Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Dane Seaton

By Academy Xi

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Searching for more fulfilling work and keen to connect with people, Dane swapped his career as a Building Designer for another as a UX-inspired Product Designer.  

Find out how the UX UI Design: Transform course enabled Dane to redefine his career in just 8 months and how taking an additional course in Front-End Web Development has deepened his new skillset as a Product Designer.

What were you up to before you studied with Academy Xi?

I’ve always followed my heart in my career and tried to find work I’m passionate about. I started out as a Building Designer and ended up creating architectural visualisations, as I wanted to learn the whole process involved in designing a building and submitting it to council. 

Eventually I decided I wanted to expand my tech skills and moved into a 3D design studio. After a while, I found I’d had plenty of hands-on practice and developed my technical skills to a high level. Although I was putting in a lot of hard work and still developing, my job was becoming less fulfilling and I didn’t have a clear sense of direction in my career. 

I no longer wanted to work as just a technician, but saw no sense in going to university for four years to become a licensed Architect. This would include two years of relearning parts of the design process I already knew well from my previous work experience.

I’m really good at communicating with others and whenever I was involved in stakeholder meetings there was always a strong connection. I wanted to use my people skills on a regular basis. I decided to retrain in UX UI Design, mostly because of its emphasis on meaningful work and engaging with people.    

Why did you choose to study with Academy Xi?

I’d done a Udacity UX course before starting, so I had some understanding of UX UI Design fundamentals and it confirmed that this was the direction I wanted to take my career in. I looked at a few providers, but felt Academy Xi offered a full package, with career support, resume and interview advice, and help building a portfolio. 

What also appealed to me was working on client projects. I knew how important it would be to develop real-world experience. I was put in contact with my mentor, Hayden Peters, before making my choice and had a great conversation about what I could expect from the course. Hayden’s beliefs about putting in the hard work and developing craftsmanship really aligned with my own attitude and sold me on the course. 

With the course underway, Hayden made sure we worked at a fast pace. He wanted us to develop a UX mindset as quickly as possible and get properly prepared for life as Product Designers. When I started the course, I really wanted to get straight to the point and immediately apply UX to actual briefs. That’s exactly what the Academy Xi course was all about, so I feel like I made the right choice.

How did you find working with Hayden and your classmates?

Hayden was an amazing mentor and did everything he could to put us at ease. Even though he was explaining some pretty complicated ideas, he had a way of making tricky concepts really easy to understand. 

It helped that Hayden always spoke from a position of industry experience and gave us context. He would say “if you want to achieve this, you definitely don’t want to do this.” He gave us direct advice that he knew would be really useful when it came to navigating the industry. 

I had unlimited 1:1 sessions with Hayden, which was one of the course’s best features. If there was a concept I couldn’t quite grasp, or if something with the projects wasn’t going to plan, I could book in time with Hayden and he’d help me sort it out. 

The team I led collaborated and got along well. If anyone was struggling to get to grips with something, we helped each other and shared our ideas. The client projects are high-pressure situations, but everyone worked as a team and handled it pretty well in the end.

Which client project was your favourite?

I’d have to say the first one for Linkmate, which is a preventative mental health platform. Linkmate asked us to design an app for them. Linkmate connects people who are dealing with a mental health issue to someone who has overcome a similar issue, which means they can help and support them before those problems escalate. Linkmate gave me a huge sense of purpose and it was great to be involved in a project that has such a positive social impact.  

People from all walks of life use the Linkmate platform, we interviewed a bunch of members (people looking for help) during the user research phase and discovered they are looking to connect with people from similar cultural backgrounds who have dealt with similar mental health challenges. This helps them fully connect with the mates, who are trained mentors. We incorporated that user feedback into our app and the client was really pleased with our design proposal. 

After the Linkmate project finished, I actually stayed on and helped them user test the beta version of their app. That allowed me to put what I learned in the course into practice. I also had to conduct the user testing with constraints on the time and budget, which gave me experience with how product design tends to play out in the real world.  

How did you land your role after graduation?

I actively applied for roles that matched my professional experience and the direction I wanted to take my career in. I was reached out to by a recruiter who was impressed with my experience in 3D design and my research experience from Drop Bio Health

I’m now working for Abyss Solutions, who’s asset integrity management software uses 3D models and machine learning to create a digital twin of critical infrastructure like oil platforms, dams and tunnels. This helps to ensure that valuable assets are maintained safely. 

I’m still using the key UX concepts I learnt throughout the course in my role at Abyss Solutions. I’m advocating for why research is important to the business, demonstrating the appropriate way to go about it and aligning the company’s product with the user’s key needs and behaviours. 

What made you decide to return to Academy Xi?

I enrolled in the Front-End Web Development: Elevate course because I wanted to expand my knowledge of web development. Software engineering and product design are very closely connected, so my goal was to develop web development skills that will complement what I do as a Product Designer.

Completing the course has allowed me to communicate more effectively with front-end engineers. I got some great advice from my lead at Abyss, who told me that during a handoff the best way to communicate with the engineers is not to explain exactly how they should do something. You need to allow them some room to come up with their own solutions. I use my new front-end web design skills as a way to aid them. I’m able to understand their work, talk their language and make practical suggestions they might not have considered.   

Would you recommend Academy Xi?

After my experience with learning from Hayden, I would happily recommend the course. I was given a tonne of resources and advice. Combined with some hard work and commitment, this was more than enough to excel. 

All told, it took 8 months to completely transition my career and Academy Xi was there to support me throughout the whole process. Now I’m enjoying the rewards of having undertaken the work. I have all the things I was looking for from my career transition – an exciting new role with lots of responsibility that’s really challenging and fulfilling. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier with the outcomes. 

Are you keen to boost your skills and take your career in a new direction just like Dane? If so, check out our UX UI Design courses

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