In 2019, Nitya Dholakia graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business economics and a minor in accounting — which was particularly useful in helping her land an entry-level job as a tax associate with Grant Thornton LLP.
While she enjoyed her work, and the people she had the pleasure of working with, Nitya soon realized the creative spark that has driven her for most of her life just wasn’t there with accounting.
Transitioning to remote work during the pandemic just a year later gave Nitya some time to rethink her priorities and where her interests lie.
Nitya wanted to find a role that would blend her enjoyment of the technical aspects of accounting with her love of expression, positive human interactions, and empathy. She took some time to reconnect with old friends in creative careers, and learn about their respective industries. That’s when she discovered UX/UI, a field that gracefully married technical skill, creative thinking, and human empathy.
Enabling excellent experiences
Wasting no time, Nitya quit her job and dove headfirst into the UX/UI Boot Camp at UCI Continuing Education in February 2021 to start transitioning to an exciting new career in UX/UI. She graduated in July of that year with a portfolio of UX/UI projects to bolster her presence on the job market for this incredibly competitive field.
“I went from hardcore accounting to hardcore UX/UI. It all happened really fast,” said Nitya.
Thanks to her experience working in a highly demanding field, Nitya was ready to take on the time commitment required by the boot camp and absorb learning materials across all possible avenues. “It’s important to get close to your instructors, TAs, peers, and everyone else in your cohort,” explained Nitya. “Networking helped me become a better student, learner, and collaborator — and I don’t think I would have been able to do that without my previous accounting background.”
Nitya continued working in accounting as a part-time job to support herself financially throughout her boot camp experience. She worked until around 2:00 p.m., and class started around 6 p.m. Others might have taken advantage of the downtime to relax and decompress — but not Nitya. Instead, she spent time reviewing lecture slides, preparing materials, staying up to date with UX trends, and catching up with the current status of group projects.
Attending office hours was another crucial aspect of Nitya’s day, as it allowed her to ask questions and dive even deeper into the learning material. After class, Nitya dedicated even more time to organizing her notes in preparation for the next day — a day which typically would be spent on homework and learning coding through online tutorials.
The depth and breadth of Nitya’s efforts throughout the boot camp’s six month stretch speaks to her diligence and make-or-break attitude toward transitioning into the UX/UI world. “I tried to be as productive with my time as possible,” said Nitya. She was determined to make her leap of faith in herself a success.
Creating cultural collaborations
Nitya’s time management skills came in handy during her final group project — one which she has a unique personal connection to. Nitya has practiced a form of classical Indian dancing called Bharatanatyam with the Arpana Dance Company for over 19 years, and was able to leverage her UX/UI learnings to redesign their website. For Nitya, it was a way to give back to an institution she’d been a part of for so long while also seeing other people’s perspectives on this aspect of her culture.
“That was probably one of my favorite projects because it was very personal to me,” explained Nitya. “But at the same time, I learned so much from my team members. Before I got into UX/UI, I didn’t experience group work in creativity — if I wanted to paint a picture, I could paint whatever I wanted without any input. But being in a creative space, there are a lot of strong visions and personalities involved — and inevitably, creative differences. Being able to work through those was really exciting.”
Teamwork and collaboration became the name of the game for Nitya as she learned to be successful in the boot camp. She contrasts the cut-and-dry way of working at an accounting firm with the more open-ended and dynamic approach to collaborating on UX projects. “If somebody says ‘this is how it’s done’ in accounting, there are tax rules and regulations stating that this is objectively correct,” she remarks. “But in a creative field like UX/UI, you can bounce ideas off of others since there are way fewer wrong answers.”
Another soft skill Nitya learned through her boot camp experience was to be okay with not knowing something. “The whole world is still learning what UX/UI is, and I didn’t even know much about it until I quit my job and took the leap of faith,” she said. “Accepting that fact opened me up to being comfortable with leaning on my peers and instructors, and just taking a humble approach to my learning experience.”
Delivering delightful designs
When looking for a job following graduation, Nitya employed that very same humble approach when reaching out and connecting with recruiters and talent acquisition teams via LinkedIn. She explains, “I’d just say something like, ‘Hi, are you available for a quick chat or virtual coffee to share your experience?’ and that worked really well for me.”
Doing so helped her form invaluable connections in the UX world. “Imposter syndrome can kick in very quickly, but if you know in your heart that you want to land an entry-level role, put yourself out there and set up a lot of calls,” she said. “So many people who work in the UX field are willing to look at your portfolio, give you feedback and advice, and put you in touch with others who do what you do.”
Nitya was ultimately successful in landing a UX designer role at a software development service provider called SwiftWIN. The company works to enhance customer experiences with e-commerce and retail businesses. Currently, Nitya is working with a major women’s retailer to help improve the UX/UI of their website and mobile presences.
“It’s cool to work in Figma for hours and see developers come up with a physical product I worked on that’s usable and clickable,” explained Nitya. “My work will go live very soon. I can’t wait for users to experience the updates and share their feedback.”
Reflecting on her journey to this point, Nitya credits the boot camp’s structure with paving the way to her success. “There were so many resources, guides, and assignments that led me to graduate with a full portfolio,” she shared. “I don’t think the transition from accounting to UX/UI would have been as smooth or quick without the support of the boot camp, so I’m really grateful for the experience.”
If you’re eager to make the leap to an unfamiliar yet exciting new career in tech, try one of the UC Irvine Boot Camps in UX/UI, digital marketing, tech project management, and more.