From Music Producer to Product Designer: Joey Tuholski’s Career Change Story

The pandemic gave music producer Joey Tuholski time to rethink his career. Here’s his career change story to becoming a Product Designer at Flatiron School.

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What instrument do music production and product design have in common? According to Joey Tuholski, Product Designer at Flatiron School, it’s the computer keyboard, and playing it has led him to success in both fields. 

After graduating from college in 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a certificate of Management in Music, Tuholski dove headfirst into a career in the music industry.

“When I graduated I felt a huge calling to go into music, to go all-in on it”, he said. “It didn’t feel right to me to take a job [in business] that I wasn’t stoked about.”

He spent the next four years finding success in the field, focusing on self-releasing music, playing shows as a solo performer, and DJing at weddings and private events. 

But despite his success, Tuholski recalls his ruminations on other careers. “Music producers are very siloed, you’re pretty isolated,” he explained. “I was looking for more of a team environment.” 

A Mid-Pandemic Career Change

Like many others, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 severely impacted Tuholski’s work, putting an end to live events almost overnight and giving him time to consider where he wanted to take his career. 

He recalls his contemplations and how he wished to use his production skills to pursue another path: “I’ve been doing this for a while, what else is out there? What else can I learn? Music production is very technical so that got me thinking about other tech jobs.”

This internal search became a research project, leading him to explore career options on the web. “I initially was interested in software development and software engineering, because they were technical,” he recalled. “I looked around on the internet a lot, I messaged people on Reddit trying to find anyone who would talk to me”

Eventually, a lucky connection with a friend introduced him to product design and the world of bootcamps for career changers. “One of my friends went through a bootcamp and he loved it – it convinced me to take the bootcamp route.”

As for settling on product design, Tuholski found the similarities between the field and music production a natural fit. “It’s a technical career. I had a knack for that because I taught myself a lot about music production, so I thought that would be a fit. it’s a different type of creativity than music production [but] seemed like a really fun thing to do.”

His Experience With Bootcamp

In August of 2020, Tuholski enrolled in a bootcamp. He recalls the experience as one of bravery in the face of challenges.

“When you get started […] there’s so much ambiguity to what you’re doing, which is challenging and scary, but I think everyone feels like that. So just embrace that and know that’s all part of it, that’s all normal.”

For him, the program’s highlights include working with a design mentor, design sprints (fast-paced concept iterations), capstone assignments, and industry projects working with real clients.

But, Tuholski cautions that it’s important to do more than just coast through the program if you want to come out of it ready to join the workforce.

“You have to give it your all on your projects because ultimately they shape your portfolio which is a representation of your work. It’s really about putting your best foot forward. If you have a really solid visual design that’s gonna help you get your foot in the door.”

After an intensive 9-month program, Tuholski graduated with a Certificate in UX / UI Design.

Breaking Into The Industry

After graduating in July 2021, Tuholski entered a job market still struggling to return to post-COVID normalcy. He held part-time, freelance, and contract positions at first, building up his portfolio and gaining industry experience until he joined Flatiron School as a full-time Product Designer in March 2022.

Since accepting his new position, Tuholski is happy to share job-hunting advice with others looking to break into the industry. “It’s tough to get your foot in the door if you’re just cold applying to jobs.”

Instead, he recommends pulling on new and existing connections. “it’s super important to network. Reach out to people on LinkedIn at the company you want to work for and talk to those designers,” he explained. “Whether you’re new or experienced, regardless of the industry, networking and making connections can be a huge benefit.”

He also has advice on setting yourself apart from the competition. “Be good at Figma, learn how to take feedback well, be genuinely excited, and have a good story about your journey to make it interesting and unique.”

Since joining Flatiron School, Tuholski’s day-to-day has involved interesting and challenging projects.

“We just started on a new project and it’s been honestly tricky because you can’t start solving a problem until you can define the problem,” he explained. “That’s kind of the fun part, trying to figure out what the problem is, then once we understand it, how do we start designing a solution?”

Advice For Other Career Changers

For other people considering a career change to Product Design, Tuholski says not to count yourself out just because you come from a non-technical background.

“Anyone is a fit for this job, even without a technical background. Don’t let that hold you back – I had zero experience before I started.”

Instead, he highlights how the bootcamp experience transforms one’s perspective into that of a designer. “One of the coolest things about this career is it changes how you look at the digital world,” he explains. “How do I like this, does this make sense to me, how could this be improved?”

Looking toward the future, Tuholski recommends taking the pressure off. “If you feel torn, choosing between one [passion] or the other, there’s not just one thing you can do. More and more people are having slash careers with multiple different things they do for work.”

As for his history with music, that love affair is here to stay.

“I still do music regularly, I’m actually about to put out my second album. [That] hasn’t changed much, if anything I’m putting a lot less pressure on myself than I was because now I don’t have to do music to survive. I can do it because I love it and because that’s what I’m always going to do.”

For Joey Tuholski’s full career change story and an insightful FAQ session, watch the full video interview here

Ready to take charge of your future? Join other career changers just like this one in a bootcamp that sets you apart from the competition. Try our Free Product Design Prep, or check out the Product Design Course Syllabus that will set you up for success and launch you into a new and fulfilling career.

Read more stories about successful career changes on the Flatiron School blog.

Posted by Anna Johnson  /  June 14, 2022

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