A Montreal-based musician with several EPs and a music video to her name, Parker Konz sang and made music since she was a child. She soon realized, however, that a musician’s career path is anything but stable. While earning a double degree in political science and history at McGill University, she continued to make music, but she had an inkling that she would soon pursue a different career path altogether.
While spending a semester abroad in Denmark, she was enraptured by the Danish approach to design, which has been an international standard-bearer since the 1950s, and home to Bjarke Ingles, one of the world’s most renowned architects (and one of Parker’s idols). For someone with an avid interest in visual design, being around “beautiful architecture” and “fashionably dressed people” every day was a real inspiration.
Shortly after graduating from university, which coincided with the start of the pandemic and a dearth of jobs requiring a degree in political science, Parker began searching for ways to pursue a career in design. She quickly ruled out design school, which would require her to take on tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Finally, she chose Springboard because it offered a longer-term program compared to some of the other bootcamps she researched, allowing her to develop skills in the entire design process.
“I felt very, very comfortable with the full design process after studying with Springboard. I had seven months to get used to it and do it over and over again,” said Parker, who completed the UI/UX Design Career Track faster than the regular nine months.
Now that she’s a visual designer at Gorilla Group, a commerce experience agency, she considers her musical background an asset. “Making music is a very unstructured process, so making music videos and performing gave me project management skills,” said Parker. “Working with different types of musicians helps me communicate with different types of clients. For example, if I’m working with a drummer, I don’t know how to play drums, but I have to find ways to express what I’m thinking.”
I studied political science and history at university but halfway through I realized I was craving creativity and thinking this probably isn't the right career path for me—but I got my degree anyway. This background knowledge is still very useful in the field of UX, especially with research and analysis, and I don't regret it at all.
But I was always a creative person making music on the side or painting. Then I studied abroad in Denmark, where incredible design is central to their way of life. Design school is very expensive, but then I came across boot camps, which I hadn't heard about before. I saw that you could pay monthly, and they weren't as expensive as a design school. Springboard even had a job guarantee, which is incredible. In general, it seemed perfect for me, especially with my background in a research-oriented field.
My impression was that, first, everyone was really, really stylish and fashionable and I love fashion. So I really enjoyed that aspect. But also just your surroundings—the architecture is meticulously designed. Almost every area I went to was so beautiful and just seeing that every single day, even if you're just going to the grocery store or to a café, is very inspiring. The Danish care a lot about environmental sustainability tied with design, and one of my favorite architects, Bjarke Ingels, blends together what he calls “hedonistic sustainability,” where he creates things that are fairytale-like or fantasy-like—things you wouldn’t think could be created.
They are just magnificent structures, but they're also really sustainable and good for the environment and well-integrated into the world. From that I learned that design doesn't have to be bad for the environment; it can even be a force for good.
Design depends on the country where that website or that app is going to be used. It's important to think about those implications. If you were designing something for a developing country, that might look very, very different from a design meant for Denmark, which is an overall wealthy country. You have to think about what people are accustomed to, their needs and desires.
If there's a majority culture, you'll learn a lot about it. In China, for example, certain social media networks are banned. In some countries, people are not as accustomed to using their email to sign up for digital experiences—they prefer to use their phone number.
Overall, having these different cultural experiences makes you open-minded. You can do a better job of conducting user interviews, getting to know your users, stepping into their shoes, and coming from a blank slate without having too many biases starting out.
We work with a lot of different clients that are trying to improve their e-commerce experience. So we build websites and apps, focusing on purchasing and products. We also work with business solutions analysts—they come up with KPIs for the app or website based on business requirements and use Google Analytics to measure performance. I also work with the development team and the other UX designers on my team.
Here’s an example of something we’ve been doing for a long-term client. Right now we're looking at their homepage and brainstorming how we can redesign it to improve usability. They've had some poor reviews, as well as low usability testing percentages on things like conversion rate and bounce rate. So we’re trying to redesign it based on specific UX/UI benchmarks.
The page is cluttered with a lot of offers and advertisements right at the top, and that's overwhelming for the user. So we're working on a redesign to include a lot more white space, and introduce a storytelling flow to communicate in a digestible format what this brand is, what they do, what's their story, and what products and services they offer.
I really liked the curriculum and my mentor. The mentorship was probably my favorite part because it's so important to have someone that can tell you what’s right and what's wrong. It's not enough to just study a curriculum online; you don't know if what you're making is up to par, if it's pixel-perfect, or if it’s up to industry standards. My mentor was tough on me, but that's what I needed. If something wasn’t pixel-perfect, I had to go back and redo it, and I really, really enjoyed that.
It's also quite different from the standard educational system. The course isn’t graded, there are no tests. It's not like if you fail something you’ll lose your chance. If you don't do something right, you just keep trying until you get it right.
You learn so much about real UX design because you get to interview people and do research and testing as well.
I actually did two Industry Design Projects. After I finished the first one, Springboard had an extra one that I could do for them. The first company I worked with was Kindred Hair, a black-owned, female-led haircare company. They wanted to improve their app and add a social networking and journaling feature in order to build a community.
It can be really difficult for Black women to find the right hair care products, and they're all really expensive. The founder wanted to solve that problem by offering this in-depth quiz and providing recommendations for users. The quiz was already available on the app, but we did the full design process to build out the community portion of the app—starting with research, user interviews, wireframing and brainstorming, and sketching, all while keeping our client updated. And then we also did some final high-fidelity designs. That experience was invaluable and so much fun.
Yes, that one was also really great. The company produced COVID testing kits for at-home use, but they were having problems on their website with bounce rates and conversion rates. So I did a website audit and gave them some design recommendations. I also did usability testing to identify issues on their homepage, presented those to the client, and redesigned the homepage to be more in line with their branding.
The best part about that was seeing my client’s enthusiasm and being able to help people. We're not doctors saving lives, but being able to help people and make them happy is another reason why I love UX/UI.
Absolutely. I probably wouldn't have a job right now if I hadn't done those Industry Design Projects. I did over 40 interviews and applied to over 400 jobs. In every interview, companies wanted to hear about case studies from real-life projects.
My mentor was Miklos Philips (digital product designer at Financial Times). We had a good rapport. We were always joking with each other. He really pushed me as a designer and he was strict, but that's what I needed. If something didn’t look great, he was brutally honest and that has made me into the designer that I am now—very meticulous, brutally honest. Well, maybe not as brutal, but when you work with clients and teammates you have to express your design decision and your opinion, even if it's not positive, and that's an important skill to learn.
It was a nine-month program, but I completed it in seven months. That to me is why I chose Springboard. There are a lot of bootcamps out there that are much shorter. If you want to enter a new career path, you can’t just go to a bootcamp for two or three months, unless you already have experience in design. I had no experience, so I had to think about future employers and what they might be looking for.
I felt very, very comfortable with the full design process after studying with Springboard. I had seven months to get used to it and do it over and over again. I did usability testing about 50 times and about 50 user interviews, which adds up to 100 hours or so of practical experience.
When you’re interviewing, don’t be disappointed if you get rejected a lot. Sometimes you spend several days on a design challenge and you don’t even get a response, which can be heartbreaking, demoralizing, and horrible for your mental health. But you have to believe that with every interview you are getting better at the things you want to say, you’re exposed to more types of questions and design challenges.
Every interview led me to the job that I have now. If not for all those rejections, I wouldn't have my job, which is amazing and I love it so much.
Another piece of advice I have is to talk through your projects in-depth right from the get-go. When I first started interviewing, I would give a brief overview and expect that the interviewer would ask a follow-up question, but sometimes they never did, and I didn’t have a chance to go in-depth and show my skills and expertise. Just stay positive and really engage yourself and stay passionate about UX/UI.