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Designers in our day and age need to upskill and learn to code!

“When designing interfaces, sooner or later you come into contact with coding, or at least with the question of whether it's necessary for designers to code themselves. There are plenty of tools out there to help designers create design prototypes, but when it comes to detailed interactions, at some point someone has to write code. Why not do it yourself?”

Designers in our day and age need to upskill and learn to code!
Featuring graduate Deborah Sillmann More about Deborah
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Hey, I'm Debbie. I have a background in Product & UX Design. I studied Product Design at the University of the Arts in Berlin and Interface Design at the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam. 

Over the past few years I've had the chance to gain experience in future industries such as circular economy and smart packaging, autonomous driving with a focus on pod-to-human interactions and inclusive design, and the intersection of design and therapeutic treatment. I enjoy the process of understanding user needs and am dedicated to finding the right solutions that are both responsible and desirable. Aside from design and learning to code, I have a passion for cheese, weightlifting, Martin Suter books, and snapping photos of useless things to feed my trashy Instagram.

I've been interested in coding for some time now. When designing interfaces for tangible or digital products, sooner or later you come into contact with coding, or at least with the question of whether it's necessary for designers to code themselves. There are plenty of tools out there to help designers create design prototypes, but when it comes to detailed interactions, at some point someone has to write code. Why not do it yourself?

Since I guess styling my Myspace page at 13 doesn't count, I first got into programming when I learned Arduino to prototype some behaviours for a few tangible prototypes for my BA thesis. During my Masters, I took some beginners courses on HTML, CSS, and a bit of JavaScript and Python. But I never had the time to dig deeper and go beyond scratching the surface, unfortunately. I feel like there are a lot of resources out there for beginners, but if you want to go further, you have to know what you want before you even know what's out there and what it's used for.

“ Even though fancy companies and startups no longer separate the design teams from the development teams, but instead combine them into interdisciplinary teams, sometimes the separation is still there. In my opinion, this could be because the two disciplines don't always share the same approach and vocabulary. I would like to understand and use both.”


Over the past few years, I've worked with a lot of different developers. One thing I've noticed is that sometimes there's still a disconnect between design and development. Even though fancy companies and startups no longer separate the design teams from the development teams, but instead combine them into interdisciplinary teams, sometimes the separation is still there. In my opinion, this could be because the two disciplines don't always share the same approach and vocabulary. I would like to understand and use both.

After quitting my last job during the pandemic, I knew I wanted a change. I had long dreamed of having a job where I could work independently of location. And I was still super interested in coding and thought, why not take the opportunity to expand my skills with something very useful while I was stuck at home anyway? So I started researching different coding bootcamps in Berlin.


“Le Wagons website already radiated a really positive and diverse culture. I loved how many female teachers and people from different countries I saw. After talking to two people, one of whom had attended Le Wagon and the other had attended one of the other bootcamps, it was clear to me that I would choose Le Wagon.”


When I looked at the different websites, it was clear to me that Le Wagon was my favourite. There are other bootcamps that are obviously aimed at a male audience, with their hardcore, hacky, 'male' style, with exclusively male instructors on staff. In comparison, Le Wagons website already radiated a really positive and diverse culture. I loved how many female teachers and people from different countries I saw. After talking to two people, one of whom had attended Le Wagon and the other had attended one of the other bootcamps, it was clear to me that I would choose Le Wagon. While Le Wagon's former participant was very happy with the whole experience, the people, and the content, the other was rather put off by the other bootcamp by the culture she experienced and by the fact that she was not fully accepted as a woman who wants to program. What a shame!
Project weeks are currently held remotely.

The best thing about bootcamp is that now that half of bootcamp is over, everything is coming together and makes sense. Things that seemed really complicated in the beginning are now easy to do. I feel like I've finally managed to get into that mindset, and that makes me really happy. And most of what we've done has been really fun. Absolutely challenging, but so rewarding. 

Aside from the progress, the best part of this experience so far is the great people I'm surrounded with. My batch is super cool and I am truly dazzled by the staff at Le Wagon. Every single person I have met has been so open, friendly, and helpful. The teachers and TAs are just amazing! Everyone seems genuinely interested in helping us get the most out of this bootcamp. I am really glad I chose Le Wagon over the other bootcamps I applied to. The culture here is amazing and I'm super happy to know I'm now part of this great network!

Yes, of course I have had some difficulties so far.  The amount of knowledge that is pushed into your brain at such a fast pace is insane! I sit in front of my laptop all day. Sometimes I tend to want to solve a problem so badly that I forget to eat, drink, go to the bathroom, or take a lunch break. After days like that, I just feel completely brain dead and sometimes start crying randomly. When that happens, at least I know why: I didn't take care of myself and my health, which is extremely important because this wagon doesn't stop until the end of bootcamp! What helps me is getting up early, doing some yoga, and using a timer during the day to remind me to take breaks. Oh, and maybe next week I should stop being a perfectionist...?

“Interestingly, even though we only see each other through Zoom, I don't feel like I'm home alone because the Zoom campus feature creates groups of four that can talk to each other during the day. Also, we interact with each other a lot during lectures and live codes and talk to our TAs during tickets, even though most of the interaction is focused on coding.”


My batch already started completely remote due to the pandemic. Of course, it's a shame that we can't see each other in person. Interestingly, even though we only see each other through Zoom, I don't feel like I'm home alone because the Zoom campus feature creates groups of four that can talk to each other during the day. Also, we interact with each other a lot during lectures and live codes and talk to our TAs during tickets, even though most of the interaction is focused on coding. I love meeting new people and hanging out after official hours to get to know each other better as a person. That's what I'm missing the most right now. Of course, sometimes there are events where we can talk, but those are also by call and after a full day of calls, it's just not the same as having lunch together, going for a walk, or having a beer after class. However, I really appreciate the efforts of the staff. Zoom campus is a feature that is really well done. Regardless, I hope we can see each other on demo day. That would be great.

My best case scenario after the bootcamp would be to dedicate a good amount of time during my week to continue coding and dig deeper into certain topics. I would really like to learn more JavaScript so I can use it for the backend as well. At the same time, I still love working in UX with a focus on concept development and product planning. I love being part of teams that are starting from scratch. Ideally, I would work part-time as a UX designer and continue with coding or find a way to use both design and coding knowledge at the same time. Of course, I'd be open to full-time development as well, but I expect it will take a while to build up my Github portfolio to apply to open positions. And, who knows, maybe Le Wagon needs another TA after this bootcamp ;)


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