One word that could be used to describe Kassandra Uehling is “capable.” With multiple burdens on her and seemingly no way to lift the financial ones, it would have been easy to give up and accept things as they are. Instead, she refused to let this be the way her story would continue to play out — she enrolled in Ironhack, a coding bootcamp, and now has a fulfilling and lucrative career that she’s passionate about as a UX designer. What was her experience like ahead of, during, and following her program?
Before attending Ironhack, Kassandra was living with fifteen other women in a sober home in Florida.
“Legally I was considered homeless,” she said. “I had just moved from Iowa to Florida to get sober about 3 months prior to applying for Ironhack. Prior to my move I was deep in substance addiction and was technically homeless, just staying at a man’s house that I met on a dating app. My life was a complete and total wreck.”
And working as a restaurant hostess with an $8/hour wage, financial struggles added additional weight: “I had zero clue how I was ever going to save money to get my own place. I could barely pay my bills, let alone create a financial cushion. With a 9th grade education backed by a GED I saw no way out of my financial hole.” Nevertheless, she managed to find herself a path out.
While chatting with a friend about the financial stress she was constantly under, and how she believed her lack of a traditional education would keep her from making a livable wage, he told her about his nephew attending a coding bootcamp. After doing research on her own, she realized that a career in tech could be a viable option for her, and almost immediately she came across Ironhack. Figuring that she “didn’t have much to lose,” Kassandra applied.
Once she was accepted, though, the problem of her financial stress once again came to the forefront, as she now had to figure out how to pay for the program.
This is where Climb came in. We had been recommended to her, and after checking out our legitimacy, she submitted an application. “I remember thinking ‘How is this real? It seems so simple and clear,’” she said. “I didn’t feel like I was being tricked into some messy loan with unadvertised hidden determinants. The site felt trustworthy, as did the actual human employees I communicated with during the process. I was also very pleased about the various loan options. The cost of living loan saved my butt too during the full time bootcamp at Ironhack.” And how would she describe the process overall? “Simple. Easy. Clear. Quick. Painless. Trustworthy. Communicative — any question I had was answered directly and quickly.”
With the financial hurdle cleared, Kassandra could now focus on learning UX design.
Ultimately, though, she found that she learned even more than just technical skills. “I learned to be kind to myself and others. I have a tendency to be extremely critical with myself (and, at times, others). I learned that even when I think I can’t do something, I can still get it done. I seriously lacked confidence when I started Ironhack. Although it is still something I continue to work on, my confidence has increased substantially during and since the bootcamp. I ended up winning the final project contest for my process pitch for ‘Groove App.’ My hard work at Ironhack provided me with evidence that I am much more capable than what I give myself credit for.”
Doing pretty much “nothing but school, homework, sleep, eat, and participate in [the] recovery program that [she’s] a part of,” Kassandra would describe the experience as “tough and incredibly rewarding.” There were two experiences that stood out in particular, though.
For the first, UX students got a chance to work for a week in collaboration with the web dev class: “I gained a large amount of information on their process and how long and difficult some changes in design could be for them.” The second was the final project presentation with the web dev and UX class: “seeing everyones growth, designs, and functioning websites was so neat. Bootcamp students work their butts off, and I was very grateful to be able to celebrate everyone’s hard work with them.”
By the end of her program, she was ready to start on her new career path.
“I was truly blessed when it came to securing my first job in UX,” she said. She got an interview with one of Ironhack’s hiring partners, EX3 Labs, and after a month-long interview process, she was hired as a contract employee and has been with them now for nearly a year. In this role, she’s had a chance to work on mobile and web page designs, do qualitative and quantitative user testing, and be involved in design thinking workshops for a multitude of clients. According to Kassandra, “working for an experience design and innovation firm has given me the opportunity to work on a vast array of projects and gain crucial skills for the growth of my career.”
“Duality is an odd and powerful thing,” Kassandra said, reflecting on her life now as compared to before her time in the coding bootcamp. “I just celebrated 18 months clean and sober on October 9th. I have enough money to pay all of my bills and have funds left over to do things I enjoy. When I started Ironhack I was in a very fragile state in every area of my life. UX design has provided me with a professional sense of purpose and stable income that gives me the opportunity to do whatever and be whoever I want in this life.”
And if she could go back to that time before Ironhack, what would she say to her former self? “I would tell myself to trust the process, know that you will get through the tough times, and to prepare for the beauty that lies ahead.”
Kassandra is a client of Climb’s. However, she was not paid or otherwise compensated for this testimonial. This testimonial reflects the real-life experiences and opinions of Kassandra; however, it should not be assumed that all users will have the same experiences. Individual results may vary.
The quoted statements appear verbatim as given by the user, except for the correction of grammar and typing errors. Some testimonials may have been shortened or rearranged for the sake of clarity.