The University of Me

Alex reed
4 min readSep 8, 2020
Different methods for continued education
A different type of degree.

I just finished another Udemy course. The topic was on color schemes for digital products. In the past month, I have taken six courses. I loved all of them. It all began when I decided that I am on a self-led journey of growth. What I can’t learn directly in school, I will learn on my own. This is the new ‘street-smart’ for the 21st century. My new alma-mater of me.

My first adventure into learning a new field was with Flatiron school’s UX immersive bootcamp. It was an in-person, hands on, team-oriented, professional experience. I got exactly what I wanted at the time. Which was everything I needed to know about digital design to land a role in the UX industry. I naively thought that would be sufficient to start out. Now I know better. That program was only the beginning, a mastery of the basics. Continued growth is the key to propel me forward in my chosen industry.

For the past few months, I have been searching for any sources of learning I can to improve my skills; Books, online courses, friend’s recommendations and recreating stuff I see online. Awhile back, not sure when, I realized that UX as a whole can be such a nebulous field that there is not one way to learn and not a defined amount of knowledge to attain. Everything is so competitive that your growth had better be continual, broad and organic if you want to succeed.

I stopped trying to go it on my own and look elsewhere for inspiration and knowledge. Everything worthwhile in life costs time or money or both. It was time to be the leader of my growth.

I am creating my own learning curriculum out a lot of nothing. I gather info from any place that I have an experience with. All the usual sources apply here: Udemy, Linkedin, books, it’s all relevant. Getting advice and resources from those who have ‘been there, done that’ are my favorite. It’s like learning by word of mouth. There is a lot of value in listening to the experiences of others. It reminds me of the old business advise to surround yourself with people smarter than you. Avoid the pitfalls and mistakes you would normally make by watching and learning from the pros. Kind of like an internship.

Just because a $100 online course doesn’t carry as much cred as a Harvard degree, doesn’t mean there is not value. I am still jealous of those who went to Harvard, but I am still confident in how I am earning my success. Knowledge can come from anywhere. ‘Good Will Hunting’ is a good movie that refers to the non-standard methods of education. This can also be inferred as the educational version of an agile sprint. I take in some knowledge on a specific topic, apply it towards something (ie practice) then reflect on the skills I have acquired or improved. I still think traditional educational systems are great and would not change them, but seeing how this year has gone and knowing we will still face more challenges in 2021, why not try to self-learn? Nothing to lose and so much to gain. Just the little bit I have picked up from various sources has already improved my skills. Someone asked me awhile ago what I am doing to improve myself. Well, this is it, watch, listen, learn, apply move on to the next topic.

Right now, I have four more courses on deck to tackle next. Topics cover diverse topics like typography, target audience marketing, SEO, UI Design and an MBA course. I am trying to take a broad approach and learn about many subjects and then see how they can be beneficial to each other. One benefit might be using to implant SEO keywords into design elements of a product. Other business topics can cast an umbrella over many smaller topics that are key knowledgeable areas for designers, marketers, CEOs, analysts, salesforce and others. It is the same approach as an agile team combining multi-disciplinary fields to achieve success.

Now this may not be a novel idea about learning. There are so many universities and organizations that offer one shot courses on targeted topics. After all, that is what the bootcamp I attended was. The novelty for me is that I realized that is just the beginning. I can’t take one class and call it a day. I need to learn and think about that will impact my future career. To control my future, I need to manage myself now. I jump on topics that sound interesting and might have prevalence in my work or might be trending and worth keeping an eye on.

It may seem like I am unfocused, but I don’t think I need mastery over all topics in my field. At least not yet. People with senior roles in organizations obviously have an inside-out knowledge in their particular field. I don’t need that. Starting out I need to be aware of and have some practice in a broad set of topics. I could certainly pick a major area of interest and probably will as I know what types of roles I prefer. The important thing now is to be able to apply different disciplines to a problem. In ten years I will probably have an ironclad method that I apply to everything. Today I have ideas to test out.

By the time I am done I just might complete Udemy’s entire course library and spoke with a professional in every industry. The rest of my plan is to stay busy, improve my skills and learn where I see the opportunity. Isn’t that what a good experience designer should be doing anyway?

The University of Me is a small school, but its impact is huge. Who will enroll with me this fall?