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Big Nerd Ranch Kickstarted My Career… Here’s How

Sarah Shapiro

Before I started working at Big Nerd Ranch, I worked as a UX Designer at the largest digital design agency in the world. I traveled 90% of the time, never went into the office and knew none of my co-workers. I lived out of my suitcase and spent so much time away from home that hotels sent me Christmas cards. I traveled to a different city nearly every day, juggling five to ten clients at a time. My work was monotonous, and I was accustomed to working alone with little collaboration from other designers. My design freedoms were very constricted, leaving little room for imagination and creative freedom. My development team was offshore, and I constantly struggled with time differences and language barriers. The quality of my designs suffered. Every day I asked myself, “Are you the designer you want to be?” Every day, the answer to my question was “no.” I knew it was time to make a tectonic career change.

When I began looking for jobs, I had three goals. First, I wanted to know the names of everyone I worked with. Second, I wanted to wake up every morning excited to go to work. Third, I wanted to have a work-life balance. And when I interviewed with Big Nerd Ranch, I knew I was home. The team was the real differentiator for me. The Nerds at Big Nerd Ranch are made up of instructors, authors and prodigies. They are passionate about what they do, whether that’s programming in Swift, designing an app icon, running a marathon, winning an Emmy, creating art or brewing beer.

It’s been nearly a year now since that interview, and I’m still as happy as ever that I received the job offer. I love the work we do at Big Nerd Ranch because it makes a difference in people’s lives every day. When I use the Roadie app to transport a package from Atlanta to my family in North Carolina, I am proud because I know we made that app. When I turn on my Apple TV, I see apps that we’ve worked on. I am proud because I know that our work matters. The breadth and depth of the work we do in-house keeps my nerdy brain satiated—I am constantly learning about unique industry verticals, various groups of users and new techniques for designing cutting-edge UI.

At Big Nerd Ranch, we take pride in our approach to development. We work in teams that focus exclusively on one project at a time. There is very little project juggling, and this allows me to give my complete and undivided attention to my client. As a small team, we are autonomous and have very little internal hierarchy, which allows us to work efficiently. We also understand that problem-solving doesn’t always happen at your desk or around a meeting table. It can happen in the shower, on a run or in a coffee shop. Our ability to solve problems for our clients can take on many shapes and forms and occur in many different environments. Creativity requires flexibility of mind and flexibility of workspace. There is never any pressure to be physically in the office, which means that we have the opportunity to be the best we can be, no matter where we are.

I have worked at Big Nerd Ranch for nearly a year now, and I love it. I know my colleagues. I wake up every morning excited to go to work. I have the work-life balance I’ve always wanted. And now when I ask myself if I’m the designer I want to be, my answer is always a resounding yes.

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