With the growing costs of traditional education programs, launching a new career can feel a lot like a chicken or egg dilemma. Unfortunately, when it comes to education, not everyone has the financial flexibility to make a large down payment, commit to a repayment plan, or invest in their future.
This was the case for Sharif York. With a background in 3D animation, he knew that he wanted to pursue a career through General Assembly’s User Experience Design Immersive (UXDI) bootcamp, but his financial situation prevented him from taking that critical next step. Sharif’s life changed when he discovered our income share agreement (ISA) program, Catalyst. Catalyst gives full-time students the space to focus more on class — not payments — by allowing them to pay their tuition after they secure a job. With the financial stress out of the way, Sharif was able to land a product designer role at AT&T in 2019 — less than a month after graduating and all without a loan or upfront payments.
What were you doing before you came to GA? What prompted you to make a career change?
Before GA, I was pursuing a career in 3D animation, but that industry requires you to move to specific regions. I was also freelancing as an animator and web designer. After learning more about user experience (UX), user interface (UI), and product design, I realized the money was great, you can work across so many different industries because they all need an improved product (regardless if it’s digital or tangible), and it has plenty of growth opportunities. One Christmas, I asked for four giant UX and interaction design text books. — let’s just say my entire summer was spent studying those books.
Why did you choose GA over other programs?
I discovered GA early on while researching user experience. During the first year studying UX, I never took the bootcamp, but two or so years later I decided to take the leap. I saw other programs, but GA stood out to me due to its Atlanta location at Ponce City Market, regular free events, and other opportunities that helped get out of my comfort zone. Inspiring colleagues of mine had also taken the course and landed jobs soon after.
How did Catalyst help in your decision to enroll at GA? What made you choose it over the other financing options we offer?
The Catalyst program allowed me to take the course without having to pay anything out of pocket during the class. This definitely helped in my situation because it would have been hard to balance a full-time job and GA. Catalyst offered a way to take the course and make the payments in the future, which was ideal.
Describe your experience with the Outcomes program at GA. What was the job search like? How long did it take for you to get a job?
The Outcomes Team is the best. But it will only work if you want it to work. If you take your homework seriously, push yourself to apply to jobs, and work on personal branding, it will pay off. I can’t tell people enough, if you don’t take Outcomes seriously enough, your experience will be much tougher. It took me less than a month to get a job. I went full speed ahead on LinkedIn after the course, met up with industry professionals for coffee or a Zoom, and reached out to people who work at specific companies to discuss their roles. This all helped me land a job less than a month after the course.
What are your biggest takeaways from the program? How did the skills you learned at GA help you with your current role?
The collaboration skills I learned from Outcomes, in-class work, and group work are the biggest things that helped me in my current position. Regardless if you’re a UX designer or a developer, you need to be engaged with the projects and your team. On the job, there’s nobody who will hold your hand while you’re working on complex products and problems: sometimes it can take months to figure out a role. If you can’t be a part of a team and collaborate with others, it will be very hard moving forward. I say that as a person who used to take a long time to open up.
Since graduating, how has GA impacted your career?
I got a job at AT&T, and I met incredible people who are now a part of my network. I also made some close friends who helped me get out of my shell and realize the importance of new connections.
Do you have any advice for students who are hesitant to take that leap and switch careers?
Your educational or professional background isn’t the key to landing a new job. For instance, I saw a lawyer come to GA and get a UX job right away. Rather, experience is everything, and companies are finally realizing that. Gain that experience at GA while you’re working on your projects. Embrace the help of your classmates and instructor. If you put in the work both in class and during the job hunt, success will come. And if you have a goal of switching into a better career, just do it. If you hesitate and think about it too long, the opportunity will come and go. Never give up!!!