Growing up, Micole Simpson had always loved math and physics. After obtaining a degree in civil engineering, she decided to start her own private tutoring business so she could help kids who were struggling in school. Typically, a tutor’s job is to help students review what they’ve already learned in class, but Micole wasn’t satisfied with this impersonal format. She started creating personalized lesson plans for her students, which she called ‘Learn with Micole,’ in which she would break up their study sessions into blocks of five, ten, and twenty minutes to focus on different topics while also building in time for students to talk about their personal lives.
“When I was growing up, I struggled to figure out what I wanted to do career-wise,” said Micole. “I don't want kids growing up these days to go through that same struggle.”
She coined the model ‘Learn with Micole,’ the implementation of which resulted in a 90% turnaround rate for students who were below a C average to an average grade of B+ or higher. That’s when Micole became intrigued by UX design, which, at its foundation, is all about tailoring digital experiences to the user. She joined several professional organizations, including a women’s coding group, and started asking for suggestions as to what she should do next.
Finally, she found Springboard, joining the UI/UX Career Track on the Women in Tech scholarship, a fund previously offered by Springboard in partnership with Women Who Code. Now, she’s a UX designer at Skipify, an e-commerce platform that provides dynamic, shoppable email campaigns so shoppers can purchase items with one click.
For her first capstone project at Springboard, Micole created an app to help women-owned wineries promote their businesses. Stats show that 75% of winemakers in the US are men. Micole is intent on turning the app she created at Springboard into a business, and is actively searching for investors.
The two subjects I’d always been most passionate about in school were math and physics. That’s when I realized I wanted to teach kids math and physics, but I also wanted to tutor those who are having difficulties. So I started my tutoring business in 2017 and to this day I tutor five students. One is going off to college, another is starting high school, while the rest are in elementary school.
Exactly. I love them when they're young because when they get older they have a lot of sass. They’re still finding themselves, still growing. Tutoring kids in high school is definitely more challenging.
Two of my students had autism and another had ADHD. Typically, a tutoring session involves going over what the students have already learned in class, but that doesn’t always work. So I decided to dig deeper. Do we need a power session? Do we need a fast-paced session? ‘Learn with Micole’ is about splitting up a tutoring session into five, 10, or 20-minute blocks to focus on different things that the student needs. Then we’ll spend the last five minutes just talking about personal stuff: Is everything okay at school? Did you discover something new this week?
When I was growing up, I struggled to figure out what I wanted to do career-wise. I don't want kids growing up these days to go through that same struggle. We need to educate parents about what resources are available, so I make sure I advocate for these students by telling them things like “You should join this coding group” or “You should connect with this student.” I always try to connect my students so they can learn from one another.
I felt stuck in my career but I didn’t know what to do next. So I started networking and asking people for suggestions. At the time, I was an operations manager at LA Fitness while tutoring part-time but I still didn’t feel fulfilled. I joined women’s coding groups and other professional networking groups. I discovered UX/UI as a career path and I also heard great things about Springboard. So I signed up and I started at Springboard through the Women in Tech scholarship.
The mentorship support was absolutely great. My mentor is Lakshmi Priya Subramanian [lead UX designer at UnitedHealth Group]. She had a motherly approach to mentorship, which really helped during a pandemic.
We focused on helping me discover my specific path as a designer. She was very supportive of my ideas, and she would help me break them down with suggestions like “Maybe you should focus on e-commerce” or “You could focus on designing for women entrepreneurs.”
For my first capstone project, I designed an app for local women entrepreneurs who are in the wine business. During my research, I found that the industry was 75% dominated by men. I would really like to actually launch the app to the market.
Definitely. I actually recently pitched the app to a friend, and I’m working on getting an investor. I feel women need to be seen and heard, especially in this industry. I started reaching out to women on LinkedIn who are in the wine business and saying, “Can I have a 15-minute conversation with you? I’m building an app for women who make wine.”
Oh yes, definitely. I love doing user research.
Upwork gives you a taste of what it’s like to work in a corporate environment, a startup, or doing side gigs. That's what helped me decide what type of organization I wanted to work as a full-time designer. I would recommend UpWork if you are still trying to figure out what branch of UX design you want to specialize in.
I worked with a company called Let’s Hang. They built a mobile app designed to help people connect based on shared interests. I love cats and coffee, so if I put in the hashtags #Ilovecats and #Ilovecoffee, I could find like-minded people. As a kid, I moved around a lot and leaving friends behind was heart-wrenching, so this was a very heartfelt project for me because it helps people who have recently moved to find new friends.
I was a major introvert when I started at Springboard, but I connected with so many people through Springboard who contributed to how I see myself in the design industry and improve myself. I look back at where I was when I started at Springboard and where I am now and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, now I'm doing Boolean, variants, and component sets and creating a whole library by myself.” Between the mentors, career coaches, and Springboard alum, there’s such a great support system to help you further your career.
I'm open to connecting with anyone wherever they are in their journey. You can always find me on LinkedIn and send me a message.