Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Kauri Palmer

By Academy Xi

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Kauri was still in high school and doing her exams when she started the UX UI Design Transform course. As one of the stand-out students in the cohort, she landed a role within weeks of graduating.

Finishing high school and keen to make a fast start as a young professional, Kauri enrolled in the UX UI Design: Transform course. Find out how Kauri’s commitment and willingness to lead projects led her to land the role of her dreams.

What were you up to before you started at Academy Xi?

When I started the course I was still studying in high school. I went to Glenaeon in Middle Cove, which is a Steiner school. I was completing my HSCs and managed to get early offers from five different universities, but wasn’t 100% sure about what career to pursue. Plus, I think the value of a university degree is going downhill these days.

My family has a friend who recommended the UX UI Design course with Academy Xi. I Googled UX UI Design and it seemed pretty cool. I wanted to study something that was creative and scientific, and the course seemed to combine both.

I reached out to a few people who were already working in the industry. They told me UX UI Design is in demand and that I’d have no trouble finding a role after I graduated. I thought it would be amazing to go from high school straight into a serious career.

Also, I had very little experience with navigating the jobs market, so the Academy Xi Career Support Program was very appealing. After scoping out a few alternative courses, I decided to enrol with Academy Xi.

What would you pick as your main highlight of the course?

Honestly, I enjoyed all of it so much. Each time we started a new module, I became completely engrossed. The course mentor, Hayden, told the cohort we needed to pick an area and specialise in it. I found it really difficult to narrow my interests down – I loved everything we were studying and wanted to keep doing it all!  

I was 18-years-old and by far the youngest person on the course. When we started the first team project, we broke into four groups. Even though I was so much younger than everybody else, I was picked to lead part of the project.

For the second team project, the cohort broke into two big groups and I was chosen to be the team leader again. Despite the age gap, everyone put so much trust in me. That was a proud moment, an ego boost and definitely one of the biggest highlights of the course.   

Kauri Palmer

How did you find studying online?

I was already used to working online following a few years of school during Covid. I’d basically been living online, so completing a course online was a natural experience for me.

It would have been much harder to complete the course if it had involved having to physically be somewhere. I had school work and also had a few different jobs, so completing the course online made my managing schedule much easier. Plus, it was nice to be able to rock up to a Zoom meeting in my pyjamas!

Even though the course was remote, there was a strong bond between everyone in the cohort. We set up meetings outside the classes, stayed in touch and did a great job of collaborating even though we weren’t working together in-person.

How did you find balancing the course and all your other commitments?

Believe it or not, I had six different jobs while I completed the course. I was tutoring, teaching art at a few different places, and even teaching blacksmithing at my old school. It was a strange little collection of jobs!

In the end, juggling everything actually worked well. I’d spend most of the day working with people from Academy Xi and then I’d have to disappear for a few hours to do some teaching.

During the first weeks of the course, I also had to revise and get ready for my last HSC exam. It probably all sounds like a big burden, but I’m pretty good at organising my time. I managed to get prepared for the exam and keep up with the course content without too much of a struggle.

Did you enjoy working with Hayden?

Hayden was brilliant. He’s such an entertainer and made the live sessions so much fun. He’s accomplished loads in the industry and gave us all kinds of advice and insight.

I’m naturally quite a forward and outgoing person, but leading the projects was a bit daunting. Hayden was really encouraging. He told me that if I impressed him with the projects, he’d write me a reference, put in a good word and help me find a job.

When I completed my personal project, Hayden told me he was gobsmacked by how well I’d done. With Hayden’s support, I went from someone who was thinking “can I do this?”, to someone who completely believed in their own abilities. I’m immensely grateful for just how much Hayden backed me throughout the course.

Kauri Palmer

What was your personal project about?

I’m passionate about the education system, but also aware that aspects of it are a bit outdated. Most schools will run Personal Health and Development classes, which teach students about safety with alcohol, sex education and so forth. Although the intention behind these classes is good, the content is out of date and doesn’t touch on subjects that impact young people’s lives.

For my personal project, I created a platform that allowed students to anonymously ask questions. Professionals, teachers and other students would then respond and give advice. PHD teachers could also read the questions and then address the issues in their classes. In creating the platform, my goal was to ensure that PHD could properly respond to what’s going on in the world, which is exactly what those classes are all about.

How did you land your new role?

For our last group project we worked with a lady called Kylie, who’s a business consultant for the client. Kylie told us that she was working with the Dementia Association and asked if anyone would be willing to build a website. I volunteered with a few other people in the class and became the lead for the project.

Kylie also works with a company called Sustain Health, which is a traditional Chinese medicine and chiropractic clinic in Melbourne. Within two days of starting the website project, Kylie asked me if I would interview for a job with Sustain Health. She’d seen me leading the group and realised that I was capable of taking the initiative with design projects.

A few days later I had a short interview with Kylie’s boss and they offered me a role while I was still on the phone. I was on a three month contact which they have renewed for another month and will potentially extend after that.

The course had only just finished and I’d landed a UX UI Design role almost immediately. I feel unbelievably lucky, but I’d also put myself in the frame by volunteering with the website.

What are you up to in your new role?

Sustain Health wanted me to redo their entire website when I started, which I’ve been working on for a little while. I’ve also been asked to add new pages to the site for fertility and autism, which I’ve just finished the research for.

One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about being a UX UI Designer is that I get to develop all kinds of skills. I’ve learned to be a copywriter, I can design my own icons, and even produce animations, videos, and marketing material! I have the freedom to learn these different things, which is exactly the kind of variety I wanted from a job.

A large proportion of my work involves scoping design projects and building prototypes. In doing that, I’m basically using the step-by-step process that I picked up with Academy Xi. Ultimately, I think Academy Xi gives you some pretty solid fundamentals, but it’s when you start working in the industry that you find your own groove.

What are your plans for the future?

When I started the UX UI Design course, I was looking for something that would get me into the workforce a bit faster than a traditional degree. In that regard, the course was definitely a success. 

Next year I’m planning to do a bachelor’s degree in product design at UTS, which is a bit broader than UX UI Design. I’ve also been working through the Academy Xi Product Management: Foundations course and that’s been really interesting. My Dad’s a Product Manager, so maybe it’s in my blood! 

I’m enjoying UX UI Design, but I want to explore a few career paths and try my hand at different things. In 10 years time, I honestly have no clue what I’ll be up to career-wise.     

Would you recommend Academy Xi?

I cannot express how much I would recommend Academy Xi, particularly to high school students looking for options after graduating. You’re often led to believe there are only three choices after you graduate: university, TAFE, or finding work. No one tells you that places like Academy Xi offer short courses which pack so much value into a couple of months. I explained the course to people by saying 'It's like three years of university in three months. It's what you need to get into the workforce minus all the fluff'.

Kauri Palmer

Academy Xi also offers the Career Support Program, which is exactly what I needed as a recent graduate of high school. I recommend it to students who want to learn how to operate in the professional world. There is so much that goes into getting employed that high school never even came close to teaching us.

Even if you want to go to university, I recommend Academy Xi as a way to get ahead of the curve. I’m planning to go to university part-time next year and work part-time. By the time I graduate, I will have four years of industry experience on top of an Academy Xi certificate and a degree.

Academy Xi has enabled me to live an unreal life. I have to keep pinching myself to realise that an 18-year-old can have a well-paying full-time job that she loves, and can only go up from here.

If you’re keen to kickstart an exciting new career just like Kauri, check out our UX UI Design courses.

*Please note that all Academy Xi students must be eighteen-years-old or over at the time of the course start date.

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