Natalie Breuner

UX Designer and Researcher, Magoosh

From:   San Francisco, USA
Course:   UX Design
Before Springboard:   ABA behavioral therapist for children with special needs
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The Springboard curriculum was very comprehensive... I really appreciated that because it truly was a career track that set me up for success.

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Meet Natalie Breuner, a graduate of Springboard’s UX Design Career Track

Springboard alum Natalie Breuner is living the digital nomad lifestyle, an accelerating trend among remote workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. While on a month-long road trip across the United States, Breuner started working remotely as a UI/UX designer for Magoosh, a company that provides online test prep for college and graduate school. She says mixing work with travel went so smoothly she’s already planning her next trip, which may involve going abroad for over two years.

While studying at Springboard, she landed a number of freelance UX design gigs at nonprofits by attending meetups (both in-person and then virtually), and introducing herself to product managers, senior designers, and other decision-makers. Breuner swears by the power of networking as a way for junior designers to build their portfolio, gain the attention of hiring managers, and hit the ground running in their first design job.

With a background as an ABA behavioral therapist for children with special needs, as well as an interest in art and design, Breuner says she was looking for a new career path where she could blend her interests—and UX design fit the bill perfectly.

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Before studying UX design at Springboard you did a whole bunch of things, including owning your own jewelry design business. How did you find out about UX design?

I have always been really passionate about psychology, children with special needs, and social impact. While all these things are amazing, they also require your whole self. It led to a lot of heaviness that I brought home at the end of the day because I am a pretty empathic person.

Although psychology is still something I’m extremely passionate about, I wanted to take a break from that world and somehow still channel my love of psychology, art and design, and research into one career path.

Once I looked into Springboard, the UX Design Career Track really struck my interest because I could combine all the things I love. I’ve never looked back. I’m so happy I’ve ended up where I am.

What initially interested you in Springboard?

I did an extensive amount of research because I had certain criteria. I was looking at online vs. in-person bootcamps and I’m actually very glad I chose online because my life didn’t change that radically when the pandemic struck.

I’m glad I chose Springboard and I’ve been a huge self-proclaimed brand ambassador ever since. People contact me a lot on LinkedIn asking questions as well as friends or acquaintances who are interested in the field, and I will often recommend Springboard because I’m very happy with the program.

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I had a very positive Springboard experience—and I would say that’s largely due to my positive experience with my mentor.

Switching careers is always a scary thing to do. What motivated you to take the plunge?

I’ve always been a very driven person and I thought I knew what I wanted to do. But the minute I graduated college a couple of years ago, I ended up being one of those grads who I never thought I would be. I didn’t know what I wanted to do at all, I felt so lost and directionless. All of a sudden I looked into this new career path and it aligned with my values and interests and background, so I decided to take the leap.

While you were studying at Springboard you landed a number of freelance jobs as a UX/UI researcher. How did that come about?

People would tell me I should try to gain some personal project experience to add to my resume and portfolio other than my bootcamp projects because it shows initiative. Plus, it’s just fun.

I pursued freelance work so I could hit the ground running the minute I finished my Springboard course and get a head start in my job applications and interviews.

What was your strategy for that? Did you cold pitch companies, use a job board, or network?

A couple of opportunities came from attending networking events. I also created an Upwork account and I made a very detailed profile just like my LinkedIn profile and people have reached out to me there because my nonprofit experience aligned with what they’re looking for.

I also joined this global all-women hackathon called “Women Hack the Crisis” in response to the pandemic and that was super cool because it really challenged me and I was really able to get that SCRUM/agile experience in just a week.

You just started a new job as a UI/UX designer at Magoosh, working on the beta phase of the product. What does your day-to-day look like?

I just started so I’m still onboarding but I pretty much hit the ground running when they brought me. Essentially, my earlier tasks have been doing Sketch wireframes and I’m working on lo-fidelity digital wireframes right now. They are also having me work on various product features and redesign some of the UI of the homepage.

Tell us about your Springboard experience. Were you hesitant at first? How did you find the course curriculum and mentorship support?

I had a very positive Springboard experience—and I would say that’s largely due to my positive experience with my mentor. She was just phenomenal. I specifically asked to be placed with her because she’s artistic like me and it seemed like she had a very positive work/life balance even though she was a very, very skilled professional. She’s just somebody that I really admired and aspired to become down the line in my career.

The Springboard curriculum was very comprehensive. It seemed to entail all the required skills I’ve seen in job applications. I really appreciated that because it truly was a career track that set me up for success.

Tell us a bit about your capstone project. What was the most challenging part of the project, and what was the most rewarding part?

For my capstone project, I created a charity donation app called Giv. When you search for organizations to donate to on Google for causes like COVID-19, the wildfire, or global hunger, it’s a bit overwhelming. The goal of my project was to reduce those feelings of overwhelm and narrow down the options based on a specific person’s criteria so they would be more likely to: a) donate in general; and b) donate to vetted organizations.

My hope is to try to develop this into a functional app on the app store once I have a bit of time on my hands.

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Finally, any parting words of advice for anyone out there reading this who’s always wondered whether they ended up in the wrong career and isn’t sure how to take the next step?

Don’t doubt yourself and follow your gut. If your intuition is itching at you constantly in the back of your mind, there's clearly something deep within you that’s telling you to give it a shot. Worst-case scenario, if it doesn’t work out, at least it won’t bother you anymore and you can be proud of yourself for trying.

Just make sure you really give yourself time for it, because it’s an all-encompassing thing. So really commit that time and energy to it because it will pay off. You get out of it what you put in.

Here at Springboard, not only do we pride ourselves on our students’ successes, but we genuinely believe that their dreams are what make up the foundation of our mission. Our alumni dream big—and they make big moves in stride. So we’re shining a light onto some of our favorite alumni stories: their journeys tell stories of accomplishment, grit, and determination against all kinds of odds.

Find more inspiring Springboard student success stories here.

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