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: Yuka Mochizuki

Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Yuka Mochizuki

By Academy Xi

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UX UI Transform student, Yuka, managed to land herself a coveted role with Westpac before even completing her studies. We had a chat to discover more about her journey in the world of User Experience Design.

Student Spotlight: Yuka Mochizuki

Hi Yuka. How much longer have you got to go with your studies?

I’m over half way now in the full-time UX UI Design Transform course with Hayden Peters. I think I have about a month to go.

And you’ve already landed yourself a great job!

Yes, at Westpac. My job title is Service Designer, but it’s a mix of UX, UI, CX and service design. I’m currently working on youth banking. The UX UI Transform course has definitely given me the experience of what an end-to-end project is like. Now being in the workplace I’m learning how to apply it to the job at hand. The scale of the projects I’m working on is huge, but the training has provided me with a strong foundation. Unfortunately because of COVID I haven’t actually been into the office yet.

Hopefully that changes soon. Can you tell us a bit about life before Xi?

I was a university student – I graduated with a Bachelor of Design from UNSW in January this year (2021), majoring in Graphic Design. There was an interaction subject offered during my last year and I thought I’d just give it a try – it was something new. The process was interesting and really different from graphic or fashion design, where you’re given a brief and you do it. 

I was working as a junior print and graphic designer at my local printing shop while I studied and once I had graduated I felt like I was wasting my time. I wanted to advance further into my design career, but I didn’t know how to do it. I needed to do something to make that career shift happen. 

I looked online to see what was available training wise. Initially I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I thought about the interaction course I had done at uni that I really enjoyed, so I thought maybe I could try UX UI Design. 

How did you arrive at choosing Academy Xi for your training?

I decided to go with UX UI Transform at Academy Xi because I had a few friends who recommended this course specifically. I thought you know what, I’m just going to go with it. And here I am now studying – it has been great.

How have you found your training so far? Any highlights?

I was talking to the friends who recommended the course – the first of my friends is now a Product Designer, the course worked well for her and she spoke very highly of her instructor, Hayden. Another friend was doing the same course, part-time.  We were discussing the importance of teachers when you’re training in anything and how you want to have someone who is truly passionate about what they’re teaching – and the difference their enthusiasm can make to your experience. 

So I decided to go for the full-time option and off my friend’s recommendation I wanted to have Hayden as my instructor. I didn’t want to go part-time, I’d already spent three years at university doing my bachelor’s, I was ready to just get into it. 

“I went in with high expectations, which were all met. I totally understand why people recommend this course, and in particular, Hayden.”  – Yuka Mochizuki

With the first project taking place over seven weeks, we were learning about the design process as we were doing the actual assessment, and it has been really helpful. It refreshed my memory and validated a lot of things for me.

How did the job come about while studying?

With the graphic design industry it can be pretty frustrating because there are often roles pitched as ‘junior’ requiring more than two years of experience or skills that aren’t graphic design, like video editing or marketing or social media. I found it really hard to land anything in graphic design because of that. I didn’t want to be the person who did a million things. That’s not what I trained in.

I had been actively looking for jobs for the past two years, while I was studying graphic design at university and working at the print shop. I was searching on all the job sites and LinkedIn, I had all the email notifications set up. I’ve been proactive.

The Westpac role I landed was through Hatch. Each week they load new jobs, you answer some questions and do a small video of yourself. 

Did the training you completed help you land the Westpac job?

Yes, it was a major factor – it absolutely enabled me to get the job with Westpac. When I did the interview with them, I was about 75% through my first project – which was a mobile app for sustainability and recycling and featured a smart bin. 

I was prepared to answer standard interview questions, but the interviewer asked me to walk her through a digital project that I loved. So I was able to use my project. I took her through my work and discussed my design process, explaining that it was not yet complete, but that didn’t matter – she was really impressed with it. 

After a few days she put me in touch with others in her team that whoever would be successful in the interview process would be working with, so I got to talk with them as well. I feel that if it hadn’t been for this project within the UX UI Design Transform course, that I wouldn’t have been able to get the job. It gave me the chance to clearly demonstrate my skills and understanding of the full design process. 

Are you working with any mentors?

I have been paired with a mentor, Vikas Bhutani, through Academy Xi’s Designer-In-Residence program. He’s the CX UX Lead at Kmart and having him as a mentor is great. If I have any questions I note them down and take them to him. And since last year I have a mentor from Canva, as well as Hayden

Any other areas of study that interest you?

I think psychology. Being able to understand people and work with them in general. There are times when it’s really difficult to work with people – having that background would help. My dad’s studying it, so we have chats about different things.

Coming from three different backgrounds, I’m interested to know how culture could impact UX UI. I want to learn different things that can be added to my training.

I have the ambition to learn design outside of Australia too – places like New York or Amsterdam, or even Japan. Different cultures. Once everything is safer and we can travel again and I have a few years of experience, I might delve into that.

Once this course ends I might sign up as a mentor with Academy Xi.

Best of luck with your new role and the rest of your studies, Yuka! We hope you can get into the Westpac office soon (at the time of writing, Sydney was in extended lockdown).

I really find it beneficial – having someone there to guide me, especially if I don’t know how to do a certain thing. They give tips and ideas that you might not have heard of before. 

Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Oshi Paranavitane

By Academy Xi

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While studying her Masters in Design, Oshi felt she needed something more. Then she discovered User Experience.

Life before Xi?

I did my Bachelor’s Degree in graphic design and worked in the industry for five years in Sri Lanka. I was an art director in an advertising agency for two years, then moved to a boutique digital agency working in the creative team and eventually became a brand identity designer. After two years working there, I made the move to Australia to join my husband and study my Masters in Design.

During my Masters in Sydney, I took a few units on interaction design and loved it. I would’ve liked to have done more units in this area, but wasn’t able to due to the structure of the university electives, but I knew it was something I wanted to pursue.

What encouraged you to study with Academy Xi?

The Masters in Design felt like it was lacking in terms of industry connections and job opportunities. I needed something more. While I was applying for graphic design jobs here in Sydney, I came across Academy Xi in my social feed – a promotion for the UX UI Design Transform course

After having already done a Bachelors and Masters in Design, the decision to do more study didn’t come lightly. I wanted to make sure that the training I was going to do ticked the right boxes for me and offered what I needed. 

I started researching, read a lot of glowing online reviews about the UX UI Design Transform course, which definitely influenced my decision. This was further reinforced by what I found on LinkedIn – lots of graduates talking so positively about their experiences with Xi in general and specifically their training in UX. I could see there was a strong alumni network, all working in the industry and even more great reviews. 

UX UI Design Transform sounded like it covered everything I was seeking. And it certainly did. 

Were there any training highlights you’d like to mention?

The first few weeks with our instructor Hayden were the main highlight for me. Hayden is amazing! We covered the Double Diamond framework and the entire UX design process with him. The depth he went into and the amount of information he shared with us – it was just so valuable to get that. I knew a little bit about the process from some of the units I took in my Masters degree, but it paled in comparison to the depth of detail provided by Hayden and the overall Xi training. 

Real client projects form a part of the UX UI Design Transform training. Can you share with us your experience of working on these projects?

We did two real client projects and both times we were put into project groups within our cohort – I really enjoyed this hands-on aspect of the training.

Our first project was working with IO Energy, a South Australian energy company. My project team and I worked on the customer sign up journey on their website. It worked out really well for us as a group and our learning and the client was very pleased with the outcome too. It was interesting to learn about the energy sector – so much new information and it’s definitely a sector I’d like to work in. Challenging, interesting and important. 

Doing the real life client projects gave us a genuine idea of what it would be like to work with clients in industries we might not be familiar with. Part of the job is discovering what the organisation or industry is about, understanding the jargon used and navigating how to best serve the needs of the client. This project exposed us to all of those things.

My second project was focusing on Anglicare in Sydney. As I am based in Sydney – I was invited, along with another team member, to actually go to one of the retirement homes in Castle Hill. We met some of the village managers and other staff, had onsite interviews and they took us through some of the processes they use in the centres. It was really nice to be able to conduct on-site research – I very much enjoyed that element of this project.

I also really enjoyed being able to actively apply the Double Diamond design framework to both of these design sprints. We got to see each step of the process in action and test out our new learning and skills. 

Online experience

With my final year of Masters in Design at University, everything went online due to the covid pandemic. Like many other universities and colleges, the transition from face to face learning to online was very quick due to the circumstances. I found that final year of online study to be really isolating and not at all engaging. The class sizes were really big, so it didn’t feel personalised and there just wasn’t the set up for any social interaction or engagement. With a Masters, there is also the fact that you don’t take the same classes as everyone else, so I didn’t get to know anyone I was studying with. It was hard.

Academy Xi online training was completely different. I made so many new connections and I felt a sense of community that I didn’t with university training. The class sizes were small, so we actually got to know each other – it was way more engaging.

My first project group included all Sydney based students, so we met up in person a few times both for our project work and socially – we still keep in contact now that we’ve finished our course. I genuinely feel that I made good friends from the experience. 

At the end of the course we had an online party – we played pictionary together, it was really fun, a great group of people. So despite the lockdown I had a community and really valued the social connection. 

Did you benefit from additional mentorship during your training?

Yes, (my mentor) Anna Paramita – she’s a UX Designer from Melbourne working for Suncorp and is totally amazing. It was very beneficial to have someone already working in the industry who was there to support and encourage me while training. We could really relate to each other’s experiences. I’m quite introverted so making connections isn’t my thing, but I challenged myself during this course to step up and reach out to people, which was new for me but I understand the importance of it. 

Anna recommended some books to read and was generally so supportive – it was a great experience with her, amazing advice. We are keeping in touch and I’m hoping to reconnect with her after the lock down. 

Anna is part of Xi’s Designer-in-Residence program. Read more about the program and how it benefits both Mentors and students.

Career Support 

I am now in the Career Support program where I’ve received guidance on my resume, which is now being shared around the industry contacts by Xi. I’m actively looking for a UX job now and have applied for a couple of positions. I’m open to working freelance, but would like to land an in-house role to start with.  

Ideally I would like to work in a large corporate organisation to begin with, because that way I will be more likely to get to work with a senior UX designer and learn from them on the job, but any UX experience to begin with will be great.

Would you recommend studying UX UI Design with Xi?

Yes, absolutely. Funnily enough, just after I finished my course, I posted on my LinkedIn profile my digital badge that we all received and someone I’m not even connected to randomly messaged me on LinkedIn and asked how I found the experience as they were thinking of studying it too. I would 100% recommend studying UX UI Design Transform at Academy Xi. 

We can’t wait to hear all about the next stage of your journey, Oshi! 

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Keen to study UX UI Design? Whether you’re just starting out your career, want to study part-time, we have several flexible training options. Learn more here

Academy Xi Blog

The 300m Button

By Academy Xi

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The Art of the Microcopy

A UX friend of ours reminded us of the case of the $300 million button, prompting us to think about CTA (call-to-action) buttons (if we don’t think about that enough already). As one of the main elements in bridging that gap between decision-making and a purchasing decision, a science has grown around how a call-to-action button should be designed, displayed, and perhaps most importantly, labeled. More specifically, microcopy. Often times designers have relied on proven messaging, but the best way to optimise is understanding your customer’s behaviour.

f you are familiar with Jared Spool’s User Interface Engineering, you will probably remember the usability study he did on Amazon. As an e-commerce site, the website designers made the assumption that users returning to the website would remember their login or account details whereas new users will comply with registering for a new account for checkouts. UIE found Amazon’s original prompt to “register” deterred new users from using the site, and returning users experienced problems remembering their login details – with 45% of those users having created multiple registrations. Users only wanted to complete purchases and not sign up for a membership.

As a solution, UIE used the word “continue” in place of the “register” button. A new message was also added to inform users that registration was optional and helpful for returning users rather than a requirement to check out. This change accounted for a 45% increase in sales in the first month and $300 million in sales in the first year.

The microcopy of a call-to-action button has more implications on the bottom line as that is what instructs your users’ psyche and actions, and can break down barriers to their access. When we think about bad websites, understanding your customer’s purchasing journey and the psychology of your buyer can unveil critical elements to unblocking that sale or purchase. There is no standardised call-to-action button.

What does your call-to-action button say? What methods have you tried and what microcopy have you applied?

Passionate about UX/UI? Learn more about how to start your UX career with us here.

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