Three things UX bootcamps MUST teach

February 6, 2022

Two years ago, I completed my full time UX design diploma at BrainStation, Toronto. Having worked with UX designers in my previous roles, my goal was to gain a deeper understanding of the design process so that I can collaborate with designers more effectively.  I really enjoyed the experience and met some great people, while learning UX.

BrainStation delivered on my learning objectives, and I am happy with the return on my investment. After the course I’ve mostly worked as a Product Strategist. I’ve not done much design work myself, but actively collaborated with UX designers from around the world. Looking back, I wish that the course incorporated these topics: 

  1. Jobs to be Done
  2. Running with Design Systems
  3. Product and Technology Adoption life cycle

I do understand that these courses are targeted at beginners, and the course length of three months could be a constraint. However, I feel these are important concepts and should be included even if it means adding an extra week to the course.

JTBD framework: I had no idea about ‘The Jobs Theory’ a couple of years ago, but now it is part of all my projects. In the course there was a lot of emphasis on identifying the user needs and creating ‘user persona’ but not The Jobs Theory. ‘Jobs to be done’ (JTBD) framework is increasingly being used by leading design and innovation teams around the world. And it isn’t hard to understand why. 

"We define a "job" as the progress that a person is trying to make in a particular circumstance".

Clayton M. Christensen and co-authors
From the book Competing Against Luck

Let’s do a quick breakdown of Personas and JTBD. Personas help understand the ‘who’ but JTBD uncovers the ‘why’; why is the user ‘hiring’ your product? While personas are mostly about the user’s needs and goals, JTBD is more contextual. The job includes social and emotional dimensions along with the core function, and they are important for shipping human-centred design work. 

Persona is a character in the film,
While JTBD is a short film.

Another reason for my JTBD advocacy would be - it is more aligned with mindsets like ‘outcome and not output’ and ‘progress* not products/features’. These are important mindset shifts, and while I understand three months won’t be enough to achieve this but taking the first (right) step counts. 

*Progress represents the movement toward a goal or aspiration. 

Sometimes designers can get attached to a particular feature in the product. In such situations, JBTD helps align everyone on the team. The user isn’t ‘hiring’  the product for features, but for ‘progress’ he/she is trying to make. I didn’t want to, but let me include the super-cliche quote here:

"People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want to buy a quarter-inch hole".

Harvard business professor Theodore Levitt

Running with Design Systems:

‘Design systems’ are part of all design courses, as far as I know. The focus though, is on understanding the elements of design systems, creating a very basic design system (style guide actually) and maybe a brief overview of atomic design. This is good, but not very useful in my opinion. 

I believe it is unlikely that most students will be creating design systems right off the bat. They’ll be working with existing design systems and updating them in most cases. Therefore, identifying a good design system, working on it and updating it would have been a better idea than theoretically understanding what a design system is. 

There are such well documented and thorough design systems available online for purchase, and some even for free! When it comes to my personal design work, I use the ‘Cabana Design System’ and love it. But I wasted a lot of time discovering it, and most of it could have been avoided. Also, I learned working with design system from this course.

Product and Technology Adoption life cycle:

Basic understanding of Product Life Cycle and The Technology Adoption Life Cycle is crucial for any designer. Mostly, designers are so deep in the atoms and molecules of design, it is hard for them to see the 10,000 feet view.

According to the Technology Adoption Life Cycle (also known as Innovation Adoption Lifecycle), there are five segments of adopters - innovators, early adopters, the early majority, the late majority and laggards. Each segment represents a distinct psychographic profile, which could be important consideration in the design process. 

Don Norman talks about this here and in his book, The Invisible Computer: 

"In the early days of a technology, buyers want more and more technology. They will overlook instability, difficulty in use, inelegant appearance. At the late stages, as the works above point out, the customer set changes radically. Now consumers want efficiency, pleasure, and convenience. This requires a very different form of product development than can be used in the early stages of a technology."

To design successful products it would be helpful to understand where these segments fit into the Product Life Cycle. Product Life Cycle refers to the various stages in the life of the product - Introduction, Maturity, Growth and Decline.

Perspective is worth 80 I.Q. points.

Jeff Bezos

Last I checked all of the above three were missing from the current curriculum of UX bootcamps.


While the above three are essentials, the two additions below are ‘opportunities’ for the UX design institutes. Could not leave my marketer hat away for long 🙂 

Career not Job: This is a bit of a pet-peeve, and I do realize that most students are attending the bootcamps for jobs. But sharing the self-employed approach to building a design career, and mapping the student with various career possibilities in design will be amazing. 

This gap is currently being filled by various ‘UX career mentors’ who help you become job ready after the bootcamp. Though I mostly stumbled my way into Product Strategy, I’d like to thank ___ and ___ . They’ve been so generous with their time and continue to support me with my UX pursuits. 

Advanced UX Design Courses: I had experience working with UX designers (and Art Directors) before I enrolled in the bootcamp. Though I did benefit from being back in the classroom, most of the information wasn’t new to me. I believe there is a case advanced UX design bootcamps. It could also make business sense because: 

a)     The world is full of self-taught UX designers, and many of them seek advanced courses but can’t find them or look for them. This is 'non-consumption' and could be an opportunity for innovation**. 

b)    It will help differentiate and establish the authority of the institute providing the advanced UX design. UX design courses are now available dime a dozen, but ‘Advanced UX Design’ could be the Blue Ocean. 

**Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is a great case study. In 2012, SNHU was named one of the most innovative organizations in the world—ahead of LinkedIn, Starbucks, and the National Football League by the Fast Company magazine. 

This was because a decade ago, SNHU realized the opportunity in non-consumption for it’s online courses. The average age of students looking for a continuing education program was 30 years. These students were juggling work and family, while studying online. Most people at that stage of life would rather ignore their higher education, and that’s the opportunity SNHU leadership saw. And they made Online and Continuing Education (COCE) their focus, and the rest is history.

Coming back to design bootcamps, I feel they’ve successfully filled a gap in the market. They’ve shipped employable talent to the tech-world and enabled career pivots for motivated individuals. However, the space has become competitive and I’ll be curious to see how the industry leaders continue to stay nimble, differentiate and innovate. 

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