Michelle Child: Two years after graduating from The Iron Yard

Michelle graduated from The Iron Yard nearly two years ago. When we last checked in with her, she had just accepted a job in Columbia, S.C. and was ready to start her career as a web designer. Michelle had previously taught English in a small town in France, so she was familiar with the immersive educational model and was excited to jump into a completely new career. Today, she’s a professional designer working for a software company.

We recently showed Michelle her video interview from 2014, and asked her to reflect on her journey since graduating. 

My first thought is WHY didn’t anyone tell me to fix that insane thing my hair was doing?! Oh wow. I needed sleep, haha.

What do you know now that you didn’t know then about starting a career as a web designer?
One of the first things I learned is that there’s no clear-cut job description for a ‘web designer’. One job may expect you to be a FED with design skills, while the other may not require any coding at all. One of the first projects I worked on after the Iron Yard was a simple digital marketing campaign- a few emails, digital ads and a landing page. I asked my boss who was writing the copy (content first!), and he said “We don’t have a write assigned to this team yet, so we are.” Writing copy is not my forté, guys. But I did it. And I’ve done it since. I’ve come to really appreciate that ambiguity in the term “web designer” – you can choose to specialize in what you love, or go broad and do a little of everything.

What happened after you graduated? What has your career path been so far?
After I graduated, I got pretty lucky. A FED student that had graduated about six weeks before me landed a job at a big insurance company down in Columbia, about an hour and a half from me. They had a new design position come up, and she mentioned my name. I went down, interviewed, and landed the position as a mostly remote employee (I went in 1 day/week). That was huge for me, because I’m not one for big corporations or cubicles, but I knew I might have to do that for my first job. So this was the best of both worlds. Being able to work remotely has been one of my favorite parts of this career. If you’re self-motivated and creative, I highly recommend it.

I worked at that job for nearly two years, and recently started at a smaller software company, where I’ve been for about two months (also remote, this time 100%). I got this job through a connection at my old job, and I’m really loving it so far. In my first job I designed several small marketing campaigns, but didn’t get my hands on much UX work or code. Here, it’s a much smaller team (two of us so far), so I’ve really gotten to concentrate on UX and will eventually do more front-end work. This is also the first time this company has ever had designers – so we’re getting to do everything from scratch, which is a lot of fun.

What’s the most important thing you remember about your experience with The Iron Yard?
Getting to see something you did from start to finish was extremely gratifying to me. It was the best way to learn, and allowed me to see where I excel and where the pain points were. But I think the most important thing I’ve found, which I’m still realizing today, is if you work hard and make a solid reputation for yourself, that will go so far. Keeping in contact with likeminded people (and continuing to grow) is how I found my last two jobs, and I can only hope it’s how I will continue to advance my career.

What advice do you have for those interested in trying a code bootcamp?
My advice is to go all in. Do some research to see if you like working with code, sure, but once you’re pretty sure, just go for it. You’ll learn so much in such a short amount of time, and open up so many opportunities for yourself!

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