Designing a New Web Dev Career: How One Student Melded Design and Coding for Her Dream Job

For five years, Lauren Lapoint worked alongside designers and developers—only ever scratching the surface of these fields.

As a digital marketer, Lauren implemented content strategies into her clients’ websites, watching from the side as other teams designed and built the end-products. She wanted in, but she didn’t know how to get there.

“I was feeling really stagnant in my career. There wasn’t any growth in my position. I was just plain bored,” she said. “I wanted more in life. I needed that fire.”

The flame was ignited with the help of The Coding Boot Camp at UNC Charlotte. Now Lauren sits at the juncture of both design and development.

Which path to take?

Watching both designers and developers work, Lauren was intrigued. But which path was the right fit?

She decided to start with coding. “I started to take a couple free online trainings and tutorials, but I found it challenging to follow along and stay motivated. I thrive in a classroom setting—it’s where I learn the best,” said Lauren.

So she started to look for university programs. “My main goal was to figure out if this is a path I want to go down and do long-term. I really wanted to dive in. I felt it was now or never,” she said. When she found the boot camp at UNC Charlotte, Lauren decided to sign up.

Finding her confidence

When Lauren walked into the room, she was pleasantly surprised. “There were people from all walks of life, which was really cool to see. It made me feel more validated that I was there. The common denominator was that everyone wanted change. There was a lot of camaraderie there,” she said.

At first, Lauren was concerned she would be left behind. Completely new to coding, she felt a lot of pressure to learn—and learn fast. “I felt more motivated than I had in my entire life to do well. I put a lot of time and money into it, so I was serious about learning,” Lauren said. “I practiced a lot. All classes were recorded, and I would watch each class at least once or twice. That way, I could go at my own pace.”

Lauren quickly realized that she was not the only one who felt lost; her classmates experienced the feeling, too. It was a humbling equalizer, and she didn’t let it deter her. “I would raise my hand and just say, ‘I have no idea what you said.’ There was no judgment, and I never felt scared to ask a question,” she said.

She also relied on her tutor to help her through lessons each week—digging into every concept to make sure things stuck. Pretty soon, Lauren started to find success.

“My confidence levels raised so much the more that I practiced—just like with everything in life,” said Lauren. “I even started teaching my classmates!”

Homing in on soft skills

Dynamics shifted when it came time for group projects. “In the group projects, you always have situations where people’s skill levels aren’t the same,” Lauren said. “But the point of the projects is to improve everyone’s skills. The issue was that some people wouldn’t speak up if they had issues or to communicate what they were doing.”

Coming from a marketing background, Lauren was already a star communicator, which made her a natural leader. Soon she was able to find a good flow of work and a sense of collaboration: “I ended up making some really great friends from my group—a lot of long-term friendships!”

With her interest in design, Lauren gravitated naturally toward front-end development. “I would always design the wireframes, while my team would build the back end,” she said. “That’s what it’s like working with a team in real life. You divvy up work.”

The most important thing, Lauren found, was to stay relaxed.

“You have to be able to keep your calm, and you also have to realize that you don’t have to stress, we’re not in open heart surgery. If things are deleted, they can come back. If something is broken, you can fix it,” she said.

A marriage of passions

Now, Lauren spends her days as a UX designer at Ally Financial—a job that perfectly marries both her skill sets.

“I’m technically in a design role, but it’s really helping me to have these coding skills. It gives me a level of respect and credibility with the developers I work with,” she said.

The opposite is true, too. “It also really improves my ability to hone my design eye,” said Lauren. “Sometimes designers ask for big things but don’t understand that it’s not doable. I can come up with better suggestions, knowing what is possible and what’s not.”

And the best part of her new job? “I’m definitely not bored anymore!” Lauren said. “There’s always something new going on and something new to learn. I think that’s great.”

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