Sinem Ozkaya knows about the advantages of having a niche. While living in her native Turkey, she worked as a landscape architect specializing in healthcare delivery and hospitals. When she arrived in the US, she started looking for work as an architect and soon realized the field was no longer her cup of tea. After a friend who worked in the tech industry tipped her off about UX design as a potential career path, she started doing her research and came across Springboard.
She completed the UX/UI Career Track in December, which is when companies tend to slow down hiring ahead of the holiday season, so she decided to take internships and do volunteer work while she hunted for a job. Having a variety of experiences and projects to showcase during interviews is important in order to make it to the final round, says Sinem, who leveraged her background in healthcare to pitch her services to SaaS companies in the healthcare industry.
“Springboard does give students the opportunity to work with a real-world client through the Industry Design Project, but it’s good to have more projects so you have more stories to tell.”
Finally, a recruiter from a contractor agency contacted her on LinkedIn regarding a job opportunity at Microsoft, and she landed an offer as a UX designer for Microsoft Teams.
After I moved to the United States from Turkey, I was trying to get a job in architecture until a friend encouraged me to explore the UX design industry. When I started to understand the transferrable skills from architecture to UX design, I was truly interested in learning more about and I decided to become a UX professional. I started searching for bootcamps. I found lots of different ones, but Springboard was the best bootcamp for me because of the job guarantee, mentorship, and career coaching.
Going from architecture to UX design was a small transition because I already have a design background. I focused on gaining an understanding of user needs and identifying their pain points before making design decisions. I think the crucial part of the design process is being clear about what you are trying to solve.
The first part of the curriculum was really basic and simple to understand. I liked that it was an easy introduction to what UX design is, what UI design is, and what is the difference between them. There were links to lots of helpful tutorials and videos, which was great for beginners. I think all of the steps in the curriculum allow you to gain knowledge of the design process and how you should approach the user problem.
My mentor was Nick Morgan [senior UX researcher and designer at Lighthouse]. He was really supportive. I definitely needed emotional support and motivation. When you learn something new you are always questioning your abilities. He would say, “You are doing great, Sinem. You are going to get it.” It was very motivating for me and I didn’t give up or feel any kind of hesitation. He also has 20 years of experience in UX design and he was familiar with what the industry is looking for and he told me how I should prepare myself to enter the job market.
Before Springboard, I was in Turkey working in architectural design management at a hospital. I had almost 5 years of experience in the healthcare industry and working with a couple of architectural companies. I also had some experience in customer management because I would always be onsite welcoming people and making sure the doctors and patients were happy with everything related to the design.
These kinds of experiences allowed me to understand more about empathy and seeing through the user’s eyes, just like we do in UX design.
I have been at Microsoft teams for several months and I am working on creating third-party integrations for the Teams app. I work with a variety of partners and we help create their product experiences within Microsoft Teams so that people can use these third-party apps while collaborating in Teams.
I really like my work and my team. There are lots of opportunities to learn and grow as a designer.
Definitely the design principles, like how to create a delightful aesthetic, how to use colors, styles, and typography, how to do research and analysis about the problem that we need to solve ahead of the design process
In architecture, you start with the analysis phase before you create any designs, which is similar to user research in UX design because you have to dig to understand the problem and the user’s needs.
I completed the bootcamp in December and hiring was really slow because of the holiday season. So I decided to volunteer, do internships, and work on personal projects during that time. I joined a nonprofit organization called Virufy to work on a project related to COVID-19. It was a really hot project during that time because businesses were trying to solve pandemic-related problems using UX design. I worked on their mobile experience for Android.
After that, I started to work at a healthcare company called Ouva based in San Francisco. They were working on a patient monitoring dashboard, which is a visual intelligence solution for healthcare. Since I had a background in the healthcare industry, I told them I was familiar with the doctor and patient experience, plus I had UX design skills. So I worked with the product manager on the dashboard design and then they took the prototype to Holland for a user test.
After the bootcamp, I think students should definitely look for volunteer/internship opportunities so they will have more industry experience. At Springboard, we work on three or four portfolio-ready projects, but working with actual clients on real projects really matters.
Springboard does give students the opportunity to work with a real-world client through the Industry Design Project, but it’s good to have more projects so you have a chance to grow.
The most valuable part is the mentorship support and career coaching, plus the option to request additional mentorship. For example, if I need guidance immediately, I can search for another mentor who is available so I don't have to wait until your next mentor meeting.
I get a lot of messages on LinkedIn from people asking about how to break into the UX field, where they should start. I tell people to explore their passion, which is not easy. You need to be passionate about UX design because the field is becoming more competitive and broad. Watch some YouTube videos and try out design tools–even very simple, basic ones–just to see how they feel. Then I would definitely recommend a bootcamp because then it takes just nine months to make a career change.