Recently our team at Springboard sat down with Jamal Nichols, a former product designer at Google and Equinox who founded Truth About Design last year, to discuss his favorite design tools, why he became a Springboard mentor, and his advice for aspiring UX designers.
Here are the top highlights from the interview, or scroll below to watch the full interview.
What are some of the most important UX design tools that one should have experience in?
When it comes to the UX field, there are a lot of tools out there, but the one that I highly recommend you focus on above all else are Sketch and Principle. Sketch because it’s the industry standard—so that’s what you’ll use for low-fidelity wireframes and for high-fidelity visual work. Use Sketch, just use Sketch. Don’t worry about anything else—just use Sketch. Then, if you want to add animations into your work—you know, once you’ve got the high-fidelity mockups done and you want to do animations and micro-interactions, use Principle. That’s the tool that everyone’s using and it integrates perfectly with Sketch.
There’s a lot of other tools out there, but those are the tools that everyone’s using and if you’re getting a job in UX, you’re going to be using what your team is using, and in most cases that’s going to be Sketch and Principle.
What made you want to become a mentor?
Well, it was actually when I was at Google a couple of years ago; I finally had gotten the ego validation of working at Google, but after about six months the ego validation wore off and I wasn’t even that happy there. And then I started wondering: OK, Jamal, what do you really want to do? What do you care about?
I knew that I wasn’t quite management material yet and didn’t really want to go on the management track, but I knew that I cared about people, I cared about teaching, I cared about mentoring—I had done a couple of volunteer mentoring engagements in the years before and just loved it. And, you know, when a student is ready, the teacher appears, so then General Assembly (GA) called me and said: hey, do you want to teach here? And I was like: absolutely.
That got me on the track of teaching. And after that, you’re always teaching the same thing at GA, so after a while I decided I wanted to challenge myself in different ways, but still mentor, still stay involved in the mentoring community, and that’s how I found Springboard. And it was just the perfect fit from the start.
What does it take to be a good student?
The broader question is what does it take to be successful as a designer, because that’s what most of the students are trying to accomplish. I think what’s really important there is that you have that tenacity that we talked about earlier, that you don’t give up, that you’re willing to work hard on your own and not just—you know, I’m a mentor, I’m not your personal trainer, right? A personal trainer will tell you exactly what to do all the time, while a mentor takes someone who is already driven and already kind of knows what they want and sort of just gives them a few pointers to accelerate their trajectory. The person is already going and the mentor is just like: OK, just adjust yourself a little bit and you’ll go even better and even faster.
So, being tenacious, being hard-working, being a good communicator, being able to know how to ask for help. I think that’s really, really important because a lot of students—I really like it when students reach out to me more than just on the day that we have our scheduled call. Some students will send me their work like two hours before the call. I’m like: come on, man! Reach out to me throughout the week, ask for help, I’m here. So, sort of keeping that line of communication open.
Are you looking to start a career in UX design and want a mentor like Jamal? Check out Springboard’s UX Career Track and see how the course can prepare you for a UX design career.
This post was sponsored by Springboard. To learn more about Springboard, check out their reviews on Switchup.
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Springboard offers self-paced data science courses that can be completed in 2 to 4 months, with one-on-one weekly mentor support. The program costs $499 per month, so students who finish early will pay less for their tuition.