Alumni Spotlight: Sabrina's Approach to Job Hunting
Hear from a COLAB3 alumni who recently landed her first product design role!
This week, we bring you the story of a delightful individual who was a part of the COLAB3 (previously Winter 2021) cohort. We’ll talk about imposter syndrome and how Co.Lab helped boost her confidence and elevate her skills as a designer.
The job-hunting journey is what you make of it. And Sabrina Hall says to make the entire process a conversation, not a transactional process. There were times at the start when she questioned her decision to pursue product design, even her place in the entire tech industry! But through many learnings and persistence, she is now flourishing in her role as a Junior Product Designer at Skiptown.
“You have to remind yourself that interviews are just conversations. As much as companies are trying to see if you’re a good fit, you also have to see if they’re a good fit for your lifestyle too. You have to be intentional with the companies that you’re applying to.”
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Okay, that seemed like a rather smooth journey. It ends with a happy ending after all! But not without its trials and tribulations.
All those LinkedIn posts about hundreds of applications sent and hearing nothing back? Sabrina went through something similar. Of all the 400 or so resumes submitted, she’d only gotten about four interviews.
1% success rate.
Imagine the discouragement and lack of motivation, especially for Sabrina who, save for the design boot-camp she was attending, didn’t have prior experience and relevant background in design.
“For the longest time, I felt that was something that counted against me because I didn’t have that large resume of design work. It’s a common sentiment that maybe your skillset is not as great as those who went through graphic design school. There were moments where I thought…maybe I should just leave tech altogether. Maybe I’m just not good enough.”
And even when you successfully land interviews, that’s only half the battle!
As with many of our previously-featured Co.Laborators, Sabrina soon recognized one thing recruiters focused on and that she was missing: experience working with developers and product managers.
That’s where Co.Lab came in.
Level Two: Getting That Experience
“Co.Lab was that missing piece that I needed. With the design boot-camp, it taught me foundational knowledge and I got to do portfolio pieces. But I was just working by myself, as the sole designer on the projects.
Co.Lab gave me the experience where I got to work with a developer and a PM, working with people outside my industry, from different countries! It was great just to see how I can work with different people as a designer.”
Oftentimes, developers, designers, and product managers work in siloed workflows and things can easily get lost in translation. Clear communication to have everyone on the same page is a skill prized by companies and really, it’s something one can improve on through practical experience. Read about what other common things recruiters look into in our past article.
When Sabrina went through her first interview with Skiptown, she couldn’t speak much to their question of working with developers. By the time her second interview came around however, she had fully finished the Co.Lab programming and was armed with bountiful experience to talk to.
“Designing for a developer was a different experience for me. When I was in bootcamp, I could get as creative as I wanted for my portfolio project. But when you’re working with a developer, you have to think about how hard this would be for them to implement.
And when working with the PM, you have to think about whether this is on-target with what our users need. Is it solving their need? Is it beneficial for the company? You have to make sure that you’re hitting all these points. It definitely helped me as a designer to focus on the necessities of a product.”
The Co.Lab program also helped boost her confidence as a designer. In just five weeks, on top of all the other commitments they had like school and day-jobs, Sabrina and her teammates were able to come together and build a product for a real problem.
“It made me see that there’s so much I can do. I left with a lot more confidence. I realized that this [her non-traditional background] was what made me different from a lot of designers. This could be my strength—maybe I understood tech in a different way than how traditional designers viewed it and I could play to that advantage.
This was my motivating factor. This was what’s going to set me apart.”
With a fresh, positive perspective where she turned gaps into opportunities, Sabrina brought this newfound confidence (and team experience) into the rest of her job-hunting process.
“After Co.Lab, that’s when I started to view interviews less as transactional and more of a conversation with the recruiters. If they like me, they like me. If they don’t, then keep pushing! Understanding that I have some power in that way made the interview process a little bit more enjoyable and easier.”
(Psst—interested to see what Sabrina’s team cooked up? Check out their pitch on Connectr, a platform for high-school students to connect with college students and find out more information about post-secondary education in the digital world)
Thriving at Skiptown
You can say the rest is history when it came to Sabrina’s interview process with Skiptown. Her energy, confidence as a designer, and passion for their product aligned well and today, she’s loving it there!
As with many start-ups, her role consists of not only traditional UX design responsibilities but things she’s never done before. Lately, Sabrina has been working with a local artist to design a mural in their company’s facilities. (might we be able to see that someday, Sabrina? 👀)
And she was able to take a big piece of her experience and learnings from Co.Lab to the role, putting emphasis on clear and consistent communication with the team.
“It’s important to stay organized with your team and stay in contact with each other. You don’t need to meet every day, but even a quick message is good. Just staying in constant communication is really important.”
Once again, a huge congratulations to Sabrina for landing her first product design role! It’s always empowering to see our previous Co.Laborators advance towards their career goals, whether that progress is small or big.
The community is growing each day as more individuals join in upcoming cohorts (we’re already in Week 3 for COLAB5 😱). And we’re amped to share more success stories and learnings along the way so stay tuned for more!
Interested in signing up for COLAB6? Don’t miss the opportunity to get hands-on experience working in a product team: https://www.joincolab.io/#Program-Tracks