Researching. Prototyping. Front-end coding. These are just some of skills necessary to make it as as a designer. Misa Nguyen, a student in Bloc’s designer track, has spent the past 6 months acquiring and perfecting them. To help prospective students understand what that experience is like, we recently chatted with Misa about her transition into the industry including why she decided to enroll in Bloc, how she built out her portfolio, and what her dream job looks like.
1. Tell us a little bit about your journey before Bloc.
Before I began Bloc, I went on a 3-year journey in Japan that was an experience of a lifetime. After graduating from university here in California, I knew that I had to fulfill my lifelong dream of living and working abroad. I started out teaching English in a corporation to youth and adult students and eventually transitioned into a recruitment role in the Pharmaceutical sector. Through my experiences abroad, I learned the value of hard work, patience, and most importantly communication. I came back to California after backpacking solo through Southeast Asia and worked as an Operations Manager for the fashion house Chanel, which helped reignite my passion in design.
2. What inspired you to become a UX designer?
When I saw that there was an opportunity to create unique experiences through design and technology, the world of UX piqued my interest. I dreamt of creating a future where I could solve problems through design integrated with the latest technology.
My own experience shaped my decision to become a designer, too. Everyday interfaces such as car systems frustrated me and I couldn’t understand why it was so difficult to navigate a console from an expensive car brand. Also, I realized that our world was becoming a mobile-first society so I saw an area of growth. As a designer, I want to create empathetic and meaningful user experiences.
3. What educational options did you consider before enrolling with Bloc? Did you consider getting a Master’s degree instead of enrolling in a bootcamp?
I did consider a Master's degree but realized that at this point in my life (age and work experience-wise), I didn’t want to spend the money or the time in a Master's degree program. Also, from conversations with people in the industry, I knew that a strong portfolio matters more than a credential. That’s why I chose the bootcamp route.
Among the bootcamp options, I choose Bloc because it ticked all the boxes on my list. I started out with a one-day intensive program at General Assembly and was initially dead-set on an in-person class but realized that due to my location, it would be wasteful to spend each day commuting 2 hours. I then did extensive research on all the online programs and came down to a decision between Bloc and CareerFoundry. After speaking with a student advisor at Bloc and reviewing the advantages Bloc had to offer, I felt that it was the best program to choose for my apprenticeship. The schedule flexibility, mentorship, student Slack channel, and price just couldn’t be beat.
4. What has been your favorite aspect of the program? Why?
My favorite aspect of the program is the Daily Design Critique, which is a live video session where students can submit their work to be reviewed by the design program director, Chris Courtney and other design students. I can’t praise Chris enough for his dedication to the design program and his critical but insightful advice regarding design decisions. Also, by seeing the work of other students, I was able to gauge how much of an effort I had been putting in and where I was lacking. I’ve spent a lot of time bouncing design ideas by Chris and have seen myself grow exponentially by taking the feedback, learning, and applying myself.
5. Chris seems like a great resource. We also know that as Bloc student, you worked 1-on1 with a mentor. What was that experience like?
My mentor Sharon Torres was fantastic. I started working with her when I began the UX portion of the curriculum. She’s given great critical feedback and been very supportive of the decision I’ve made. Given that we live in the same area, I definitely foresee staying in touch with her after the program.
6. What has been the most surprising/unexpected aspect of the program? Why?
The most surprising aspect of the program is how quickly Bloc was able to review and take feedback from students and implement changes to improve the program. The Slack channels and support have become so robust compared to when I first started, and while I did face some frustrations when it came to seeking help initially, the mentors have been able to really step up and show their support.
7. Recently, you completed a project for your portfolio called LURE. Could you tell us more about that?
Bloc’s curriculum requires students to complete a mobile-focused solo project. For my solo project, which I call LURE, I created an app to help people connect with beauty services. It combines the search functionality of Yelp with the booking functionality of Opentable to help users discover, lean about, and ultimately patronize businesses like hair salons and day spas.
My background in fashion and interest in the beauty industry made this a fun project for me. I enjoyed having the opportunity to pay special attention to branding which is so critical to success in the beauty category.
8. You just finished the program and are currently job hunting. What's the dream job? Any companies you want to give a shout out to?
While jobs at Google, Apple or Facebook are definitely appealing, my dream job is to work in a start-up company that has a team where they truly care about the product they’re trying to put out. A diverse team that allows each player to work together and learn various skill sets while creating something innovative that has an impact on society. I’d like to give a shoutout to Robinhood which has been useful in teaching me the importance of investing, Glossier in pushing the boundaries in the beauty industry and Invision, which plays a critical role in my job as a UX/UI Designer.
This is a sponsored post by Bloc.