How I went from a college drop out to a UX Designer without a Bootcamp
Those stories of going from no experience to UX Designer in 6 months are all awesome success stories but that’s not my story. Mine took a tab bit longer than 6 months. Let’s just say my journey to UX started before I even knew what UX even was. I’ll tell you a little about myself and then we’ll get into some tips to help you do what I did.
My story starts my freshman year in college at Texas Tech University. I’m 18, I’m away from home for the first time, and I think I’ve got everything figured out. At this point in my life, I wanted to be a Civil Engineer (wow I really missed the mark with that one), but life had other plans for me. I had a decent first semester but my second semester I absolutely sucked. I failed most of my classes and ended up withdrawing from the university.
Yeah so reality has pretty much just punched me in the face and I didn’t know what to do about it. I’m no quitter though so I take a semester off and get back on the horse!
New city. New school. New me! This time it’s going to be different. Cape Girardeau, MO is where I called home now. I’m attending Southeast Missouri State College and this time I’ve got it all figured out. I’ve course-corrected and now I’m majoring in Computer Science (we’re getting a little warmer now), and this is going to be my time to shine! I’m focused and I’m ready!
Nah I’m just kidding! I flunked so hard there and at this point, I’m waist-deep in self-doubt and depression with no way of seeing any light at the end of this tunnel. What’s wrong with me? I’ve always been a great student. I was always at the top of my class growing up so why am I struggling like this? Why am I a failure? Let’s just say life won this round too.
I’m no quitter!! I leave Missouri and go back home to Oklahoma where I transfer to Langston University. This time I actually did get it right! I’m passing my classes and making real progress towards finishing college and getting my degree. Then here comes life again.
My girlfriend gets pregnant and I’m freaking out because I’m a broke college kid. I have no idea how I’m going to provide for this life growing inside of her. I had to make a tough decision to either stay in school and try to tough it out or go work and provide for my family. I dropped out for good this time. Strike 3 I’m out.
The next at-bat
What I haven’t told y’all yet is that the whole time I’m stinking up the joint in college I was teaching myself graphic design and by this point, I’ve gotten pretty good at it. Good enough to land my first real job with the Oklahoma City Dodgers (hence all my baseball references). During my time with the Dodgers, I start hearing about something called UX Design. I learn what it is and from that point, I knew that’s what I wanted to do (finally!). Now I just have to figure out how to get there.
I’m out of baseball references so here’s what happened next
I couldn’t afford a Bootcamp. Not even the ones where you don’t have to pay until you after you landed a job. Not because I didn’t want to and I didn’t try but I was the sole provider for my household. If I didn’t work and bring in money then my family didn’t eat. That didn’t stop me though. I already taught myself graphic design so why can’t I do the same for UX? I thought I could so I did.
My countless failures taught me how to succeed.
Two Freakin Years
That’s how long it took for me to land my first job as a UX Designer. That’s over 700 days but I did it and so can you. I’m not special. I’m just willing to work hard and make sacrifices to make my dreams realities. College wasn’t for me and it may not be for you either. Embrace that! A degree does not define who you are or what you can become. My countless failures taught me how to succeed. Don’t mistake quitting for giving up. By dropping out of college I wasn’t quitting. I was course-correcting. The path that I took to get to where I am today was the path that I was meant to follow.
Here’s what you can do.
- Learn the basics. Research the history of UX, and learn the principles that make UX so unique.
- Learn and apply a UX process to your everyday workflow. You don’t have to be a designer to think like a designer. The tactics we use in UX can be transferred to just about any field.
- Create a portfolio. Showcase your work and take potential employers through your process.
This may sound like 3 easy steps but it’s not. UX is an extremely competitive field with thousands of others all after the same jobs as you. You will have to work twice as hard as people with degrees and certifications and job experience. You will have to prove that you belong over and over again. You will have to fight. You may want to give up but don’t. It will be that much more worth it when you make it.
“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”
- Jack Canfield
Life will always come with hardships. The question you need to ask yourself is will you give up or will you push through. The choice is yours. If I can do it then why can’t you? One of my favorite quotes is by Jack Canfield. He says “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” So don’t let fear stop you from achieving anything and everything you set your mind to because the only person who can stop you is yourself.