My Journey with Black Valley, by Benita Nwagwu
Like many people in this industry I am a career switcher. My background is a far cry from what the tech industry is now and I had never heard of the role ‘UX Designer’ up until about 2019.
Whilst still working as a Buyer’s Administrator at Asos, I came across a thread on Twitter about how to get into UX design. I had never heard of this field before and was for some reason intrigued by it. After reading through the thread, I binge watched countless YouTube videos about UX from ‘a day in the life of a UX Designer’ to ‘what makes a good designer’ . The list of videos in my history tab is extensive. After months of YouTube videos and various attempts to teach myself UX via online courses, I decided to commit fully and enrolled myself onto a bootcamp. My bootcamp gave me a great foundation, especially as someone with no previous design background.
Although I left a 3 month intensive bootcamp with a wealth of knowledge, resources and skills, I still felt that I needed more dedicated guidance and support. That’s when someone from my network sent the link to an application form for the Black Valley Mentorship programme. I applied the same day and a few days later I was in the first cohort. Becoming a mentee in Black Valley was exactly the kind of support I needed in order to feel confident enough in my skills so that I can then put myself forward for jobs and freelance projects. As amazing as the overall experience was, these are my main highlights:
1.) My Mentor
During the application form I was asked some questions about what I was looking for in a mentor and when I met my mentor, Alana, I Instantly knew why I was matched with her. Her open and enthusiastic energy immediately put me at ease, she was also a career switcher which made her journey all the more inspiring. At that point I was building my UX portfolio so I shared that in our first session, her advice and excitement for the work I had done so far and the next steps that I needed to take was motivating. I had come across some freelance projects whilst in the programme, she guided through each client and gave advice around how to approach certain projects. Through her guidance, I was able to complete my portfolio to a high standard and snag my first UX role at ‘AND Digital’. Thank you Alana!
2.) Live Project
One of the things that drew me to the Black Valley was the opportunity to work on a real client project towards the end of the program. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to exercise my skills and further build my portfolio. I worked with 3 other UX designers and we individually conducted research, some ideation and wireframes. Eventually, my designs were chosen to move forward into high-fidelity. As a team of designers, we worked together to produce end-to-end designs of an app for a dance company. We got the opportunity to present our work and to build relationships with the client, which are skills I have now taken into my current role. Additionally, working with other UX designers allowed me to learn a lot and to consider other creative solutions for design problems. After turning this experience into a case study, this became the star project in my portfolio.
Alongside these highlights there were so many available workshops and opportunities for growth and collaboration. Furthermore, the Black Valley community lives beyond your mentorship and your mentor doesn’t just stop mentoring you. You end up finding mentorship in your peers too. Since completing the mentorship programme at Black Valley, I have landed my first UX role and 7 months into my role I managed to bag a promotion. Everyday I am so glad I took the leap and transitioned into tech, it opened up a whole new world for me and most importantly, a whole new community.