After winning a merit scholarship worth over $100,000 to the Parsons School of Design in New York City, Sharon Yeun Kim started receiving a lot of requests on social media as to how she’d submitted such a stellar application.
Shortly after, she decided to start her own YouTube channel offering tips on how to create a UX design portfolio, UX case studies, and so on. The purpose of her channel, she says, is to offer more transparency around what it’s really like to join a bootcamp and become a successful designer.
While on the verge of starting her junior year at Parsons majoring in communication design, Sharon decided to take a gap year from her studies as the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools and workplaces to go remote. Like many students, she believed paying the price of private school tuition for virtual classes on Zoom seemed unjustified. During her gap year, Sharon enrolled in the UI/UX Design Career Track at Springboard, where she had the chance to work on hands-on projects for the first time since starting her undergraduate degree program.
While enrolled in the course, a UX designer from Colgate-Palmolive contacted her on LinkedIn and invited her to apply for a design internship at the company, where Sharon is currently an intern.
Not at all. With the whole COVID situation, a lot of my friends were debating whether or not to take a gap year because of the cost of private school tuition and whatnot. But knowing that I did want to pursue UX design, making the financial commitment to private education was not the right decision for me. So it was not a hard decision at all to choose Springboard.
"I think Springboard has taught me much more than my current school, to be honest."
Absolutely. I think there are benefits to [attending] specific design schools, but also I think Springboard and other bootcamps are a lot more hands-on and technically aligned with what you need to have a career in design.
I'm currently interning at Colgate-Palmolive for the summer before entering my junior year next month. Using the skills from this current internship, I hope to continue building upon my UX skills while at Parsons before eventually taking another internship next summer and hopefully converting that internship into a full-time role.
I started my channel for the purpose of promoting more transparency around bootcamps. I wanted to help people find answers to some of the questions I had while I was going through the bootcamp, such as how to make a UX case study for your portfolio. I have a lot of friends who are trying to get into UX, and they had a lot of questions about it and they liked my portfolio. So I thought starting a YouTube channel was a good opportunity to share knowledge.
I think people would rather have someone show them what to do instead of reading it from a blog post. You also get to talk to your audience and they get to know who you are. So I feel like it's more human that way.
It started with my acceptance to Parsons back in 2018. I landed a $118,000 scholarship, and a lot of people were interested in how I was able to obtain this merit scholarship from Parsons. So I posted a video showing my application portfolio. From there, people who wanted to apply to design schools started following me, but I think a lot of the real growth happened after I started posting more UX tutorials and being consistent with it.
Absolutely. I’m taking a break right now because I'm really busy with my current internship, but the next video I want to make will go deeper on how to build a UX case study. A lot of people have requested that video, so I’m trying to keep it up as much as I can while balancing my work at Colgate.
I view passion as not just what you feel most attracted to, but it can also come from how valuable a certain skill or calling is according to society. My perspective on what makes a fulfilling career is having a hard skill, because it’s something tactical and people can see the final output of what you're doing. I think the value of these high-level skills is also reflected in your salary. UX is a very hot job right now, and having that value reflected in your salary is something that I value in a future career.
I have a friend who works as a UX designer at an architecture firm called Gensler. That was the first time I ever heard about UX design. I started at Parsons as a fashion design major, and a year later I was debating whether or not to stay in fashion. Knowing that fashion wasn't the career for me, I looked at other options. I did more research on UX design and it seemed to be the intersection of so many things like design, business, psychology, and I thought it was a really good fit for me.
Every day you work on something different, and there are so many aspects aside from design that you must account for. You need to have a business edge because you will have lots of conversations with different stakeholders. There’s also a bit of psychology involved in understanding the context of the user when they engage with a specific application, and ensuring it’s reflected in your design decisions. So it's kind of like having a mix of everything and not just designing in isolation, which is my favorite part.
Earl was probably one of the biggest reasons why I chose Springboard. I think what’s more important than the curriculum is who is teaching you, and having a personal connection with a mentor. I really loved my experience with him. He was so helpful and supportive from the beginning and I felt like I could be really open and honest with him and he would give me transparent feedback that I knew I needed to hear in order to grow.
I wanted to learn more about the application process at specific companies. People who work or have worked at that company can give you the most truthful answers as to what the process is like. So knowing that I eventually wanted to work at XYZ company, I asked him specific questions about the application process at his workplace.
I think a lot of UX designers are aiming for the FAANG companies—Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google—with the ultimate goal being Google, but we’ll see.
Definitely the mentorship, 100%. I think the ultimate purpose of going through this education is to land a job at a design agency or a full-time in-house design role. So having that mentorship and connections to people who already work in the industry and having personalized guidance—that’s what made the entire experience worth it to me. ompanies—Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google—with the ultimate goal being Google, but we’ll see.
I think the same goes for any other company. It's not about what you know, but who you know. It's about cultivating those relationships. They say UX is a small world, so just do your best and show people that even though you are still new to the industry, you're trying your best, and that it is going to show.
It was because of the mentorship. I really value mentorship a lot. I've seen the impact of it during my first two years at Parsons. I knew that that would be the most important aspect for my academic pursuits within a bootcamp.
What is really good about the capstone projects at Springboard is that you are given so many different tools and resources to use, and they’re the same ones that are used in the real world. I think the Industry Design Project was probably the closest thing you could have to real-world work experience. Ultimately it was a good stepping stone into knowing the tools and what it’s like to work as a designer before eventually going into the real world.
An in-house UX designer from Colgate added me on LinkedIn in December. This was right at the end of my first capstone project. I started looking for internships as I was about to finish the Springboard course, and I got rejected from all the big companies like Facebook and IBM. Eventually, the UX designer from Colgate reached out to me asking me to apply. She’d seen my portfolio website and resume on LinkedIn. She then reached out to the recruiter who then contacted me, and that's how we got the ball rolling with the interview process.
Yes. Every day.
In terms of career growth, networking is probably the most important thing. During my time at Springboard, I was also active on Cofolios [a platform that connects design talent with jobs and mentorship] and I attended their student office hours all the time. Students who had interned at major companies would post their portfolios on the site and I would have coffee chats with them. I was trying to reinforce the idea of building relationships with people who work at whatever company you would eventually like to work for.
Any institution or boot camp can give you the tools and the skills, but it's ultimately up to you to take action. Something I kept in the back of my mind was “bare minimum effort always equals bare minimum results.” So whatever prompts I was given, whether at Springboard or Parsons or during my internship at Colgate, I tried my best to make the most out of it and not do the bare minimum.