I was born on Chicago’s South Side. I’m an artist, who loved writing stories and studied film at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I assumed I’d find a job in that area but found it’s not so easy to make a living as an artist! My cousin graduated from i.c.stars and told me about the program. He now had a great job in the IT department at DeVry. He told me to try, telling me that core IT principles could lead to countless positions in many different industries.
Technology is everywhere, in some way or another. Being comfortable with tech can be the start of anything you want to do. I applied to i.c.stars and started in cycle 31.
I.c.stars teaches technology through real-world applications. Combining high expectations with a high level of structure and support makes the work challenging but memorable. I pushed through and, when I finished, landed a job doing video production and systems training for the City Colleges of Chicago. I produced video training tutorials, designed technical manuals, and lead in-person training sessions for the project leaders of the 7 City Colleges
and its 5800 faculty and staff members. It was a great job that combined many of the things I enjoyed. I exceeded expectations and left a really good impression, which lead to my next opportunity.
I was then referred to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Industry Relations Team. As the primary administrator and tech support for the Knowledge Central collaboration tool, and supporting event coordinator I engaged all levels of internal and external clients to identify needs and solve problems; skills I’d hone later when I made my transition into UX Design a couple of years later. Gradually my creative abilities began to show and my responsibilities expanded to design. I began prototyping webpage layouts and designing bi-monthly and annual reports. I felt good using my creative skills to help design and implement the United States payment system. The Federal Reserve was a great place to work, with smart people and a supportive environment. But at the end of my second year, I started to realize that I wanted to do more creative work. So I started my own company, Amber Williams Creative Services. Starting my business allowed me to support myself by doing what I loved, while also affording me the space and time to learn UX Design and earn a certification.
Not long after getting my UX Design certification, I received an email from Dr. Julia Mossbridge about her work with the Institute for Love and Time (TILT); I saw this as another element in my career path and personal growth. Julia was searching for a UX Designer to design an app that would allow people to have a deeper and more loving connection with themselves over time. Time Machine is a free, non-addictive web app that can support people in building this connection. a 26-day, 96-person study, the app was peer-reviewed and published in Frontiers in Psychology. The study showed that Time Machine facilitated remarkable shifts in well-being for participants with adverse childhood experiences. Time Machine is now being beta tested with a small group of participants at Cook County Jail in the Expanded Human Potential Pilot program created by me. We hope to create a custom version specifically for the incarceration community in an effort to reduce recidivism. Following the study, we were picked to present at South by Southwest (SXSW).
And this is where I’ll leave you, going to SXSW for ten days, all expenses paid, to meet creative people, and see my work presented. It was as wildly exciting as you might imagine, the people, the energy, the ideas! I will never forget it! I know the journey to SXSW and the places I’ll go beyond that, would not have been possible without the bend in the road and the unexpected but bountiful time I spent with i.c.stars.
My advice to current i.c.stars interns is this: lean into your ignorance and approach new things with curiosity and excitement. You don’t know what you don’t know. Never be afraid to ask questions and ask for help. The people here are ready to support and empower you. What you’ll learn can take you anywhere. Go forth and conquer!