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My name is Kate Icely. I live on Harbord Street and I work at a tech start up called Hijinks as the UX and Communications Lead. Not two months ago I was working as an editorial assistant at Penguin Random House Canada, helping bring such books into the world as Yann Martel’s The High Mountains of Portugal and Deborah Campbell’s stunning account of living as a journalist in Syria before war ripped the country apart, A Disappearance in Damascus. (That last one is coming out in September 2016. Look for it in bookstores; it will change your life.)
I started the part time User Experience Design course at BrainStation in March 2016. While I loved the work I was doing as an editorial assistant bringing stories into the world, I was starting to realize that stories are everywhere—not just between the covers of a book. Stories permeate our lives, affect our everyday decisions, and determine how we structure and conceive of our existence. I’m referring here to the stories of the media landscape that surrounds us, stories that are communicated through rock solid copy and a stellar user experience.
The User Experience Design course was absolutely amazing. We met on Wednesday nights for ten weeks. In those ten weeks, I was introduced to the user experience designer’s essential toolkit: user experience maps, user research and testing, user personas, sketching, wire framing, prototyping, and iterative design. Everything we learned was tied to our final project: a fully clickable lo-fi prototype paired with a compelling pitch to the instructors.
The course moved quickly; every week we were learning something new and applying those learnings to our final projects. There was a lot of support though, either through the materials being posted on the online forum or through the instructors themselves. Whenever I felt like I was getting left behind I just sent a message to Vadim, the instructor, or Mandy, the TA, and one would always be available to meet up with me and answer questions.
One of the best things I found about the UX course is that the instructors are industry professionals. So when I was asking for help, I was getting the same feedback as would someone working in today’s UX industry. This helped me to feel confident in the knowledge I was gaining, confident that it would help me land somewhere once the course was done.
There was work outside of class—unavoidable when you are only meeting for three hours a week for ten weeks—but it was work I enjoyed doing. It was working on my sketches or updating my wireframes. It was meeting up with friends to run them through user testing again, finding out if I finally solved one usability issue or another. The work was rewarding because I could see what I was learning coming to life through my project (check out some examples of my project below).
And I did land a position after completing the course! I’ve now been working at Hijinks for just over a month and I use my learnings from the User Experience Design course on a daily basis. We’ve just finished our first round of user testing and are working towards triaging the usability issues we discovered. We’re making some really exciting changes to the site to better support the user and it’s incredible to see those changes happening in real time.
I enjoyed my time at BrainStation immensely, and I recommend the school to friends regularly. For me, the best thing about BrainStation—aside from the high quality of the courses it offers—is that it is a welcoming and innovative space for creative professionals. Through the speaker series, the weekend events, and the regularly rotating extracurriculars like the Sunday Sweat Series, BrainStation became a place for me to go to feel inspired—and to feel like anything was possible. Most importantly, BrainStation gave me the space and the support I needed to explore the story I was most frightened to tackle—my own. BrainStation gave me a chance to reimagine what I was capable of.
Now at Hijinks, I’m getting to tell a story I’m really passionate about every day, and that’s the story of taking chances. It’s easy to get complacent—but what if it was just as easy to get out, try new things, and spend more time with the people who matter to you most? That’s a story that really resonates with me today. Check us out! Your next adventure starts with Hijinks.