So you want to be a UX manager?

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I remember a graduate student once asking me if she should continue on to a PhD program after completing her master’s degree. I asked her what she thought the benefits were to getting a PhD; she responded that having a PhD would put her on a faster track into management.

Her thinking was driven by a common and faulty assumption held by many—that eventually, to progress in your career as a UX professional, you have to become a manager.

The truth is, there are many career paths for UX professionals, including many leadership roles that don’t require managing people. In fact, organizations typically need a balance of managers and high-ranking individual contributors (meaning not managing people) to tackle varying leadership responsibilities that require different skill sets.

I’m more confident than ever that management involves distinct and sometimes intrinsic skills, and should not be viewed as the default next step in one’s career progression. And there’s a ton of research that supports this. According to one Gallup study of 2.5 million manager-led teams in 195 countries, only one in ten people possess the innate talents needed to be a successful manager. The same study quotes that companies fail to choose the management candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time. Continue reading So you want to be a UX manager?

UX Design Careers in 2018 and Beyond: The Future of the UX Designer

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At the time of this writing, a search for UX design jobs on job finder Glassdoor reveals almost 20,000 open positions in the United States alone. By another source, the number is 24,000, with a 22% projected growth rate in the next ten years.

Infographic showing different statistics about UX Careers such as locations, skill sets, and job titles. Salaries vary between USD$60,000 to $127,000 annually, with the median salary for 2017 being $77,000. With a significant spike year-to-year, the median salary in 2018 is $93,000 in the States, with the coasts offering the highest paying positions.

Onward Search provides a useful overview of the UX design job market in infographic format.

If we go by the stats, the market for UX designers could not be hotter. And, yet, those at the forefront of the field are rapidly calling 2018 the beginning of the end for the UX design job title.

Have we reached peak UX design already? Is it at the maturity stage in the life cycle?

And if it is, what’s next?

Continue reading UX Design Careers in 2018 and Beyond: The Future of the UX Designer

Biased by Design

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Back in the mid-90s, as the personal computer was booming, I was just your fairly average tween with a Skip-It™. I spent my summers in the California sunshine counting: 100, 208, 300, 986, always aching to get to 1,000. While my parents worked long past sunset, I played on the sidewalk of my parents’ company, Design Matters. Before it was a podcast, Design Matters—one of the first agencies in the San Francisco Bay area—was my personal experience with design. My parents were early web designers who rode the dot-com boom back when the area was still ripe with possibility.

This sounds idyllic, but I’m here to tell you from a child’s perspective: It was many long nights for my parents, and there were waves of regular tension. Although their success did come, it was far from certain, and it certainly wasn’t easy. I overheard many unpleasant conversations as my parents grappled with all the messy stuff that comes with building a ragtag team in a field that was neither well understood nor yet defined.

A complementary duo, they built their team, secured the accounts, and improved the experiences of sites from 3Com to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—together.

I didn’t know what a glass ceiling was at the time, but, if I had, I’m sure I would have thought it had been shattered. What I saw in their personal and working relationship led me to believe that my contributions would be heard and considered equal anywhere I went. I was raised to believe that I could, and would, change the world. Continue reading Biased by Design

Are We Taking the “U” Out of UX?

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What is a UX designer?

I recently saw a great ad for a senior UX specialist from MathWorks. Some excerpts:

  • Work with the development team to follow a user-centered design approach as you work collaboratively to brainstorm and design innovative solutions to complex problems.
  • Make recommendations to team members about which usability methods to use to answer their questions about users and design directions based on projects’ needs, goals, and constraints.
  • Work closely with team members to conduct user research, identify pain points, develop user profiles, and create task lists.
  • Collaborate on paper and functional prototypes.
  • Run usability tests, conduct interviews and site visits, organize surveys, and perform other usability assessments you think are appropriate.

It outlines exactly what I would expect in a UX job. We learn everything we can about a project from stakeholders and competitive products, find ways to research what users want and need, evaluate those needs with stakeholders, modify the project plan, and create solutions which are validated with users before finalizing the product.

But when I was looking for a new gig, that was the exception. Many of the job descriptions I saw asked for a wide array of UX skills, with some even asking for more than listed above. But it seemed that they really wanted a visual designer who could prototype.

Continue reading Are We Taking the “U” Out of UX?

Ending the UX Designer Drought

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The first article in this series, “A New Apprenticeship Architecture,” laid out a high-level framework for using the ancient model of apprenticeship to solve the modern problem of the UX talent drought. In this article, I get into details. Specifically, I discuss how to make the business case for apprenticeship and what to look for in potential apprentices. Let’s get started!

Defining the business value of apprenticeship

Apprenticeship is an investment. It requires an outlay of cash upfront for a return at a later date. Apprenticeship requires the support of budget-approving levels of your organization. For you to get that support, you need to clearly show its return by demonstrating how it addresses some of your organization’s pain points. What follows is a discussion of common pain points and how apprenticeship assuages them.

Continue reading Ending the UX Designer Drought