Why a Finance Student Paused His Degree to Study UX

By BrainStation December 10, 2018

Jerico Lumanlan is a Boston-based college student and graduate of BrainStation’s User Experience Design Diploma program. Looking to pursue a career in technology, Jerico decided to take a one-year break from his Finance degree to supplement his learning and gain industry-relevant design skills. We chatted with Jerico about his experience at BrainStation, and how it’s helped him land a position at Spotify.

UX Design student

BrainStation: Can you tell us about your education and career background?

Jerico: Currently, I’m a third-year college student, studying finance at Northeastern University’s D’Amore McKim School of Business in Boston. Although I’m still in college, I’ve had the opportunity to do a handful of internships.  My internships include Sales at Aflac in San Diego, Accounting at Brown Brothers Harriman in Boston, Operations and UX at WorkOf in Brooklyn, and two boutique creative agencies (one in New York and one in Boston). This coming January I’ll be working at Spotify as a product design intern.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your role as a Product Design Intern will entail?

I’ll be joining Spotify’s User Engagement Group as a product design intern. In a nutshell, my role and responsibilities will be to help the team create a more engaging listening experience through personalization and discovery for listeners. I’ll be working on a handful of design projects across the entire product lifecycle, focusing on user research and user testing. During my time there, I’ll be working alongside the business, strategy, and engineering teams to come up with solutions to design challenges and create prototypes for those solutions.

What was your motivation to take full-time UX Design at BrainStation?

I’ve always been very interested and passionate about new and upcoming technology, and how technology affects business performance. Currently, we are seeing more and more of Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality, Blockchain, and Artificial Intelligence at the forefront of technology. I want to be able to understand what that means for users, and their experience is critical to this understanding.

After my second year of college, I really wanted the experience of working at a tech startup. As a result, I decided to take a year off and focus on building my experience by working towards landing a job at a startup. At that time, I didn’t have any skills that would make me a competitive candidate for a position at a technology company. I thought that BrainStation’s full-time UX Design program would give me that competitive advantage in my journey.

What were some of the most valuable skills you gained during your User Experience Design program? Why were these skills important to your professional development?

Generally speaking, all the skills that were taught in BrainStation’s User Experience Design program are valuable for a career in UX/UI Design. The top three skills that I consider most valuable are:

1) Communication and presentation skills. In all of my UX Design positions, I was asked to present my prototypes and my rationales for my design decisions. Product Managers, Creative Directors, and C-suite executives want to hear your thought process and it’s necessary to be able to do so clearly and effectively. During the bootcamp, we regularly presented our designs in front of the class, allowing us to practice explaining our rationale. 

2) The ability to identify and dissect the problem space. As part of the capstone project for the UX Design program, you’re required to solve a problem space of your choice. Being able to identify and dissect a problem space is the primary role of a designer. Not only must you know how to identify a problem, but know if this is the appropriate problem to tackle and if it will have benefits that your company needs, or at a larger scale, that society needs.

3) Understanding how the design solution will affect other departments. As a UX/UI Designer, your role is to work cross-functionally, collaborating with engineers, data scientists, and business people. It’s in the Designer’s best interest to know how to communicate with each one of these disciplines and to understand what their objectives are. One thing that an engineer always keeps in mind is: Is the design solution feasible? For business people: will our design solution drive sales and what does it mean for our return on investment?

How would you describe your learning experience at BrainStation?

I genuinely enjoyed it. I loved how most of the learning was hands-on and how the educators had industry experience with the material we were learning so that they were able to speak to it from real-life experience. I also liked how my cohort was diverse in background, career discipline, and age. Since I was the youngest in the cohort, I really had to step up and be able to learn and work at their intellectual level and capabilities.

How have you used the skills you learned at BrainStation in your UX Design roles?

I use it all the time. In all three companies I’ve worked at for UX/UI roles, I was taking on projects that required the knowledge I was taught at BrainStation. Of course, there are times where I had to adjust my design process to satisfy the operations of the company, but my approach has always been about design thinking, always putting the users at the center of my design process.

Do you feel that BrainStation’s UX Design program prepared you for the workforce? How so?

Absolutely, the exercises that we did, the Capstone project, interview practice, and presentations definitely helped me to do well in my professional career. Nothing I’ve done in my professional development has been outside of the knowledge and material that was taught in BrainStation’s full-time program.

Looking to pursue a career in UX? Check out BrainStation’s full-time UX Design Diploma program.