manager for Deaf Kids Code. [I also] spent six months on a small island in Hrísey, Iceland as an artist-in-residence painting abstracts. The founder of DKC, who met Chok (Kenzie Academy’s founder) at an event, mentioned to me about the Kenzie Academy programs. Having absolutely no savings, I was drawn to the Income Share Agreement (ISA), [a payment model that lets you] pay later after you get a job.
So, I took a chance, packed up, and left for Indiana.
How did you finance your education, and what were some of your biggest considerations when making this choice?
I took the ISA. I thought about the current and future market demand and salary for UX designers.
Editor’s note: Kenzie Academy no longer offers the income share agreement as a financing option. If you want to learn more about the available payment and financing options at Kenzie Academy, click here.
What did you like about the program? Are there any highlights that stood out to you?
I liked the ease of the lessons. It wasn’t too stressful. The instructors, Dave and Adam, were always very helpful. The staff is kind and always accommodating. [I made] life-long friends.
[Another highlight for me was] bonding with everyone during the orientation day over a game. Kenzie-Got-Talent tops it all! I loved performing my skit!
How did you fit the program into your schedule?
[My schedule fits] well with the Earn and Learn [set up]. I was able to earn enough to pay my rent and attend classes. Kenzie made sure that our class schedule didn’t conflict with our work. Also, I made sure to have no other obligations for the entire year.
Can you give us any examples of projects that you worked on during the program?
- Veality: an entertainment app to purchase virtual reality experiences.
- My SensAR: an eHealth app incorporating AR technology to give users a more precise diagnosis.
My SensAR is the project that I am most proud of. Check it out on my portfolio: www.nishahaider.com.
Do you have any advice for someone considering this program?
For [students enrolling in Kenzie’s] UX Design program…look for volunteer UX designer roles and get that experience on your resume before you graduate or right after.
How did the program support you in finding a job?
Klaudia [a Kenzie Placement Advisor] was my cheerleader. She kept me motivated to keep applying and not give up. I did learn a lot from the weekly zoom job seeker events. Just to know I am not alone during the job hunt was very comforting.
Was the job search process different from what you expected?
Yes, I assumed I would get offers right after graduation. But [I] quickly realized that recruiters seek experienced designers only. So that’s when I got myself on-boarded to a couple of organizations as a volunteer UX Designer.
How many companies did you interview at? How did you choose which one to work with?
I honestly was not that picky but I wanted to work for a big company, at first. I felt that as a newbie, I would get more internal support [in big companies]. I was fortunate to have received an offer from Accenture. I got numerous interviews before the offer came, and with that experience, I learned how to watch out for red flags.
How are the skills you gained from the course useful in your current career?
[Knowing how to] use a design system… [is important] because it is heavily reliant on us designers, in my current role. Presentation is a big component in my role, too. Having the experience at Kenzie was vital as it allowed me to have more confidence when I present to stakeholders and internal associates.
What do you think is different about your life now versus before the program?
Now, I have financial security and in-demand skills. I have recruiters still calling me several times a day. I feel that as long as I keep learning new design skills, I will be ahead of the game. The industry is changing really fast and new skills will be needed.
What do you find fulfilling about your current line of work (software engineering, UX design, etc.)?
Being given a task to build a screen and receiving positive feedback [was fulfilling]. The imposter syndrome was there for the first few days, but I adapted really fast and proved myself.
Learning to adapt to the company’s culture is so important. Also, I didn’t have Sketch experience but learned it really fast while on the job. That was a little nerve-wracking! But now I can do it with my eyes closed. Like Richard Branson once said: “If they ask for a skill that you don’t know, just say you know it. Then, learn it really fast!”
What do you enjoy about working at your current company, are there any specific perks you enjoy (work hours, pay, time off, etc)?
My teammates and leaders are really nice and helpful. We support each other. I love the paid time off and the 8am to 4pm work hours. There’s no overtime or working on weekends.
Do you have any job search advice for someone considering a career in your field?
Make sure you gain experience (e.g. look for volunteer roles or work as a freelancer/contractor)…Also, learn as many design skills as you can, like Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, Figma, Sketch, and so on. The more skills you have on your resume, the better.