Long gone are the days when designers were able to focus exclusively on printed pieces. In today’s job market, designers are expected to be able to create collateral for websites, social media, video, and so much more. Furthermore, companies are looking for multi-faceted designers, often with coding experience, allowing them to make optimized (and beautiful) websites. As a teacher, it can be hard to truly prepare your students for success in a job market where so many skills are required.
Sydney Berry, Texas-raised South Dakota State University student, knows that to succeed in her career, she’ll need more than just a beautiful portfolio, or a couple lines on a resume. Learn how Sydney has used her Adobe Certified Associate certification to help her enter the world of UI/UX design.
Certiport: Sydney, we’re so glad you made time in your busy schedule to chat with us.
Sydney: I’m glad we found time to connect. It’s been tough, since I’ve been out of the country for study abroad, but I’m so excited to share my story.
Certiport: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself.
Sydney: Sure! I’m originally from Edinburg, Texas, but I moved out of state for college. I’m a junior at South Dakota State University, studying computer science with a minor in graphic design. Being in a new state has been awesome, because I love to explore and travel to new places! I just finished a study abroad in Thailand last fall.
Certiport: That’s amazing! It sounds like SDSU is opening lots of opportunities for you. Are you also working while you’re in school?
Certiport: Two big internships before your junior year. How did you get so ahead of the curve?
Sydney: Well, I attended a high school with a strong Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, which meant that I was able to have at least one technology-related class each year. For several of the technology courses I took, the curriculum was built around the content of the certifications, and then earning the actual certification often served as a portion of our final exam. I was really lucky to have access to courses like this because not only did it help me find a passion for technology, but it also helped me gain new skills and be able to consistently work towards different certifications.
Certiport: What certifications have you earned?
Sydney: When it comes to design, I have certifications in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Flash. Additionally, I also have certifications in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, and my IC3 Digital Literacy certification.
Certiport: And do you feel like your certifications have helped you land your internships?
Sydney: I would say they definitely played a role. One of the big benefits of certification is that it provides a credible validation of your skills. I can say on my resume that I designed posters for a club I was in, but that does not speak much for my actual skill. You won’t always have the opportunity to present a portfolio, or maybe you are just getting started and do not have one yet; by getting certifications, you have an accomplishment that proves you are familiar with the software and shows that you have advanced skills.
Certiport: Do you feel like having specific graphic design skills helped you when looking for a job in computer science?
Sydney: When looking for internships related to software engineering, graphic design knowledge isn’t a requirement; there are plenty of roles that won’t ever touch visual design like that. However, there are also countless opportunities where programming and design do interact, such as with UI/UX or front-end development. In my experience in looking for software engineering internships, job requirements do not usually specify that graphic design experience is needed. However, I feel like as I have gone into different computer science opportunities, certifications have been good leverage to demonstrate my interests in roles specifically related to visual-design. My ACA certifications further validate my experience. Overall, having Adobe Certified Associate on my resume has allowed me to voice my interests to further pursue design in such a wide field, like technology.
Certiport: Very true. Having a national credential is a great way to demonstrate your knowledge and interests. Do you feel like having that on your resume has opened new opportunities outside of your internships?
Sydney: Just being invited to compete at the ACA U.S. National Championship is an opportunity that I am grateful to have had. Even though I couldn’t compete, I’m glad I pushed myself to enter.
In all honesty, it’s the skills that I practiced and developed leading up to becoming certified during high school that have opened a lot of doors for me. During my junior year, I was able to use those skills to win second place at the 2016 National Technology Student Association Conference for a graphic design competition, and then take third place the following year at the same national conference for a web development event where I did frontend design for my team.
During my freshman year of college, I won a design competition at my university where I designed different materials in 15-minute rounds against graphic design students. Those skills and experiences have really paid off. Especially as a computer science student, they have given me the ability to continuously show my design experience, which I can leverage as I seek roles to combine design with my engineering degree. I’ve also learned how to become a better communicator by having to express a message visually, and that has helped me learn how to express my ideas and communicate with others on projects.
Certiport: It sounds like certification has pushed you to new areas you hadn’t considered before, like switching from graphic design to computer science.
Sydney: Right! Going into college, I was a graphic design major and had hoped to become a web designer. Once I switched to computer science, I wanted to go into frontend web development, where my design skills could be used. While I am still interested in web development, I think I have come to realize that what I really love about design is the way it makes something like a web interface usable and intuitive, versus the actual appearance. Now, I am more interested in the bigger picture of the relationship between design and technology. Once I graduate, I am not totally certain what I’ll end up doing – I definitely want to do software engineering for a while, especially with web development, since I do love programming. However, I think in the long-run, I want to focus on the way technology, design, and users affect each other and focus on helping create and develop new technologies with people in mind.
Certiport: Speaking of having others in mind, what type of advice would you give to other students who may be just starting down this path?
Sydney: Keep an open mind! There is more to design than just graphic design. Don't hesitate to explore the different ways you can use design, and do not be afraid to combine that interest with other fields or topics that you are passionate about. Turn to your teachers for help! I earned my certifications through my high school and by being involved with its chapter of the Technology Student Association, and I never would’ve gotten this far without my teachers’ support. A special thanks to Vickie Roge and Alejandro Garcia for providing me the opportunities and encouragement to pursue design.
Interested in empowering your students to succeed in UI/UX design? Learn more about ACA certifications at www.certiport.com/aca.