Julia Graves Worked in Hospitality for 10 Years—Here’s How She’s Pivoting to UX/UI Design

Sometimes, changing the direction of your life takes no more than a split-second decision. In Julia Graves’ case, enrolling in the University of Washington Coding Boot Camp came as something of a surprise.

“I’ve always had an aptitude for technology but never what I’d call an interest,” said Julia, who had been working in hospitality for 10 years when she made the snap decision to enroll. “I have always been into art and design though—creating is a cathartic process for me.” 

While Julia had previously looked into different boot camp offerings, she’d never seriously considered signing up. But when the UW program came on her radar, she had an immediate feeling that this was it. 

“As soon as I stumbled upon this coding boot camp, I knew I had to enroll,” Julia said. “It was financially feasible, and what better way to get a crash course in technology? I was working two jobs so it was a crazy idea, but I thought if this was something I wanted to do, I should just dive in headfirst.” 

Here’s what happened when Julia took the plunge—and transformed her life in an instant. 

Starting with a clean slate

Since boot camp was entirely new to her, Julia didn’t want any preconceived notions to color her experience. 

“I felt like if I went into boot camp with particular ideas, it wouldn’t set me up for success,” she said. “And in the working world, you’re handed things and you have no idea what you’re getting into, so this was perfect preparation.”

From the start, the pace moved quickly. Luckily, this meant that Julia quickly got a sense of what direction she wanted to take after boot camp, helping her stay motivated and focused. 

“When we reached UX/UI design, I knew this was it,” she said. Designing the user interface and shaping the user experience spoke to Julia’s lifelong passion for art—in a way that could translate into a full-time career. 

Using sacrifices to fuel successes

Julia knew that, on top of the difficulty of the material, being in school while working full-time would pose its own challenges. 

“With the program structure, you get what you put into it,” she said. “You learn what you want to.” 

Julia took full advantage of that mindset to learn everything she could. She also found an incredible network through the TAs and instructors that helped her power through tough material. 

“The sacrifice you make for the program is enormous, but when things are hard, having a great support team helped tremendously,” Julia said. “Everyone was really invested in my success. Instead of spoon-feeding me the lessons, they’d get me started and let me do the work to figure it out.”

Planning for the future

The relationships Julia has forged with classmates have made working on projects incredibly rewarding. She’s not only made close friends but has also gained valuable experience navigating relationships in the workplace. 

“My teammates and I work like we’re running a business, constantly refining our product,” she said. “Though we’re all pursuing different career aspects of coding, we see ourselves working to build software long after the course is over.” 

The group has so far created two projects together: a goods-and-services delivery app, and a chatting app that they plan to introduce at an upcoming UW Coding Demo Day

“Our final project has gone above and beyond,” Julia said. “I’m even teaching myself a new design software, something that I’d never be able to figure out without the foundation from boot camp.” 

As Julia wraps her boot camp session with a well-rounded portfolio, she’s already planning to take more courses in UX/UI design to set herself up for the career search. As for the split-second decision she made? Julia hasn’t regretted it for a moment—and encourages others to follow her lead. 

“No matter how intimidated you are or how long something takes to grasp,” she said, “if you put in the work, it will come to you.” 

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