How to make a pivot to UX/UI from retail in the bay area?
March 30, 2019 9:43 PM   Subscribe

What books, online resources, meet ups or mentorship programs would you recommend that could be helpful for me?

I'm a Black, queer femme that lives in San Francisco. I've been in retail for 12 years with a degree in concept design from the Academy of Art. I feel like I have to make the jump into tech, (probably UI/UX design) because it is getting more expensive to live in SF and I don't want to be on the street or not able to retire. I can't do boot camps because I have to work full time, and I have student loans and don't feel like I can go back to school.
posted by TheColorful to Education (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I think any meetup that covers women in technology will help to get you started in assessing if this career is right for you. Informational interviews are key.

Doing tech as a 30+ black queer femme is doing it on hard mode. Doing it without an education is super hard mode. I think you should connect with others in the industry to verify the salary is worth it. The industry has many potentially soul crushing drawbacks for those not identifying as younger CIS men. Consider them seriously.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:24 PM on March 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

A boot camp would seem to best way to do the pivot - any form of self directed learning and then building a portfolio through say open source volunteering will also need a significant time commitment. Your existing student loans shouldn't be affected. Have you considered bootcamp scholarships, one that pays you 2k a month and you only pay back once earning, or ones listed here as part-time / flexible? Tech does have a diversity problem but many firms have initiatives to work on countering this.
posted by JonB at 11:34 PM on March 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

2nding a bootcamp: Lambda School is yet another option with no up-front cost, that can be handled part time.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 11:57 PM on March 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Try networking through Creative Mornings
posted by ersatzkat at 7:01 AM on March 31, 2019

A lot of bootcamps charge an arm and a leg and then pack in the students. They are not regulated and they are for-profit. The instructors are not necessarily qualified and depending on the bootcamp are not even paid a living wage. I've met people who went way into debt for them and didn't end up getting a job, and many of the camps exaggerate or fabricate their "# of employed graduates" because they don't differentiate between "a job doing code" and "a somewhat tech-adjacent job" (for example, an acquaintance of mine went into debt to do a camp, interviewed for months without luck, and finally took a customer support role at a tech company that she would have been qualified for without the boot camp. Other bootcamps hire their grads as teachers, goosing the employment statistics that way).

HOWEVER I have heard okay things about UC Berkeley's boot camp which is part time.

Don't have any personal experience with Techtonica but it's a nonprofit and might be worth exploring.

The other idea is to apply, now, for customer support roles at tech companies, and very openly say that you'd like to transition into the more technical side of things. Depending on the company, you may be able to learn on the job, and having a tech company on your resume, even if it's not a technical role, helps the transition a bit.

(Source: I'm a woman who transitioned into software engineering in SF and did not do a bootcamp.)
posted by rogerroger at 9:10 AM on March 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

Google offers scholarships for online certificate programs through Udacity in the Grow with Google program. I would start going to a few Meetups for UX designers or something like Women Who Code SF. (Disclaimer: this isn't my field, just what I might do in your position.)
posted by pinochiette at 3:20 PM on March 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

Don’t assume you need to code.

Depending on your interests, you may not need to code at all. That’s simply not the case with every job in UI and UX (or UI/UX), and IMHO, it’s not a great way to enter the field (but that’s opinion.)

I would avoid bootcamps and explore various facets of the field for now: research, IA (not AI!), visual design, usability, content strategy. Books are likely a good first step.

Networking at places like CreativeMornings is a good way to get exposed to a lot of different fields, but do note it’s not exclusively about UX and UI.
posted by hijinx at 6:51 PM on March 31, 2019

You might also consider project management oriented roles that work with UX/UI, if you're good working with people and helping facilitate things. (Just something else to keep in mind as you look for work.)

One place to get tutorials is In most counties in my state (WA), people get free access with their library card. They have several video tutorials and courses about UX.

Also, check around at some of the big tech companies like Cisco or Microsoft that have networking events (sign up with PowerToFly) and hook up with these various companies to speak with them about newer hires who have an enthusiasm for design and want to get into the field, but don't quite know how.
posted by Tailkinker to-Ennien at 7:04 PM on March 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Sarah Doody has a lot of free (and paid) resources for building an effective UX portfolio. There are also a lot of great UX writers on Medium and there are a couple of Slack channels and Facebook groups for emerging UX designers as well. (I don't remember them all off the top of my head, but most of them pop up easy in a search.)

Because the UX/UI umbrella is SO WIDE anymore and there are so many options in the Bay Area, I think it'd be really worth it to explore some of the other, related facets of the field (like hijinx suggests) and try narrow your focus to the segments of the UX/UI field that you are most interested in or have the strongest background in so you can tailor your portfolio and case studies to showcase your skills.

Between your concept design background and the wealth of free or low-cost tools for making wireframes and prototypes for mock (or volunteer!) projects, you might not need a coding bootcamp, or even to learn to code at all (unless you want to). As long as you can document your design process and show how you solved a design problem for your portfolio, that could be enough to get you in the door for the right role.

P.S. I have been working on my own UX portfolio so I can also pivot out of my job and it has been a SURPRISINGLY DIFFICULT, lengthy, involved, and emotionally draining process. And I'm not even finished yet! I wanted to preemptively say that it's TOTALLY NORMAL for it to take awhile to build a UX/UI portfolio that you're happy with and also to feel plagued by uncertainty and even low-level despair while you're working on it. Learning that other people struggled with their own portfolios helped me a lot, so I hope it helps you too. You got this—good luck!
posted by helloimjennsco at 12:37 PM on April 1, 2019

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