Digital Skills Academy
Designers Learning to Code: Mick Kelly Graduate Experience

Designers Learning to Code: Mick Kelly Graduate Experience

Michael Kelly is a graduate of our BSc Honours Degree in Digital Technology, Design and Innovation and is based in Ireland. 

Why did you decide to do the degree?

I’m a designer, and I always wanted to learn more about coding. Primarily I wanted to do the course to improve what I could offer to employers. From my take on the market, designers who understood coding were in demand.

What skills did you learn on the programme?

I learned to love learning. I was in shock at the end; I wanted to keep going with it. Thinking back the course was tough, challenging and at times frustrating. There were many late nights with the project work. Google and Stack Overflow were great resources to help me. When you’re new to coding, they’re your best friends.

It was very beneficial in terms of my career. Being able to code can even be applied to many areas in digital marketing; marketing automation comes to mind. The logic required for coding is very useful for campaigns.

I am now a hybrid designer/developer. Yes, I can make things pretty, but I can get under the hood too - no beads of sweat here at the mention of JavaScript, MVC or Angular JS.

A few years ago I would be called a “unicorn”, which is not where it’s at! These days, I’m a generalist.

What Industry Partner project did you work on?

We worked with a cosmetics company based in Australia. I was the developer; implementing the design, scoping the tech and ecommerce requirements for the website.

What did you learn from working on the Industry Partner Project?

It was interesting from an entrepreneurial insights point of view. When you have deep understanding of an industry or market, you can outsource product development to create a viable digital business.

I loved the digital innovation part of the course. Give me more. Business processes, market insights, how to scale and build products - this is the bit that I enjoyed, and found enlightening.

Did it open your mind to future initiatives too?

Yes, you realise vocational skills only get you so far. If it is your dream, you learn how the digital product you design and build can scale. You learn to embrace business. Which is good when you want to make a big difference in people’s lives with a product or service.

Yes, it gave me some good insights for future ideas. You learn good vocational skills on the course, but the business development aspect is what could really make the big change in your life.

What organisation do you work for now and what is your role?

I work for Red Man Media as Head of Experience Design and Digital Technology Architect. My days can be quite different - one day it’ll be the concept, User Experience, User Interface Design. The next it’s marketing automation or frontend engineering.

How are you using the skills you learned in your current career?

I thought the business innovation part of the course was the best part of it. It was very good for opening your mind and understanding what can make a project succeed or fail.

What benefits have you gained from working in a cross-functional team?

It has to be that a solid team is the key to success. I understand why the VC mantra is back the team, not the idea. You need a high level of communication and commitment from everyone. Get the human side right and you’ll get a great product.

What are the advantages of studying in a flexible online and part-time programme?

Pros and cons of course. The tools to work online really bring people together. When I look back at our Slack chats, the tech cohort really communicate well. I would have thought designers / pms would be more active but it’s not the case. The developers really used Slack to communicate and problem solve. We gelled well together as a stream.

The biggest thing I learned is that it’s fine to ask for tech help at 3 in the morning. Somebody will be watching Netflix, see the message and point you in the right direction.

What do you think is the most important thing Digital Skills Academy teaches?

The business innovation side of course is very interesting, useful, and thought provoking. In general, the course makes you see the industry and innovation in a brighter light. You get consistent exposure to different thinking, different technologies and different ideas.

It is addictive. I now go to a broad range of design, tech and business meetup events to continue my learning. May has been busy. I don’t think I’ve cooked an evening meal so far.