Michelle Coutinho came to CodeCraft with over 12 years’ experience in User Interface Design. Michelle always felt called to teaching, and she loves being able to help students take the next step in their lives.
In an interview with Switchup, Michelle talks about her teaching style and the environment at CodeCraft. She also offers her advice on how students can make the most of a bootcamp, and how a UX skillset can help them build a successful career in tech.
You joined CodeCraft with 12 years’ experience in User Interface Design. What made you decide to start teaching?
Actually, I was invited to teach while I was working in the Instructional Design Department at Full Sail University. I was editing videos and creating media and educational content for courses throughout the school. The Program Director of the Web Design & Development Degree asked me if I would like to step into teaching a Usability and User Experience Design class in their program and I accepted.
It was a really natural fit for me, both the content of the course and stepping into the role of a teacher. I really enjoy teaching, I feel it is my calling to work with students through mentorship and help them take the next steps in their lives.
What do you like best about the environment at CodeCraft?
The people at CodeCraft are really great people to work with and I am also grateful to be a part of an environment that is so focused on education, community outreach, networking, and career change. Our school is a really casual and open, yet at the same time is very focused and professional. It is important to strike a balance between these things to create a comfortable and accessible learning environment. We want to give our students room to be creative problem solvers as well as teach them the material we need them to learn to be successful.
Bootcamps are known for attracting students from all backgrounds. Which qualities or skills should students possess to be successful in UX?
The field of UX is multi disciplinary and the range of skills successful students will possess will also be very diverse. For example, UX researchers and designers will have good problem solving skills, like to come up with innovative solutions to challenges, enjoy studying human psychology, understanding and analyzing people’s behavior. Visual User Interface (UI) designers will enjoy building screen layouts, writing content for projects, and designing user flows and interactions between screens. Over the course, students can decide which specific discipline of UX they want to move into based on where they were the strongest during the coursework and what they enjoy the most.
What percentage of students enroll in the bootcamp from a non-design background? How can a student who does not have a design background prepare for the bootcamp?
Often times less than half of our students may not view themselves as savvy with design. Usually, a combination of: mentoring on concepts like Visual Hierarchy, Visual Flow; a stepped approach to learning design software; and practice with creating content with design elements, will get them to a place where they are ready to move forward with other aspects of creating a good user experience.
Ultimately, the most important thing to prepare is getting to know the ins and outs of learning how to use design software. At CodeCraft we use the first three weeks of remote classwork to build familiarity with the software, as well as learning a bare bones Information Architecture. This is designed to allow students to come into the course familiar with the tools and vernacular of the industry–essentially ready to move forward with the more complex aspects of the crafting meaningful experiences.
What is your teaching style? How have you developed your approach as you work with more cohorts?
I offer a flexible teaching style for my students. Sometimes I will lead with a discussion, and other times I will get right into the lecture and the lesson plan. Individually working with students, I am able to hone in on what that particular student may need and offer a more personalized one-on-one approach. But generally, I want the class to be a cohesive and supportive environment, where we listen to, and work with each other.
Over time, I have learned to allow my students to speak more often in class by demonstrating and sharing what they already know. This facilitates an environment where the students are learning from one another. Everyone has something to offer about this industry from their personal life experiences, and it is also helpful and empowering for the student as they present to the class.
How do you help students move forward when they are stuck on a particular design problem?
Asking questions is a great way to get a student into a creative problem solving mode. If we are designing a scenario, I would ask something like, “What would that type of person do in that situation?” Or even, “What situation would that type of person be in?” So, I would help them problem solve by thinking about the problem in a new way. If it’s particularly a layout design problem, I may suggest a new design pattern they could attempt to organize the content into, and those are pretty well structured out.
What steps can a student take to get the most out of a bootcamp?
Be present. This is a big commitment, and it is important that you fully take the steps to create space in your life to commit to learning. Taking a bootcamp is one of those situations where you will get out what you put into it. Get good sleep, exercise, and eat well so you are able to handle working full time and learning at night if that is the case for you. Also, come with an open mind, be teachable, and ready to experiment with new information. Be open to learning.
What’s great about CodeCraft’s UX program is that it’s a part-time, evening and weekend schedule so that you don’t have to put the brakes on your current job or commitments while pursuing a new career in UX design.This helps people make the space the need to be successful in the program.
How can a student best prepare for the job market after a UX bootcamp?
As with any career switch, landing a new job as an Experience Designer isn’t always easy. We’ve found that focusing on building a solid portfolio of their design projects is the most important step. Additionally, it’s important in this industry to craft a cohesive personal brand is another key step to standing out. At CodeCraft, Meredith Rafter is our Career Services expert and she works with students to craft a personal brand and land a job. Near the end of the cohort we spend time with our students crafting a pitch for their prototype designs, as well their design process more broadly. During this process we seek to bring in mentors who are senior industry professionals, and hiring managers, who can assist both with the design and pitch process.
At CodeCraft we weave career services and job search into everything we do. In addition to learning the skills necessary for the job, our students work with career services to create a post-graduation strategy, learn soft skills, and participating in mock interviews. We even provide professional headshot photos for our students. In addition, we’re continually working with the hiring community to make sure that our curriculum reflects what they are looking for in junior-level UX designers.
Where are your students now? What kinds of jobs have your students secured after CodeCraft or Full Sail Academy?
It greatly depends on the student and what their specialty is. Some will be hired and visual designers and others as UX researchers. Several of our students are working for notable companies or creative agencies in the Boulder/Denver area–as well as working for companies nationally. Regardless, much of our students’ success is a combination of the skills they learn in class and the work they do to network, build a portfolio and more broadly a personal brand. .
What are the most important things for a student to consider when they are comparing bootcamps?
Our UX Design bootcamp was created by three highly experienced UX Designers from diverse backgrounds working on products at places like Google that are used around the world. They worked together to make a program that is really unique and goes beyond what most bootcamps cover. For instance, something I really like about the program we have designed is that it goes through all aspects of the UX design process. So we walk you through from the research phase, to building an interactive prototype, all the way to designing a case study, learning to market yourself, and build your portfolio. I feel this is a really rare for a bootcamp to do.
Adding portfolio design and career skills comes from my experience seeing what my students needed, as well from my own personal experience wishing I would have come away with this after college. There are other programs that focus on just one part of the UX process, such as building wireframes or data analysis, but we offer a broad scope to the field so it depends on the depth of the course you are looking to take.
What other advice do you have for someone who is interested in joining a bootcamp?
Initially it may feel like a big commitment, but at the end it will be well worth it. There will be times that are challenging with lots of hard work, but there will be other times where you are flying right through. This is all part of the process, and when it’s all done, you will feel very good for having gone through it.
Overall, it is a very rewarding experience, and you will be proud of yourself as you enter a new industry or shift the focus of your career in new, more expansive direction. This is one door that you will enter into that can open you up for many more to come.