Nadine Zahr is currently enrolled in the Bloc Designer Track program. She works as a Business Systems Analyst/ Tester for an international law firm. Although she is already working in tech, Nadine wanted to expand her skill set to include UX Design. Her positive experience during the admissions process as well as a noteworthy scholarship offering led her to enroll in Bloc’s program, which she recommends highly. Find out what she is learning and why this program is her perfect fit below:
You currently work as a Business Systems Analyst for Wilson Elser. What does this title mean and what does an average day look like for you?
My full title at Wilson Elser is a Business Systems Analyst/Tester. I am basically both BA/QA for their IT dept meaning that I analyze and document the technical needs of the business in functional requirements while also defining and implementing the quality assurance of those requirements through multiple testing processes. Wilson Elser is an international law firm that has about 1550 employees, and I’m a part of their Project Management Office. My role is a bit different in this company than in past software development companies because my BA/QA skills have to be utilized in many non-development areas, like technological infrastructure, or company-wide hardware and software upgrades. My days are spent in conversation with various teams in the business creating and documenting processes, requirements, and strategies to most effectively deploy the numerous tech-based projects that the business requires. Everything from in-house software development to integrating with outside vendors that provide software for us to upgrading multiple offices to newer versions of old software and systems.
How did you decide to attend Bloc as opposed to other bootcamp programs?
I was first introduced to bootcamp programs by a dear friend of mine. My previous company had just been sold, and I was out of a job and searching for something else. In that previous job, I worked on their software development team as a BA/QA and UX Designer. The UX Design part fell into my lap without any idea of what I was doing, and I fell in love with the work once I taught myself prototyping software. I wanted to go deeper into it for future employment as a UX Designer. Bloc was the most flexible with my schedule, as I was looking for a new job while studying. I also received rave reviews from my dear friend, and I had great conversations with their student advisors. The biggest selling point, however, was their flexibility with my schedule. I was afraid to do a 3-month in-person immersive type program in NYC because I wasn’t sure what would happen once I got another job.
What are you currently studying at Bloc?
I am in their Designer Track. The goal is to become a front-end developer and UX Designer. The Designer track provides all of those skill sets for me.
How do you feel this course of study will help your professional career?
Because I have experience in all phases of the software development lifecycle, this will really propel me into Product Management or become a part of the User Experience team. I want to be able to offer all skill sets to all aspects of the SDLC to be undeniably valuable to any tech company or team. In regards to my current position, this will improve my QA engineering work and tech analytics and keeps me ahead of the curve. It also helps to be able to speak dev language with dev people. Many analysts in the software BA/QA world struggle in that area.
Are you using Bloc to attempt to change your career path, or improve the path you are already on? A little bit of both. Mainly to improve the path that I’m already on, but it could very easily put me in a completely different position than the one I am in now. My current trajectory is into Project Management. If I transition more into design, I would work more on the product development side. Both interest me greatly, but the levels of creativity required for the skills I’m acquiring at Bloc are deeply exciting for me.
What are the courses like at Bloc? Bloc breaks up their entire curriculum into thematic modules, further divided into subsets called “checkpoints”. The whole approach of Bloc (which I love) is project design and mentorship. It’s designed like an apprenticeship. You work alongside professionals in the business, as you design and build project after project. You build a diverse portfolio by the end of the curriculum, and they prep you for job placement. In UX Design, your portfolio is EVERYTHING. They seem to know that by making this about building your portfolio.
As a part-time student, how do you find Bloc working in your schedule? I’m not gonna lie, Bloc is intense. They prep you for that fact, and tell you it really is easy to fall behind (especially because it’s online). The hourly commitment per week is about 20-25, to complete the whole program in 8 months. I hope to be able to maintain that, but I’m willing to pay more after the 8 months, if need be, to stay in. The school is incredibly affordable for the amount of knowledge and skill you attain from it. It’s even more affordable when you consider how long you commit to the program. They offered me a “Women in Tech” type scholarship, too, which I found generous. That was an additional selling point to my enrollment there.
Would you recommend this program to other students? Why or why not?
YES! And I already have, honestly. I just think it’s the most comprehensive and well-planned online program I have ever taken (and I have taken MANY!). It is built extremely well, and the mentors and group sessions make it feel like a true community. You also truly feel like you’re staying ahead of the curve on the newest technology for design because they integrate it all into their curriculum.
Were there any scholarships or financial assistance offered prior to beginning the program?
Yes. I was initially going for a $1k off scholarship they were offering for a limited time, but they offered me an even deeper discount with their “Women in Tech” type scholarship, after speaking to me in person (I think I was really excited about UX design on the phone!).
What was the application and admission process like?
Super easy. All online, all laid out in a comprehensive, user-friendly way. Believe it or not, that was another selling point for me because if they can design a seamless user experience during the onboarding process then they must be good. It’s not easy to do that!
Do you have mentors at Bloc?
Yup! We meet once a week, and there is always someone to help on their Slack channels. My mentor is great.
How about career services? What have those been like up until this point?
They dedicate a good portion of the curriculum, near the end of it, to career services. They have 100% job placement/offer rate, and I believe it. I’m not there yet, but even when I was looking for a job with my current portfolio, having not finished the program, my mentor went online and looked at what the market was offering people like me. They stay extremely current with the market.
Is there anything else you would like to add? I am totally into this program. I get excited about my assignments and really do my best to produce good work. I can’t say that about any other academic-type environment I have ever been in. Starting with Kindergarten and having to put those damn plastic donuts on a stick thing (what’s the point?!). This place is opening a whole new world to me. I’m a big fan.