Mike Jackson is a graduate of the Viridian Cohort. Prior to joining DESIGNATION he worked as a senior project manager for Fuze.
Tell us about your job and company.
I’m a senior UX designer at BlueMetal, an interactive design and technology consulting firm. We provide technology transformations for large enterprise clients across various industries. Our clients seek changes in their technology infrastructure in significant business areas. They come to us for our expertise in strategy and the implementation of innovative and custom technology solutions.
I’m on the Strategy and Design team in Chicago; we have five designers, two front-end developers, and a creative director. Our team has doubled over the course of eight months!
What did you do professionally before you started at DESIGNATION? And why did you decide to attend?
I was a senior project manager for a unified communications software company called Fuze in Chicago. And I was a technology consultant at Accenture, in their Health and Public Service practice.
A good friend/former co-worker with a similar consultant background raved about her new experience as a UX designer and how instrumental DESIGNATION was in her career transition. As a consultant, I had learned the concept of designing user interfaces, but I didn’t understand the full spectrum of UX design. I was excited to learn from her about DESIGNATION’s extensive design curriculum.
How do you describe your DESIGNATION experience?
DESIGNATION proved to be one of the most challenging but growth-heavy periods of my life. I learned a great deal about both the design process and myself in a short period of time. Once I hit the ground running with Design Essentials, it felt great to take my career and life by the handle again.
I’ve also always favored practical learning over theoretical learning. DESIGNATION offered me a good balance and a lesser financial burden option when considering masters programs in design or HCI.
What made your DESIGNATION experience unique?
The people at DESIGNATION were a large contributor to my successful experience. My cohort had folks from all over the world. It was inspiring to see people leave their home states and countries for 12+ weeks. I always had someone in my cohort or the staff to provide design feedback or simply lend an ear for life issues. With so many hours required with the program, it was always great to see the DESIGNATION staff just as committed to our success.
1871 was an amazing space to work in. Being part of a startup incubator was great for networking and attending industry events. It was a nice reminder about life and my purpose as I moved toward graduation.
Last but not least, Slack! Slack provides hundreds of DESIGNATION alumni and designers the ability to stay connected at any time. Whenever I needed design help or career advice, the DESIGNATION community was willing to help.
What did you find was the most useful skill, tool, or experience from your time in the program?
Having six weeks of real client experience was a crucial piece for me. This part of the program still contributes much to my everyday duties at work. I felt it validated us as real designers since we combined our design approach, facilitation skills, and presentation skills for clients. That was very important when I explained my design process in job interviews.
Being exposed to so many different ideas, methodologies, and perspectives shaped the way I approach my job and my organization.
How did DESIGNATION help prepare you for your job?
Although I had experience with designing user interfaces, I never operated in full capacity as a designer. DESIGNATION helped transform me to think and operate as a designer. I now understand the formal design process and I’m comfortable with not being right the first time around. Reiteration is crucial to becoming a successful designer.
What advice can you give to someone trying to start in the design industry?
Always network when the opportunity presents itself. The design industry is growing, and the more folks you know, the easier it is to land opportunities. Staying informed of design trends can help foster more relationships with design professionals. And remember that your personal experiences before DESIGNATION always help people become stronger designers.