Mentorship, certifications and boot camps in UX

If you search on Google about User Experience Design (UX) and look for certifications, boot camps, conferences, mentorship, or books, you will soon find out that everybody is trying to sell you something, and some will even claim to give you the Holy Grail of UX that will transform you in the greatest design expert this planet will ever see, all of this in the shortest amount of time!

As a junior or somebody that wants to transition into User Experience Design, this will be overwhelming, and soon you will find yourself in a position of being lost in this desert of costly options, so what do you choose to do, what you choose to spend your money on? How do you kickstart your User Experience career?

You will find many stories out there about how people started their design careers. My journey started back in 2006 as a graphic designer editing the graphic textures of a game called Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) by Konami, maybe somebody else followed the academic path and graduated from a university that is design oriented, or maybe you transitioned from being an Architect and found User Experience Design more appealing to you, as you can see there are a lot of ways, but the truth is that there are no shortcuts, and this is available for all workforce fields, design is not special in any way!

As I mentioned above, there are a lot of options to grow as a designer, you can attend a boot camp, you can aim for a certification, you can seek mentorship. Let’s explore each option and see what are the pros and cons and what alternatives you have.

UX Certifications

As a junior, you just obtained your well-deserved User Experience Design certification after spending a ton of money to attend the courses and invested a lot of energy in learning and passing the exam (if any). You cannot wait to post on Linkedin your shiny badge that labels you as an expert in the design field, and you might expect that things will change dramatically and the biggest corporations will fight for your signature on the hiring contract.

The truth is not that pretty, I don’t want to disappoint you, actually, nothing will really change in how people or companies perceive you, Google or Tesla will not hire you because of that shiny badge. The truth is that companies seek real competence, your passion and willingness to give 110%, and how well you are going to fit in the organizational culture, thus soft skills are much more important sometimes, not the hard skills, nobody wants a problematic personality that will disrupt the wellbeing of the team, regardless his expertise.

Don’t focus on the outputs, a badge, a diploma, a recommendation from the teachers, or whatever other output, instead focus on the overall outcomes. You will meet new people that share the same interests, thus your network of connections will grow, and this is incredibly important! Networking should be on the top of your priority list, the more people you know (and they like you), the more chances great opportunities will come to you.

When it comes to the theory that you will learn from these UX Courses, my opinion and given my experience in the field, I think you can achieve at least the same understanding by reading books, because books are written in a very exhaustive way, they cover all the facets of a topic (research, facilitation, User Interface, etc.). Of course, there are a lot of books available on the market and you might be wondering what books exactly to read and in which order, and my answer is: it depends on your individual needs, that’s why a mentor that guides you might be a better option than UX courses, but we will get to that in a second.

On the other hand, if you seek to work (or already working) as a consultant or freelancer, you are a Senior UX Designer and you already have the experience and expertise needed to deliver value to your clients, a certification that reinforces the fact that you are an expert might be useful, but take this with a pinch of salt.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of UX Courses that have great content, but because there are also a lot of other courses that promise you to become an expert at the end of a 5-day intensive curriculum, the good ones are so hard to find. Unfortunately, you are tricked by these deceptive courses and in the end, the only one that loses is you, because you lose a lot of money and energy. Sorry, but this is the truth.

UX Bootcamps

The difference between UX Courses and UX Bootcamps is that the latter focus more on practice instead of pure theory taught in a very old-fashioned way, and at a first glance it sounds like a very good offer, but it comes with a twist. The twist is the context in which you work because a boot camp is very different from how an organization is doing design.

First of all, they will teach and show you that design is done in a linear and straightforward way, that follows the design thinking process, from discovery to ideation and all the way to implementation and then you come back to the discovery and the loop continues.

The problem is that the reality is a little bit different, organisations have a lot of administrative and political limitations or blockers, you need to understand these constraints, and act accordingly. Just because the design thinking process tells you something, or because somebody shows you how to do things in an ideal world, it doesn’t mean that you should stick to this way of designing regardless of the context. I wrote an article, The “curse” of the design process, it explains why you should focus more on outcomes, rather than outputs.

The second thing that doesn’t reflect the reality is the people you work with within a boot camp. Chances are all (or at least the vast majority) of the participants are designers and share the same beliefs and interests, thus you will work in harmony. In an organization a lot of key stakeholders or decision-makers have no idea about the value of UX Design, and suddenly you face the situation in which the harmony is disrupted and you have to fight for your work, and it can be very frustrating if wrong expectations are set in your mind, that design should be done the same way regardless the context.

As I mentioned for courses, being a junior that is attending a boot camp doesn’t make you an expert, or ready to step to a higher seniority as some of them claim, instead it will grow your connections network, which is a good thing, but does it worth the money? You decide.

UX Mentorship

I wish I had a mentor at the beginning of my career, I wish I had somebody to guide me in this field, to show me what’s good and wrong, I wish I can be the mentor that I never had, I try my best!

Each of us has its own way of learning, of understanding, each of us is unique and deserves personalized guidance and help. That’s why I think a good mentor can help you boost your career more than any certificate, course, boot camp, or conference you attend.

A mentor is more than a person that teaches you theory or how to do things. A mentor is your partner which you trust, and that mentor should inspire your, should motivate you, should raise your morale when things are not going well. It should be there when you need him, when you feel lost and need guidance, when the impostor syndrome kicks in, when you feel overwhelmed.

Don’t worry if you don’t find the right mentor from the first try, keep searching, don’t be afraid to ask for help, the bigger the connections network you have, the bigger the chances to find the right mentor for you. You will know when you found the right mentor, you will feel it, the conversation will flow seamlessly, and your connection will be very powerful. You will feel safe and ready to rock’n’roll your UX career!

A message for companies: Implement mentorship programs for juniors. Help them to grow, and they will never leave the company if you make them happy.

Conclusion

There are no shortcuts to boost your career, you need to work hard, be passionate about design and read a lot, and this takes time, years of practice, keep this in your mind, nothing happens overnight, nothing will allow you to grow instantaneously, there is no instant gratification.

Whatever decision you make — to attend a UX course, a boot camp, a conference, or seek mentorship — be informed and make educated decisions. Don’t rush to the first option you see, instead compare them, ask for advice, ask for feedback, understand what to expect and what are the outcomes, not the outputs.

Don’t let Fear of Missing Out guide you.

Article originally published on: https://researchloop.net/2021/04/14/mentorship-certifications-and-boot-camps-in-ux/

Thanks for reading! If you’re interested in UX Research, remember to follow me on Medium, Twitter (@research_loop) and Linkedin for more content.

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