March 20, 2020

What was Jacob Heer's experience at DESIGNATION?

Jacob Heer, Designation Alum

We are excited to announce another one of the SwitchUp's gift card giveaway winners, Jacob Heer!

Jacob is a graduate of the UX/UI design education bootcamp, Designation. After working as an industrial designer and a graphic designer/art director for several years, Jacob decided he wanted more of a focus on digital design.

Based on a recommendation from the Director of Product Design at a startup in Chicago, Jacob decided Designation would be the best option to gain high quality UX design skills.

Jacob now works in product design at a growing startup, and says that the skills he learned at Designation helped pave the way for his success.

As Jacob explained, "I moved across the country and landed a job immediately. In fact, I had several offers. My salary has almost doubled and I feel very hopeful for the future of my career. I am very fortunate and don't take that for granted."

We sat down with Jacob to learn more about his experience with Designation, his shift into a digital design position, and his current role.

Tell me about your background. What was your professional and educational experience before you joined Designation?

I attended a private art school to study Industrial Design. After graduating, I was a professional Industrial Designer for 2 years and then a graphic designer/art director for a large ad agency for another 5 years.

Given your design experience, why did you decide to attend Designation? What were your goals for the program?

In my role at a traditional agency, I was not receiving as many opportunities to work on as much digital focused work as I would've liked. I connected with the Director of Product Design at a startup in Chicago to receive advice and mentoring, and he told me that he knew of a bootcamp that produced high quality UX designers. My goals for the program were simple: get a job as a designer that focused 100% on digital work.

There are quite a few bootcamps and courses in UX/UI Design. How did you decide on Designation over other programs?

The Director of Product Design I spoke to gave Designation a huge endorsement. From there, the decision was easy. If he believed in this program, so would I. I still do believe in the program, as it has been a game changer for me.

Tell us a little bit about daily life at Designation. What did you like best about the environment, curriculum, and teaching style?

Designation was intense, but the best kind of intensity. For about 4 months we did nothing but live and breathe design. It's immersive, focused, and hands-on design for a substantial amount of time.

The people at Designation were great. Spending almost all of your walking hours with 40 other students for a few months created a special bond where everyone had each other's backs. We became better friends than other acquaintances that I've known for years. The shared experience is a very cool thing.

The faculty are nothing but passionate. Not one faculty member treats this program like it's just another job. The engagement factor for both students and faculty is exceptionally high.

For you, what were the pros and cons of attending a bootcamp?

The pros of the bootcamp included the accelerated learning environment, the tight group of individuals who are now a valuable network of designers that I will likely know for my entire career, and the focused curriculum that was crafted by smart and savvy faculty to provide the highest value.

If the bootcamp is full-time, as this one was, you cannot hold a job at the same time. Several months without a job can be difficult. Additionally, as much as some bootcamps are hands-on and do all they can to prepare their attendees for real job experience, it is a completely different experience to join a workplace that has an engineering team, senior leadership, its own unique design or product development process (or lack thereof). Nothing can really prepare you for the real thing.

How did Designation prepare you to pursue opportunities in Product Design?

Practice, practice, practice. Network, network, network. If nothing else, we received ample time to get our feet wet, and by the end, we all felt pretty comfortable and competent given our short tenure in the field.

You attended Designation in 2016. How has your career changed since graduation?

I now have the job I want. I moved across the country and landed a job immediately. In fact, I had several offers. My salary has almost doubled and I feel very hopeful for the future of my career. I am very fortunate and don't take that for granted.

Where are you working now? What is your day-to-day role like?

I work at a growing startup in LA. The company is fairly large now but the design team is small. I was hired because I ask a lot of questions and am very critical, in a way that demands a high level of strategy and purpose for every project. I'm not often given clear objectives. I have to identify them myself and follow through. It requires me to be resourceful, which I like. It's an interesting form of freedom. I spend a lot of time in Sketch, Invision, and LucidChart.

What challenges did you overcome to get where you are?

Simply stated, I don't often settle for "good enough." I'd still be in an unfulfilling career if I did. I'm always looking for opportunities to improve not only digital products, but my workplace and my position in the field. "Everything is a design problem" is my mantra.

What advice do you have for people who are interested in attending a bootcamp?

  1. Do it! But make sure to find the right one first.
  2. Put everything into it. You most likely will not get grades. The only thing that is at stake is the your future career and future success, so give it everything you've got.
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