Learning How to Learn

This article on “Learning How To Learn” is part of a series developed by Curriculum Design to guide students through the Flatiron School program experience.

We believe that when learners feel autonomous and in control of their learning, they achieve greater success both academically and motivationally. Learning to Learn is designed to offer a variety of resources and tools to help you take control of your online learning journey and life beyond Flatiron School.

Take Ownership Of Your Learning

Taking ownership of your learning journey, through personalized learning, means finding your motivation, being engaged, and personalizing your learning experience with complete autonomy, choice, and responsibility in how you approach your online learning journey. Every learner has a fundamental need to feel in control of what they do versus only being told what to do. When this autonomy is exercised, the motivation to learn and the desire to perform well academically are much stronger.

As you go through the Learning to Learn series, our goal is to encourage you to take ownership of your learning journey- make decisions that matter, pursue directions that feel meaningful, and hold a sense of responsibility and control for both your learning successes and setbacks.

Connect The Dots

Taking the leap to build technical skills takes courage and determination. It can be intimidating to dive into new skill sets and knowledge, but the rewards and sacrifice will be worth it. As you learn, your horizon will expand and the information you collect along the way will start to connect in unexpected ways.

The saying goes, knowledge is power, and when it comes to personal and professional growth, this couldn’t be more true. When we actively seek knowledge through experiences or formal education, we add another “dot” to our mental map. These dots, connected, generate new ideas and help to solve problems in unique ways. Some of the greatest innovators credit their success to continue expanding their knowledge base through both life experiences and deliberate learning sessions.

Continue adding dots to your map.

TL;DR

  • Personalized learning is a great way to improve your skills and knowledge base.
  • Learning on your own can be intimidating to start, but the rewards are worth it.
  • Seek out new experiences and resources to challenge yourself and broaden your perspectives.

Insider Guide: Flatiron School’s Admissions Assessment

When you choose to start a program at Flatiron School, we know that you are investing — both financially and an investment of your time. That’s why it’s important that you are a right fit for the program and vice versa — that our program is the right fit for you.

One way we make sure that the program is a good fit is with an admissions assessment test.

The admissions assessment is a cognitive aptitude test that analyzes your problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, your attention to detail, and your ability to learn new information. There are three different styles of questions — verbal, math and logic, and spatial reasoning. Think of the questions more like brain teasers, not about coding, computers, or cybersecurity.

After all, in addition to your experience and skills so far (if any!), we are more interested in understanding your ability to learn and pick up the skills that will be taught in our courses.

The test is 15 minutes long and can include up to 50 questions. But don’t stress. We don’t expect you to complete all the questions. Less than 1% of people complete all 50 questions.

How many questions should I complete?

Try to answer as many questions as possible in the allotted 15 minutes, with the minimum goal of answering at least 25. 

Don’t get caught up on any one question though. If you’re feeling stumped, take a guess and move on. It’s more important to maintain a decent pace and keep moving through the questions, rather than to stress over scoring perfectly on one question.

Remember, you have a 15-minute time cap so you’ll want to move through as many questions as you can efficiently.  Again, less than 1% of people complete all 50 questions so don’t stress yourself out about finishing all the questions.

Here are two examples of the types of questions you might see on the admissions assessment.

1. Sample Verbal Question: (Source)

Choose the word that is most nearly OPPOSITE to the word in capital letters: LENGTHEN

  • abdicate
  • truncate
  • elongate
  • stifle
  • resist

2. Sample Math Question: (Source)

A group of 3 numbers has an average of 17. The first two numbers are 12 and 19. What is the third number?

  • 17
  • 19
  • 20
  • 23
  • 30

How to prepare for the admissions assessment

  • Complete the assessment on a laptop or desktop as it is not mobile-friendly. 
  • Set aside 15 minutes of uninterrupted, dedicated time.
  • Remove any distractions so you can focus for 15 minutes.
  • Have a piece of paper and a pencil for notes.
  • Relax and don’t overthink it.

Remember, it’s not about being perfect; it’s about getting the best score you can. Don’t get caught up on one question. Keep moving at a decent pace. 

There is a time clock on the page so you will know how many questions you have completed and how much time remains.

 

How does the test affect my admissions decision?

Our admissions process includes three phases — a written application, the admissions test, and an admissions interview. The test is a factor in the admissions process, but ultimately, we will consider all three phases of your application to determine an admissions decision.

Wondering what score you should get? We do have a target score for each one of our study programs but don’t worry about that upfront. Only worry about making sure you have 15 minutes of dedicated time, and then do your best.

Your score will be measured against the target score to determine if you will be a good candidate for the program. Remember, we don’t want you to commit to one of our programs unless we know you have the potential to be successful in that career field.

How do we determine target scores?

We asked our current students and graduates of our program to take the admissions test. And created our target scores based on how well our successful students scored.

Then, the company that prepares the test provided scores from successful professional software engineers, data scientists, cybersecurity engineers and analysts, and product designers. And that’s how we came up with the target score for applicants.

What happens after I take the admissions test?

After you finish and submit the admissions test, your score is recorded in our system and you will receive a link to schedule your interview at the end of the assessment. In that interview, your admissions rep will share your score and discuss your next steps.

Remember, the test is a factor in your admission decision, but we will make our final decision based on the combination of your application, interview, and assessment test.

Ready to start your admissions process? Apply now.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of 01 Dec 2022. For updated information visit https://flatironschool.com/.

The Holiday Season: Brought To You By Tech Workers

The holiday shopping season is quickly approaching, and retailers are ramping up operations in preparation for the biggest retail events of the year – Black Friday and Cyber Monday. With sales consistently shifting to predominantly online year over year, retailers need to evolve their digital storefronts to keep up with modern shopping trends.

For retailers looking forward to these influxes of customers, preparation is key to success and keeping bottom lines black. The tech that powers online shopping, provides a seamless customer experience, and keeps data secure is only as effective as the engineers behind the scenes.

Retailers need a technically trained team with up-to-date skills to keep up and meet four critical needs: the need for websites that perform, the need to predict trends, the need for pages to convert, and the need to keep data secure. 

Here’s how the four disciplines Flatiron School teaches – Software Engineering, Data Science, Product Design, and Cybersecurity – support the holiday season. 

Need Websites That Perform (Software Engineering)

For websites to perform well, load quickly, and deliver an enjoyable online shopping experience, the engineers behind them must be well-versed in the languages used for Back-End and Front-End Software Engineering

In fact, in a recent study retailers reported software development as the #1 desired technical skill for new hires. Java, software engineering, SQL, Python, JavaScript, and data science also made the list.  

So, how do retailers build out a technical team to get their digital storefront live and profitable? Sourcing recent graduates from technical training institutions ensure that new hires are up to date on the newest software, platforms, and best practices in the online marketplace. 

Big box and clothing retailers in particular source our Software Engineering and Data Science graduates for their skills in Python, Java, JavaScript, and SQL. These languages are used in online interfaces such as cashier-less checkout, virtual storefronts, virtual dressing rooms, and marrying online and offline data to personalize shopping experiences and increase profitability.

Related reading: In-demand skills taught to our Software Engineering students

Need To Personalize and Predict Behavior (Data Science)

No matter how optimized a digital store-front functionality is or how easy to navigate a user interface is, a consumer won’t buy from you unless they see something they like enough to part with their hard-earned dollars. Item recommendations and promotions, whenever possible, should be personalized to individual customers to increase conversions and sale amounts.  

Data Scientists are tackling this task by taking advantage of big data – the mountain-sized amount of information points generated by customers interacting with your brand. 

Our Data Science graduates use models and machine learning to connect data points from multiple sources and generate actionable insights that can be implemented at scale. 

Unleashing the power of data-based decisions can have wide-reaching impacts on your business and increase conversion rates with recommendations catered to each customer and keep them coming back to the company that, somehow, knows them so well.  

Related reading: The (Data) Science Behind Netflix Recommendations

Need Websites That Convert (Product Design)

UX / UI design is a critical success factor for successful digital storefronts. User experience and user interface can make or break mobile viability, and nothing bottoms out the performance of a website or mobile app faster than a difficult-to-use interface.

Retailers utilize UX / UI Product Designers to revamp user interfaces and outfit brand-owned digital touch-points with easy-to-use features to ensure a seamless experience that will keep users coming back and clicking ‘buy’.

Related reading: What Is Design Thinking?

Need To Protect Data (Cybersecurity)

While not a new topic and certainly not unique to retailers, recent cybersecurity trends and high-profile breaches have resulted in several pain points for brands that hold personally identifiable information (PII). 

Many retailers are realizing new vulnerabilities including cloud hosting platforms, an increased number of access points, more frequent cyber attacks, and a lack of internal resources struggling to keep up. 

In the digital age where automated attacks can quickly overwhelm retailers, having adept and skilled professionals in place is critical to a company’s continued prosperity and longevity.

Essential cybersecurity skills for the digital age include SQL, which attackers could use to steal confidential data, compromise data stores, and execute web-based attacks, as well as Python, which helps to scan and analyze malware, and Java, which can be used in penetration (pen) testing.

For retailers to ensure their databases are secure for the rush of the holiday season, recruiting cybersecurity professionals with up-to-date and relevant skills or upskilling in-house teams is critical.

Related reading: Top 3 Cybersecurity Pain Points in 2022

Join Santa’s Workshop Of Tech Workers

No matter your area of interest or expertise, you can have a hand in bringing the holiday season to life. So, if you’d like to apply to Santa’s workshop, we have good news and bad news. 

The good news is that you can acquire the skills you need to join Santa’s team of tech workers by attending one of Flatiron School’s programs in Software Engineering, Data Science, Product Design, or Cybersecurity.  

In fact, many Flatiron School graduates have been hired at some pretty magical companies that can have a hand in making the winter season feel like magic

The bad news is that Santa cross-checks the naughty list. Good luck! (Kidding.)

Apply Today to start making some magic. 

Bani Phul-Anand: From Beauty To Product Design

Bani Phul-Anand, a Lead Instructor of Product Design at Flatiron School, has more than 12 years of experience in Product Design. She began her career in luxury beauty and fashion, but a pivot into tech eventually led her to a career in Product Design. 

Bani shares her journey from beauty and fashion to Product Design below.

Give me an overview of your experience – where did you start and how did you get where you are today?

I started out as a Graphic Designer/Art Director in luxury beauty and fashion (Estee Lauder, Loreal, Avon).

Next, I made my way to Amazon as a Creative Director, which is where I was exposed to UX / UI Design for the first time. I took a bootcamp to brush up on my UX / UI skills and moved on to freelance for clients including Fordham University and a startup called MealPal, which is based in New York City. 

I taught design as an Adjunct Professor at the New York Institute of Technology for more than 8 years, then moved to Flatiron School just under 4 years ago.

What are some notable projects you’ve worked on?

Fordham University’s cross-functional dashboard/portal.

Do you have any advice for current or prospective Product Design students?

Practice more than you think you need to – that’s the only thing that will make you better at what you do. But don’t get stuck on tools or software, they change. And don’t be precious with your work – seek criticism, not validation.

Inspired by Bani Phul-Anand and her career pivot story? Apply Today to Flatiron School’s Product Design Course to take charge of your future in as little as 15 weeks.

Not ready to apply? Book a 10-minute chat with admissions to see if you qualify, or test-drive the material with Product Design Prep

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of 02 September 2022. For updated information visit https://flatironschool.com/

Do You Need A Degree To Become A Product Designer?

We’re going to put the spoiler right out in the front here – no, you don’t need a degree to become a Product Designer. 

But, that’s not the whole story.

While a formal college education isn’t required to enter the field, the skills taught in those degrees are critical. Now I can hear you saying “isn’t that contradictory?”, but hear me out.

Put quite simply, a traditional 4-year educational degree is not the only pathway for acquiring the necessary skills. In fact, you have at least three different avenues: traditional 4-year, self-taught, or an accelerated bootcamp program. 

So, better questions to ask are “Which skills do I need to get my first job as a professional Product Designer?” and “How do I get those skills in the most time and cost-effective way?”

Important Skills For Skills Product Designers

Skill #1 – Design Fundamentals

Probably given away by the fact that “fundamentals” is in the name, the design fundamentals boil down to thinking like a designer. They typically entrail understanding the universal design principles, thinking in a user-centric methodology, and the development of a “designer’s eye.” 

This is what you build style, brand, and strategy on top of.

Skill #2 – Design Tools

According to research by Adobe1, 42% of hiring managers report that familiarity with design tools is the most important skill they look for in a prospective new hire.

If you’re deciding which tool to learn first, we recommend starting with one that will help you visualize your ideas and design concepts such as Sketch, Adobe, Figma, and Maze. 

Related reading: Here’s our Design Director’s guide to creating a wireframe in Figma

Skill #3 – Communication and Teamwork

We can’t all be the misunderstood geniuses of the world that doesn’t play well with others. In the career world, knowing how to communicate effectively and work on a team is critical to a successful and long career.

Learn to take feedback well, implement constructive criticism, and work with others in preparation for future relationships with clients and coworkers.

Skill #4 – A Standout Portfolio

Yes, this is a skill. It’s easy to throw together a substandard portfolio that will quickly relegate your application to the dustbin. It’s far harder to painstakingly craft a portfolio that will get you noticed.

Should you enroll in a bootcamp, you’ll likely graduate with a portfolio filled with quality projects that have been winnowed down by review after review until only the best remain. Career service teams will also give you tips on how to build the best portfolio possible to get you hired faster. 

Whether you attend a bootcamp or not, it’s also a good idea to develop some “real world” design experience in preparation for applying to industry jobs. 

Volunteer your skills to non-profits, small businesses, and community organizations, or advertise your services on freelancing sites like Upwork or Fiverr. These experiences will improve your application, improve your design skills, and set your application apart from the competition.

Related reading: Here’s our guide to building a portfolio that will get you noticed. 

Skill #5 – Networking

Unfortunately, the old adage of “it’s who you know”, is quite true in the modern world of work. 

Networking connects you to the hidden job market (i.e., jobs that are never formally posted and are filled primarily through referrals). Build this skill, expand your network, and you’ll see doors you didn’t even know existed opening for you.

Related reading: Networking Tips (For People Who Hate Networking)

Educational Avenues

So back to the title of this article – do you need a degree to be a Product Designer? (TL, DR – No!) 

But in order to obtain the necessary skills to enter the field, there are typically three pathways available to you: getting a traditional degree, being self-taught, or enrolling in a training program.

Traditional university education

Now we’ve already established that you don’t need a degree to break into this field, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t a good choice for some. The structure provided by traditional institutions can be very helpful and provide on-campus networking opportunities.

The downside to these conventional degrees however is that they are time-intensive (often 2-4 years minimum) and prohibitively expensive for many.

Self-taught

A self-taught approach, while significantly cheaper, lacks accountability and guided learning that can be vital to maintaining velocity towards your goal.

For those with the persistence and consistency needed to find success in this avenue, this avenue can be freeing, allowing them to take their time working towards industry skills. But, there are many more would-be designers that lose momentum and never feel “ready” to take the next step into the industry.

Accelerated bootcamp courses

Training programs and bootcamps on the other hand – at the risk of sounding cliche – combine the best of both worlds. 

They are often an economical choice when considering total ROI (return on investment), establish a course to follow, teach practical skills, hold students accountable for progress, and provide guidance throughout. 

Some courses, such as this one in UX / UI Product Design, even provide post-graduation career coaching to help new graduates find their first job.

Not sure if a UX / UI Product Design bootcamp is worth the investment? Here’s how to know if it’s right for you. 

What’s more, an accelerated bootcamp can have you industry-ready and applying to jobs in less than 15 weeks. For students looking to change careers, a less than 4-month commitment can turbocharge their path into a new industry. 

Breaking Into The Field

Beginning a new career as a UX / UI Product Designer won’t be easy, but it is incredibly rewarding. While it will take time, practice, and patience, Flatiron School is here to help prepare you. 

Apply Today to take the first step on your path to a new career.  

If you’re not quite ready to apply, try out the curriculum with our Free Product Design Prep or check out the Product Design Course Syllabus that will set you up for success.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of 02 September 2022. For updated information visit https://flatironschool.com/

Sources: 
1 – https://blog.adobe.com/en/2017/02/03/hiring-trends-in-ux-design-the-6-things-you-need-to-know-about-techs-fastest-growing-field

NYC Networking For UX / UI Product Designers

With more than 8 million residents, New York City has many opportunities to connect with people from all walks of life. For Product Designers, NYC is a great place to start out, establish yourself in the thriving arts and design culture, and build a career-long network of fellow designers. 

Here’s our list of the best networking and meetup groups any Product Designer looking to expand their network should take advantage of.

Groups For NYC Networking

Brooklyn Product Design

This networking group describes its objective as “connecting the product design community together through curiosity and shared learning via speaker talks, social events, and hackathon events in a safe space.”

The group lists more than 3,800* members and covers just about every design topic ranging from design principles to research and mixed reality AR/VR. 

UX Crunch New York 

UX Crunch was created by Tech Circus, a company that produces educational events for the UX, Design & Product community. The group is dedicated to New York UX Designers and is currently hosting events online. 

Women of Culture NYC 

Women of Culture is a “community designed to connect and inspire women via meaningful engagement with the arts and creative self-expression.”

Meetups feature curated cultural experiences, group trips, workshops, and online networking events. With more than 4,500* members, this group has a ton of girl power! 

Arts, Culture & Technology 

This group brings together professionals “working at the intersection of the arts and technology to share ideas, strategies, successes, and challenges,” and to explore questions related to the influence of technology and culture. 

New York UX & Design Community

This is a Design community with the goal to blend the disciplines of business, design, and technology. With more than 5,000* members, often featured are conference talks, events, and exclusive industry reports made for their audience. 

Fashion Pros: Designers, Artists, Photographers, Recruiters 

Fashion Pros is specifically tailored to professionals involved in the fashion industry. Members include designers, photographers, videographers, artists, models, merchandisers, and buyers.

The group is a great opportunity for meeting others interested in joining the industry, finding employment opportunities, and networking with recruiters and those already in the industry.

Design Vine NYC

Design Vine is a group specifically for interior designers. Members must be actively practicing as interior designers, have a degree in interior design, or be currently pursuing a degree in interior design.

The group aims to create a “positive, energetic environment for designers to gain perspective, cultivate meaningful relationships, deep-dive into new products and vendors, and unapologetically celebrate each other’s creative and professional development in the field.”

New York Entrepreneurs & Startup Network

With more than 23,000* members, this group has by far the most members on this list. 

Members include “startups entrepreneurs, small business owners, angel and accredited investors, venture capital managers, crowdfunding experts,” and other business professionals. The goal of this group is to connect members with potential business partners, investors, and clients. 

NYC Code & Coffee 

Code & Coffee is a NYC coding meetup that typically meets on Sundays at 2 p.m. and welcomes coders of any skill level and background. 

Attendees range from self-taught hackers, current/ex FANG engineers, uni students, startup devs, fintech, bootcamp grads, and non-traditional tech folk of all ages. This is also a great opportunity for Product Designers to meet and network with developers.

Young Professionals New to NYC

As the name suggests, this group is specifically for those just starting out in The Big Apple. Members can be from any walk of life, not necessarily design, and their events often focus on social events and outings. 

New York UX & Design Community

This group brings together designers of all disciplines and design-adjacent positions. Members include “Product Designers, UX designers, UI designers, Graphic Designers, Web Designers, Marketing Designers, and design enthusiasts.”

The goal of the meetings is simply “to learn something new and meet someone new.”

NYC Black Designers 

NYC Black Designers’ mission is to “foster the small but growing community of black designers in New York. To raise awareness, and strengthen ties with groups outside of this community and ultimately change that percentage.”

Most events focus on the topics of UI/UX Design, UX Research, Design Strategy, and Visual Design. Designers of all levels and backgrounds are welcome, as well as design adjacent roles like Product Managers, Engineers, and Data Analysts.

Find Your Community At Flatiron School

Whether you’re based in New York City or not, a community can help you get to where you want to go – the first job, the next one, or just to get started. 

When you join Flatiron School’s UX / UI Product Design Course, you’re joining a community of like-minded designers. Though they may come from all walks of life, their goal is the same – to take charge of their futures and launch a new career in Product Design.

Join them and Apply Today to be industry-ready in as little as 15 weeks.

What I Learned Interviewing for Product Design Jobs

Interviewing for product design jobs is hard. It would be great if you could just be accepted without the stressful formal interview process, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. 

So, the best thing you can do is prepare. 

This is the interview experience I went through. You may have more rounds, fewer rounds, different questions, etc., but this was my experience to help you in yours. 

Round 1: Phone Screen

Getting an email requesting a phone screen (a quick chat, brief call, etc.) is great! It means that someone looked at your resume and liked what they’ve seen so far. Phone screens are typically conducted by recruiters or HR and are intended to weed out bad-fit candidates so only qualified contenders are forwarded to the hiring manager.

What to expect: Phone screens usually include straightforward questions about why you applied for the job, what your salary requirements and availability are, and whether you have some of the basic skills required.

How to succeed: Don’t just answer the phone when it rings – prep beforehand! Review the job description for fit, practice your “tell me about yourself” pitch, and do some research on the company.

Round 2: Hiring Manager Interview 

If you’re a good fit for the job based on basic qualifications, you’ll likely be moved to the next round. This is usually an interview with the hiring manager, and would most likely be your direct supervisor if you’re hired (though not always). 

This round allows the interviewer to get to know you, learn about your background and skill set, and judge whether or not you would be a good fit for the company and team. 

But, interviews are a two-way street. Use this round to ask questions about the role, the design team, and the company culture to determine if you would want to work there. 

What to expect: This round usually has the expected interview questions like “tell me about yourself”, “why do you want to work here”, and “why are you leaving your current job”? Prepare for the more common questions, Product Design specific, and industry-relevant topics. 

Some questions to specifically have answers ready for:

  • What is your definition of product design?
  • How does your design process typically begin?
  • How do you approach making user personas?
  • How do you use user personas?
  • What research methods do you use to gain consumer insight?
  • Describe a product you designed in a previous position.
  • How would you rank your user experience and interaction design skill level?
  • How many iterations of prototypes do you usually go through?

How to succeed: The key to succeeding in this round is to highlight the value you can bring to the organization. Have concrete examples ready of previous projects where your designs have had a significant impact. Your answers should demonstrate that you are capable of excelling in the role, so emphasize why your skills and experience make you the best candidate for the job. And don’t forget to research the company and practice your answers beforehand!

Round 3: Portfolio Review

This round may be entirely separate or part of one or all of the other rounds, depending on the company’s process. You’ll likely have submitted your portfolio as part of the initial application, and should be ready to discuss its components in any interaction with the company. 

What to expect: Your portfolio of past projects is the best example of what the company can expect should they hire you. They may go front to back, hop around, or only ask about a few designs. Their aim is to see how you got to the final compositions, and how that workflow could be implemented to solve their design challenges. 

How to succeed: Don’t assume that the hiring manager (or any other employee interviewing you) has reviewed your portfolio before walking into the room. Walk them through your best pieces, clearly explain your design process, and highlight the impactful outcome of your contributions. Bonus points if you practice your explanations for each piece beforehand. 

Round 4: Stakeholder Interview

If the hiring manager liked you enough to pass you on to the next round, you’ll most likely have a least one more interview with a relevant stakeholder. This person may or may not be in your direct department, but their work will intersect with yours or your teams. 

What to expect: The previous rounds established your qualifications, skill set, and overall fit for the role, so this is more likely to be a less in-depth conversation meant to judge your culture fit. Expect more personality-related and high-level design questions. 

How to succeed: Try to establish a good rapport based on information gathered from previous interviews to demonstrate your knowledge of the company, its design needs, and the wider industry. Be ready to review your portfolio again, and look up your interviewer beforehand so you have an idea of how your roles might intersect if you’re hired. 

Final Step: Offer (Or Rejection)

This is it – it’s the end! The interviewers have poled their opinions, the candidates weighed against each other, and a decision has been made. Hopefully, you get the call offering you the job. But if not, take the experiences of the interview process and apply what you’ve learned to the next company. 

Key Takeaways

The rounds and people may be different for each company you interview with, but the main ways to succeed and make it to the end of the interview process and secure an offer are often similar. 

Identify The Company’s Design Challenges 

The company has a problem that they need to solve. No matter the format, product, or customer, they are trying to find someone who can perform the best work in the least amount of time. Calculating ROI with upstart and training costs influences the decision-making process when hiring. 

By identifying the company’s design challenges, either through your due diligence research or in discussion with the various stakeholders you meet during the process, you show that you’re invested in the solution and ready to hit the ground running. 

Practice Explaining Your Design Methodology

Walk through your design process explanation with a friend or the mirror during your interview prep. (Saying you chug two red bulls and then lock yourself in your office until it’s done is not a design process.) You should have concrete examples of how you identify challenges, prototype solutions, iterate possibilities, implement feedback, and roll out final products. 

Be clear and concise. They want to see how you would operate on the design team, and if your design methodology is logical. 

Optimize Your Online Portfolio

Portfolio quality makes or breaks your application. A concise portfolio with strong designs and standout visuals will land you the job, while a never-ending carousel of every design since you opened Figma for the first time is the surest way to send your application to the bin. 

Only include your best work, use a polished online interface, and make sure it’s not password protected when submitting for review. 

Speak Their Language

Notice your interviewers using some lingo that seems industry-specific? Make sure you know what it means – don’t feel stupid asking – and then incorporate it into your dialogue. If it feels like you’re already a team member, they’re more likely to make you one. 

Emphasize Your Experience With Industry Tools

Demonstrating your competency with professional-grade design tools like Figma and Webflow can help catch a hiring manager’s eye. For career switchers or those new to the industry, Product Design Bootcamps like the one offered by Flatiron School give you hands-on experience that can turbocharge your application. 

Apply Now to our Product Design course or book a 10-minute chat with admissions to see how you can take charge of your future in as little as 15 weeks.

No matter what, keep on that job hunt, and best of luck in your search! Remember, your next opportunity is just one “yes” away.

Dr. Delminquoe Cunningham: From Animation to UX / UI Product Design Curriculum Expert

Flatiron School’s UX / UI Product Design Curriculum is designed by subject experts with real-world work experience. 

Dr. Delminquoe Cunningham, a Senior Curriculum Developer, has 17 years of experience in the industry. He has held a variety of roles from UX Designer and Rendering Specialist to University Professor and Business Consultant. But, as a self-professed lifelong art lover, it’s all been part of the journey for him. 

Dr. Cunningham shares his journey from Computer Animation to UX Design below.

Give me an overview of your experience – where did you start and how did you get where you are today?

I’ve always had a passion for art and design; it’s been a lifelong journey to learn all I can about these subjects. My fascination for math and science lead me to understand the balance between art, math, and science.  Computers and art lead me to obtain a BFA in Computer Animation from the Art Institute of Atlanta. This degree led me to some of the leading companies for visual fx, animation, and game creation – NBC Universal, SCIfi, Krater, and Acclaim Games, to name a few.

After several years of honing my real-world skills in animation, I returned to the Art Institute as a teacher, ready to share what I’ve learned with a new generation. I moved from teaching to department chair; during this time, I completed a graduate degree in Entertainment Business from Full Sail University. I also enjoyed a career as a corporate trainer, teaching business and design software to internal marketing teams and companies across the country.

My graduate degree led me to pursue a doctorate in Global Business and leadership. As it turns out, all of these different paths were leading me to User Experience. 

Understanding the user has always been my number one goal, either in entertainment or business. I realized that, whatever the product may be, if the user’s experience is subpar, then there is no product to sell or distribute. Before joining Flatiron as a UX / UI Curriculum Developer for Product Design, I worked with Mitsubishi Electric Trane as a front-end developer and UX designer, working to develop new customer experiences for building automation systems. 

I’ve always followed my interests and focused my studies accordingly.

What are some notable projects you’ve worked on?

Mitsubishi Electric Trane

Building Connect Plus

Role: Frontend Developer/UX Designer.

First Command Financial

Client-facing bank portal/ Internal bank-facing interfaces

Role User Experience Architect.

Do you have any advice for current or prospective Product Design students?

To any student looking for advice, mine is to be a lifelong student – always be curious, and look for the next trend in art and design.

Inspired by Dr. Cunningham’s career pivot story? Take the next step and Apply Now to our Product Design bootcamp or book a 10-minute chat with admissions to see how you can take charge of your future in as little as 15 weeks.

How To Create a Wireframe in Figma

A big part of User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design involves something called wireframing. Simply put, a wireframe is a visual mockup of a web page without all the final details. The goal of a wireframe is to demonstrate how the content should function on the screen.

Doing this work in Figma makes it easy to wireframe lots of ideas quickly and get direct feedback.

Start with wireframes

A few weeks ago, the Product Design team at Flatiron School designed an update for a page on our website. We were moving quickly and instead of starting with wireframes, I instructed one of our designers to start with high-fidelity mockups. Big mistake you guys – starting with pretty mockups created 2 challenges:

  • The polish made the design too precious. We needed our content and engineering partners to critique the content, but they were not sure how much we were open to changing.
  • We ran out of time to iterate. The design spurred some other good ideas, but we spent too much time on the finishes and had no more time to explore.
Wireframe in Figma
When a design has too much detail right away, people have trouble knowing how to respond.

In this case, we were able to push the deadline out another week. The design team regrouped, produced a handful of wireframes without branded styles (colors, fonts, icons, images, etc.), and something magical happened:

  • The content and engineering teams suddenly had helpful questions.
  • It was easier to share the wireframes early and often, so iteration happened naturally.
Wireframe in Figma
Good wireframes focus on the important details.

Wireframe from the inside out

When most people start a wireframe, they skip an important step. Most people start with a big box shape to frame all the content. Then they make smaller boxes inside those boxes to represent things like navigation, page footers, sidebars, and so on.

Instead, start with the most important content on the screen and move out from there. This approach is called Epicenter Design and it will change your life.

Wireframe faster with Figma

If you are making wireframes in Figma, it’s really easy to explore multiple concepts quickly using components templates.

A screenshot of Figma's community showing lots of wireframe templates.

One of the wonderful things about Figma is the Figma Community. Other designers just like you and I have added hundreds of templates to the community library. Many of them are free and new designers benefit a lot from seeing existing solutions to problems they may be working on for the first time.

Want To Try It Out?

Hiring companies consistently rate Figma knowledge as one of the top “must-have” skills for UX / UI Product Designers.

In the Product Design course at Flatiron School, students are taught hands-on, practical skills, including how to use Figma.

A great way to try out the course is by taking a Free Product Design Prep Work, with no commitment or strings attached! You can also see all the skills we teach in our Product Design Course Syllabus.

You can also learn more about what it’s like to be one of our students in this day-in-the-life of a Product Design student post.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of 27 June 2022. For updated information visit https://flatironschool.com/

Top 3 Retail Tech Trends in 2022

Shopping and retail tech in the modern age move at the speed of the internet, and retailers – both big box and boutique – need to evolve to keep up.

The tech that powers personalized shopping experiences, marrying online and in-store data, and cashier-less checkout are only as effective as the engineers behind the scenes.

Trend #1: Digital-First Shopping

While the retail market had already seen a shift away from brick-and-mortar shopping in the early 2010s, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 cemented the turn towards online shopping. 

Shoppers by and large are no longer walking into physical stores for their goods, instead, they are logging onto their computers with credit cards in hand.

Companies whose digital presence does not present an attractive and easy-to-use platform to users will inevitably suffer in the digital-first modern age and be left in the dust by big-box retailers who offer ease of use. 

Faced with the urgent pressure to digitize, retail tech teams need to modernize their online platforms and will need a technically trained team to keep up.

TIP: Invest in Skilled Engineers

In a recent study, retailers reported software development as the #1 desired technical skill for new hires. Java, software engineering, SQL, Python, JavaScript, and data science also made the list.1  

So, how do retailers build out a technical team to get your digital storefront live and profitable? Sourcing recent graduates from technical training institutions can help ensure that new hires are up to date on the newest software, platforms, and best practices in the online marketplace. 

Over the past 10 years, top retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Best Buy have hired our graduates across all disciplines including Software Engineering, Data Science, Cybersecurity, and UX / UI Product Design. 

Big box and clothing retailers in particular source our Software Engineering and Data Science graduates for their skills in Python, Java, JavaScript, and SQL. These languages are used in online interfaces such as cashier-less checkout, virtual storefronts, virtual dressing rooms, and marrying online and offline data to personalize shopping experiences and increase profitability.

See the full skills list taught to our graduates and learn more about hiring our top tech talent

Trend #2: Mobile Commerce

Going hand in hand with the shift to online-first shopping is mobile apps for on-the-go convenience. Customer touch points now feature everything from brand-owned mobile apps to social media platforms, each of which is a chance for retailers’ brand messaging to reinforce customer loyalty. 

But, in a crowded app market with dozens of competitors vying for screen time, how can a retailer increase downloads, user engagement, and – most important of all – mobile conversions? 

TIP: Revamp UX / UI For Seamless Shopping

UX / UI design is a critical success factor in mobile commerce, one that Data Scientists are tackling by connecting data points from multiple systems and gaining actionable one-to-one insights at scale. 

For brand-owned mobile apps, this is often where the most loyal (and profitable) customers aggregate. User experience and user interface can make or break mobile viability, and nothing bottoms out an app’s performance faster than a difficult-to-use interface.

Retailers should utilize UX / UI Product Designers to revamp user interfaces and imbue brand-owned mobile apps with easy-to-use features to ensure a seamless experience that will keep users coming back.

Trend #3: Cybersecurity For The Digital Age

While not a new topic and certainly not unique to retailers, recent cybersecurity trends and high-profile breaches have resulted in several pain points for brands that hold personally identifiable information (PII). 

With the shift towards remote/hybrid working, many retailers are realizing new or increased vulnerabilities including cloud hosting platforms, number of access points, more frequent cyber attacks, and a lack of internal resources struggling to keep up. 

In the digital age where automated attacks can quickly overwhelm retailers, having adept and skilled professionals in place is critical to a company’s continued prosperity and longevity.

TIP: Upskill Cybersecurity Teams

Essential cybersecurity skills for the digital age include SQL, which attackers could use to steal confidential data, compromise data stores, and execute web-based attacks, as well as Python, which helps to scan and analyze malware, and Java, which can be used in penetration (pen) testing.

For retailers to ensure their databases are secure, recruiting cybersecurity professionals with up-to-date and relevant skills or upskilling in-house teams is critical.

Partnering with established training organizations to hire top-level graduates can help retailers build out a team that is up to date with current technology and regulations.

Alternatively, retraining or cross-training existing employees can be a more financially effective option. Utilize technical training organizations to address technical skill gaps on your team and build on existing internal expertise. 

Custom-Tailored Solutions For Retailers

For retailers to keep up in the modern age, skilled technical teams, whether comprised of new hires or upskilled current employees, are critical to long-term viability and profitability.

If your organization is building out a technical team, there are some must-have skills sets to look for:

  • Software Developer / Software Engineer: JavaScript, HTML, Ruby, CSS
  • Full Stack Developer: JavaScript, HTML, CSS, Java, Ruby, Python, SQL
  • Front-End Developer: JavaScript, HTML, CSS
  • Back-End Developer: Java, Ruby, Python, SQL
  • Mobile Developer:  Java, JavaScript
  • Data Scientist: Python, SQL, Java
  • Data Analyst: Java, Python
  • Cybersecurity Risk Specialist / Analyst: SQL, Python, Java
  • Product Designer: UX, UI, ethical and inclusive design
  • UX Designer: UX (user experience), ethical and inclusive design
  • UI Designer: UI (user interface), ethical and inclusive design

But, retailers are busy, and sifting through a mountain of applications takes time. To ease organizations into the digital age with qualified employees, Flatiron School teaches the skills and disciplines retailers’ technical department teams need to keep up.

Software Engineering Data Science Product Design Cybersecurity
Website Development & Management X X
Cashierless Checkout X X
Virtual Storefronts X X
Virtual Dressing Rooms X X
Marrying Online & Offline Data X
Personalization X X X
Brand-Owned Mobile Apps X X
Mobile Social Commerce X
Protect PII X
Inventory Management X X
Sophisticated Pricing Algorithms X X
Increased Shipment / Delivery Speed With Drones, Other Tech X

To see how technical recruiting, upskilling and retaining, or hire-to-train programs offered by Flatiron School can help level up your retail tech team, visit our retail industry page.

Need something special? Talk to our team of retail tech experts about how we can build a curriculum to fit your organization’s needs. 

Sources:

  1. https://insights.dice.com/2021/06/14/technology-jobs-in-retail-demand-these-core-skills/
  2. https://hbr.org/2015/11/how-marketers-can-personalize-at-scale
  3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2022/01/12/the-five-biggest-retail-tech-trends-in-2022/?sh=2df4a01e36d4