Timothy Li

Designer, TripElephant

From:   Toronto, Canada
Course:   UX Design
Before Springboard:   Advertising account executive
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I was looking for something that would let me change careers and get back into the job market quickly.

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It was time for a career change.

I started my career in advertising, as an account executive. Most of my clients were automotive companies, and my job was to help them reach more customers. But over time, I realized that a lot of their problems weren’t ones that advertising could solve. They were design problems – like unattractive websites, unintuitive navigation flows, and difficult user experiences. While the industry was still focused on traditional outreach, like TV commercials and banner ads, I wanted to build more interesting ways to engage users.

I realized it was time for a change. If I wanted to solve those kinds of problems, I’d need to become a designer. Design was something I’d always had an interest in, but more as a hobby. Now, I wanted to make it into something more serious – a career.

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What I needed most was a portfolio.

I knew there was a lot I had to learn. I started looking at full-time graduate courses, but I didn’t want to go through another year or two of school. Plus, when I looked at the courses, I felt like they moved too slowly. I knew I could learn things on my own in a few weeks that they were teaching over three or four months, if I had the right resources and the right support.

Where I needed the most help was in building a portfolio, which I knew I needed when I started looking for jobs. Springboard offered exactly what I wanted. It’s self-paced, so I could move as quickly as I wanted. Projects are a large part of it, so I could add things to my portfolio. And having a mentor meant someone who could help me navigate how I should enter this new field.

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The most important part was the full course project, and the opportunity to have a mentor look at my work.

My mentor gave me the confidence to try things my own way.

My favorite Springboard project was redesigning Eat24, a food delivery service. At the time, their website felt outdated, and there were a lot of areas that could be improved. I decided to focus on redesigning the user flow – how people search for restaurants, find things to order, and check out.

Usually, it’s just the final design that goes into your portfolio. But with this project, I wanted to do things differently. I planned to include the entire progression from idea to prototype in my portfolio, with my different iterations in between. It’s not a common approach among designers, but my mentor encouraged me to try it out and guided me through the process. We’d review what I’d done every week, and she helped me build a cohesive story that I could tell to potential employers.

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Springboard helped me navigate my way to my new job.

Towards the end of Springboard, I started looking for jobs. I was a little nervous, because I knew I had less experience than others. But I had two things going for me – the projects I did during Springboard and an experienced mentor who could help me figure it out. They proved invaluable. The projects helped me get attention, and my mentor provided crucial pointers on interviewing for design jobs and presenting the work I’d done.

It worked – currently, I’m a designer at TripElephant, a travel planning app. As the main designer on the team, I have a lot of responsibilities, and my job involves a lot of what I learned at Springboard. In just a few weeks, I’ve designed user flows, built prototypes, and created graphic designs. Meanwhile, on the side, I’m also building the branding and design for a photobooth service for weddings, and I’ve gotten several freelance projects too. Not bad for someone who was selling ads just a few months ago!

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