Last Tuesday Girl Develop It and Ladies that UX Durham jointly hosted a fantastic UX Career Panel. Industry professionals, novices and those of us who are intrigued, yet a little intimidated by the world of UX enjoyed an informative discussion led by four very knowledgeable women who are presently doing very exciting work in the in UX space.
The discussion began with each lady introducing herself, explaining her role as a UX professional in her company, how she got there, and what her typical workday looks like.
It was interesting to note that each of these women followed a unique path to their present careers. Susan Tacker started off in journalism and worked as a technical writer for more than a decade before she moved into the UX world. Rachel Daniel and Heather Young both spent time as visual designers. And Wren Lanier is a self-taught web designer. What was evident in all these ladies is their passion for creating better products through the integration of user-centered design. As Tacker stated, “We make a difference…it’s not user centered design if you’re not talking to users”.
The panel answered audience questions ranging from, agile usability testing, A/B testing and the lean UX process, to figuring out who your usability stakeholders are, what project managers can do to better facilitate the UX testing process and how someone who is interested in a career in UX can get started.
Daniel and Lanier both suggested a proactive and hands-on approach for those who are new to UX. That includes learning about the various disciplines (interaction design, content strategy, information architecture, etc) within UX, understanding how they work together, deciding which role is best for you “what floats your boat” as Daniel put it, and formulating your own UX process.
Lanier suggested participating in a startup weekend. The benefits of which include working on a project that involves real world challenges you can add to your portfolio and showcase to prospective employers.
Young encouraged the audience to follow the thought leaders in the industry via blogs, twitter and other social media platforms.
The panel also lent their insights into the challenges women in technology face. The overriding consensus was, women in technology and especially those in a disruptive field like UX have to learn to find their voice and define who they personally and professionally. Sometimes that means realizing that you have a voice and you can speak up when you feel it is necessary. Daniel even left a company, in part, because the cultural fit just wasn’t there.
Friction is inevitable. But, if you know who you are and understand your process you will be better equipped to, according to Young, “articulate your ideas in a meaningful way…and gain the following and respect of your peers.”
Tacker advised the audience to find other women in their field who can be of support and encouragement. Organizations like Girl Develop It and Ladies that UX are doing a great job in this area.
Finally, the panel commented on their thoughts about the future of UX. Put simply, as companies realize the value of user centered design, UX will continue to branch out into every part of an organization.
There definitely is a place at the table for UX as we steadily move towards the Internet of things. So ladies, grab a seat and let’s get to work!