Valena Del Valle was in her last semester of her undergraduate degree when she had a change of heart. She had been studying health sciences, a discipline that prepares professionals to launch and/or run community health programs that encourage people to assume greater responsibility for their personal health. While Valena was still passionate about helping people, she realized there were other ways to make an impact, such as creating great digital experiences that make technology more accessible. Now, she’s a junior product designer at The Hartford, a Fortune 500 investment and insurance company headquartered in Hartford, Connecticut.
Balancing Springboard while trying to finish her undergraduate degree was not easy. Valena enrolled in the UX/UI Career Track at Springboard shortly before her university program went virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and she suddenly found herself trying to balance two virtual education programs. She appreciated having a mentor at Springboard in whom she could confide.
“I really loved knowing there was somebody who was willing to give me guidance if I felt lost or like I was drowning,” she said. “I don't think I've ever worked one on one with someone as closely as I did with her.”
I was studying health science and although I liked it, I knew I didn’t want to continue with it as a career. I figured it wasn't too late to choose something I genuinely wanted to pursue. I've always had a passion for art and design. So I Googled “best bootcamp for design” and I found Springboard. I knew it would be a lot of work given that I was finishing my final year of college, but I was committed to change. So I enrolled in Springboard.
I’d heard of graphic design before, but I didn’t know much about UX/UI design until I did some more research. I found that a lot of the soft skills I gained while studying health science in my undergrad were the same soft skills I needed to become a UX designer.
I've always known that I wanted to help people, but I know that helping people is not only a physical thing; you can help them through digital experiences as well.
Communication and teamwork were key, especially when I was studying health science. Communication in the sense that you're willing to learn how to speak with different groups of people, such as healthcare workers, patients, or other stakeholders who might not know what they need.
Empathy. I think empathy is something that you learn as you go through different experiences. With UX design, I had to look at the bigger picture and understand that it's bigger than myself. My perspective won’t be the same as another person’s.
Each week we’ll have one or two standup meetings where we mention things we're working on. It’s kind of like a design review. So you have the opportunity to get feedback from other people on the design team, which I think is pretty cool.
Aside from those meetings, I just work on the projects I've been assigned to. I do personal training workshops that contribute to my daily tasks. I'm still fairly new, so I'm always working towards building relationships, and setting up time to meet with people I haven't met before and reaching out to people for design help.
My role involves a lot of UX strategy. What I think is really cool is the fact that I can give my perspective from a healthcare point of view rather than simply as someone from a traditional design background. Every day, it's a challenge for me to work on the skills I've gained from Springboard, but it's also a push to grow those skills. But I'm just grateful that I have a really supportive team and people who want me to grow.
The biggest factor for me in choosing a bootcamp was the reviews. It wasn't about money or the rewards that I would get for signing up. I definitely was won by the good reviews for sure and the success stories that I saw. I'm always inspired by things like that because I know one day I'll probably be able to tell my success story.
I applied to Springboard right before the pandemic, so it was a crazy time. Suddenly, all of my work became virtual, even my undergrad work as well. My advice is to balance personal time and school by having a calendar and scheduling time for things. It was really challenging, but I think trying to schedule everything was helpful.
It was a good relationship of course, very professional. There was always something that I was able to take away from our calls. I always made sure that I used that time to bring up any questions or thoughts that I had on my designs or my research. She was very helpful and straightforward, giving me feedback about what I can do better but also suggesting ways that I can study and retain the information that I learned.
I was matched with a property management company named Tirios [an AI-driven property management platform for managing single-family rental homes]. They were working on a SaaS application, and I had the pleasure of working with two other Springboard students. We really meshed well.
This was my first experience with a real-life company, so it definitely showed me what to expect when you work with a company or a client. It was cool to meet up with the product owner and talk about ideas and things that they wanted to see. I loved the brainstorming and research aspects of the project coming together, and making decisions on the designs. I really felt like I was working at the company during the time that we had.
Not everyone will like your designs, so you always have to be open to feedback. I think that's the beauty of it. There are a lot of reasons why certain designs will and won't work. Sometimes we forget that we not only work with designers but developers, too. Certain designs might not be able to be coded the way you designed them. So definitely remind yourself that you're working with more than just a team of designers.
The company wanted to improve the onboarding experience for service providers and landlords. There was a website and a mobile application. My role was to improve how landlords, tenants, and service providers interact with the application and the responsive web application.
I went in with an open mind and tried to enjoy the job search journey, the highs and lows, getting nos and yeses from people--or maybes. So I wasn't too hard on myself and I tried to remain calm and content.
I would always take note of things that I felt I was doing good or things that I could improve on, then I would tweak my approach to applying to jobs or networking. Overall, I wouldn't really say it was a challenge. I'd just say that, for anyone who's applying to jobs right now, just remain persistent and don’t give up.
Having the chance to do projects and add them to my portfolio. These projects were the most valuable part of the bootcamp because they helped me when I was networking and getting through job interviews. I had something to talk about aside from my background. It showed what I had learned and I was able to explain things in a way that I probably wouldn't have been able to explain beforehand. It showed me how to communicate effectively, to showcase my work to potential employers, and how to do research and everything that fell under the curriculum.
Don't give up on yourself. It's never too late to learn something new. Always remain a student, because life is full of lessons. And always, always, always try to tidy up your schedule--just plan out the week, if you can.