UXUI Alumn and Wyncoder Lauren Winston first started her journey into tech as a community manager for nonprofit and culture organizations. Now, she is a UXUI Designer at City Furniture.
Learn about her story in her own words:
Before going through Wyncode I was a Community Manager for both a nonprofit arts and culture organization and a tech startup, here in Miami. To be a good Community Manager you need to be able to connect with the people you serve, understand their needs and then help create solutions to their problems. These are also the building blocks of the beginning of the UX/UI Design process where you research the problem, try to understand your user and then come up with creative solutions.
Having a strong background in relationship-building was definitely beneficial for me going into the program but you don’t need years of prior experience in order to be successful in UX and/or UI. Playing up your soft skills are just as important as pulling from past work experience. For example, to be good at UX it’s ideal to be a good listener, communicative, curious, analytical and organized and being good at UI takes attention to detail, patience, flexibility and creativity.
About a year ago I was looking to make a career change and a few people suggested that I look into UX/UI Design. The more I looked into it the more I realized that it was a good fit for me so I started doing research on how to make the change. Everyone I spoke to who was already in the industry told me to go through a bootcamp and they’d give me all the training I needed. I did research on other options in Miami and even looked at programs out of state but none of them seemed like the right fit. One Sunday morning I was looking through the newspaper and read an article about a former UX/UI Design student at Wyncode, Calvin Simms, and decided to reach out to learn more about the program. The second I met with the Wyncode team I was sold. They immediately made me feel welcomed and they created an environment that you want to be a part of.
When I was working at the tech startup alongside the Product Designer (UX/UI) I would always think about how cool her job was and how I wish I got to work on the kind of work she does everyday. At some point I stopped and thought to myself “if that’s what I want to be doing, what’s holding me back?” So, I created a plan on how I could make it happen.
Choosing Wyncode over other bootcamps was natural and instantaneous. The program they’ve built is strong, their staff is knowledgeable and their career resources are vast. One of the biggest selling points for me when it came to picking Wyncode was how much they value and empower women. Not only do you have strong female role models (co-founder Johanna Mikkola and UX/UI teacher Gessica Tortolano) but they offer a Women in Tech Scholarship, which I was lucky enough to be a recipient of and helped made the finances less overwhelming..
In the class, and in most real world settings, UX and UI Designers work in one to two week sprints. Time is not on your side. As a perfectionist, I had to learn that the design process is cyclical and you can’t fine tune every aspect of your designs before sending them off to developers. There will always be more iterations to make the product better and I had to train myself to be okay with “letting my baby go” even if it doesn’t feel complete.
Do as much research as you can on UX/UI. Talk to people in the industry, attend one of Wyncode’s introductory events or read some articles on Medium. The more you learn the more you’ll know if it sounds up your alley.
If you know you want to get into UX/UI but you’re hesitating for some reason….don’t. I’m a firm believer that there’s always a plan A, B and C so figure out what’s holding you back and then find a way to overcome the obstacle(s). In the end, you won’t regret it.
I’ve made some amazing friends throughout the process. I’ve collaborated with them, learned from them and now get to enter the workforce with them. It’s a great feeling knowing that the Wyncode family spans all across the South Florida tech community and that I’ll be able to continually leverage these relationships and make new friends down the line simply because of the Wyncode connection.
I’m currently the UX/UI Designer for City Furniture. We work in quick one week sprints based on Agile’s methodology so every week is structured the same way to remain as efficient as possible but every week there are new problems that I’m hoping to solve. Right now I’m working on three large projects that span over a few months and I also do weekly website optimizations that are on a smaller scale. No matter the size of the project or problem I follow the same framework I learned going through the Wyncode program. I conduct research, try to understand the City Furniture customer, design with their needs in mind, and then test and iterate on those designs until the project is ready to be passed off to developers to code.
Having the skills to properly problem solve in this way is really empowering and makes you very valuable at a company. Of course, it can be difficult to always come up with the best solutions but when I reach that point I always just trust the UX framework that Gessica taught me.\ \ Searching for a job is hard. There’s no way around it (at least not that I’ve found). But I wouldn’t have been able to get to where I am today without the Wyntalent team. Throughout the process it was difficult for me to define what it was that I wanted in a role and what aspects of that wish list I should compromise on. I was lucky enough to have a few opportunities arise before taking my current position but with every potential opportunity I had to determine if it seemed like the right fit for me. The Wyntalent team was my sounding board and they helped me refocus my goals based on my needs, wants and skill set. They start preparing you for finding a job during the first week of class and help you long after your cohort has finished. Whether it was reviewing my resume, creating a plan of action, or talking me through negotiations, I knew I could always count on them.
Wyncode really prepared me to go into a work setting with confidence. It’s not that I have all of the answers, because I definitely don’t, but they prepare you to approach a problem in a way that you’re able to find the answers. That tool is priceless. I’ve only worked on teams where I’m the only UX/UI Designer on the team so I come in with a unique perspective compared to other team members. This also means that I have to have strong suggestions to make since I’m the go-to person on UX/UI Design. Again, the best thing that I can do is follow the framework that I’ve laid out for the project and trust the process. It’s important for me to remember that even though I’m the designer, my opinions don’t matter. All that matters is that I’m building a product based on human-centered design while keeping the business goals and objectives in mind. Once I take my opinions out of the mix it’s easy to look at all of the information I’ve collected and put together the puzzle pieces for what the next steps should be.
I think it’s a really exciting time to join the South Florida tech community. Everyone here wants to see tech flourish in Miami so we all stick together to achieve that common goal. Sure, there are times when you’re competing against each other for jobs but what you’ll find more often is a great support system of people cheering you on, helping you making connections and sharing their design secrets so that we can collectively make South Florida a tech hub. This is a great advantage for women since everyone is on the same playing field.
Tips and Advice for future students
I think the best way to continually grow, post Wyncode, is to practice what I have learned in class. I’ve done challenges and then asked for feedback from other designers and that process has always been an eye-opening experience. I also read a lot of Medium and Baymard articles, I’m slowly working my way through the Daily UI challenge and love scrolling through my LinkedIn feed to see what other designers are posting about.
Do your research on what it means to be a UX/UI Designer. When I was considering the position I reached out to a designer and asked if I could pick their brain about what they do. That woman gave me a ton of recommendations and connected me to one of her friends who also gave recommendations and made other connections for me. Soon the entire interview process had snowballed and I was left with priceless advice and about 10 new friends.
My job is really fun. Like I mentioned before, I’m working on three main projects right now and because each project comes along with unique problems that need to be solved, the approach to each one is also different. For one project I’m working on optimizing the checkout process, so I’m relying heavily on industry standards and implementing a lot of those tried and true approaches we all see when we buy something online. Another project focuses on the online customer service experience. For this project there are a lot of business rules that need to be taken into account but would be too complicated to explain in the same way to a customer. For this project the language we use and the design are both key in creating a good product so user testing will be crucial down the line. The last project is much more experimental so we started at square one. Based on my suggestion, I got to run user journeys and minimum viable product (MVP) sessions so that we could better understand who we’re designing to take the subjectivity out of the design process.
Before Wyncode I was stuck in a role that slowly wore me down over the years. It was never enough for me and made me question my abilities in doing anything beyond Community Management. Going through Wyncode gave me my confidence again. It revitalized me to learn again, to challenge myself and to step out of my comfort zone. I love what I do and I finally feel like I’ve finally found my craft. I talk people’s ears off about Wyncode very often and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to have a life changing experience in such a short amount of time.