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All Success Stories

Student Profile

Jessica Bianchi

VP, Product at Kernls Inc.

Course Taken

UX Design

Course Type

UX Design Course

Key Skills Learned

  • User Research
  • Sketching and Wireframing
  • Prototyping
View Course Details
Jessica Bianchi

Interview

Where are you currently working and what is it that you do there?

I am working at a New York-based startup called Kernls as the VP of Product. We provide donors with the opportunity to fund medical research directly.

As the VP of Product, what does a typical day look like for you?

I was the first hire – employee number one – and there are now five of us. The interesting backstory to this is that this company was founded in COVID and that I've never met any of my colleagues, never met the Founder, and yet I spend more time with him than some of my closest friends. So it is an interesting and a bit of a bizarre sounding story.

A lot of what I'm doing is trying to structure and lay the tracks before the rest of the team reaches a certain point. You’re catching us at an interesting time because we recently had our official launch and we spent the last several months building up to this.

Now that it's launched and we have additional members on the team, I'll be focusing on achieving product market fit for some of our key personas. So really, I am helping the team define what experiments they want to run, what new features they want to add and test, and define the structure of that process, leading them through the entire product development process.

Can you tell us about your education background and your career trajectory?

I did my undergraduate degree in journalism and professional writing because I had ambitions to work for Rolling Stone magazine, but that quickly crumbled as I graduated and I moved into public relations and corporate communications. I started off at a lifestyle PR agency and eventually kind of transitioned into working client-side for Tangerine Bank. I was on the marketing team and focused on public relations and corporate communications. I eventually moved over to the social media team because when I thought about my career, I knew there was always something missing from what I was doing, but I wasn't quite sure what it was. I was dissatisfied, being in a role where I had to speak to the media, who then translated my story outwardly. I wanted to get closer to the end user. So I thought social media was the way to go, but after feeling around that role a bit, I didn't find it to be completely satisfying.

I noticed a new team was emerging, a Customer Experience Design team. I never knew what that was before. I started getting exposure to the startup world and it was through this that I decided to take part in the first BrainStation UX Design Certificate Course. This must have been in 2015 or so.

After finishing the UX Design course, I ended up landing a role at a startup as a Marketing Manager focused on communications. I took it because I thought that maybe I'd get closer to working in product if I just got my foot in the door at a startup, but it didn't really work out that way.

I eventually landed a role as a Manager of UX Design. I was hesitant to accept the role at first, but it turned out to be the most fascinating learning experience for me in my career. We ended up building the team from 10 to more than 30 people, and I had the opportunity to work on a number of different products.

From there, my role evolved from UX Manager to Product Lead, which meant that I was managing Product Designers. I had a Developer on my team, and it was kind of like acting like a Product Manager, but I didn't quite have that title yet.

At this point I had already taken BrainStation’s Web Development course and was able to facilitate conversations with Developers. I had also taken the Search Engine Marketing course, and I had laid the groundwork for the SEO work I did.

This knowledge gave me the confidence to believe I could expand my role further. My goal was to become a Product Manager and my first step was to learn everything I thought I would need.

So, I took the Product Management course at BrainStation, and then went to do some traditional education – an MBA in London – before then taking the BrainStation Data Analytics course.

Why did you choose to study at BrainStation and what were the courses that you took?

All the courses I’ve taken have been part-time certificate courses. I started with UX Design and Web Development on campus, and then I took Search Engine Marketing and Product Management Online. I still keep in touch with our fantastic PM instructor actually. I had a video call with them while I was doing my MBA and wanted to get more product experience.

I was able to chat directly with leaders in the industry because of these courses. The latest course I took was that Data Analytics course. I really enjoyed the way the online courses were structured, just being able to walk from my living room to the desk and have it fit into my life at the time, I really appreciated that as well.

You can read a ton of different articles on your own, but having a structured classroom, where you have other people you can talk to and bounce ideas off of alongside an Instructor that guides you – you are applying your learnings and that makes you build that confidence. You also have something to show for it in the end as well.

You can read a ton of different articles on your own, but having a structured classroom, where you have other people you can talk to and bounce ideas off of alongside an Instructor that guides you – you are applying your learnings and that makes you build that confidence. You also have something to show for it in the end as well.

What motivated you to start digital skills training originally?

I don't have anyone in my family who's really in that world. I didn't have anyone that I could learn from or anyone who really set an example for me. Once I got exposed to what was happening in the tech world, I started reading different blogs and just figuring out what was going on in that space.

I realized I wanted to work in the technology industry but that there was a gap in my skill set, especially given my undergraduate degree in journalism and having come from the PR and communications world. I knew where I wanted to go and I knew that I needed to learn quite a bit to get there.

My consumption of different digital skills courses was really essential to help me close that gap between my traditional education, the work experience I had at that point and where I wanted to go. On-the-job training is definitely complementary to that, and I knew I needed that, but I think that digital skills training really helped me learn the language in a way that I can even just talk with confidence to potential recruiters or understand what I'm looking for in a job description. It provided me with the language to kind of know what I want and where to go from there, to go full out there and get it.

What would you say has been the highlight of your learning experiences at BrainStation?

There's two highlights that come to mind. Seeing how passionate an Instructor is at what they're teaching and their engagement in the class is a really amazing highlight – even outside the classroom. It’s really nice that they’ll take an hour out of their day to continue to explain a concept to you to further reinforce the ideas covered in class.

And then the other is the pride of learning a new language. Not having had any sort of technical background in that kind of stuff and being able to execute a query from a relational database was a very cool thing. And I haven't used that yet, but I have noticed that some of the softer skills that I learned in the class have actually already come in handy without me even knowing it. Even just the way that we're approaching data at Kernls. Some of that has to do with the foundational learning that I learned in the Data Analytics course.

Seeing how passionate an Instructor is at what they're teaching and their engagement in the class is a really amazing highlight – even outside the classroom. It’s really nice that they’ll take an hour out of their day to continue to explain a concept to you to further reinforce the ideas covered in class.

How would you say your BrainStation experiences have impacted your career?

It's definitely put me in a position to be employee number one at a company and also put me in a position where I can lay the foundation for other people. I think that being well rounded is an asset in an emerging company and one where I have the opportunity to roll my sleeves up and help them build.

What advice would you give to professionals that may be considering a BrainStation course or program?

If you're going to make the decision to take a course, take it seriously, be engaged, and get as much out of it as you possibly can. It can be hard to take a part-time course after it’s been a long day of work, but you might not even realize how much that learning is going to pop up in the middle of a busy day during a task. It's super important to always keep learning and evolving in order to continue to be relevant. Take it seriously, but also enjoy the ride.

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