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Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Sanjay Jaya

By Academy Xi

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Jay landed on Australian shores with design experience, worked as a cook, but soon retrained to secure a dream UX UI Design role.

Ten minutes after his interview, Jay got an offer: a dream job that’s a product of his learning experience, hard work, self-belief, and a little help from our career support team. Read about Jay’s professional journey and how he navigated his career path in a new industry and a new country.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today, Jay. Could you tell us about your career history?

I worked in the User Interface space for about 7 or 8 years back in Singapore and had a successful career as a digital designer, photographer, and manager for micro social media influencers. I performed a bit of market research after I arrived in Australia and soon realised there are plenty of homegrown graphic designers and digital designers, and work is also outsourced to places like Indonesia.

I thought to myself, “I’ve got to find something new – what am I going to do?”.

My aunt works in Australian healthcare and said, “Jay, you’re smart, you’re empathetic and the patients would really benefit from someone like you – why don’t you get into nursing?”

I really wanted to do something that made sense to me. A lot of people go through the motions in their work with little awareness of what they’re doing and why. Eventually, I joined New South Wales Health as a cook (aka as a food service assistant) and worked with them for 2 years. They eventually offered me a full-time opportunity and in considering the offer I realised it was not the career for me. I felt I should follow my passion by retraining and going back to design work.

How did you go from that realisation to landing at Academy Xi’s door?

I was waiting for a bus going to work and overheard 2 guys talking about User Experience. It caught my attention and I missed the bus because I had a conversation with them. UX appealed to me because it was still in the field of design, but it was also something new to learn. One of the guys said, “I’ve heard really good things about Academy Xi, so you should definitely check them out.” I did my research and found UX was a hot market and that there were quite a few educators working with the discipline, but not all courses are built in the same way. For instance with another provider, it’s an immediate hands-on approach, but you don’t cover all the roles of UX. You might be picked to work as a competitor researcher on the client project and that’s all you do. It didn’t appeal because I wanted to work right through the discipline and develop a range of case studies to show off in my portfolio. A mentor from another institute mentioned they had come across lots of LinkedIn profiles for Academy Xi graduates who’d become really successful in the industry. That was very persuasive and I settled on a full-time UX UI Design course with Academy Xi.

How did the course measure up to your expectations?

Honestly, it was excellent, but it was a bit of a deep dive for me. During the first class, it seemed as though all of my classmates immediately went from 0-100, asking all kinds of interesting questions. The questions you ask show where you’re at with design thinking and I quickly realised that I needed to stay switched on.

By March last year, I had completed the first half of the course, but I had to drop out due to a Covid related personal emergency. I met with my Mentor and eventually the Head of Student Experience on Zoom and they were very supportive. The student support team offered to put me into a new intake once I’d returned. I stopped studying and decided to join a later intake.

In July, I went back and joined a new cohort. Learning UX was still challenging, but I was able to reach out to a few of the other students and give them some tips and feedback because of my prior experience. One of the wonderful things about studying at Academy Xi is that people arrive from all different backgrounds. I used to be a designer, so I’m accustomed to design thinking, but it’s so inspiring when you meet someone with zero experience in the field, like an ex-builder, who displays an advanced capacity for design thinking.

Everybody had their own working style. Some people wanted to meet on Zoom to define everything before we started, and some of us wanted to get stuck into the project and figure things out as we went. Working in the design scrums introduced me to people I would never have met otherwise – I developed some great friendships.

Can you tell us about the projects you worked on?

We worked on three projects – one personal and two for real-world clients. For the personal project, I picked something close to my own heart – renting. Reaching out to my property manager can be tough, so I decided to explore that problem space. I think having my mentor Hayden’s advice was really crucial. Initially, I wanted to focus on the experiences of renters, but Hayden said “go and speak to the property agents and landlords and see what they want – make sure you design a product both sides can use.”

For the two client projects, I worked with a mental health app and an onboarding experience for a wedding photographer recruitment company. Both were brilliant, but I particularly enjoyed working on the mental health project. One of my friends belongs to the LGBT community and she’s been refused treatment by a psychologist who said they didn’t know how to help her. When you’re down as is, being told that can send someone into a further downward spiral. She’s happy and mentally healthy again, but she’s still got a level of distrust for psychologists.

Jay conceived his UX Project when people from the cities were moving into regional NSW since WFH was in effect. He identified the problem of anxious renters often worrying on Facebook about their relationship with their Property Manager and Landlord. Take a look at his project.

My team’s response was to factor in input from people from the LGBT community, people of different ages, people of colour and people from all walks of life. That was one of the benefits of working in such a big scrum team – everyone has access to different people. It was a bit of the wild west at times, with some of them doing 8 or 9 interviews a day and all kinds of insights popping up on the Miro board. The product we designed offered a quicker, more effective means for people to access mental health help, shaped by the wants and needs of people with similar lived experiences.

How did you find working with Hayden?

I have very high standards for educators – I think they should be people who inspire you and not just people pleasers. In that sense, I have a huge amount of respect for Hayden. If you’re misunderstanding something or not applying the learning properly, he’s always comfortable telling you. If you go through the effort, you can find out a lot about UX UI just by searching online. For me, the ultimate unique selling point of this course is Hayden. He gives personal insights and priceless tips and tricks you won’t find anywhere else.

During the wedding photographer project, the client had photographers to bring in for interviews and we started scheduling paid interviews with them. Hayden stepped in and explained that during the discovery phase you’re not going to know if they fit the company’s recruitment profile. He told us to use that money to budget for testing usability with the photographers at a later stage. It showed how things work in the real world – you’ve got money and need to be accountable for it.

The client was very impressed with the approach we took and the results gleaned; he was an UXer himself so the praise received was very encouraging indeed! I learnt so much about the industry from Hayden and really lucked-out having him as my mentor.

How did you benefit from the Career Support Program?

Elizabeth was my career coach. It’s always nice to talk to someone who listens to you – I think that’s an underrated soft skill. When it comes to recruitment services, too many people come to the table with “I can offer this” instead of “I’d like to hear what you have to offer”.

My wife is a recruiter, so I already had my CV and LinkedIn profile in good shape, but Elizabeth works in the UX space and gave career-specific advice. I had a three page CV with all the bells and whistles, but Elizabeth explained that very few companies would read it. Instead, I produced a one page, high impact CV – if you take one look at it, you know who I am and what I do.

Elizabeth also helped prepare me for the interviews and plan what I might say. I started applying for jobs through LinkedIn and eventually had an interview with a well-known Australian pay television company, much like Netflix. While going through the interview process, I got a LinkedIn notification that Commission Factory had viewed my resume. Commission Factory connects businesses with social media influencers who can help market and sell products. This was an area of huge interest for me, given my professional background.

A day later, they reached out to set up an interview for a UX UI Designer role.

Can you tell us about how you navigated the interview process?

The design lead, Jack, led the interview process for Commission Factory. He had me go through my portfolio of case studies and asked questions about how I respond to challenges.

Commission Factory gave me a design challenge. Instead of just presenting the design as a PNG or a JPEG, I created a full presentation for it on Canva, which allowed me to record myself speaking through a slide deck. After presenting, I sent Jack the link to the design file and he was really impressed. He told me the challenge was a real roadblock for the company and they wanted somebody that could help solve their design problems.

I was offered a job at an Australian pay television company but I also had a final interview at Commission Factory which included their CEO, who used to be a designer himself. We spoke about mood boards, UX and the direction I see design heading in, just to check that I was a culture fit. Ten minutes after the interview, I got the offer. I picked Commission Factory because I trusted and wanted to work with the manager who offered me the role. I’ve landed my dream job and it only took 88 days from graduation.

Check out Jay’s online portfolio.

What a great success story, Jay! Finally, are there a few words of advice you would give to anyone thinking of a career change?

I think everyone has big ambitions and wants to be successful. I’m very conscious that I represent a particular demographic and hope that my story shows that anyone from any background can advance within their career.

It’s important to get the message out there. It’s never over, you can rebrand yourself at any point, you just need to see that value in yourself, surround yourself with the right people, and put the hard work in. If you follow that process, anything’s possible.

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Academy Xi Blog

10 digital skills to power-up your career for 2022

By Academy Xi

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Following a year of rising demand for online goods and services, the digital revolution is set to move into 2022. Are you ready to play your part? Power-up your career with in-demand digital skills.

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The ‘Great Resignation’ has created a seismic shift towards staff with a digital skillset, with 87% of Australian jobs now asking for digital literacy skills and 61% of the nation’s total future training needs assessed as being digital. These are the roles Australia needs to fill, and luckily, these are the roles lots of us want.

With the demand for digital skills heavily outweighing supply, there’s never been a better time to get ahead of the curve, sharpen your digital skills and start a new year’s revolution.

We’ve put together a list of 10 digital skills destined to be in high demand, helping you plan your next move and power-up your job prospects for 2022.

1. User Experience Design

What is User Experience Design?

User Experience (UX) aims to improve all aspects of an end user’s interaction with a company, its services and products.

As a UX Designer, you examine each and every element that marketing, selling and using a product or service entails. You optimise how easy and pleasing it is for a user to complete their desired tasks and use a product or service to good effect. This could include anything from how it feels to ride a racing bike, to how straightforward the purchase process is when buying that bike online.

Your ultimate goal as a UX Designer is to create easy, efficient, relevant and all-round enjoyable experiences for the user, mostly in the digital space.

2. User Interface Design

What is User Interface Design?

UX and User Interface (UI) often go hand-in-hand. UI is all about the actual interface of a product, including the visual design of the screens a user moves through when using a mobile app, or the buttons they click when browsing a website, making that bike purchase dynamic, efficient and a strong aesthetic representation of a brand.

As a UI designer, you’ll create all the visual and interactive elements of a product interface, covering everything from typography, colour palettes and page layouts, to animated features and navigational touch points (including buttons and scrollbars).

Demand for User Experience and User Interface

With so many products and services now being delivered online, the year ahead is expected to see surging demand for skilled UX and UI designers, with roles increasing by 12.3% in the next five years. The current average salary of a UX UI designer is $110,000.

If you’re ready to add a UX UI Design dimension to your career, explore Academy Xi course options.

3. Software Engineering

What is Software Engineering?

Software Engineers design and implement a set of instructions or programs that tell a computer what to do. It’s independent of hardware and makes computers programmable. There are three basic forms of software:

  • System Software facilitates core functions, such as operating systems, disk management, utilities, hardware management and operational necessities.
  • Programming Software offers programmers tools such as text editors, compilers, linkers and debuggers, all used to create code.
  • Application software (or apps) helps users perform tasks. Professional productivity suites, cyber security, data management software and media players are all widely worked with by Software Engineers. Application Software also works with web apps, is used to shop online, socialise with Facebook or share pictures on Instagram.

As well as distinguishing a company from its competitors, Software Engineering means you can improve the client’s experiences, bring more feature-rich and innovative products to market, and make digital setups more safe, productive, and efficient.

Demand for Software Engineering

Making a vital all round contribution, there are currently over 7000 Australian Software Engineer roles offering an average salary of nearly $100,000.

If you believe Software Engineering can drive your career in 2022, check out our course options.

4. Artificial Intelligence

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a broad form of computer science that focuses on designing and building smart machines and software capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence (be careful not to make too much progress – you might find yourself out of the job).

Though it seems far-fetched, AI is embedded into our everyday lives, enabling your car to park itself and Alexa to play your entrance music as soon as you walk through the door. Once you’ve vaulted onto the couch, Netflix can recommend a sci-fi movie based on your tastes (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Too scary? Netflix suggests Wall-E instead).

Demand for Artificial Intelligence

Given the increasing sophistication of the programs and machines we’re capable of creating, Artificial Intelligence is certain to grow exponentially for decades to come.

If you want to understand the history of AI and how it’s being applied commercially in the here and now, find out more in this IBM report.

There are over 1500 AI related roles advertised on the Australian jobs market (LinkedIn, 2021), while the average salary is $111,000 (Payscale, 2021).

Machine using a computer

5. Machine Learning

What is Machine Learning?

Machine Learning is a branch of Artificial Intelligence concerned with using data and algorithms to imitate the way that humans learn, slowly but surely improving AI’s accuracy.

Often processing ‘big data’, algorithms are trained to respond to statistics and make classifications or predictions, uncovering key data insights.

You can use Machine Learning insights to make intelligent, strategic decisions about how applications and businesses operate, ideally generating an upturn in a company’s most important metrics.

Demand for Machine Learning

As the ability to handle and harness big data continues to improve, the demand for data scientists with a Machine Learning skillset will only increase.

The value of the global Machine Learning market is projected to reach $117 billion by 2027, at a growth rate of 39.2% over the next 6 years.

The average Machine Learning Engineer salary is over $133,000 with 1300 roles currently up for grabs in Australia.

6. Python Programming

What is Python Programming?

Python is a computer programming language often used to build websites and software, automate tasks, and perform data analysis. Python is a general purpose coding language and isn’t specialised for solving any specific problems, meaning it can be used to create a variety of different programs.

Programming image on phone

You can use Python Programming on different platforms (including Windows, Mac, Linux, Raspberry Pi) and will find it has a simple syntax, similar to the English language, that allows you to write and develop programs with fewer lines.

As a Python Programmer, you can write code that connects database systems, reads and modifies files, handles big data and performs complex mathematics. Because of its simplicity, Python is often used for rapid prototyping and software development.

Demand for Python Programming

According to a Developer Survey by StackOverflow, Python has been one of the most in-demand technologies throughout 2021, with the need for Python Programmers set to grow in 2022.

Over 7000 programming roles demanding Python skills are available in Australia, with salaries topping out at $200,000.

If you want to add Python to your programming skillset, check out our Data Analytics courses.

7. Structured Query Language

What is Structured Query Language?

Structured Query Language (SQL) is a standard programming language for relational databases. It’s the most widely used database language and is often thought of as a Data Analyst’s best friend.

Because SQL is so frequently applied, knowing how to use it is extremely valuable if you want to be involved in computer programming, or even use databases to collect and organise information more expansively and efficiently.

SQL works like a spreadsheet, a bit like Microsoft Excel, but can help you compile and manage data in much greater volumes, seamlessly merging millions, or even billions, of cells of data.

Demand for SQL

There are currently over 12000 roles in Australia that require the use of SQL skills in part and over 3,000 developer roles that work with SQL specifically. The average SQL developer salary in Australia is over $103,000.

If you want to put SQL to work, take a look at our Data Analytics courses.

8. Augmented Reality

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality is the end result of using technology and digital programming to superimpose information, in the form of sounds, images and text, onto the world we experience.

Picture the lazy genius Tony Stark in Ironman and his interactive holograms mapping out the world’s contents, all of which he can rearrange and manipulate whilst hardly moving a muscle.

In more realistic terms, phones and tablets are how augmented reality features in most people’s lives. You can use Vito Technology’s Star Walk app by pointing the camera on your mobile device at the sky and see the names of stars and planets superimposed on the image.

Another app called Layar uses your smartphone’s GPS and camera to gather information about your surroundings. It then overlays information on the image about nearby restaurants, shops and points of interest. There’s endless potential for what you can do with Augmented Reality.

Demand for Augmented Reality

Working with Augmented Reality is an exciting job prospect, but it’s a tech field that’s still relatively niche. That said, it is growing quickly, with demand for AR talent rising by an incredible 1400% over the past year.

There are around 100 roles that work directly with Augmented Reality in Australia at the moment, although many more draw on its principles.

For the lucky few, you can expect to earn between $100-150,000. If you save hard and push your AR skills, you might even develop your own Ironman suit and never walk from the sofa to the fridge again.

9. Data Science and Data Analytics

What are Data Science and Data Analytics?

While Data Science is all about finding meaningful correlations between large datasets, Data Analytics is designed to delve into the specifics of extracted insights.

Simply put, Data Analytics is a branch of Data Science that finds specific answers to the questions that Data Science raises.

As a Data Analyst, you gather, clean and examine data, using it to solve all kinds of problems and help a business or organisation make better decisions.

You often apply four core forms of Data Analysis: descriptive analysis will tell you what happened, diagnostic analysis will tell you why it happened, predictive analysis will form projections about the future, and prescriptive analysis will generate actionable solutions.

Demand for Data Science and Data Analytics

Data science and analytics is forecast to grow by 27% in the next five years, with more and more roles set to appear in Australia.

The average salary for a Data Analyst is over $104,000, while even entry-level roles earn an average of more than $90,000. With well over 16000 Data Analyst jobs available in Australia, it’s definitely a career worth pursuing.

If you’re ready to drive your operation forward with Data Analysis, take a look at our Data Analytics courses.

Woman working on screen of data

10. Cyber Security

What is Cyber Security?

Cyber Security is the process of protecting systems, networks, and programs from digital attacks. Cyber attacks are usually carried out to access, change or destroy sensitive information. They also often entail extorting money from people or businesses, or interrupting normal business processes.

Implementing effective Cyber Security measures is especially challenging in today’s world because there are more devices than people, while attackers are becoming evermore innovative in their methods.

As a Cyber Security professional, your job description will typically entail installing firewall and encryption tools, reporting breaches or weak spots, researching cyber attack trends, educating the rest of the company on security, or even simulating security attacks to identify potential vulnerabilities.

Demand for Cyber Security

The field of Cyber Security is always growing, with new trends, practices, technology and threats emerging each year. Global spending for the industry is projected to skyrocket by 88% and hit $270 billion US dollars by 2026.

According to the Australian Government’s own Cyber Security Strategy, ‘Australia is suffering from a Cyber Security skills shortage.’ This shortage provides a golden opportunity for people with Cyber Security skills, as according to Australian employment projections, demand for their capabilities will grow by at least 21% before May 2023.

There are nearly 2000 Cyber Security roles on offer in Australia right now, with an average salary of more than $115,000.

So there you have it, 10 digital skills that can help you power-up your career for the year ahead!

As well as vowing to self-improve by drinking more green juices, learning to play the banjo, or doing a couch-to-10K whilst playing that banjo in your Ironman suit, maybe it’s time to start a new year’s revolution. Think big and develop a digital skillset that gives you the strength and knowhow to push things forward for everyone’s benefit.

If you’re determined to start the new year with a bang, but still can’t decide which career path to take, chat to one of course advisors and discuss your options today.

Academy Xi offers a full range of digital skills courses, with real-world projects that lead to industry recognised qualifications.

We’re here to help you develop a skillset that enables you to build, move and improve in 2022.

Student Spotlight: Sitara Ramakrishnan

Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Sitara Ramakrishnan

By Academy Xi

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Meet Academy Xi graduate and Customer Experience Measurement Advisor at iCare NSW, Sitara Ramakrishnan! 

DJ turned CX professional Sitara took not one but two of our courses this year. Here, Sitara tells her story and talks about reaffirming her passion for Service Design, as well as her overall course experience.

Student Spotlight: Sitara Ramakrishnan

Hi Sitara, which course did you study with Academy Xi?

I studied both the Service Design Elevate and User Experience (UX) Foundations courses! I finished both my courses at the end of June 2021.

Were you studying or working in a related field or something completely different?

I’m currently working in Customer Experience Measurement at iCare NSW, with our broader team consisting of Customer Advocates, CX Designers & Analysts.

What prompted you to study this course?

After working in CX for over a year alongside talented Design practitioners, I was really drawn to the processes, unique opportunities and genuine social impact delivered through Service Design. I believed I had the capability and potential to excel in this field, once I had a stronger grasp of the methodologies, techniques and ways of thinking that underpin design. Curating and crafting my own design portfolio to help solve the social issues I’m most passionate about has been a great experience.

Why did you choose to study with Xi?

The course structure was the main reason I chose Xi – it mixes theory in a clear and succinct fashion, continuous practical application of project work and ongoing collaboration with our classmates and mentors. The fact that we move through the entire end-to-end design process in a rapid yet structured fashion with weekly outputs was a huge bonus. It allowed me to clearly see the evolution of my project over time before the final showcase.

Highlight of your training?

The moment I completed and submitted my final state blueprint it felt like such an achievement and something I never would’ve known how to do, visualise and communicate in the way that I do now. Seeing the service organically progress through every part of the design process was so eye-opening and fulfilling. And lastly, being able to showcase my project and all my learnings with my fellow classmates was also a major highlight!

“The moment I completed and submitted my final state blueprint it felt like such an achievement and something I never would’ve known how to do– Sitara Ramakrishnan

How did you find the online learning experience?

The online nature of the course is great. The content is presented and articulated in a very clear, insightful and thought-provoking way. The ability to connect with classmates from any corner of Australia by interacting with their weekly outputs, queries and comments alongside our fortnightly classes made it much easier to stay connected and learn from others.

Did your training with Xi assist you with a new career path or job change?

Absolutely! The course has reaffirmed my passion, confidence and capability in Service Design as the next step for me. I’m grateful to be working for an organisation that is supportive of my career development and objectives to help me achieve this.

Do you have a mentor now or are you planning on finding one?

Throughout my course and afterwards, I’ve been lucky enough to receive mentorship from a talented CX Designer at my work to help reach my full potential. My mentor has been instrumental in further elevating my knowledge and skillset with weekly advice and feedback on the various artefacts I produced or tested with them.

Student Spotlight: Ryan Collingwood portrait

Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Ryan Collingwood

By Academy Xi

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Ryan swapped the brushes and pencils of a graphic design career for a UX Transform course at Academy Xi. Soon after graduating, his client project work with Avertro helped him land a full-time UX role with the company.

Student Spotlight: Ryan Collingwood portrait

Thanks for chatting with us today, Ryan! Can you start by telling us about your career before Academy Xi?

I studied audio engineering in 2015 and worked in freelance audio and graphic design until 2019. A month before Covid in 2020, I enrolled in a Diploma of Graphic Design with RMIT and made the move from Adelaide to Melbourne. With graphic design, there are practical elements but it’s more about the visuals. I used every assignment I completed with the course as a chance to focus on the practical side of graphic design. This included a website project, which I really enjoyed, but that was such a small component of the course as a whole.

All my classmates were very artistic with brushes and pencils, but it was not the side of design that I wanted to pursue. At the beginning of my graphic design diploma, I heard this term, ‘UX’, and thought “what’s that about?”. I looked into it, found out it was focussed on the practicalities of design and realised it’s exactly what I wanted to put into practice.  

So after graduating with my Diploma of Graphic Design, I started  an Advanced Diploma of Interactive Media in 2021 with RMIT, with a view to learning more about UX. The interactive media course wasn’t UX focused enough for me, so after a week I left it and joined the Academy Xi UX Transform course instead.

What made you choose Academy Xi?

At first, I was thinking of doing a Bachelor’s in Design at Swinburne with a major in UX, but I looked into the course content and only up to a half, or maybe even a quarter, of the three years was spent actually learning and applying UX.

I then started looking into short courses and comparing different providers. I narrowed it down to Academy Xi and General Assembly, but the GA course costs more and doesn’t offer the same level of job search support. Academy Xi seemed to place a greater emphasis on graduates going into the job market after graduation, so I went with them.

What were the highlights of your course experience?

The client project was one of the best parts of the course—you get real-world experience, and for me, it actually led to a job with that client, Avertro. I got the job not long after graduation. There were three rounds of interviews, which started a month after the course finished. When I was completing the Career Support Program outcome report near the end of the course, I actually wanted to put the reporting on hold, knowing that I had an interview lined up.

There were twelve of us working on the project and we were meant to be split up into two groups of six, but it made sense to do things as one big team. This meant I learned about project management—I led the cohort in that group project, liaised with Avertro, and developed a rapport with the company. It was a great opportunity to think about everything needed to pull off a project and the best ways to get that done – all in a short time period. It pushed my organisational skills, my ability to prioritise and strategise, as well as my communication skills.

The group project was so valuable—it put all the skills I learned during the first half of the course to the test.

“The client project was one of the best parts of the course—you get real-world experience, and for me, it actually led to a job with that client, Avertro. I got the job not long after graduation.” 
– Ryan Collingwood

Sounds like you did a good job! Can you tell us more about the client project with Avertro?

Avertro is a cyber security management system—a software as a service company—and the current platform is made for enterprise level clients. There’s a lot of bespoke training to onboard users with the system. Our project was to create a light version of the onboarding process for smaller companies that don’t need or can’t afford the full enterprise service, which gives users everything they need to help themselves with the platform.

The project was about designing something that made sense, so we could offer fewer features for a lower price point, and still offer a really strong user-friendly service. It’s created a different target market and a new revenue stream for Avertro. I didn’t expect such a big live project going into the course, with really high exposure. It’s amazing to think we completed it in two weeks and two days.

Completing that project did require a few late nights, but we got there in the end! Luckily, we had twelve people contributing and we divided up the work as much as possible. From my perspective, keeping everyone busy was an important part of my contribution.

Avertro reached out to me about a permanent role before I even began applying for new jobs. For the interview, I was able to use the ‘star method’ and all my star examples came from the Avertro course project. Between that and having already built a strong working relationship with the company, I managed to land the job.

My course project experience also helped with my onboarding. I could already use the platform, meaning I could hit the ground running as soon as I started with Avertro.

Check out Ryan’s UX portfolio to view the Avertro UX project that his team worked on.

How did you find online learning and working in a cohort?

I liked how Academy Xi has gamified the online learning platform, with points collected for different tasks and projects. I could use the point system to work out how big the projects were going to be and plan my schedule around that.

At first I wasn’t sure if it would be useful to have the platform on my mobile—I thought it might encourage me to stay in bed rather than turn up to class! My cat fell asleep on my hand and because I couldn’t type, I downloaded the app on my phone. It really came in handy—I worked through modules on the train and made use of those spare bits of time.

As for my cohort, we’ve been trying to organise meet ups since graduation, but Melbourne’s been in lockdown. When I signed up for the course, I assumed that because it was taught fully online and completed over just three months, I wouldn’t spend much time talking to the other students. In reality, half the course is group work and you see everyone in your cohort on a daily basis.

One of my teammates had a lot of industry experience and suggested we have a group standup meeting every morning. It was great to keep up with what everyone was doing. Someone else suggested using Trello, so I was able to use the standup meetings to figure out who was working on what and track everybody’s progress with a task on a Trello card.

As well as the UX experience, I received lots of exposure to group work dynamics. We figured out how to use what was at our disposal and be an organised, efficient team.

Can you talk about your experience with your course mentor, Hayden?

Hayden’s such a great character – he’s really friendly, knows a lot and has had loads of experience with different companies.

You can tell Hayden loves his profession, he’s really engaged with how UX works best and the passion really shows through. He’s happy to tell you about his experiences, so you can learn from things he’s observed. Most people will just teach you the hard skills, but Hayden also helps you develop the soft skills. We learned what to expect in-industry, how to deal with difficult situations and how to talk to coworkers, managers and clients in ways that are really productive.

We had weekly one-on-one sessions at the beginning of the course – I’m the kind of student that likes to ask questions and make use of that time.

At the start, I was a bit presumptuous with the problem statements for my first personal project. Hayden gave constructive feedback through the learning platform and I decided it would be good to set up a meeting to discuss things further. I learnt so much just from that first meeting. I had a few more one-on-one sessions in the early phases of the course and then checked in with him at various points throughout the client work, including a project for high-profile pharmaceuticals company Roche.

For the client project, everything was very self-directed. Hayden played a background role, which was good for my learning. It threw me in the deep end slightly, which is the best way to learn because that’s what it’s like in the industry.

The Designer-in-Residence Program also gave me access to a professional mentor. I was paired with Rebecca, who now works with Open Cities, and we had weekly mentoring sessions. She’s previously worked as a UX designer and a graphic designer, but is now a project manager. Rebecca showed me interesting projects she’d worked on in the past, which gave me industry insight and the chance to ask questions about different ways of working. Everyone has their own methods and approaches and it’s always good to get different perspectives.

“The Designer-in-Residence Program also gave me access to a professional mentor… which gave me industry insight and the chance to ask questions about different ways of working.
– Ryan Collingwood

What’s happening with your life after Xi?

Well, I’m now the only UX designer at Avertro. Product management has the final say, but I don’t need to run my ideas by any other designers. It’s a blessing and a curse – I don’t get the input of other designers, but I do have lots of control and the whole process moves along really efficiently.

My course project experience also helped with my onboarding. I could already use the platform, meaning I could hit the ground running as soon as I started.

It’s very fulfilling to be at a small, independent company that’s moving fast. It gives me a lot of responsibility and what I’m doing makes a lot of impact.

The group project that I worked on for Avertro is actually ongoing and due to be completed in about two months. Lots of recommendations came out of the Academy Xi project, and I’m now helping Avertro figure out which ideas work best and are possible to implement. I can still access all of the work files put together by my group, which really helps.

My group only had two weeks to research and design our solutions for the Avertro course project. Since Avertro hired me, I’ve revisited these ideas with a full understanding of what the company can realistically implement. Providing they’re feasible, I’m now integrating some of the concepts that my group designed.

If somebody you knew decided to study UX, would you recommend Academy Xi?

Definitely. The best short courses will increase not only what you know, but also who you know. The course taught me what I needed to know for the job – so I felt very prepared to put my UX skills to use straight away.

In relation to who you know, Academy Xi has such a strong network, especially with the career support program. The people involved in the Career Support Program have so many good connections and they really work hard to place you into contact with companies looking for new talent. There are so many jobs out there, but it often comes down to having a connection. It might be your course leader, it might be your mentor, or someone from your cohort.

Once I landed my job and recruiters continued to reach out to me, I forwarded those job opportunities on to my cohort. In the end, it only took three months for all this to happen.

For now, I’m more than happy with my professional life. I have a great job, but I’ll continue to self-learn and eventually look to progress into a senior UX design role, hopefully within about five years or so.

Check out Ryan’s UX Portfolio to see some of his work.