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How I transitioned from being a flight stewardess into becoming a UX Designer.

5 months prior, I didn’t know what signing up for a full time UX design immersive course with General Assembly would entail. After waiting a month to start the course and going through 480 hours of it, I can safely say, I did not regret my impulsively made decision. Thank you UXDI 25, we made it!!

Our graduation day — 29 Jan 2021

Bear with me as I pen down my journey… (I’d like to keep this story for memory’s sake and I hope this will help anyone who was as lost as I was!)

How Covid-19 spurred me into action.

For the past 3 years, I was relatively happy with life. I had a job that took me places, literally, it flew me from country to country. Though I had to deal with the many differing timezones and homesickness, I enjoyed the lifestyle that came with it too! However, when Covid-19 hit the world in 2020, my hectic lifestyle came to a standstill.

As flights got cancelled day by day due to the fluid situation, I wasn’t sure if I should have felt grateful or guilty. Grateful because I could finally take a break from the fast paced environment. Guilty because the world seemed bleak at the time. For about 5 months, I enjoyed my ‘break’ but felt that something was amiss. With the news about Covid-19 here to stay, I needed a safety net to fall back on, in case the aviation industry couldn’t pick up anytime soon.

I started looking for jobs in relation to what I had studied prior to being a flight stewardess, which was fashion communication. As I combed through the job portals, I noticed UX/UI designer kept popping up and wondered what that role was about. I did a quick research and thought it was pretty cool! How could I become a UX/UI designer? Would that be a potential career path?

Finding out about General Assembly.

There were not too many institutions or schools offering courses on UX design in Singapore. Those that were, offered part time courses that spanned a few years or courses that weren’t available at that point in time. I wanted to attend a course that could equip me with the skills as soon as possible so I could kickstart my career. Almost wanting to give up, I chanced upon the User Experience Design Immersive course (UXDI) at General Assembly (GA).

I couldn’t find out much about GA’s presence in Singapore (I was looking for reviews and past experiences in the particular UXDI course) so I decided to try to contact GA directly. I got ahold of one of the admission’s officers and she answered the many questions I had. With that, I decided to trust my gut and applied for the UXDI course.

Before the course started.

Applying for the course was only step 1 of the process. After applying for the course, you will be required to go through an admissions challenge (step 2) in which a problem is presented for you to solve. You will then have to present this to your admissions officer via an interview. While I’m not quite sure if this is the case for all the courses in GA, I’m sure for UXDI, at least, we all had to go through this challenge.

Here comes the nitty gritty details.

Register your interest at no costs. Once you’ve gone through the admissions process and are successfully accepted, a SGD$150 fee is applicable. While the cost of the course itself is SGD$14,650 (as of 1 Feb 2021), Singaporeans and PRs are eligible for a subsidy and would only be required to pay $5550. You can either pay through instalments or the full sum upfront, you can discuss this with your admissions officer! (All information gotten here can be found in the GA website.) Of course, there are some criteria attached to the subsidy which you can also discuss with your admissions officer.

Once the process is finished and you’ve been accepted into the course, you’ll be required to complete a pre-work before your course starts. This is a glimpse into what you’ll be learning and to better prepare you for the next 3 months.

So, let’s recap through a step by step on what you’ll need to be prepared for:

  1. Register your interest (SGD$150)
  2. Complete the admission challenge
  3. Present it to your admissions officers via interview
  4. Make your payment (SGD$5550) & sign the contract
  5. Complete your pre-work before the course start date

The UXDI course.

You’ll have to juggle both lessons and projects concurrently. In the next 3 months, you’ll be taught and equipped with the skills you need as a UX designer.

Some of the main things you’ll learn throughout the course will be how to conduct research, synthesise data from the research, how to create working prototypes and how to test these prototypes. Don’t worry, it sounds as though there is a lot to take in, but you’ll be fine! (Even though there are times you would feel like giving up)

The UXDI projects.

A big aspect of the course is the projects you’ll be doing. I wished someone would have told me this before starting, so I hope that through this post, it can better prepare you before starting the course.

The next 3 months of the course will be extremely fast paced and intense, you’ll need to be prepared for sleepless nights, working on the weekends and being overloaded on caffeine…BUT it’ll all be worth it.

There will be 5 projects in total and an optional passion project. For the first 2 projects, P1 & P2, you’ll be given a second chance to redo, should you fail either or both projects. However, from the third project onwards, P3, P4 & P5, there is no second chances. I’ll explain a little more, based on what my batch went through! While I won’t bore you with the details, I’ll summarise what each project is about.

P1 — Creating a mobile application

As newbies, we were tasked with creating a mobile application for our very first project at GA.

The brief? We asked our partners seated at the table what interests them the most, we found out about their needs, desires and defined a problem to solve.

By the end of 2 weeks, we had to create a working prototype of the mobile app we designed using the UX design thinking process, test that out and present it to the class.

P1 — Eat What? Mobile application

P2 — Improve an existing local e-commerce website

As we were learning and working on our projects at the same time, it can get a little overwhelming. P2 for me was the most intense period throughout the 3 months, and once you can get through this project, I’m sure you’ll do alright for the rest. Brace yourselves for this project! I won’t go too much into detail about this project but you may view my P2 project here.

P2 — An unsolicited website redesign for Overjoyed

P3 — Working in a group to redesign an existing website

In the previous projects, P1 & P2, it was both an individual project. Once you’ve gotten past P1 & P2, pat yourself on the back because those were the two main intensive projects! This project is about working in group, redesigning an existing non-profit or governmental website of your choice. Our group decided to choose the Registry of Marriages (ROM) Singapore. If you’d like to read more about my P3, you may do so here.

P3 — An unsolicited website redesign for ROM Singapore

P4 — Creating your own portfolio website

At this point, you’ve completed 3 projects in GA and it’s time to do up your own portfolio website to showcase your work. Congratulations, you’ve made it through the halfway mark! For this project, you’ll have to decide everything on your own including which hosting sites you’d like your website to be.

Tip: Do your research beforehand because once you’ve started on your portfolio, it’ll take up a lot of time to restart it on another platform.

You can view my portfolio through the link below or here.

P5 — Working with a client

The last ever project you’ll get to do at GA (unless you decide to take another course) is a client based project.

For this project, you’ll be working in a group with a real client. The client can be a local or international client.

Our group was lucky enough to work with Thunder Lab Ventures, a management consultancy based in San Francisco. It was a wonderful and eye-opening experience.

If you’d like to read more about my P5, you may do so here.

P5 — Sumrise, a relationship building mobile application

What I’ve learnt.

As someone who has been deeply immersed in a customer service environment, I had thought that transitioning from such a background back into the design industry would be an extremely difficult one. However, I’ve come to realised that both industries serve a similar purpose, that is to cater to the needs of the end user.

I now realised that the soft skills embedded in me throughout my time as a flight stewardess were beneficial in helping me grow into the UX designer I’d like to be. These soft skills — listening, empathising and understanding what the user wants are amongst some of the most important skills needed to become that UX designer everyone needs. I strive to improve these skills along with the technical skills required and will always be happy to learn something new everyday.

TLDR; Going through an intense 3 month User Experience Design course with General Assembly was worth it.

I’ve just graduated not too long ago from UXDI 25, and as I begin my job hunt as a newly minted UX designer, I’d like to leave some words of encouragement to those going through this course and to those who are looking to take up this course — Don’t give up, you can do it! (Also, coffee helps)

This course, though intensive and really fast paced, it taught me a lot in a span of 3 months. I’m truly grateful to my instructor, Pieter, and the teaching assistants, Valerie and Stefanie, for everything throughout the course. For my batch, UXDI 25, thank you guys for being a cool bunch of people to hang out with (and not toxic, most importantly) and learn from.

Thank you for taking the time to read this rather lengthy post, please feel free to hit me up if you have any questions or thoughts you’d like to share! (or if you’d like to hire me…?) In the meantime, let’s connect!

Flight stewardess turned UX/UI designer. View my portfolio here: https://www.gladysakl.com/