I attended Creating a Career in Digital Product Design led by soon-to-be-Twitter-employee Andrei Herasimchuk because I postulated some of the UX skill set could translate a bit to my QA activities. I appreciated that Mr. Herasimchuk was not trying to sell a University of Phoenix degree and simply touched upon what he sees as the defining characteristics of a successful UX practitioner. I will touch upon all his key points below in a serial fashion, but one thing he said continues to haunt my brain today: If you got into design to avoid math, too bad. Digital content is completely reduced to mathematical elements when it is coded. Everything we create…comes down to math and pixels. In short, to truly appreciate what it takes to create anything in our jobs, you need to learn code. You don’t have to learn enough to be a coder, but you need to learn enough to appreciate the boundaries, and possibilities, of creation in the programming languages. I think now, in this time and space, this is a task that more than just a UX designer should worry about and I’m taking it to heart.
Now, becoming a great user experience designer…the long edition:
1) You have to develop sales skills, period. You have to be willing to sell your designs to people across all levels, from project managers to developers to executives. Only you can go to bat for your ideas. If you suck at selling, you need to get a job on the side that lets you sell things. No joke.
2) You need to build things and take things apart. Build furniture, cook, garden, who cares. You have develop an appreciation for what it takes to both create things and break them down into their respective parts. I think this is so you can develop empathy for the developers who execute your visions.
3) If you work at a place where nothing ever gets shipped/released/goes live…you need to switch jobs. You need to experience success and FAILURE with products with your fingerprints on them.
4) Own your personal failures in a project. Don’t throw your developers/other people under the bus. Don’t backpedal; own it. If you work at a place where you get in lots of trouble after owning your failures, you need to find a new job then, too. Being honest about failure should cultivate trust/belief in you as a coworker and asset.
5) Appreciate the materials that you are truly using: math and pixels. Learn just enough code to be dangerous and to appreciate what it really takes to develop a digital property. (Meat of this above.)
6) UX design is a lifestyle choice, not a 9-5 job. If you do not constantly stay abreast of emerging technologies and embrace and learn about them, then your career will die. Period.
7) When the going gets rough, have faith that good design trumps all because good design succeeds.