In the first months of the pandemic, Danielle Bridgewater had to overcome two big challenges. Not only did the school at which she was a library media specialist shut down in-person learning, but she was also battling a serious case of COVID-19 herself. During her months of downtime and reflection, Danielle was inspired to take her career in a new direction and become a website designer.
From education to educator
Attending Long Beach City College and later transferring to Cal State Long Beach, Danielle obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Her degree led her to the education sector, where she worked as a behavioral tech and then a library media specialist at an elementary school during the COVID-19 lockdowns. “I really love libraries, but it was different because everything was online for the whole year. I was just making videos of reading stories and teaching lessons,” she said. “I still enjoyed it, but it was totally different from seeing the kids.”
Despite the challenge, however, this remote experience gave Danielle opportunities to be creative and solidified her interest in design. And when she ended up home and sick with COVID-19, she decided to take the leap and enroll in the UX/UI Boot Camp at UCI Continuing Education.
Not only was Danielle ready for a new career direction that more closely aligned with her passions, but she also saw ahead to a more online-oriented future. “When I started getting more information about the boot camp, it seemed like the perfect combination of my interests in human factors and ergonomics,” she said. “And especially with the pandemic, everything seemed like it was gearing more online and there would be a lot of work in that area.”
A challenging start
However, Danielle was still sick when she started classes. While it was challenging, the transition to taking part-time classes was more or less smooth. She stuck to a routine, making sure she was clear-minded and distraction-free for her three-hour class period. “I would center my mornings around preparing for class, making sure my work area was clear and that I was comfortable enough to sit for hours at a time,” she explained.
Not only did her three-hour class period involve instructor lectures, but it also involved working with classmates on group projects — which wasn’t always smooth sailing. “We were teamed up with other students for most of the projects,” she said. “And we actually had a few disagreements, as it was sometimes challenging to find design compromises when we had multiple design options. But since that happens a lot at my job now, it was definitely good to learn how to productively collaborate with others.”
Danielle’s favorite group project was a website redesign for one of her favorite places: the Griffith Observatory in southern California. And this project had a real-world impact, as her team’s redesign was incorporated into the observatory’s updated website. “Part of the project was reaching out to the stakeholders, letting them know we were doing a redesign of their current website, and offering them the opportunity to work with us if they wanted,” she explained.
In the end, the Griffith Observatory loved the design. “They appreciated it so much that they changed their website to match it more closely,” Danielle said.
Set up for success
Now, Danielle works at a digital marketing startup called WebServ. She creates website mockups and prototypes for clients, and then builds out websites in full. “I work with clients to build websites that meet their goals and expectations as a company. I’m learning how to work with clients, SEO, PPC, and the complex process of launching new or redesigned websites,” she explained.
She loves her job and the independence it affords her, and she attributes her professional success to the career services, tutoring, and workshops she benefited from during the boot camp. “My career counselor, Irene, is the reason why I have this job,” she said. “Her recommendation helped me get my first interview at an otherwise exclusive startup company.”
What’s more, Danielle uses many of the skills learned in boot camp classes in her day to day. “Learning how to make site mockups was super helpful, and it’s something I now do every day using the same digital program I did in the boot camp,” she said. “We also did web building in the course, which is now a big part of my job.”
Looking to the future
Looking back, Danielle couldn’t be more grateful for where the boot camp has taken her. She’s happy in her current role, and enjoys working in an exciting startup environment. “I love working for a smaller company because I have the benefit of working closely alongside other departments to understand the full process of digital marketing,” she said.
Moving forward, she’s determined to continue making an impact at her current company and growing her knowledge of the digital marketing field. “One day, I hope to be at a point where I can take on freelance work for projects I’m passionate about,” she said.
Start your own learning journey with the UX/UI Boot Camp at UCI Continuing Education today.