From Lashes to Layouts: How This Boot Camp Graduate Became a UX/UI Designer

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Anna Mbali wakes up every weekday morning for a 6:45 a.m. stand-up meeting with a development team located in Lithuania. Then she squeezes in a workout at the gym before attending two more meetings starting at 9:30am. After that, she starts plugging away at building interfaces. 

Anna is a UX/UI designer for GPS Insight, a field service management company based out of Scottsdale, Arizona. She works with SaaS platforms to track vehicles and build software that allows employees like electricians and sanitation workers to communicate with each other while they’re in the field. It’s different from her previous roles, but by attending the University of Minnesota UX/UI Boot Camp, Anna was able to enhance and expand her technical skills enough to enter a brand new career.

From extended lashes to extended learning

Anna studied exercise and health science in college and became a health coach upon graduating, a career she practiced for many years. When that no longer fulfilled her, Anna’s entrepreneurial spirit led her to enter the beauty industry and open an eyelash extension salon. 

While she was in the process of building her company, she created a website for her salon and realized other eyelash technicians could benefit from having a solid website template to build their websites off of. She started selling website templates for lash artists like her, and became even more involved in the beauty community.

“I was already building my online business, so when COVID hit and my salon shut down, I just took it as an opportunity to pivot my full portfolio into design,” she said. “Since I was self-taught at that point, I really wanted to learn more, and I knew I needed to learn more.”

Anna looked into UX/UI design bootcamps and found one offered by University of Minnesota Boot Camps

“I was really open-minded going into the bootcamp,” she said. “I wanted to learn design principles and have something under my belt to validate the decisions I was making when it came to design.”

She learned the ins and outs of UX/UI design using Adobe XD, and she enjoyed working in groups to bring these elements to life. When certain concepts were more challenging, Anna felt supported by her teachers and peers. 

“I learned so much about prototyping, and how to conduct research and analyze it,” she said. “Working with so many different people also helped with figuring out what everyone’s strengths are, even my own.”

Getting real world experience

Towards the end of the boot camp, Anna was conflicted about what she wanted to do with her website template business, and decided she wanted to get a job in the UX/UI industry to gain more experience. 

“I felt that getting a position within the UX industry would allow me to keep learning more,” she said. “You learn a lot in the bootcamp, but not nearly everything — and you really need to be a UX designer to get that real world experience.”

Anna started sending out ten or so applications a day but, because of the pandemic, she wasn’t really hearing back. 

“It was a tough road for a while. It took me some time to really figure it out, to know exactly what employers were looking for, and determine how to switch up my resume and portfolio,” she said. “I redesigned my portfolio a few times. It was worth it in the end, but it was anything but easy.”

Four months after the boot camp ended, Anna landed her current role with GPS Insight. She’s enjoying the flexible hybrid work environment, as well as the constant opportunities she has to learn while on the job. 

The bootcamp helped launch Anna into a career as a professional UX/UI designer, and her passion and determination guided her along the way. For prospective boot camp students, Anna says to stay driven and push through.

“If you’re interested in something, learn as much as you can about it,” she said. “If you put one hundred percent of your effort into something, even if the desired outcome is different than what you thought it would be, it’s still going to propel you further in life in some way or another.”

Interested in a career in web design? Explore University of Minnesota Boot Camps and get started working towards a career in tech. 

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