A wireframe version of the American flag on a mobile website wireframe on a black monoline-styled phone.

Three Reasons for Designers to Join Code for America

Getting into the user experience design is daunting. According to the UX Design Institute, UX design is the second-fastest growing field and many employers can’t find qualified designers, but swarms of people are trying to enter the industry.

After months of scouring Medium’s UX articles, I am attending a ten-month graduate program to transition into the field while learning the theory behind it. It’s great, but at first, I didn’t know how to take what I was learning outside of the classroom.

I knew I needed to work on real-world projects to stand out. However, there are so many tools, podcasts, and tutorials out there that strategizing that can be intimidating.

That’s where Code for Greensboro comes in.

What are Code for America and Code for Greensboro?

Code for America describes themselves as an organization “on a mission to make government work in the digital age.” Their official map shows that they are divided into 85 regional brigades.

Code for Greensboro is the North Carolina Triad region’s brigade. We meet in Greensboro HQ at least once a month and communicate with our teams constantly.

Even though “code” is in the name, the brigades welcome people from any discipline with knowledge that can help us solve local civic problems.

Working with Code for Greensboro has been and incredible experience for me. Here are three reasons why you should join your local Code for America brigade too.

Learn new tools while helping your community

Code for Greensboro interested me because I could use the skills I’m learning in graduate school for the greater good. It’s also been its own learning opportunity.

My first night, I was introduced to Figma, the best design tool I have ever used. What Figma’s blog calls “multiplayer” design mode makes it perfect for collaborating on brigade projects.

Figma was also useful when I helped my study abroad team create a website for a Cuban farmer and artist. This is one of many things Code for America volunteers taught me. They enjoy teaching those who are willing to learn.

Learn about tech in the community

Stephen Larrick of Stae explained to us the purpose of his company’s new open data portal and had us create personas for people who we think would use it. Photo taken by Ethan McElvaney.

The week of Valentine’s Day, Stae came to one of our meetings for a soft launch of their new Guilford County Open Data Portal. This gave us the opportunity to ask questions about how the portal will serve the area.

We’ve also had volunteers who live in Greensboro and worked for Microsoft. A local cybersecurity recruiter randomly gave us his card one day too.

You never know what’s in your community until you put yourself out there. If you’re in tech or design, Code for America is a great place to find out.

Make good friends and connections

The hot honey pepperoni pizza we had at the Greensboro Boxcar Bar + Arcade the night we met was great! Photo taken by Ethan McElvaney.

Sometimes, you only need to see someone’s podcasts to know you’ll get along. That’s how I met Jordan T. Robinson and started designing Code for Greensboro’s website with him.

After I noticed he had The Futur pulled up on his laptop, we became good friends and he taught me most of what I know about Figma. We also met the other day to work on the brigade website and went to eat afterwards.

Go to a brigade meeting!

We normally have our laptops out at our meetings to code and prototype apps and websites, but in this picture we were learning about Stae’s open data portal for Guilford County. Photo taken by Ethan McElvaney.

If you’re interested in going to Code for America after this, go to their website to find your local brigade. Whether you join Code for Greensboro or Rhode Island’s Code Island (I love that name), working and learning with like-minded people to benefit society is a life-changing experience.

Featured Image: Header illustration by Ethan McElvaney.

Ethan McElvaney

A eLearning developer and civic tech designer with several years of digital media experience. I aim to make engaging training for healthcare, civic, and education professionals so they can do their best work. I also like volunteering with Code for America, hiking, and playing action role-playing games.