This past year, I found myself being the only in-house UX Designer at Teletrac Navman. While I enjoyed the challenges that come from being the main point person for design-related solutions, candidly, being a team of one lacks friction that fosters growth. To mitigate address the gaps in the necessary skills that make a successful UX Designer, I began researching for online UX courses.
There was a surplus of UX Bootcamps available, however, they tend to be expensive and required me to be a full-time student. What I needed was a cost-effective course that I could fit into my full-time work schedule. After some research, I found DesignLabs. While they offered a full-time UX Bootcamp, they also provided a part-time version of their curriculum. This version broke up the content into 4 shorter courses, each about $400. What caught my attention was that I could still have access to a UX Mentor through the shorter courses. This was perfect since I believed I didn't need a full UX Bootcamp as I have learned a lot of skills during my time in Teletrac Navman. Again, what I was looking for was to fill in the gaps of skills that I have not been able to obtain in my current position. So, I enrolled in DesignLab's User Research & Strategy course.
What I appreciated from the course was how easy it was to consume the content. DesignLab laid out everything in a very clean, concise, and user-friendly way. (This is to be expected as this is a UX course after all!) A nice little touch was the progress tracker at the top. It was always up-to-date and served as a little trophy for the amount of work I put in!
I learned a lot about product development throughout the course. I found that the process could be divided into four main parts, Discover, Define, Design, and Deliver. The course focused more on the first two, Discover and Define. Within these sections, we learned a few ways to conduct research. This included creating Empathy Maps and Storyboards.
However, the focus of this post is to record my impressions, not simply reiterate the course material. The most impactful part of the course had to be the mentor sessions. What I appreciated about the sessions was that I not only was able to ask questions about the course material but also questions specifically about the UX Design industry. I was able to ask about the best workflows and practices that I could implement in my own company. Specifically, I was able to gain direction on questions like, "How can I better incorporate my design tasks into our agile workflow?" and "How can build a culture that is customer-driven and not solution-driven?" My mentor was great at providing some of these insights. As a result, I took actions within my company to get closer, first-hand, feedback from customers. Now I am finding myself working closely with product managers from the Discover phase to the Deliver phase of research. To summarize my experience with DesignLab's mentor program, I not only got great feedback on personal designs but also gained confidence which enabled me to be a better UX Designer.
The only gripe I had with DesignLabs was that the site was not updated frequently. I found a few broken hyperlinks throughout the material that I brought up to the attention of my mentor. While she reached out to DesignLab to fix these links, they were never fixed during my time taking the course.
As mentioned before, within my company, I am now contributing to more research-oriented exercises that validate new ideas we believe we can solve. I am working closely with a sister company to find new solutions utilizing both of our expertise in our respective industries. I am attending Voice of Customer sprints where I participate in customer interviews. This will be an ongoing effort and I'm excited that I can apply all that I learned from DesignLabs to new initiatives within my company.