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“My creative side was lying dormant. A UX/UI Product Design bootcamp reawakened it.”

How Jacqueline Hanel transformed her career from psychologist to UX designer.
Jacqueline Hanel
Andrea Tallarita
Andrea Tallarita

Jacqueline Hanel knew that something wasn’t right with her. The year was 2020, and she was working a very reasonable 30 hours per week – yet she came to the end of every day feeling like a wrung mop, emotionally low and completely drained of all energy. She was beginning to develop symptoms of physical malaise as well, bouts of formless pain that wouldn’t go away.

“At the time, I was working on a program that offered therapeutical assistance to traumatised and homeless women,” she says, looking back. “It was my first professional assignment after I graduated in Psychology. Of course it was rewarding in many ways, but it was also rough and thankless work. It took a really heavy toll on me.”

Jacqueline Hanel

In 2021, Jacqueline decided to take a break. She quit her job, and moved to Mexico for a year. She wanted time to recharge her batteries, but also for some self-reflection.

“I remembered that alongside Psychology, I’d once also considered studying Fashion Management. I’d always loved fashion, because it is so expressive and creative. I asked myself, where has my creativity gone? What happened to that part of me?

It was through this soul-searching process that Jacqueline, browsing online for educational programs in the creative disciplines, happened upon the world of UX design. It looked incredibly interesting to her – it had an artistic element, bright prospects, and good salaries – but it was also new and very different. 

On one bright sunny day at the beach of Tulum, far removed from the travails of her old work, she wondered whether she could reinvent her career one more time. Her then boyfriend (and now husband) Nico saw no reason why not.

Jacqueline Hanel

“I was voicing plenty of doubts,” Jacqueline remembers, “and what Nico said was that knowing psychology would give me an edge in design, as I would be able to understand user needs and what makes people click. Even at that early stage, I could see that he had a point.”

When Jacqueline returned to Germany, she tried a two-pronged approach. On one hand, she applied for jobs related to psychology. On the other, she simultaneously researched tech bootcamps and applied for government funding to attend one.

When the former path only returned bad offers, and the latter granted her full financial sponsorship for a 15-week bootcamp in UX/UI Product Design, she took it as a sign.

“I had already spent so much time in schools and universities, I needed something quicker now,” says Jacqueline. “I did a lot of research, and tech bootcamps – with their accelerated learning programs – seemed like the way forward. WBS CODING SCHOOL had the best curriculum I could find, as well as loads of strong recommendations. I made up my mind, and started my bootcamp in February 2023.”

Bootcamps are notoriously intensive learning experiences, yet things came relatively smooth to Jacqueline. “I’ve always loved learning, and UX/UI Product Design was just really interesting. I loved being part of a group with my classmates, and above all I liked the project-based work we were doing. It really felt like doing real-life work in an office.”

Jacqueline Hanel

When the 15 weeks of the bootcamp were over, it was time to look for jobs. Here Jacqueline has a few regrets. “I started working on my portfolio too late, even though all my instructors recommended not to leave it for the last minute. In the end I finished the bootcamp in mid-May, but only started applying for jobs one month later, because I needed time to prepare.”

In July 2023, one of the companies Jacqueline had applied for called her in for an interview. The prospective position was that of Junior UX Designer in Hamburg. Things went well at the interview, but in the 2 weeks that followed, she heard nothing.

“I sent them an email asking if they had made a decision,” says Jacqueline. “Then, more days of silence. I assumed they had rejected me, but out of nowhere I got a phone call from the company boss. He asked me how the interview went, and I said it was good. Then he asked if I’d like to work with them – I played it cool and said a composed yes, but I could have screamed, I was so happy!”

Now Jacqueline is working as a Junior UX Designer for a software development company, and she does not regret having discovered her creative talents relatively late.

“I think what people don’t always appreciate,” she says at the end of our interview, “is that there are many ways to be creative. It’s not just about ‘drawing stuff’. I chose UX design because I believe the key to the future is in tech, but there are myriad avenues to pursue your creativity. I’d say just give it a try.”

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