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

Vanessa McDonald

Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Vanessa McDonald

By Academy Xi

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Vanessa McDonald

From yoga teacher to professional UX Designer and Academy Xi mentor, Vanessa’s story proves sky’s the limit when it comes to switching careers.

Seeking a fresh start in her career, Vanessa enrolled in the UX UI Design: Transform course. As well as landing an exciting new role, Vanessa’s back with Academy Xi and mentoring the next generation of UX Designers.

What were you up to before you started studying with Academy Xi?

Before the course, I’d been a yoga teacher for about seven years. I decided I wanted a change of scenery, so I bought a van, packed all my stuff and moved to Queensland. 

In Queensland it’s ultra competitive to find a good studio space and fill a decent amount of yoga classes, so you really have to hustle. I knew it would only be a few years of doing 10-15 classes a week before I burned out. I wanted to find a new profession, but had never been to university and didn’t have a clear sense of direction career-wise, so I was searching around for ideas. 

A friend of mine completed the Academy Xi course and became a UX designer. I called him one day and asked ‘what do you actually do?’. He talked me through his role from end-to-end. Honestly, it sounded like every bit of enjoyable work I’d done in the last ten years squashed into one job. 

I knew I wanted a career that would allow me to make a positive impact. What I love about UX is you can do something as simple as change a button on a screen and that can influence countless people to make a choice that is more sustainable, healthier and better for themselves and the lives of others. 

I didn’t want my next move to be a quick fix, so I took a bit of time to make sure I was completely committed to launching a career in UX. After a little while I was still certain it was the right career and decided to take a course. 

My friend who’d studied the Academy Xi course is the kind of person to do research before he buys a toothbrush! I knew he would have carefully weighed up all the options. Because he’d done his research and spoke so highly of Academy Xi, I decided to enrol. 

What were your highlights of the course?

The biggest highlight for me was completing the real client projects. They were great additions to my portfolio and allowed to show employers that I had hands-on experience. 

Anybody could look at my portfolio and see that I could interpret a real brief, work with actual clients and present my ideas, rather than just working on hypothetical projects.  

As well as the two client projects, I also had the chance to develop my own brief. It was really satisfying to work on a project that I was passionate about which was also for a real client. By the end of the course, I had three client-facing UX projects, which was just an amazing accomplishment that put me in a really strong position when it came to applying for roles in the industry.  

What were your favourite projects that you worked on?

For the personal project I chose an online yoga company I’d been working for. It was the first project and definitely the hardest. I was a blank canvas with UX and was essentially learning the process by performing it. It was challenging, but a valuable learning curve. By the end of the first project I had pieced together the whole process of UX from end-to-end. I presented my proposal to the CEO and she was really impressed. She said that if she hadn’t known I was a student, she would have assumed that I’d been working in UX for years. 

The first client project was for a start-up called Linkmate. Anybody dealing with emotional challenges can connect with other people who’ve had similar experiences on Linkmate. It’s a way to get a bit of interaction and support when you need it most.  

The brief for Linkmate involved creating their app. Luckily, they’d already carried out their own research and validated a design, so our job was to step in and build it. There were about 11 designers working on the brief and everyone had their own ideas and input, which started to slow the project down. 

I realised that if we were going to deliver the app on time, someone would have to step up and lead the project. It ended up being me and another guy who took the reins. We figured out what needed doing and who would do it, which kept everyone shuffling along. 

We presented the finished app to the client and he was over the moon. He actually shed a few tears – the company was very close to his heart, so seeing it brought to life in an app was an emotional experience for him. 

How did you get on with your mentor? 

My mentor was Hayden Peters and he was fantastic. Whenever the teams hit a bit of a roadblock, he would step in and help everyone get things back on track. Sometimes the client projects got pretty tricky, so it was reassuring to have Hayden’s presence.   

It helped that Hayden and I actually have a similar energy. We’re both very enthusiastic and love getting other people involved. Near the end of the course I could tell that everyone was running out of steam. Our productivity had dropped and there was still loads of work to be done with the last project. We had a stand up meeting and I told everyone that if they just gave it one last push and put in an extra 10% effort then we would absolutely smash it. 

By the end of that day everybody had gotten so much done. I had a chat with Hayden later on and he’d noticed the team was moving and shaking again. I told him I’d spoken to everyone and given them a bit of a morale boost. He was guiding the whole cohort, but was also helping me guide the teams from within.     

Can you tell us about your mentoring experience with Academy Xi?

I began mentoring Academy Xi students a few months ago. Hayden reached out and said that a few students needed some extra help. I was so honoured and amazed that of all the people Hayden has met and taught, nearly a year later he remembered me and recommended me for working with students. What a compliment! 

I’m really enjoying my mentor role. I see a lot of myself in these students when they jump on our zoom calls, all frazzled and confused. I hear them out, remind them that everything is going to be okay and always make sure they understand the “why” behind the process, rather than just telling them what to do. 

My experience as a yoga teacher for all those years has definitely helped me in this role. I’m able to hold space and ensure psychological safety – making sure students understand that the only dumb questions are the ones that you don’t ask. 

How did you land your role with Go1?

It happened in a bit of a funny way actually. A recruiter reached out to me and we got on a phone call. We spoke about all things beach and surfing and got along really well. At the end of the call, he told me that although he didn’t have anything that would fit me, he knew his friend at Go1 was looking for someone at graduate-level. 

I reached out to the Head of Design at Go1, Luke, not mentioning the recruiter’s name (as requested) and struck up a conversation. We planned to meet up for an initial chat but struggled to find a time as Christmas was just around the corner. I told him to reach out in the new year and enjoy his holidays. 

The holidays came and went and in that time I had completely forgotten about Go1. It was actually when Luke reached out again in the new year to ask me if I was still interested that I thought of Go1 again. 

I went through three rounds of interviews with Go1 before landing the role. Luke later told me that a big tick for me was the fact that on my LinkedIn profile I state that I’m pretty good with Dad Jokes. Believe it or not, the presenters at our weekly design meetings have to kick things off with a Dad Joke! 

Are you using what you learned throughout the course in your role?

I am and I’m not. I feel that the Academy Xi course gave me a really good “skeleton” to build from. The process is always going to be unique and different depending on the company and project. No day or task is ever the same. 

I think what has really helped is the mindset of forever being a student. Everyone always has more to learn and the UX is constantly changing in our world. Luckily, I have great people that I work with who are so knowledgeable. I’m really happy to be within a team that uplifts each other and is always willing to share knowledge. 

Finally, would you recommend the course and Academy Xi to other people?

Definitely! Lots of my friends are interested in my new role and I have to explain what UX is. It’s all pretty foreign to them. I don’t even think my Mum properly understands what I do yet!

I’ve got a friend who’s curious about UX, but I’ve told her she needs to make sure it’s the right career for her. It sounds a little dramatic, but UX changes the way you view the world around you. Once you acknowledge that everything is designed, you start to notice that a lot of things are actually designed badly. Not everybody is prepared to make that realisation, which means they’re probably not ready for the course. 

If someone has a burning desire to improve the designs we all rely on day-to-day, I’d say go for it. If you approach everything with an open mind and are prepared to change the way you respond to problems, UX enables you to come up with some pretty effective design solutions.  

Academy Xi provides a top-tier learning environment. As one of the best UX UI Design courses in the country, it’s worth investing in yourself to ensure you have the correct tools and mindset to be able to take on the industry. I feel that Academy Xi not only teaches you the tools, but also that mindset of being able to see the “why” behind the “what” of design.

Why did you pick Academy Xi?

I looked closely at a few courses, but the Academy Xi schedule seemed the most user-friendly. The classes were held twice a week, but there was lots of flexibility when it came to working through the course content. Some of the other courses expected you to block-out your calendar with commitments, which for me just wasn’t possible. 

 I was also drawn to the Career Support Program. Landing a new role was my main objective, so having that support throughout my job search was very important. Finally, I researched the course mentors, and everybody seemed to have a strong amount of industry experience.   

How did you find working with your mentor?

My mentor was Hayden and we hit it off straight away. He’s a fun, interesting character and his passion for UX is unmatched, which I think lit a fire in a lot of people.

 Whenever Hayden was explaining something about UX, he always found a way to tie it back to a real industry scenario that he’d experienced. He also encouraged us to start networking with people already established in UX. 

 As the course progressed, I ramped up my efforts to connect with people in the industry. I have family friends who are already involved with UX and I also connected with professionals through LinkedIn. I wanted to figure out what it takes to be successful in the field and start building some of those habits into my life. For anyone keen to break into the industry, I’d recommend reaching out to other designers and starting a conversation.

What projects did you work on?

For my personal project, I tackled the water wastage problem in the major Australian cities. Truthfully, I made a lot of mistakes with my first project. It was a steep learning curve and gave me the experience I needed to properly approach the client projects. For the two client projects, I worked with Westpac and a startup called FitFun. 

 FitFun is trying to revolutionise the fitness industry by focusing on community and collaboration. Because it was a startup, everything was very fast-paced and we were able to carry out a huge amount of work. My team built a full design strategy for FitFun in just three weeks. 

 For Westpac, we were given the task of redesigning what their autopay function could look and feel like. Even though it’s a relatively small piece of their transactional process, if the process wasn’t optimised it could dissuade a potential customer from using the function. In the end, we had the time and resources to scope out what we thought was an untapped market opportunity. We presented it to Westpac and they were really impressed. Both clients were very happy with the work the teams carried out.

How did you find working in teams? 

As a podiatrist, I’d typically work alone. I’d have no one else in the clinic, so I learned to solve problems by myself. In a group setting, you must understand that you’re not an expert at everything. There are people around who have experience in a range of areas. I’d look at people’s projects and be wowed by the beauty of the design work or impressed by the depth of the research. 

 You start to understand that you can delegate the tasks based on people’s expertise. That approach really allows you to work agile – you’ve got people collaborating on different parts of the project at the same time. Because everybody was playing to their strengths, it meant their work could really shine, which led to a better end result for the group.

 Working in teams is such an important experience, because UX Designers hardly ever work alone. Even if you’re the only UX Designer, you’ll be collaborating with other departments and working cross-functionally. In that sense, the team projects prepare you for the real-world dynamic of UX.  

How did you find studying online? 

Honestly, I was jealous of all the people working from home throughout the pandemic! I loved studying online. Some people prefer doing things face-to-face, but online learning gives you unparalleled levels of flexibility. You have set times for the live classes, but how you use your time before and after is completely up to you. 

 With other courses that require you to regularly be somewhere, there’s so much more demand on your time, which can lead to burnout. When you’re studying online, all that matters is that you’re getting through the work. It really doesn’t matter when and where it gets done. 

 Plus, there were three or four communication channels that the cohort stayed connected through, and you’re regularly in Zoom meetings with each other during the client projects. I never felt like I was studying alone. 

How did you land your new role? 

I got back from a holiday over New Year’s and worked on my portfolio, CV and base cover letter. I was really motivated to find a job and get started with my career, so I set a personal target of 50 applications in 50 days. 

 I was knee deep in interviews when a UX designer at Symbio reached out to me. She had spoken to Academy Xi in the hope to find someone ‘up and coming’ and passionate about launching a career in UX.  After a few interviews with her and the Head of Marketing, where we discussed what the role would entail and how I could add value to the team, I was overjoyed to be offered the job.

 I did sign up for the Career Support Program, but thankfully I landed a role before the program even kicked off. That said, lots of people in the cohort did go through the program and found it really helpful. 

How’re you getting on with the new role at Symbio?

I’ll start with a bit of a background. Symbio has been around for about 20 years – it was started by two friends who dreamt big about what voice products could become in the future. Today, Symbio is a tech company, selling Global XaaS products to different segments of the market – from big companies like Google and Zoom, to smaller telcos, and even government enterprises.

 My work varies, I’ve gone from one business division to the next working on completely different projects. I might come in during the discovery phase and be asked to conduct some research or build a wireframe so a new feature can be tested. This has given me the opportunity to pick up all kinds of skills, especially within stakeholder management and advocacy.  

Did the course prepare you for the role?

The fast-paced nature of the Academy Xi course prepares you for the industry, where you must produce high quality work very quickly and at times, on demand. Completing the course projects in three-week sprints was an accurate representation of how you’re expected to work once you’ve broken into UX. 

 Symbio also runs regular tech talks and I delivered one a few weeks back, which was a great way to spread the word about the value of UX. Whilst I’ve always been a confident speaker, I hadn’t had much experience with public speaking prior to the course. The projects gave me the opportunity to improve upon those soft skills and build them into my capabilities.  

Can you tell us about your involvement with Academy Xi since you’ve graduated?

It’s a challenging course, especially for those with a unique career history, but the payoff for the commitment is immense. 

I like to say, based on my career shift, that if I can do it, anyone can. I’m truly passionate about this industry and think it should be accessible for anyone who shares that passion. I always jump in to talk to the new students whenever a new cohort starts to try and give them some practical advice and a bit of inspiration. 

Beyond that, Symbio was also the client for both projects with a recent cohort. It was a great experience to be on the other side of the brief and provided another learning opportunity for me. To be able to witness their dedication and hard work on a complex and challenging brief was awesome and is something that will stay with me forever. It’s been nice to stay involved with Academy Xi and I’ll definitely continue to work with you folks in the future.

 Finally, would you recommend Academy Xi?

For anyone that is maybe lacking a bit of passion within their work and hoping to do something meaningful and creative, UX is a career that you should consider. The Academy Xi course has given me the opportunity to do it every day, and I’d happily recommend it to anyone wanting to do the same. 

 Want to bring the power of UX UI Design to your career just like Joel? If so, check out our UX UI Design: Transform course.

joel tolli Academy Xi Student testimonial

Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Joel Tolli

By Academy Xi

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joel tolli Academy Xi Student testimonial

Keen to carve out a career he was passionate about, Joel stepped out of podiatry and into the exciting world of UX Design. Find out how the UX UI Design: Transform course helped Joel land the role he was after.

What were you doing before studying with Academy Xi?

I spent four years at university studying podiatry and worked in the field for two years. By the third year of university, I already knew it wasn’t the right long-term career for me.

 It took a little while for me to make the decision to change my path. Eventually, I quit my job without a plan and started working temporarily as a labourer with my Dad. I spent about three months doing research trying to find a career I’d really enjoy. This time, I wanted to make a decision based on passion.

 During my career transition, I delved into my unexplored creative side and I really wanted to find a career that would harness that. While I was looking at jobs within tech I stumbled across UX Design, which is creative but isn’t just about visual design work in the traditional sense. Instead, it’s practical and centred around designing solutions that solve real problems.

 Because it combined creativity and problem-solving, I realised UX Design was a career that suited me perfectly and even allowed me to use many of the skills that I’d learned during podiatry. Retraining was a big decision, but I went for it and never looked back.

Why did you pick Academy Xi?

I looked closely at a few courses, but the Academy Xi schedule seemed the most user-friendly. The classes were held twice a week, but there was lots of flexibility when it came to working through the course content. Some of the other courses expected you to block-out your calendar with commitments, which for me just wasn’t possible. 

 I was also drawn to the Career Support Program. Landing a new role was my main objective, so having that support throughout my job search was very important. Finally, I researched the course mentors, and everybody seemed to have a strong amount of industry experience.   

How did you find working with your mentor?

My mentor was Hayden and we hit it off straight away. He’s a fun, interesting character and his passion for UX is unmatched, which I think lit a fire in a lot of people.

 Whenever Hayden was explaining something about UX, he always found a way to tie it back to a real industry scenario that he’d experienced. He also encouraged us to start networking with people already established in UX. 

 As the course progressed, I ramped up my efforts to connect with people in the industry. I have family friends who are already involved with UX and I also connected with professionals through LinkedIn. I wanted to figure out what it takes to be successful in the field and start building some of those habits into my life. For anyone keen to break into the industry, I’d recommend reaching out to other designers and starting a conversation.

What projects did you work on?

For my personal project, I tackled the water wastage problem in the major Australian cities. Truthfully, I made a lot of mistakes with my first project. It was a steep learning curve and gave me the experience I needed to properly approach the client projects. For the two client projects, I worked with Westpac and a startup called FitFun. 

 FitFun is trying to revolutionise the fitness industry by focusing on community and collaboration. Because it was a startup, everything was very fast-paced and we were able to carry out a huge amount of work. My team built a full design strategy for FitFun in just three weeks. 

 For Westpac, we were given the task of redesigning what their autopay function could look and feel like. Even though it’s a relatively small piece of their transactional process, if the process wasn’t optimised it could dissuade a potential customer from using the function. In the end, we had the time and resources to scope out what we thought was an untapped market opportunity. We presented it to Westpac and they were really impressed. Both clients were very happy with the work the teams carried out.

How did you find working in teams? 

As a podiatrist, I’d typically work alone. I’d have no one else in the clinic, so I learned to solve problems by myself. In a group setting, you must understand that you’re not an expert at everything. There are people around who have experience in a range of areas. I’d look at people’s projects and be wowed by the beauty of the design work or impressed by the depth of the research. 

 You start to understand that you can delegate the tasks based on people’s expertise. That approach really allows you to work agile – you’ve got people collaborating on different parts of the project at the same time. Because everybody was playing to their strengths, it meant their work could really shine, which led to a better end result for the group.

 Working in teams is such an important experience, because UX Designers hardly ever work alone. Even if you’re the only UX Designer, you’ll be collaborating with other departments and working cross-functionally. In that sense, the team projects prepare you for the real-world dynamic of UX.  

How did you find studying online? 

Honestly, I was jealous of all the people working from home throughout the pandemic! I loved studying online. Some people prefer doing things face-to-face, but online learning gives you unparalleled levels of flexibility. You have set times for the live classes, but how you use your time before and after is completely up to you. 

 With other courses that require you to regularly be somewhere, there’s so much more demand on your time, which can lead to burnout. When you’re studying online, all that matters is that you’re getting through the work. It really doesn’t matter when and where it gets done. 

 Plus, there were three or four communication channels that the cohort stayed connected through, and you’re regularly in Zoom meetings with each other during the client projects. I never felt like I was studying alone. 

How did you land your new role? 

I got back from a holiday over New Year’s and worked on my portfolio, CV and base cover letter. I was really motivated to find a job and get started with my career, so I set a personal target of 50 applications in 50 days. 

 I was knee deep in interviews when a UX designer at Symbio reached out to me. She had spoken to Academy Xi in the hope to find someone ‘up and coming’ and passionate about launching a career in UX.  After a few interviews with her and the Head of Marketing, where we discussed what the role would entail and how I could add value to the team, I was overjoyed to be offered the job.

 I did sign up for the Career Support Program, but thankfully I landed a role before the program even kicked off. That said, lots of people in the cohort did go through the program and found it really helpful. 

How’re you getting on with the new role at Symbio?

I’ll start with a bit of a background. Symbio has been around for about 20 years – it was started by two friends who dreamt big about what voice products could become in the future. Today, Symbio is a tech company, selling Global XaaS products to different segments of the market – from big companies like Google and Zoom, to smaller telcos, and even government enterprises.

 My work varies, I’ve gone from one business division to the next working on completely different projects. I might come in during the discovery phase and be asked to conduct some research or build a wireframe so a new feature can be tested. This has given me the opportunity to pick up all kinds of skills, especially within stakeholder management and advocacy.  

Did the course prepare you for the role?

The fast-paced nature of the Academy Xi course prepares you for the industry, where you must produce high quality work very quickly and at times, on demand. Completing the course projects in three-week sprints was an accurate representation of how you’re expected to work once you’ve broken into UX. 

 Symbio also runs regular tech talks and I delivered one a few weeks back, which was a great way to spread the word about the value of UX. Whilst I’ve always been a confident speaker, I hadn’t had much experience with public speaking prior to the course. The projects gave me the opportunity to improve upon those soft skills and build them into my capabilities.  

Can you tell us about your involvement with Academy Xi since you’ve graduated?

It’s a challenging course, especially for those with a unique career history, but the payoff for the commitment is immense. 

I like to say, based on my career shift, that if I can do it, anyone can. I’m truly passionate about this industry and think it should be accessible for anyone who shares that passion. I always jump in to talk to the new students whenever a new cohort starts to try and give them some practical advice and a bit of inspiration. 

Beyond that, Symbio was also the client for both projects with a recent cohort. It was a great experience to be on the other side of the brief and provided another learning opportunity for me. To be able to witness their dedication and hard work on a complex and challenging brief was awesome and is something that will stay with me forever. It’s been nice to stay involved with Academy Xi and I’ll definitely continue to work with you folks in the future.

 Finally, would you recommend Academy Xi?

For anyone that is maybe lacking a bit of passion within their work and hoping to do something meaningful and creative, UX is a career that you should consider. The Academy Xi course has given me the opportunity to do it every day, and I’d happily recommend it to anyone wanting to do the same. 

 Want to bring the power of UX UI Design to your career just like Joel? If so, check out our UX UI Design: Transform course.

Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Cilla De Nadai

By Academy Xi

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A firm believer in the benefits of lifelong learning, Cilla decided to add a new dimension to her design process by upskilling with Academy Xi.

After 20 years working in the design industry, Cilla decided to deepen her problem-solving skills by connecting with the customer and enrolling in the Service Design: Elevate course.

Can you tell us about your career history?

I have a degree in fine art, but moved into design. I’ve been working in design for about 20 years now. It’s a great industry, but as is the case with all creative industries, it’s constantly evolving and changing. I feel it’s important to look outside your own industry for inspiration; I completed an interior design course a few years back, but it had been a while since I’d learned something new. I like to add new dimensions to my skillset as often as possible.

Service Design appealed to me because of the emphasis on problem-solving. I really wanted to take my problem-solving skills to the next level. I didn’t know much about Service Design at first, so I did some research online, spoke to a few people and watched some YouTube videos. I quickly realised that Service Design isn’t just about reading briefs and brainstorming solutions. Instead, it adopts a human-centric approach, connects with the customer and gets to the root of the problem. The whole process really resonated with me.  

Why did you choose Academy Xi specifically?

I did look at a few other courses, but what really stood out was that Academy Xi offered the flexibility of self-paced learning. Without that level of flexibility, completing the course just wouldn’t have been possible. I work full-time and have a pretty hectic schedule, so knowing I had six months up my sleeve to work through the content at my own pace was really the deciding factor.

What were the highlights of the course?

First and foremost, getting to grips with a whole range of new tools. It’s been really empowering to add those to my arsenal. From a problem-solving standpoint, the biggest advantage has been learning how to break down a problem and really get to the heart of the matter. 

The course also helped me appreciate the value of thinking even more carefully about the customer during the design process. That’s something you always do, but the course was a nice reminder of why it’s important. Regardless of what industry you work in and how you use that process, it’s always going to be extremely useful.

How did you find studying a self-paced course?

I’ve completed online courses in the past, but they were traditionally structured and involved set classes and deadlines, which definitely increased the pressure. With the self-paced course, I enjoyed having the freedom to manage my own cadence and workload.

Studying alone could have easily been a negative, but I managed to turn it into a positive. Ultimately, I made the structure work for me. There was an option to connect with other students and staff, but I’m actually a bit of an introvert! I mostly worked through the course content independently, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. 

Rather than relying on someone else to guide me or falling back on their knowledge, I had to figure things out for myself. I sense-checked my own ideas and decided for myself if I’d done something properly and met the criteria. I drove the whole process alone, which was challenging and could have been a setback, but it turned out to be something I benefited from.

How did you find the workload?

Even though it was self-paced, it was still pretty intense. I probably put in more effort than I needed to. Truthfully, I could have dedicated half the amount of time and still got a decent result, but that’s just not how I work. 

I figure if you’re going to commit, it’s best to go all in. In the end, you’ll get back what you put in. I tried to really engage with the content and make sure I got maximum value from the course.

What personal project did you work on?

I’m a really big fan of IGA and put together my own brief for the company. The idea for the brief came about quite organically. I noticed that Milk Run, Volley and a lot of the rapid grocery delivery apps were gaining in popularity throughout Australia. I wanted to establish if there’s a way that IGA can enter into that market. My project laid out a Service Design proposal for IGA to launch its own version of a rapid grocery delivery service. 

Did you benefit from having access to your course expert?

It was really useful to reach out to my course expert and gauge if I was grasping the course content that'd been put in front of me. He reinforced that I was on the right track and gave me some great tips on how to improve my work.

Jocelyn Fisher

Also, we spoke about the processes and tools I was using for my project. If I had any issues, he helped me resolve those. We discussed the project itself, but mostly at a high level. I was comfortable working through the brief by myself.

What advice would you give to a prospective student?

If you’re studying self-paced, I think it’s pretty important that you’re disciplined. I’m very good at setting my own deadlines and holding myself to them. When you’re studying self-paced, being able to maintain your own schedule and progress is vital.   

If you’re the kind of person who needs constant interaction and feedback, self-paced might not be the best format for you. There is a chat function for the students, but how much engagement you get from that will depend on how vocal the students are. Nobody’s forced to interact. If you want high levels of interaction, the cohort-based option would probably be a better fit. If you’re somebody who thrives working independently, self-paced will probably work nicely.  

What are your plans for the future?

In terms of using what I’ve learned in Service Design, I plan to apply what I have learned in my role for my current clients. At some stage further down the track there’s a good chance I’ll look to expand my skills and take another course. Work is keeping me busy for now, so I’ll take a break and focus on that. That said, it’s important to keep on pushing yourself and flexing those thinking muscles! I’m sure I’ll be taking another course in the not too distant future. 

If you’re ready to redefine your resume and pick up an exciting new skillset just like Cilla, check out our Service Design courses.

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