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Student Spotlight: Rati Marwah

By Academy Xi

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Seeking more creativity and inspiration, Rati retrained with Academy Xi and landed the perfect Digital Marketing role.

After a diverse career focused on customer service, Rati decided to specialise in Digital Marketing. Find out how the Digital Marketing: Transform course helped Rati launch a new career in a field that ignites her passions.

What led you to retrain in Digital Marketing?

I will give it to the pandemic! I was working from home and had lots of time on my hands. It gave me the perfect conditions to pivot in my career. I studied travel and tourism management at university about 15 years ago, but have worked in unrelated industries since. My roles have mostly been focused on customer service, with Telstra and Energy Australia.

I also ran my own business for two years – a cafe called Jamaica Blue. I had a four year old kid and was running a cafe that was open over the weekends, so I decided to sell it. I was fortunate enough to land a job with World Vision Australia just two weeks after the business sold.

After three years of continuing my journey with World Vision, my work became a bit repetitive. I loved World Vision’s cause and wanted to stay with the organisation. There were lots of secondments coming up, but you needed to have the right skills to get into a different department.

I wanted to become a specialist in a particular area and, luckily, had the time to develop a new skill-set. I saw the World Vision marketing department creating these amazing campaigns, which really inspired me. Plus, some of my friends have a marketing background and they really love their work. That’s when I decided to get ready for the opportunities at World Vision and retrain as a Digital Marketer.

Why did you choose to study with Academy Xi?

I wanted a flexible course because my son was learning from home and I was working full-time remotely. The Academy Xi Digital Marketing: Transform course seemed a good fit, but I only had three weeks to decide before the enrolment closed. Olivia Bowden from Academy Xi was really generous with her time and guided me through the modules and content. Olivia encouraged me to look at other courses and weigh-up my options.

Ultimately, I felt like none of the other courses were offering what Olivia described. I wanted the exposure of working on live client projects and the chance to develop hands-on skills. That really pushed me to choose Academy Xi. I’m so glad I did, because the course helped me get to where I am today.

What were your initial experiences of the course?

Before the Transform course started I completed the Digital Marketing: Foundations course, which helped me grasp the basic principles of marketing. I began with an understanding of what goes into delivering a marketing campaign, how you deal with stakeholders and some of the tools marketers use. I’m the kind of person that likes to prepare, so having that foundational knowledge was really important.

The cafe was a franchise and the marketing materials were provided, but as an owner I picked what we used based on the business’s demographic. I’d had a bit of marketing exposure, but the early phases of the course were my first deep dive into Digital Marketing theory. 

I really related to marketing from the outset. For me, marketing is an intersection of different passions. It allows me to be resourceful, strategic and creative, and saves me from the repetitive work that goes into a lot of 9-5 jobs.

What projects did you work on?

Academy Xi has a great strategy of easing you into the live client projects by having you complete a personal project while you’re learning the theory. You’re given four months to choose a brand, perform competitor analysis and present a complete strategy to the cohort. It means you go into the live client projects well and truly prepared.

The cohort then worked on two live client projects. The first was for a small family business, and we had to create their whole social media campaign. The second was for a business travel platform called Nutrip, and we had to devise their end-to-end marketing strategy.

The beauty of working in teams is that everyone contributes their expertise, so you learn from one another. That prepared me for the marketing industry, where you have to be able to work with people with different ideas and approaches.

Rati Marwah

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?

Presenting the projects was a test, but really satisfying. I presented the first client project as part of a team and was asked to pick a section of the presentation that suited my expertise. For the second client project, I was asked to present a section that I found challenging, but had the guidance of my mentor.

I’m not a completely extroverted person, so if I had realised in advance the course entailed so much presenting, I might not have enrolled! It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I was very nervous before my first presentation, but apparently it didn’t show. Everyone was really impressed by my contribution.

Discussing aspects of marketing that you’re less comfortable with really builds your confidence. People develop when they’re thrown in the deep end, so I’m really glad the course pushed me out of my comfort zone.

How did you find the online learning experience?

Even though the course was completed remotely, the cohort worked really efficiently in online teams, and we developed some strong friendships. A coursemate visited Melbourne in December and we met up for lunch, which was a lovely experience.

The flexibility of learning online meant I could juggle my existing role with my studies. We had our classes every Monday evening and there were fixed deadlines for coursework submissions and presentations. I’m definitely somebody who likes a deadline to stay on track.

Rati Marwah

It places you under pressure for a while, but then the work is done and you can move on. I wanted to complete the course and transition into a new career as quickly as possible.

How did your mentor prepare you for the industry?

Jillian Bowen was my mentor, and she really helped me with every little thing that I was struggling with. In the end, I cruised through! 

As well as helping me grasp the theory, Jillian gave me the direction I needed as an aspiring marketer. I had a one-on-one with Jillian and told her that I saw myself working in the marketing department for World Vision. Even though it was only the start of the course, Jillian set me the challenge of meeting at least five World Vision people involved in marketing by the end of that month. 

I made lots of connections, including Graham, who was happy for me to shadow him for two hours a week while I completed the course. Graham became another mentor – he identified my passion for marketing, could tell that I wanted a lifelong career, and was very generous with his time.  

Shadowing Graham gave me the chance to work on a World Vision campaign for a corporate partner. I didn’t get involved with the overall strategy, but had lots of experience working with stakeholders. It helped me understand exactly how campaigns are planned and executed from start to finish. As everyone says, you learn 80% by putting theory into practice. I’m so grateful that Jillian encouraged me to start networking early, because I made the connections that helped me move into the industry.

How did you land your new role with World Vision Australia?

A few roles became available within the organisation while I was completing the course and I immediately started applying. I had my first interview as we were preparing to present to the first client. I had nothing to lose and knew the interviews were only going to give me exposure. They familiarised me with the kinds of questions that are asked and left me better prepared for the interviews that followed.

I didn’t get a new role straight away, but I stayed patient. By the end of the course, I had my certificate, all my projects to showcase and the experience of presentations and interviews. I had everything I needed and was finally able to land the World Vision marketing role I was after.

Rati Marwah

What does your new role entail?

I’m coordinating all of my lead’s work. She’s responsible for planning campaign strategies and works on about five projects at any given time, which involves a tremendous amount of work. A big part of my role is linking-up the contributions of lots of different teams. I create timelines and make sure all the deadlines are met so the campaigns go live on schedule. It’s a lot of work, but I’m really enjoying it.

There’s lots to learn in my new role and I’m really excited about what the future holds. In the short term, I want to gather as much understanding as possible and perform at a really high level in my role. In a few years time, I’d like to be running my own campaigns from start to finish. For now, it’s all about learning and putting 100% effort in.

Finally, would you recommend Academy Xi?

Yes, I’ve already recommended Academy Xi to a lot of my friends! A good friend of mine recently finished the Graphic Design course, which she found searching online before I had the chance to suggest Academy Xi. You must be doing a great job with SEO. When I searched for Digital Marketing courses, Academy Xi was at the top of the rankings.

For anyone keen to change careers and grow as a person, I would definitely recommend taking an Academy Xi course. Academy Xi helped me develop a passion for Digital Marketing and has given me the head start I needed to break into the industry. I came into the course seeking a new sense of direction in my career and by the time I graduated, I had it. I really owe that to Academy Xi.

Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Sylvia Xu Connor

By Academy Xi

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Seeking a new lifestyle and a fresh challenge, Sylvia left the fashion industry and entered the exciting world of UX UI Design.

After 15 years as a Fashion Designer, Sylvia retrained with Academy Xi and landed a Senior UX UI Designer role within a week of graduating. Read about Sylvia’s UX UI Design: Transform course experience, her fast start in the industry, and how she’s helping more Academy Xi graduates into design roles.

What led you to a career in UX UI Design?

I realised after the first lockdown that I didn’t want to go back to my old work routine, which meant commuting five days a week to physically be in a fashion studio. It was tiring and I have young kids who didn’t see me enough. I had skills that allowed me to work remotely, so I started casually searching for work-from-home design jobs.

It took about a month to discover this new term – UX UI Design. I was really intrigued by the concept, but UX UI is digitally-focused. I come from a more traditionally creative background, with lots of big personalities discussing branding, graphics, patterns and colours, and I needed to be sure UX UI was a good fit for me. At that point, I did what I do best – a tonne of research!

The more I found out about UX UI, the more I realised its principles completely aligned with how I approach design, which is 50% problem solving and 50% how well you can solve those problems by your grasp on tools. By that stage, I was fully committed to switching to a career as a UX UI Designer.

Why did you choose to study UX UI Design with Academy Xi?

I looked into all the course providers that offered UX UI Design, from short bootcamps to master degrees as I already have a UTS Bachelor of Design degree. I am extremely time poor so needed to be job ready in as little time as possible while fully leveraging my past experience in the design industry. I narrowed my search to two providers who could transform my career very quickly; Academy Xi and General Assembly.

Academy Xi had a more competitive price. Plus, the course advisors were super friendly and took time to answer all my questions. If I was unsure at any point, they encouraged me to do my own research. It was a big investment of time and money, so it was important to get honest advice without any pushiness.

After five months of weighing-up my options, I decided that if the course advisors were giving such a personal service, that was a positive sign for the course itself. Eventually, I settled on the Academy Xi UX UI Design: Transform course.

What were your first impressions of the course?

I did a lot of research and knew what to expect from UX UI before the course started. I wanted to push myself from the outset, because I knew I’d get back what I put in.

It was serendipity that the whole three months of the Transform course coincided with the entire Sydney covid lockdown period. I felt like I was in a time capsule of intense learning and delivering results. As a mature student who hasn’t done any studying since finishing my bachelor’s degree 17 years ago, it’s important to have a lot of attention and guidance. The course mentor, Hayden Peters, gave the cohort everything we needed and more. He always made himself available online outside of classes to answer our questions, or give that love and support when the course content became challenging.

All the students were blown away by Hayden - his commitment to everyone in the cohort went above and beyond what you would expect from a mentor. He did everything he possibly could to help us understand the value of UX UI and the best ways to apply it professionally.

Sylvia Xu Connor

The first personal project was a bit like learning to ride a bike. I pedalled really fast and got to grips with the UX UI Design process by making mistakes. During the first phase of the course, Hayden and my coursemates were my only stakeholders, so I had a safe space to experiment in. I made all my mistakes early, which gave me the experience I needed to really nail the live client projects.

Can you tell us about the live client projects?

The first client project was for Endeavour X. Endeavour X is a subsidiary of Endeavour Group and owns a number of the big drink sellers, like BMS and Jimmy Brings. With the border closures, Endeavour X had a shortage of talent to hire from. There’s not much awareness of what Endeavour X does, so the project became a branding exercise. We had to do a lot of UX research and design a website that would enable them to attract and retain the best staff, creating chemistry throughout the company.

Take a look at Sylvia and her team’s client project with EndeavourX

The second client project was all about improving a chatbot for Dan Murphy’s. They have an existing chatbot, but it really only provides basic information about stores and opening hours. Our final design made the chatbot a more informative and engaging experience, helping deliver traffic to the existing website. Both Endeavour X and Dan Murphy’s were really happy with the designs the teams came up with.

How did you find working with the other people in your cohort?

I really cherished developing relationships with the other students. The course finished in October last year and we’re still in touch to this day. Some of the cohort based in Melbourne came to Sydney for the Christmas holidays and a bunch of us met up. Without the course, I never would have met so many great people.

We had a shared journey, a bit like pilgrims, and graduated with a collective experience that we can hold on to for the rest of our lives. We were all equals and could share our thoughts and feelings. As well as Hayden, we learnt from each other. Completing the client projects as teams really brought us closer together – that’s when we pooled our skills and really bonded.

How did you find the experience of learning online?

There’s nobody looking over your shoulder and pushing you to work. I think once you’ve broken that barrier and realised you need to motivate yourself, it’s very straightforward. The course is clearly laid out, so you can log in, see the modules in advance and work through everything systematically. There’s an independence that comes with online learning, and you’ll need it to get by in the professional world.

Learning online also enabled us to work on the projects at times that suited our schedules. Some of us were night owls and worked together into the night, while others were more active in the day. I completed the course while my kids were homeschooling and couldn’t start until 10am, but my coursemates were really accommodating. Collectively, we made it work.

If we were physically in a classroom, we wouldn’t have had that level of flexibility. Even though we were online, we stayed connected and worked together like a well-oiled machine.

Sylvia Xu Connor

How did you go from graduation to landing your new role?

I graduated in October on the same day as my daughter’s birthday. I had to tell her “I’m in a meeting, we’ll celebrate when Mummy finishes”!

My objective throughout the course had always been to get a new job, so I worked hard to grasp the skills, develop my portfolio and be job-ready. I immediately started applying for positions and the client projects were so valuable when it came to interviews. Rather than just saying “this is what I can do”, I was able to demonstrate my skills very concretely.

Within a week of finishing the course, I got a couple of job offers.

Sylvia Xu Connor

I didn’t expect to get hired so quickly, but looking back, I realise that I put myself in a strong position. I had all my ducks in a row.

Now, I’m working for Symbio, a big tech-telco company as a Senior UX UI Designer. I was the first ever UX UI staff member in a company of about 400 people. They brought me on board to speak for UX UI throughout the organisation, so it’s a big step for me and the business.

My plan for the next six months is to get a foothold in the company, raise an understanding of why UX UI is important by adding value to the business and to build a team that can deliver on UX UI objectives. I started with a blank slate, which means I’m having to set the benchmark, which is straight up my alley because my whole life is about setting benchmarks, and also a reason why I’ve achieved so much in so little time.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

I’ve been tasked with a project that hasn’t moved very far in the months before I started. The company does a lot of business in Australia and New Zealand, but wants to expand into APAC. To make that possible, they need a portal that allows customers to self-serve. The head of digital decided they couldn’t go any further with the project without having UX eyes on it, which is one of the main reasons they hired me.

As well as the portal itself, I applied UX to the situation. I quickly realised the project could benefit greatly from having more meaningful dialogue between the internal staff and the overseas developers. I decided to bring everybody together in virtual meetings to get them collaborating more closely. Anyone facilitating online workshops needs to know how to get the most out of the tools and platforms, which is something I could offer straight away because of my experience with Academy Xi.

Now, the project is now fully up and running again. The company is really impressed with what one UX UI Designer can achieve, which is giving me the traction to put a UX UI team together. I recently hired some of the Academy Xi UX UI Design: Transform graduates, because I know first-hand how well prepared they are for working in the field.

What else have you done to stay involved with the Academy Xi tribe?

Hayden invited me back to give talks in his classes. I reassure the students that though the course can be challenging and they might be anxious about what’s to come, it does lead to great outcomes. I tell them if they put in the hard yards now, they’ll get to where they want to be in the long run.

Another ex-student, Diana Miller, spoke while I was studying. Diana now works for NAB and it gave me a sense of perspective to hear from someone who’d used the course to launch a successful career. I felt like I could offer that perspective to other students too.

Since giving the talks, I’ve received LinkedIn messages and offered all kinds of advice. One student received a job offer straight after graduating and, knowing I’d been in the same situation, called me to ask for my thoughts. I was more than happy to help her. It’s wonderful to still be part of the Academy Xi community. I’d like to help as many students as possible to follow that path into UX UI Design, because I know just how rewarding it can be.

Finally, would you recommend Academy XI?

Definitely! I have a few friends who are interested in other positions in the digital industry and I’ve sent them links to Academy Xi courses. I know a Project Manager and she wants to freshen-up her career. I’ve told her to jump into the digital space, take the Academy Xi Digital Project Management course and completely transform her skill-set.

If someone was interested in studying UX UI Design with Academy Xi specifically, I couldn’t recommend the course enough. I can say from experience that Academy Xi gives you the skills and mindset needed to make a big impact in the UX UI Design industry.

Student Spotlight: Ryochi Tanaka

Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Ryochi Tanaka

By Academy Xi

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Ryochi followed his passion, retrained in software engineering and left sales to become a full-stack developer.

Student Spotlight: Ryochi Tanaka

After a few years of trying to crack the art of coding, Ryochi joined the Software Engineering: Transform course. Find out how Ryochi’s passion for programming developed and how the course helped him land an exciting new full-stack developer role with Moonward.

Thanks for chatting with us today, Ryochi. Can you tell us about your career history?

I was born and raised in Japan but moved to Brisbane in 2018. After I graduated from university in Japan, I took the mainstream path, whereby you get a traditional education and then seek out financial stability by finding work with a big company. After graduation, I started working as a recruiting consultant – which was a role that focused on sales.

I dealt with companies operating in various fields, but I occasionally consulted with people working in IT and was always interested to find out about what was going on in the tech industry. At that time, I wasn’t completely satisfied with my sales career.

Arriving in Australia, I managed to get a sales job with a food supplier in Brisbane and stayed with the company for about 2 years, but I knew deep down that I wanted a very different career.

I felt a sense of freedom in Australia – there was no need to live-up to the stereotypes of what a successful person should do in their professional life. I realised that I had options – I had a chance to do anything I wanted and could follow my passion.

A friend had introduced me to coding years before at university. It was a cool experience that made a big impression on me. Initially, my motivation to learn software engineering didn’t come from a concrete decision to establish a career as a coder, but more from a desire to get back in touch with a sense of enjoyment.

I knew that if I spent my time practising a skill that gave me real pleasure it would lead to a happier and healthier lifestyle. That’s when I started dedicating myself to coding.

How did you arrive at studying with Academy Xi?

Well, that was a journey in itself! Once I made the decision to learn how to code, I carried out loads of research. I looked into learning methods, schools, online resources and all the different programming languages.

I started by completing a Certificate IV in Programming, which I studied for while I was still working in sales. It took about 3 hours of my time each week, which was a manageable workload, but the qualification mostly focused on the theory of programming. I spent hardly any time practising coding hands-on and didn’t get much support from the course provider.

I graduated with a logical understanding of programming but very little practical coding experience. After that, I taught myself JavaScript for a couple of months and managed to build some simple applications.

I was keen to develop a career as a full-time coder by that stage, but didn’t have the confidence to work as a professional programmer, so I started researching courses again. I decided I needed more practical training to boost my confidence and luckily, that’s when I discovered Academy Xi.

What convinced you to enrol in the Software Engineering course?

Initially, I was a little hesitant to take another online course, since my first experience hadn’t lived up to my expectations.

After looking closely at the Academy Xi Software Engineering: Transform course, I realised that the curriculum and syllabus were really thoughtfully put together.

All the online course materials were perfectly organised and gave a very clear breakdown of the skills I would develop. There was lots of emphasis on gaining coding experience, which is exactly the kind of course I was after.

Another big plus was the promise of lots of guidance and support. The course offered everything that was missing from the first qualification.

Finally, I compared the course content and price to other major bootcamps and decided that Academy Xi was by far the best option.

How did you find the course?

Honestly, there was a lot to learn! Luckily, my instructor was Albert and he dedicated a lot of his time to making sure the students grasped all the skills.

Albert was knowledgeable and understood coding inside-out, but as well as being an expert, he was a really caring and helpful person. He genuinely wanted the whole cohort to develop all the skills the course taught.

There were stages when the coding became pretty complicated and Albert always made himself available to explain. If anyone in the cohort had a question, he responded within the hour. Even if someone was stuck, they were never stuck for too long!

If any of us were really struggling with a particular module or project, Albert was flexible enough to rearrange our timelines so that we had a chance to get to grips with it. In software engineering, that kind of approach is vital, because each new skill builds on the last.

What was your most important takeaway from the course?

It completely changed my mindset toward being a programmer. When I was trying to learn to code by myself, the more I found out about programming, the more I realised there were skills I didn’t have. It really knocked my confidence when it came to applying for jobs.

Albert has developed software for multiple companies and knows from experience that the key to being a successful programmer is a willingness to work with new technologies. He helped me understand that the field is always evolving, so programmers have to evolve too. Learning new skills is an essential part of the job.

Early in the course, I stopped seeing the things I couldn’t do as obstacles, but as opportunities to evolve and improve. Everything I did throughout the course gave me the chance to reinforce that mindset.

Albert also told me that being able to adjust to new technologies is often more important to employers than experience. That boosted my confidence and I started applying for jobs just a couple of weeks after the course started.

Thankfully, it didn’t take long after graduation for me to land a new role as a full-stack developer with Moonward, a design-led app development agency.

Nicely done, Ryochi! Do you have a few words of advice for anyone considering an Academy Xi Software Engineering course?

The course outcomes have been fantastic for me. Studying Software Engineering with Academy Xi helped me secure a new role and has given me the skills and experience needed to really perform. I use the knowledge I developed throughout the course all the time.

However, completing the course takes hard work and you do have to pick up a lot of new skills in quite a short period of time. Before you start the course, you have to be fully committed and passionate about learning to code.

If someone seriously wants to be a software engineer, I’d advise them not to get an online certificate, or study alone, and definitely to join Academy Xi instead. Speaking from experience, Academy Xi courses are well taught and give you everything you need to learn to code to a really high level.