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Episodes Recorded

Ep.1 Backgrounds (Jun 4 2020)

People get in to UX research through many different paths – we discuss our routes and how we didn’t plan to end up where we are.

Stickynotes chat episode 1, June 4 2020

Can’t see the video? It’s also on LinkedIn and YouTube.

Details from this session

People get in to UX research through many different paths – we discuss our routes and how we didn’t plan to end up where we are.

This session turned into more of a resume/careers advice chat than we had intended – it seems that’s what’s needed right now. We’ll plan on doing more episodes around that topic in the future.

Takeaways:

  • It’s much easier to learn new tools than new soft skills, but the job requires specific soft skills. Recruiters and job applicants should emphasize soft skills.
  • Top soft skills you need as a UX person – Empathy, “humble apprentice” active listening attitude to users and to colleagues, ability to filter your personal opinions in favor of facts/data, adaptability.
  • You still need tool skills, but once you’ve learned one online survey tool, or vector graphics tool, or whatever, the rest are relatively similar. There are quick online courses on many of them to get you up to speed if you need it.
  • We all benefited greatly from our networks when we were looking for jobs. Often it’s second or third level connections who actually have job openings, so grow your network.
  • Demonstrate through your online presence that you understand and follow UX (Cory refers to it as your personal brand). Have an opinion. Contribute. Ask interesting questions.

Cory mentioned empathy as his top pick for soft skills you need to succeed in UX. He has a LinkedIn Learning course on that topic, Empathy in UX Design.

If you want to learn more about careers in UX, check out Cory’s LinkedIn Learning course, Planning a Career in User Experience,

or Chris’ LinkedIn Learning course, Getting Started in UX.

If you don’t have a LinkedIn Learning account, you can get a free month’s access. If you sign up from one of the links on this site, we get a small commission (at no cost to you), which helps us keep this whole thing going.

And then there’s also Cory’s wonderful book, The UX Careers Handbook.

Watch our next episode live!

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If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, you can also subscribe to our YouTube channel. We livestream to that channel too, and we try to pay attention to the live comments there as well.

Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Show me the transcript!

CN: Hello everybody, welcome to our inaugural episode of Stickynotes chat. This is the first of hopefully many biweekly episodes. Now, biweekly can mean two things. By this we mean once every other week, not twice a week. That would be just too much. You could have too much of us, it’s true! Welcome and thanks for joining us. This week, we’re going to be talking about backgrounds of how we got into UX. This is an unusual time. There’s lots we could say about the events that are happening. None of us felt qualified to do that. So, we’re going to continue with what we feel we can talk about, but we want to acknowledge that there’s some stuff happening that’s less than optimal right now and we hope that everybody is staying safe out there and staying healthy.  With that in mind, let’s continue with this episode. This week we want to talk about how we got into UX and we hope that will help you. You’ve got to bear in mind we did this some time ago. 

AS: Hey now!

CN: So times were different, but as you’ll find out they weren’t that different in terms of the economy or anything else, so, we will talk about us, but as we go through, ask questions. Ask questions in the chat on LinkedIn. If you’re watching us after the event you can just reach out to us, but the best place to do it is probably in the comments for this video. That way it all stays in the same place. After the event we will be putting this recording up on our website, https://stickynotes.chat. That’s going to be the archive for all these different episodes.The other thing we’ll do is as we talk about things we’ll try to put links on the website so that you’ve got an opportunity to follow up on the things we talk about.  For this episode I’ll say that both Cory and I have done some videos on LinkedIn Learning on getting into UX. That’s a great initial resource to use.  Other than that, let’s just keep going. Rather than me talking, let’s move on to someone else. So, Amanda, how did you get into UX?

AS (02:58): So yes, it might help if I introduce myself, so hello, I’m Amanda Stockwell. I have possibly the most traditional way I could get into UX, which is that I discovered the human factors program at my university during orientation. The real truth is that I was always looking at engineering school, because you know grants and loans and things, scholarships tend to be better for engineering programs than for other programs, but I was always a rather hesitant engineer so I thought I would go to engineering school and then find something I actually wanted to do later.  And the human factors and ergonomics society had a table at the orientation with lollipops. And I wanted candy! And I discovered, I learned about them and learned what it was and I was lucky enough to go to a school which had a human factors program, which I hadn’t even heard of, and I was lucky enough to have a couple of professors who worked at the usability lab. I did some usability work while I was interning in college and I’ve been in UX pretty much ever since, which is slightly more than a decade. I’ll refrain from putting any more details on that! But I’ve been in UX pretty much since I had any idea what jobs even were.       

CN: You say you had a pretty traditional entry into usability, but was there anything specific, a person, an event, that gave you a push towards that career?

AS: I didn’t know that UX was what I was supposed to be looking for when I was looking for jobs. I just knew that in my internship I’d quite liked participating in usability testing. And by the way, speaking of recessions and downturns and not great things happening, I graduated in 2008, so an awesome time to look for a job, and to have no experience.  So I’m from Maine originally and I went home for the summer and I was a waitress and I applied to jobs for about four hours a day, every day, for about two months. 

CN: Two months? 

AS: Approximately. I enjoyed Maine during July but in August, September, I started thinking oooh, I don’t want to stay here, I’ve got to move on. I applied to hundreds of jobs at all kinds of companies all around the world, so I basically was on the internet and searching jobs, entry, usability, and once I started looking at usability jobs I realized there were UX things and so I was like huh, UX, so I added that and kept looking. And I was very lucky and the first job I got was a UX generalist role at an email marketing company. That was great because it was a pretty small start-up, a pretty small team, and pretty quickly I got to find out that the part of UX that I liked was the research side of things and I got to pretty much focus on that. So I feel pretty lucky in a way. And Cory and I have talked about that a lot, because we’re both the sort of people who say yes to things when they pop up, for instance this livestream, or other events, or articles, or other kinds of stuff, so although I’ve been in the realm of UX and pretty much focused on research, I’ve worked in every iteration of an organization, I’ve worked in nearly every iteration of a role, I’ve been an individual contributor, I’ve been a manager, I’ve worked in an executive role, I’ve worked in an agency, an enterprise, a startup, I now run my own thing, so I’ve experimented with pretty much every kind of UX role you could have, and have focused into pretty much the sweet spot for me, focused on research. 

CN: Yeah, you’ve got to remember that all three of us are people who decided to go it alone at some point. So we’re not necessarily entirely indicative of the whole population at this point, but we did all start applying for jobs, working for companies, all that kind of stuff. I’m going to come back to some of the stuff you said Amanda, but I want to give Cory a chance to talk. Cory, I know it was ages ago, back in the time of the dinosaurs, but how did you get into UX?

CL (07:57): It was ages ago, and it was a time when there was certainly no UX. At least nobody used the term. I was at the university of Maryland as an undergrad in the early nineties. They said “you’ve got to choose one faculty member, to work in their lab”, so I said you know what, people are doing different things, what sounds interesting, and Dr. Ken Norman, who’d taught me a statistics class, I enjoyed interacting with him then and he was doing this thing called usability of restaurant menus, ah, it sounds cool, you know I’ll do it.  And I did it and I was “Wow, this thing is amazing, I love this research.” and it was the most exciting part of psychology that I could ever imagine. So when I graduated, I said to him “Where shall I go? What shall I do?” and he said “Oh, I know a guy…” and so I got my first job as a human factors engineer, which was a bit funny because today when we talk about human factors it’s something totally different and certainly, engineering, tacking that on to UX is a little odd today in a lot of contexts, some still ok. But that was it.  That informed the rest of my life, my first job was the end of 1994 and from then on I was just “Wow, this is amazing” and I’ve continued to say “Wow this is amazing” as I watch UX build all around me. It’s serendipitous.

CN: You said an interesting thing there. “He knew a person who had a job.” So this is the thing about networking. It’s not necessarily your network. It’s the people who might be one level or two levels removed from you. Who do you know, who knows somebody who might be able to help you out. 

CL (10:27): Right yeah there there’s an article I mean it was it was pretty good five or six years ago someone really article and they said, you know everyone’s focused on your close network, everyone who’s close but your close network it’s teeny tiny, you know, you’ve got you’ve got people that you trust and who may know of a job but there’s not that many of them so your odds are smaller.  The truth is what’s really valuable is that wider network, the kind of extended network of hundreds if not thousands of people that we all meet. I mean, you meet people. All the time. As long as you can have that loose connection with them that you can stay in touch just enough, then you know, really those are ones that are probably gonna find to your next job. 

AS (11:06): Or you might end up on a live stream with them like we are with Chris right now! I’ve never met in person. 

CN: That’s true! It’s funny, I feel like we know each other because of all the stuff we do that we have in common, the fact I’ve watched so many of Amanda’s courses, but we’ve never actually met. We keep on trying to get the LinkedIn guys to get us all in at the same time so we can do this kind of thing in a studio environment. Send it out as something that’s edited rather than “Uhhh” a lot of the time but yeah that hasn’t happened yet and it’s not gonna happen for a while so we’re doing this instead.

CN: So networking. I mean, I got my first job in UX, I had a psychology degree. I joined a financial institution who trained me as a systems analyst, got a job in project management there a job doing development work there, and one of my friends who joined at the same time as me was working in this really cool future-looking area and that group spun off the beginnings of a usability group and she said hey you’ve got a background in psychology haven’t you? You might be interested in this. And if I hadn’t had that friend point out this thing to me, I’d never have known that usability existed. Because like Corey said UX didn’t exist back then, so yeah networking!  Then while I was working there somebody from the Microsoft usability group visited our labs. I had his business card. He said, hey get in touch. I did. I said “Got any jobs?” That’s when I moved to the States. Then somebody I met, somebody I worked with at Microsoft, had done some work with Jacob Nielsen at his conferences and I said to him “Can you introduce me to Jacob?” And that’s how I got my next job working at Nielsen Norman Group, so yeah all of these things, when I look back at it, I’d love to think it was all about me, but it wasn’t. It was all about who I knew.  Mine were all first [level] connections, but I think, well actually first or second (the guy from Microsoft wasn’t somebody I knew directly but I knew him through somebody that I knew) so yeah all of these things are these connections that you make are important. 

CN (13:40): I want to say one thing about that. I’m not sure what you two think about it… I’m gonna ask you. Do you ever get freaked out when people try and connect and you can tell it’s just because they want what they think is your lot of connections that they can get into?

CL: Yeah yeah, okay. I would say, you know, I always invite people to connect with me but like it says in my LinkedIn profile, there’s got to be something in common, you know. And recruiters too. I’m totally open to recruiters connecting but I’ve got to see something in common, you know, whether it’s professional, whether you know, whether it’s just we have people in common that we know, because you know, it is important to at least care about UX.That’s kind of the criteria if I don’t know somebody but for sure. 

CN: Yeah and I have people connecting to me who don’t have careers in UX but they say hey I’ve watched your courses so that tells me they’re interested in UX, right? And either they’re just trying to flatter me but I don’t know that’s true actually, why flatter me? The other thing is when people get in touch and say, hey, can you recommend me for a job the only people I can do that too is people who are my first level contacts that I’ve actually worked with. I’m not gonna recommend somebody I don’t know. But I’m happy if you want, you know, part of the thing that helps me understand a person is understanding what their work is and that’s either through stuff that they’ve posted, or stuff that’s available for me to see publicly. If I can see that, I’m gonna know more about who that person is and I’m gonna be more likely to understand where they’re coming from. So it’s just something out the blue or somebody says, hey help me find a job, hmm…not gonna do that!

AS (15:18): Yeah, I think that’s something too about like genuine connections, so one of the things that are three of us have talked about is that one of the reasons that we all have sort of found our way in various ways into UX is because we’re generally curious about people and we genuinely care about people and we’re interested in genuine connection and although that can get sort of a sort of tossed around or kind of lost in the mud of you know, trying to get a job, I typically want to help connect the people who I feel are the most connected and I’m happy to help someone who I feel like is generally interested in learning and generally interested in connecting but I don’t just want to be a conduit for connections or clout or any of that. Not that I have any of that to give away, per se!

CN: Right, but people believe you do. And that’s the same for recruiters too. Recruiters, I don’t need a job! But I will help you find people for jobs if I feel I can. But I need to know that you know what you’re looking for. If you just say “I want this person for UX who can do photoshop” and then they start talking about all the design-y things rather than necessarily UX-y things or whatever, they don’t know what they want and I can’t help you find something you don’t know what you want. You have to be very clear about what you want.

AS (16:35): Lots of questions right now about what actually UX is. Perhaps we actually define what we mean by that for people. 

CN: Yes! I was trying to find a little segue into it, but thanks Amanda. Go ahead.

AS: Okay. I’ll give my definition. So my definition of user experience is anything that has to do with crafting the way that a person — doesn’t matter if they are technically a user or not — but user for purposes of ease of use of terminology; any interaction that a person has with an organization, a product, a brand, etc. And so that’s a really wide bucket of things which means there’s a really wide skill set of things so I like to describe UX as a sort of spectrum of skill sets that all go towards supporting good interactions with something. So that could mean… it just so happens that Cory and Chris and I are on the research and strategy end of the spectrum which means that we are interested in learning about people, figuring out their context, assessing how well they’re doing, and kind of figuring out where to go from there. You might be on the other end of the spectrum where you’re more focused on the particulars of how an actual like physical interaction or digital interaction works, you might be worried about things like the colors or the layering of a layout. But all of those components go into building a user experience and all of those different skill sets and all of those different kinds of roles that support that are what I mean when I say UX. Which I understand is confusing. It means a lot of things, that’s why there is so much — or so little clarity around the word. I’m sure this’ll come up a lot more as we talk about people who are getting into UX but that’s why like job definitions and job titles and job roles are so confusing because they’re so many things, actually, that go into it and go into making a good user experience.

CL (18:37): So I agree, and I kind of put it umbrella on it with all the little skill sets and so not much else to say on my end except I agree. However what I would say is what UX is NOT. And my definition is development. You can develop, and you can do UX, but I define UX as an umbrella and development is not in that umbrella. It’s right next to that umbrella. So to the point where UX jobs include basically developer jobs like developing interface, I don’t think that’s UX. If it’s well you need to understand the users, you need to research with the users, you need to create interaction designs when you explain why users are doing what they’re doing (and this doesn’t mean user stories by the way) it basically, at that point, you can say yes I’m doing UX and then I’m going to code it and the coding aspect of it is a development aspect.  So that’s my borderline there, which I think not everyone agrees with. Not every job description, because you have UX/UI where UI can be either of these two different things as either development or it’s visual design, depending on where you’re coming from. But then that is the end of the umbrella as far as I’m concerned. 

CN (19:58): That’s interesting because I’ve worked with some great full stack of front-end developers who would claim that they are UX people. And I guess the UX purists among us are like “They’ve never they’ve never had to do the usability studies they’ve never had…” And there is a difference. There definitely is. I mean, I think anybody who’s got that dual skill set is super well qualified. It’s a question of I guess where do you focus your attention, right? Are you focusing on providing data-driven insights which can create a user experience, or are you focused on turning that into a functioning product?  Now in the middle of that is kind of this interesting gray area because yeah, I’ve done development jobs in the past, but do not please call me a developer, exactly. It’s not my forte as you can see by the website we put together and stuff like that. I’m also not a designer as in a visual designer but yeah, it’s good enough.  So there’s definitely skill sets and it’s where would you say your focus is? And for me the user experience role is one that’s bringing those insights (and data-driven insights) to the process so that you’re building the best possible product you can for the people who’ll be using it, whoever they are. 

CL (21:27): Sam posted the confusing part. It’s seeing HTML and CSS [as requirements] for UX designer roles. I will say that even if HTML and CSS involve coding skills, they are often used as a tool for creating interaction design. Therefore just because something asks for HTML or CSS doesn’t mean that it’s a development job per se, even a front-end developer job. Not necessarily, and I do think that’s a valid skill set for an interaction designer. 

AS: We should probably have a whole other episode about job titles and job roles. Yeah, how almost universally horrible they are. 

CN: And then we move on to things like there’s people asking what software should I learn, what books should I read, what what bootcamps should I attend?  And then Sahil says “Why are people always talking about software when we talk about UX?” And that’s my attitude. I’m glad somebody said that, because the tools are not what define our trade. 20 years ago, we didn’t have the same tools we had today. Some of those tools have kind of have evolved over time, things are easier now than they used to be, things are more streamlined now than they used to be, but the skill set that we bring to the problems is the same. The tools help us achieve stuff better, faster, more easily, with greater impact, but thye are not….  Which is why it’s a bit, I mean, it’s nice for recruiters to say oh you need certain product skills when they’re looking for a UX role but to be honest it’s it if you see too many of those or you see ones in a job listing which aren’t really UX specific like they’re looking for Photoshop skills for a user researcher role, that’s really an indication that there’s something wrong about this job. It’s nice to be able to demonstrate that you have proficiency in a graphic design tool in a online research tool in a, I don’t know, in all these kinds of software. But if you know one in our industry you can pretty much learn another one. And you will be, because in five years time you’ll look back on today and you say why were we even using those products back then.

AS (23:57): That’s what I was going to say. You can always learn a new tool right? Like you can learn sketch or sigma or whatever the latest newest thing is, but the fundamentals are the same. Focusing on who the person or people are who are going to be using the thing, what do they need, how do you craft something to put it together that serves their needs, and we haven’t really mentioned this part yet, but how do you balance that with what the business needs and we can have a whole different discussion about that, but I would say that one of the reasons that Chris, Cory and I are successful in our Consulting roles is because we know that there is a balance between what is reasonable and useful for people to use and what will save or earn money for an organization. And ultimately that’s really an important piece for us all to pay attention to as well. So you can learn a new tool, but you HAVE to know the fundamentals of how to understand people and how to get them what they need.

CN (25:08): And to riff off of that, I wish I had known that explicitly when I started my career. I would have advanced my career a whole bunch faster if I’ve been thinking less tactically about immediate reactions to stuff and thinking more strategically because there’s so many years where user researchers — I don’t think it’s happening as much now — users researchers would say “Why isn’t the business listening to us? We’ve told them all these issues with the software, but they’re not making any changes.” Yeah? And one of the reasons for that was we weren’t talking their language. If you’re not talking about how many dollars you’re gonna be saving an organization by making this change why would they listen to you? Oh… the top pro tip… if you can put something about how many dollars you’ve saved on your resume that’s gonna have that little eye opening effect on the people who are trying to employ you! 

CL (26:06): I would throw in, I saw a post earlier about you know UX being a new, you know, a new thing. The term is new, we’ve had the same jobs, the same types of jobs even if none of us could define our jobs the way we are today. And maybe they evolved and they become more refined and they become more fun and they become more… and to your point Chris about aligning with business absolutely like not just being so tactical makes the job more fun perhaps to be able to do it.  And I will also add one more thing is that the moment I realized as a researcher I needed to to move away or to release myself from an obligation to make a difference, I could make more of a difference. It was like “Why aren’t they taking my suggestion? Come on people, come on people, come on people, listen!” and finally I’m “Forget it”, you know. “You listen if you want to. I don’t care if you don’t, but I I’m just gonna be here,” and then they go “Oh, we should listen, yeah.” and in some ways it felt like the attitude of, you know, “Whatever” and then I could actually relax a little bit and and kind of be a little more receptive.

CN: You’re a braver man than me! No, that’s kind of true. I mean these days for me if a client’s gonna pay me for a piece of work, of course I care whether they implement some of the recommendations I’ve made but they obviously employ me for a reason because they value my insights. There’s other business reasons why some of those things don’t get implemented, or at least not quite how I expected that they would be, but that’s up to them ultimately and you’re right you have to stop caring to a degree. At least in a consultant role. 

AS: And in an in-house role too. I know that I used to work at a place where a very very common statement was “Yeah, but we’ve always done it this way”, which was torturous to my soul. I also believe they eventually slowly made some changes. I think that that’s one of those things that contributes to that never-ending imposter syndrome that sometimes people feel especially when they’re newer to UX or especially UX research: “I have all these great insights and nobody’s doing anything with them.” To get back to an earlier point, if you are suggesting things that aren’t technically feasible or reasonable for the business or, you know, that don’t kind of align with both user needs and business needs, then things aren’t going to be implemented. But even if you do find that perfect Venn diagram of “Would be great for the business” [overlapping with] “Would be awesome for the people” and you know, there’s this lovely marriage, stuff happens sometimes. It doesn’t mean you didn’t do a good job, it doesn’t mean your insight wasn’t valuable. In fact sometimes also the best insight is that you shouldn’t build anything or you shouldn’t move forward.

CN: Don’t fix what ain’t broken, right?

CL: I just had a real real world insight where the the client said “This group this group is our audience”, you know, these are the ones for us. This was a usability study. But once we talked to the people, it went [moves hands closer, size of group shrinks] nope, THIS group is gonna care about your product. All fine and good, so let it go. You know, I know you want to help these people [large group], and you can, but the product you’re developing is helping these people [small group], but it’s helping them a lot so so do it!  And it’s insights like that that might not be the interface but it’s actually like laying out for the business you will do good here, you will not necessarily make a difference here, but that’s okay, let it go, you know, you do what you do and do it well. 

CN (30:15): So that kind of moves on to the more strategic part of what we do. I mean, we could talk about tools, there’s so many questions coming in about tools and about… I think we should probably deal with bootcamps and certification another time because yeah, I’ve got some issues with certification

AS: That should be a whole hour I think!

CN: But the strategic side of things, this the side of things that will really differentiate you as an individual.  I think it took me so long to work this out. And by that I mean the stuff that you do that’s not related to the product directly. The insights that you’ve come up with from user research apply across the organization. And oh! This also marries up with networking! Do you know anybody in the marketing department? Do you?   I mean, this is the thing right it’s like who do you know who can use your data? I don’t know if you guys have any examples of times when that’s happening for you? 

CL: I mean really I think that kind of built into the whole networking thing. Whether it’s for your job or whether finding a job or it’s for doing your job, it’s knowing people whether it’s knowing people in your company who hmmm not your little narrow group, but really kind of you know, everybody that you possibly can know you’re also going to your job better, so again it comes back to that value of networking everywhere: on your job, for your job, in your job. 

CN: I always compare UX people to the Rosetta Stone. We’re the ones who can provide the translation between dev speak, business speak, marketing speak (which is its own language), and all those different groups. Where because of the roles we play — we can play, should play — being the voice of the user, all those groups need to hear that information but they also all need to be talking to each other better than they do. And we can be that go-between, I’ve found. Yeah, it’s gonna be easier in a consultant role because you’re being… there’s this kind of respect you have as you’re being brought in to help the organization and you can kind of demand that certain people turn up in the room. Well, sort of.  But there’s no harm in building those relationships when you’re inside the organization too. I know that that’s also helped me learn as a user experience person over the years. Oh that’s what marketing does! I thought they just had big budgets and spent it all on parties (they do, but…) no! No. 

CL (32:44): And that’s a good conversation too, I think. Consulting versus in-house. It’s different personality types. You’re either the go-wide or go deep and not both. But that’ll be an interesting conversationI think for us to have.

AS: Yeah and to circle back to Chris’s point about like do you know people in any other capacities, I will say that although my first job was a result of my persistence of like unending applications and finding something kind of lucky, essentially since then every job I’ve gotten including just about every consulting gig I’ve ever had has been from someone that I knew somehow.  I didn’t honestly often know them even that well. That maybe I had lunch with them when I worked there or I met them in a networking event, so I actually happened to to help organize a ladies at UX meet-up in the city that I live in and I, you know, I’m just kind of like I guess out and about (or used to be before, when we could leave our houses). So um, no, I mean, I’ve had clients that were like the director of marketing from the very first job that I had. I haven’t worked with this person in like 10 years, but they were at a new job where they needed some sort of tangentially related to user research work done and they reached out to me. And that’s happened to me multiple times so to that point, there’s sort of that joke that you can either be good at your job or you can be well-liked. It really helps to be both!  It helps really to be both but kind of also to that point like at different organizations that I’ve worked in, I’ve sort of placed myself as the person you go to when you have a question about people. And that could have been from the marketing team, that could have been from the product team, that could have been from the dev team, it could be from the sales side. I would go and sit with like customer support. Like basically if you had a question about how people worked, you came to me and I would figure out a way to answer the question. I think that that’s a sort of fundamental component. Regardless of the department or team or you know, the sort of end customer of my work, that was the thing that made it so I could get to where I am now. So I think that’s an important piece. 

CN (35:20) So we’ve been talking about stuff that is probably slightly nebulous for somebody who’s trying to start a career in UX and I know when we were promoting this episode we might give people the slight indication that maybe we were going to tell them exactly how they should be getting a job in UX.  I don’t want to go into hard skills that I think we think people should have. But Julianne asked something. She asked “What would you say are the top three skills to focus on as a UX professional?”  I’m not going to talk about hard skills. I think Amanda just mentioned one which is the kind of networking thing which is one of the things I would probably say is a soft skill.  What are the other two soft skills — or Corey, what are your top three? 

CL (36:15): Number one, which is why I have a LinkedIn Learning course on this is empathy. If you’re going to be in UX you need to have empathy and you need to develop your empathy, and you need to…  Understanding people is not just a rational exercise, it’s an emotional exercise. No matter who the users are, no matter what they’re doing, no matter how different it is than what you’re doing, you need to feel for them. So, that, that is number one on my list as a UX professional.  Then I would also say, and I also actually want to add Chris when you mentioned about the networking and such that’s on there too and that’s how you do the empathy too. But you know, what I would say also is, that skill is not related to extroversion or introversion. It’s an obligation. You might have more fun being out there, you might have less fun being out there, but you don’t, you can’t say I’m an introvert therefore, you know, networking is is not is not for me. 

CN: I think we ought to point out that people are watching three introverts on the screen right now. 

CL: But you can’t, you can’t say that, and the component is it’s an obligation to network. It’s an obligation to feel empathy, and if you aren’t, then figure out how to and how do you. I mean, if you watch a movie and it’s a sad movie and you feel tearful about it or you feel excited that the main characters or something’s happening, you are experiencing empathy for a fictional character.  So now they’re real characters. You know, they’re real people and yeah, that’s why. 

CN: Amanda, what are your top three? 

AS (28:18): So I think that sort of genuine curiosity and empathy for people is incredibly important but I would add on to that that you need to be able to filter your personal views about something from what you learn about people. Because I’ve heard some conversations and seen a lot of discussions happening about well, you know, and people hear about this too all the time from different parts of the organization, not in UX or that kind of faux UX of “Well, we know our users are just like us.”  That’s not true. It never is. And you have to really be curious about not just what their experiences are, but you have to honor that experience and recognize that it’s going to be different from yours and recognize that what might be best for different sorts of users might not be something that you understand.  And so that’s a piece of it and then the last thing I’d say is adaptability. I think that we probably could also talk a whole hour about (especially these days) about adapting to circumstances but things change rapidly all the time. Stuff goes wrong all the time. You have to learn new things all the time in this field. And so being able to be flexible about your approach to things, being pragmatic about how we kind of look at things, yeah, I think that’s especially important on user research. And so Chris I’m curious about your thoughts. 

CN (39:44): Oh, you want to know what I want to say? It’s funny because mine wraps up both of yours, I think, but in the the term that I like to use is be a humble apprentice. Okay, and I use that term when I’m teaching people how to how to be observers in a user research session. I want you to be a humble apprentice, you’re not the expert here. The person who you’re watching who’s doing this role is the expert. I want you to learn from them.  Let them feel like you want to be the person that’s interested in their role that is going to help. You’re not necessarily going to help their world be better in the future, but right now you just want to learn what they do and how they do it.  And the humility side of it is important because if you don’t have that then you’re never going to come across as engaging to them. If you’re coming in as like, well, I’m from this development group who built this amazing software that you’re using and you know, obviously we want to make it a little bit better.  So just tell me about all the awesomeness it has now and how it can be even more awesome for in the future. That’s not exactly going to go over very well, well it’s not going to get you any interesting insights. Being a humble apprentice in that side of things and also just in the interactions that you have with the other people that you work with, you can learn from them.  Make it clear you want to learn from them and they’ll be much more likely to want to tell you things and want to help you understand their jobs so that you can make their jobs better.  So, I mean all of these things if I know again there’s people asking questions about well, how do I get into this role? How do I convince somebody to employ me? I would say when I was hiring people when I was looking at resumes, I was looking for evidence of those soft skills more than I was looking for evidence of aptitude in a particular piece of software. More than I was looking more than I was looking for a certification.  More than I was looking for necessarily the exact experiences those people have had. Like Amanda said I can teach you how to use a piece of software. You can pick it up yourself. It’s not that difficult. Most software these days is relatively usable. Even the streaming software we’re using I can kind of make it work.  So but I would find it difficult to teach you empathy. I would find it difficult to teach you humility. It’s something that you have to work on yourself over time. Maybe I can coach you through times where you felt you maybe could have had more humility, had more empathy, been a better apprentice. But that’s up to you. If you can demonstrate that I will be much more likely to hire you because it’s a lot less work for me. Trying to get those skills into you is much harder than getting a tool skill into you. 

AS (42:48): A hundred percent. I think the other thing is just willingness to learn and to be really honest about what you do already know and to have the initiative to know at least enough about what you know to figure out the things you don’t know and to try to address them and sort of that willingness to take that on yourself. Because that sort of plays into the genuine curiosity about people because if you’re really passionate about figuring people out and empathetic for them you’ll figure out how to do it.  And you’ll figure out what that looks like or you’ll figure out a way to talk to people even with no budget or no fancy tools or any of that stuff. So I think that that is another one of those things of, again, when I was in a position to be hiring people, I wanted to know that you had done a little bit of research to find out what I was looking for that you had, I don’t know, maybe looked up the company that I was working for at the time.  To take that little bit of initiative yourself so that when you’re asking for something… This is true, even if you’re whether I had a job opening in particular that you’re applying for if you’re just asking me for advice or feedback, if you just say send me a generic message that says “I want a job, teach me about UX”, I can’t do much with that. But if you say “I’ve looked into it, I’ve read a bunch of things. I’m really curious about this particular aspect of it.” then it gives me more ability to help out and to find something even if I couldn’t be the one, I might help connect you to the right sort of place so that’s kind of two pieces of advice kind of wrapped into one but I think that initiative is really important. 

CL (44:43): I would throw in there about the learning part and it’s not just the learning about the the job direction or the potential job (I mean, I absolutely agree that’s important) it’s also just self-improvement learning. What I like to see is people who —  I’m a blog reader myself, you know, I like to read — but whether it’s podcasts or blogs or videos or you know, there’s those LinkedIn learning things we do (CN: product placement!) or books or anything. I want to see people who are always growing, who are always expanding their knowledge, who are staying on top of trends, and you know, when I read blogs, it’s not just the UX ones. I’m in fact most interested in the ones that aren’t. For me, it’s the business, the technology, it’s what’s happening in the world. I mean there’s so much there. And it’s not just the input but it’s the output. it’s the output to branding. It’s the people where I can Google their name or their name with UX or whatever and I see stuff. That stuff could be social media. That stuff could be blogs. That stuff could be writing. The best stuff could be friends at events. 

CN: Not just stuff but insightful stuff as well. I mean, if you just reposting it kind of shows me what you’re interested in. If you put comments on your repost, that let’s me understand that you read it, you understood it, and you had something to say about it. So me and branding don’t get along very well together but I agree with you it’s kind of an important thing if you’re trying to find careers. People will be searching for you. They will need to see that you have done something that helps them differentiate you from everybody else who’s out there. We have been going for 45 minutes non-stop! We should give these poor viewers a break. We didn’t get to many of the questions. I’m sorry about that. What I will say is, immediately after this I’ll be going through reading the stuff that’s been commented on in this feed. I’ll be adding comments to the ones where I feel like I can add something. Some of them were questions that I think were tangential to this and it’s given us fodder. I think we now have enough potential episodes for another, I don’t know, two years from this one session. So we’ll really try to address some of this stuff in future episodes  Some of the stuff that you’ve been asking might be things that we can just put links to on the website afterwards so definitely what I’d say is after this give us a couple of days. Our intention is to put the transcript from this up and also to put resources up for you which might be helpful.  The website’s website is stickynotes.chat. If you want to get in touch with us you can do so at chat at sticky notes dot chat, you can do it through LinkedIn. You can do it through Twitter. We you should follow each of us on LinkedIn.  No, you lost follow each of us on LinkedIn. One thing we will be making along. Yeah, maybe I’m doing wrong. We won’t be rotating who actually creates these streams as we go through this. So you need to follow all three of us in order to actually get notifications when we go live.  I know my video’s just disappeared it should be coming back in a second. I’m using a camera that died on me so well. But you still got my audio, right? Okay.

CL: I’d throw in there that the chat window we have here isn’t just static. If you’re watching this now or later, please put in what you would like to see. And it’s not just kind of you know, the classic kind of set of “How do I get a career?” but also what’s happening in today’s world and how is it relate?  You know, there’s so much pain and bad stuff and difficulty this year, now, the last couple months, but how’s that relate to a career? How’s that really to what we are doing as UX professionals? Are we, you know, physically present or not? Are we virtual? What’s happening?  There’s so much there that we can discuss kind of in real time, you know, as it’s happening, you know, it just just life life in 2020 and UX and specifically UX in 2020, and I’m certainly interested to talk about it and also to hear other people, you know respond to it as well. 

AS: Yeah, for sure. 

CN: Awesome. So my camera’s dead. Luckily people can still hear me because you know, if you can hear my voice what will be the point? So this is what we’re planning on doing next. We want to talk about what it means to be physically present when you’re running user research. When is it too early to start running user research in person again?  This is going to be an interesting one. It was actually, we bumped this topic up because of something Cory’s up too soon. So we will be talking about this one in some detail on the 18th. Follow us on LinkedIn. Ifyou do that you’ll get more notifications about what’s going on.  Also, if you didn’t know this you can follow hashtags on LinkedIn. Follow this hashtag and you will get all the information about what we’re up to.  For this week I think that’s pretty much it. Cory Amanda thank you very much! So this was Cory Lebson, Amanda Stockwell, and me, Chris Nodder. We’ve really enjoyed hosting this. I think it’s been quite a good event. I just feel bad I haven’t been able to answer everybody’s questions but we’ll get to some of those along the way with a different broadcast and we’ll be going through the comments live and if you’re watching this after the event, we’ll be going through the comments over the next couple of weeks too just to see what else people have to say, so thanks so much and we will see you next time. Bye for now. Thanks everyone bye.

2 replies on “Ep.1 Backgrounds (Jun 4 2020)”

Thank you so much!! It’s been such a joy watching your live stream replay! Thank you for posting the take away and the transcript!

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