Danielle Justilien - How a Bootcamp and a strong portfolio can launch your career


Danielle Justilien shares her advice on approaching the early stages of your UX learning path. From how she found the right Bootcamp to networking as you learn, from writing case studies to building your portfolio, this episode covers so many tips to help you prepare for and land your first job in UX! Read the blog below and listen to the full episode for Danielle’s great advice!

🔥 Don't just focus on classes on your UX learning path!

Make the most of this time by extending your network and finding a community that can support your journey and helps you grow in ways that a Bootcamp or online class can't. Establishing and nurturing these relationships now will give you a head start leading up to and then along your career path.

💡 Approach your portfolio like a user experience project!

Ultimately you want your portfolio to showcase who you are as a designer while being easy for hiring managers to review. Research best practices and make a plan for your portfolio. Write your case studies before you start building the visual design and flow, and then add in visual and interaction design to make your portfolio easier to digest.

📢 Ask your network for their support!

Now that you have a great start to your portfolio and have established strong relationships in the industry, send your portfolio to 10-15 people in your new network and ask them for feedback. Use this as a chance to perfect your portfolio while learning how to request and receive feedback.

How a Bootcamp and a strong portfolio can launch your career

In episode 21 of The Product Design Podcast, Seth Coelen interviews Danielle Justilien, a UX Designer at IBM who works on software design for IBM's partner experience. Danielle's early interest in graphic design and her expertise in marketing led her to UX.

Once Danielle decided to make this change in her career path, she determined her next steps. She started with a free Bootcamp, extended her network as she learned, perfected her portfolio, and after starting her search for her first job in UX, she quickly landed her position at IBM. Danielle has tremendous insight into how to get a strong launch into UX Design. During our interview, Danielle shared what she did to boost her portfolio and set herself up for success in the interview process as she moved into UX Design.


How Danielle stumbled into UX design

Danielle initially found an interest in graphic design when she was in high school. She had a freelance business through college, doing brand design for small businesses. At this time, she was not aware of UX, but as she started to look for potential career path changes, she stumbled across UX as a viable and exciting option.

She quickly realized that her marketing background and graphic design skills would transfer to this new career path. To Danielle, UX seemed like something she had already been doing in her life, so she continued to dive deeper into what this change would look like for her and started working towards making UX the next step on her career path.

Strategies Danielle used to break into UX

When Danielle stumbled into UX and realized that her skills could transfer to this new career path, she began to set herself up for success. These strategies, used during her learning process, helped her quickly find a great first UX job when she was ready for that next step!

Never underestimate the power of preparing for the next step as you are learning; you never know when you will need to be ready to jump at a great opportunity!

📢 Build a strong network while you are on your UX learning journey.

The design community is amazing, and there are so many people you can talk to and find out who you relate to. You can find mentors, friends, and potential colleagues when you are ready for your first job. This network can help you learn and grow while building your knowledge and portfolio.

🔗 Find a platform where you can share your learning journey and go all-in on that specific platform.

Danielle found that LinkedIn provided her a place to find communities that made her feel welcomed into UX. LinkedIn also made it easy for her to connect with other designers and recruiters. By extending her network and sharing her story on LinkedIn, she has made great strides and connections along her career path.

“LinkedIn is definitely a place where you can share your journey. It is a great way to connect with other designers and recruiters.”

👏 Use your portfolio as an opportunity to learn how to ask for and receive feedback.

Being a designer requires thick skin, and the feedback process can be painful at times. When you have a good start on your portfolio, send it to 10-15 of the contacts you have established a relationship with during your learning process and ask them for feedback on your portfolio.

This process not only allows you to improve your portfolio, so it is ready to share with your potential future employer, but it also prepares you for what it will feel like to receive feedback during the interview process and at your first UX job!

Check out the actionable tips below on how to build a strong portfolio before you lean into your community for portfolio feedback!

Build a strong portfolio to help you land your first UX job!

Building a strong portfolio allows you to easily share who you are as a UX Designer with potential employers.

Before you lean in and ask your network for feedback, check out these tips to get your portfolio ready for review! Ensure you highlight your work while telling the story of who you are as a designer by allowing your personality to shine through!

Hiring managers are busy! You want to make sure that when they are viewing your portfolio, they can quickly and easily digest the work you have done, understand who you are as a designer, and decide whether or not they want to move forward with you in the interview process.

🔥 Approach your portfolio like a user experience project!

Spend time researching what a strong UX portfolio includes. Get ideas from other designers based on what their portfolios look like and how easy it is to digest. Then start to pull together the ideas you like best to make them your own when you are building your portfolio.

“UX opened my eyes to a whole world of possibilities for myself. It really gave me a new perspective on the world and what I'm able to do with my own skills.”

✍️ Do not try to write case studies while you build your portfolio!

Start with writing the headings and the copy for your case studies in a word or excel document. If you only focus on telling the story of each case study, you will not be distracted by the visual elements or how you want the portfolio to flow when you build it.

Pro Tips:

1. Provide context to the project. Include the entire process of how the team got to the outcomes, the challenges faced, how users were involved, what you contributed and learned, and how you moved through the design process.

2. Give credit where it is due. Call out precisely what you contributed to the project if a team completed it, so your portfolio identifies your experience versus what other team members contributed.

💻 Get busy building your portfolio!

Once you have written your case studies and you are ready to build your portfolio, determine if you want to code it yourself, work with a developer, or use a hosted platform to build it. There is no wrong answer here, and your decision can be based on where you want to focus your learning efforts for your career path.

Pro Tips:

1. Add visual and interaction design elements to your case studies to make them less wordy and more engaging.

2. Go back to your research and see what else you may want to change or add based on what you found in your study of what a strong UX portfolio includes.

Thank you so much, Danielle!

Wow! We had a great time talking with Danielle about changing her career path and launching herself into UX. We hope that she inspired you to see the potential UX design has and how you also can take action to move in the direction she has gone. We are so thankful that she shared so much actionable advice on how to get yourself set up to find your first job in UX successfully.

Listen to the complete episode on The Product Design Podcast, which includes information on the Bootcamp she participated in, interview tips, and advice on being a solid junior designer on a team once you land your first UX job!

Don't forget to follow Danielle and watch as she grows and inspires others along her career path. You can find her on LinkedIn and check out her excellent portfolio for ideas!

Where to find Danielle

Other mentioned and additional links for aspiring designers:

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