Many junior UX designers worry about the future.
That is why the Austin based meetup group, UX in ATX, hosted a paneled discussion in June 2020 with experts from the local design community to talk about UX careers. The topic was, “Keeping Your UX Career Future Forward.”
Watch the UX in ATX career meetup recording
- William Ntim: Senior UX Designer at ScaleFactor
- Alexis Puchek: Principal Director of Design at Frog Design
- Marti Gold: Director of Features and Services User Experience at SiriusXM
How to remain resilient through technological change
*Paraphrased tips from the panelists
Change is constantly happening around technology and will always be impacting our field. With that said, as designers we need to be able to move, ebb, and flow as our titles change. Through out our career, we will be doing relatively similar tasks because we are problem solvers. At Frog, we talk about emerging tech to consider how technology can empower us and not how it would take our role. Inherently, empathy and problem solving is something we as UX designers offer. The key takeaway is to evolve with the industry to remain resilient.” – Alexis
Newly invented smart systems, such as smart refrigerators, require a UX designer. Our career is safe. In fact, due to advancements in technology, our career is more important than even. We have to keep up with the smart devices.” — Marti
It is important to master the art of user design and human perspective. Our titles have changed throughout the years. Back seventeen years ago, our titles were web designer, web developer, and interaction designer. Now, we are UX designers. We need to expect that when technology changes, our tools will change too. With that said, humans, our users, will not change that much. If you can understand the perspective of the human and understand how they are interacting with the product, then you are providing value. Above all, stay aware of the shift in the field. Then adapt to the changes. Modify your skill set to match trending processes, documentation styles, and terminology. Market yourself to stay resilient.” — William
The value of becoming a T-shaped designer
A T-shaped designer is a generalist that can do all things related to the field but has one specialty. In relation to UX design, a generalist would be confident wearing the hat of a researcher, information architect, interaction specialist, and visual designer.
To become a T-shaped designer, start your career as a generalist. Doing this allows you to try everything related to your field. After finding a specialty that resonates with you, move into a specialty. Deep mastery of a specific skill will get you noticed. With that said, being able to wear multiple hats allows you to be a better team player. General knowledge, with a strong specialty you are passionate about allows you to be a T-shaped designer. It is impossible to be a master of all things, but being a t-shaped designer gives you a competitive advantage.
Know how to talk to stakeholders and sell your design
It is important to know how to talk to stakeholders, to understand how they think, and what drives them. Look at their priorities. Be familiar with terms like return on investment (ROI), minimum viable product (MVP), objectives key results (OKR), and key performance indicators (KPI). Above all, an important part of being a designer is the ability to sell your design to stakeholders or project managers. To do this, you need business acumen, to be aware of the business process, and to know how to appropriately pitch your idea to gain traction. Consequently, pitching your solution is an important aspect of your job. You should be able to communicate your ideas quickly, effectively, and succinctly. You need to get the audience hooked by leveraging common sales tactics. Tell a story supported by data. Explain how it will positively impact the company. Learning about sales and business will be an advantage.
Things to remember when applying to jobs
If you’ve made it through the hiring funnel and landed an in-person interview, you have been selected from hundreds of applicants. First off, be proud that you made it through! At that point, it’s safe to assume that your portfolio has been vetted and approved. The in-person interview is your chance to:
- prove that you know what you are doing;
- demonstrate buzzword compliance;
- explain how you respond when something goes sideways;
- give examples of how you can pivot directions;
- confirm that you are willing to grow and learn;
- display self-efficacy.
If you make it to an in-person interview, the interviewer knows you understand the process. They want to understand why you did the things you do and to uncover if you truly understand the why behind your process. Remember, the design process is just the process. It’s not a checklist. Depending on constraints, like time and budget, the process should change. The key is to demonstrate what you know and explain the rationale behind those decisions.
Ways to level up your portfolio
The work you show in your portfolio is important. Typically, you have 3-5 minutes to capture your audience and sell yourself. Be sure to curate your portfolio to represent yourself while standing out from the crowd. Everyone has the same design process. Everyone does it, but what makes you unique? Remember these key things:
- Why did you do this, when did you do this, what did you learn?
- Don’t just check a box, be sure to connect the dots.
- Show that you are a problem solver. You should display iterations. Display that you can think through what the probable solution is, then explain how you figured out what the right solution was.
- Focus on who you are as a designer — what is your unique?
- Demonstrate your critical thinking skills.
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