Metis NYC Product Design Bootcamp: Acquire Skills, Build a Career

Designers have become a hot commodity, partly because the world of startups has recently acknowledged their importance, and partly because big companies are copying the practices of other successful companies. Either way, many are now in need of creative people with diverse experiences. Specifically, those with an affinity to product design and a curiosity for front-end development.

In the words of the late Steve Jobs,

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

Contract work, designer-in-residencies, and internships, are all ways of building up your “experience bank” which, in turn, helps you discover better solutions to problems. But what if you haven’t been out there long enough? What if your breadth of work is still pretty narrow?

Meet Metis NYC Bootcamp

Consider the UX and Front-End Development Bootcamp offered by Metis in New York City and taught by former Dropbox Product Designer, Allison House.

House teamed up with thoughbot designer Tyson Gach and Bootcamp educator Metis to create a 9-week project-based curriculum that includes in-person instruction, ongoing career coaching and job placement support. Application deadline is September 2nd, seats are limited and class sizes are small. Industry readers will get 5% off the total cost (mention The Industry in your application)!

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What about your experience and background makes you ideal to teach this course?  

A whole lot of stuff! While I seem to have my hand in a lot of things lately, my background is in product design and education.

Most recently, I was a product designer at Dropbox, where I worked on growth, onboarding, and Dropbox for Business. I was also an early employee and the lead designer at Treehouse and Codecademy. (Not at the same time!) Most people don’t know this, but I also taught introductory Computer Science courses for three years before entering the design world.

When I’m working with students, I feel an endless kind of energy. There are few things I enjoy more than helping people find their path and knock it out of the park. It’s something I try to do through writing and speaking, but the classroom fosters a sense of intimacy and collaboration that can’t be replicated from the stage. I love it.

Walk us through a typical week in this program.

Sure! We run from Monday to Friday, 9-6 pm. During the first half of the bootcamp, we’ll be doing 1-2 hours of lecture every day (except Friday) and use the remaining time for exercises and projects. I might describe our approach as “portfolio-driven”—every week, we build a small project that students can use to expand their portfolio.

Fridays are “investment” days. We partnered with Thoughtbot to build this course (my co-instructor, Tyson Gach, is a product designer there) and the concept comes straight out of their Playbook. There’s no lecture on Friday—it’s all about catching up, giving your brain a rest, and reviewing what you’ve learned. We believe in a balanced and sustainable approach to work and bring that to our learning environment as well.

During the latter half of the bootcamp, our focus is on two extensive projects.

The first one is a team project, which I’m really excited about. It’s a collaborative effort between our students and another Metis bootcamp for Ruby on Rails. When you’re new to designing software, it can take awhile to understand how to collaborate in that context. How do you communicate ideas? How do you share code? This is an opportunity for students to partner up with developers-in-training and see how that relationship works.

The second big project is a passion project, where students build a digital product from scratch using all the skills they learned during the course.

Services like Codecademy and Treehouse claim to be great sources for going from no knowledge to “job-ready.” What is Metis’ advantage over them?

Well, Codecademy and Treehouse are both exceptional resources for learning technical skills. If you’re highly motivated and just want to learn to code, either of those products may be an excellent fit for you!

To me, the benefits of going through a highly focused in-person bootcamp are context, critique, and mentorship. You can’t get that stuff at home.

We cover technical skills—Git, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript—but pair those with lessons in interaction design and product design. We help students understand the role of design in software development and how they’ll collaborate with developers on the job. We’re really trying to bridge that gap between having skills and actually putting them to use.

Our students spend most of their time making things and solving design problems. The hands-on experience is great, but then they kick it to us and get feedback from industry experts. I think that’s really valuable. In my experience, critique is one of the fastest ways to level up your design thinking—especially if your critic knows their stuff!

We also offer career coaching, job placement, and have a talent placement manager who works one-on-one with students to help them meet their professional goals.

What skills will every participant will leave with?

Basically, everyone walks out that door knowing how to design and prototype a digital product from scratch. That’s supported by technical skills (HTML, CSS, JavaScript), interaction design skills, and experience collaborating directly with software developers.

Who is an ideal candidate for the program? How do they apply?

We look for students who are curious, compassionate, and excellent communicators. There’s no coding skill required, but applicants should demonstrate a knowledge of visual design fundamentals.

Here’s the application for the UX & Front-End Development Bootcamp! We offer a $2,000 scholarship to women, underrepresented minority groups, and veterans.

Industry readers will get 5% off the total cost (mention The Industry in your application)!

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