Jameson Zaballos earned his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at UW-Madison in 2017 and returned to earn a certificate in User Experience Design (UX) at the iSchool in 2019. Zaballos is currently working as an AI Software Engineer at Dell, as well as volunteers with Code2College as a mentor for students interested in tech fields. Here’s what he had to say about the certificate program.
What made you decide to pursue a UX certificate at the iSchool?
It’s an insane bargain between the coursework and the network, and it’s a great curriculum that covers sort of the “full stack” of design. I heard great things about the program from a few alumni, and it was really a no-brainer. Plus, it seemed to place a large emphasis on fitting into a busy schedule, and many of my classmates were juggling careers, families, and side projects all at the same time.
How has your certificate from the iSchool fit in with your CS degree?
It augments it excellently. The degree, save for a class or two, stopped short of teaching how to interact with, learn from, and celebrate the customer. This degree is that missing piece – showing the link between the technology and how to ensure customers love it.
How has remote work amidst the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your job?
The certificate kind of prepared me for it, as with remote work I’ve had to focus on documentation, explaining in writing, and communication – a few things the courses stress as important. It’s been a fairly smooth transition, working in tech, but I do miss the free snacks at the office.
What is your advice for current or future students interested in user experience design?
Learn how to ask great, thoughtful, and empathetic questions – this will serve you well not just in the software you build, but in the way you learn from your customers and teammates. It’s a valuable skill that you can flex as you grow your UX skill set. You’re likely never going to be designing the next great thing alone in a studio. You’ll be doing it with customers in a coffee shop, or with your colleague late at the office. Asking great questions, and really listening to the responses, will go a long way.
How has your career and education influenced your volunteer work?
It has shown me the immense equality and diversity gap we still see in technology. We still have a long way to go, even though anyone can learn. I didn’t need a $1000 MacBook to achieve what I achieved with the UX Certificate. The advantage of technology is that it’s so easily scalable, and the low barrier-to-entry (just needing something as simple as a raspberry pi to get started) should mean people of all backgrounds can make it in the field. This isn’t yet the case. It’s an incredibly empowering field, and yet it often doesn’t reach traditionally marginalized students. Through my volunteering, I’ve been trying to close that gap.
Learn more about the User Experience Design Certificate.