Career paths & organizational structures for IxDs

5 Jun 2006 - 12:16am
8 years ago
5 replies
1242 reads
Elizabeth Bacon
2003

Hi folks,

I need this group's expertise for an investigation into career paths for
Interaction Designers. I do IxD & UX work with the title of "Human Factors
Design Engineer" at a medical device company.* I am charged with creating a
blueprint for our department to use as we grow the group and promote senior
staff. Some of the questions I need to address are:

- What are the possible career paths for IxDs?
- What sort of strategic value are IxDs expected to offer once they possess
a certain level of experience?
- What sort of organizational & departmental structures best support IxDs
advancing within a corporate environment?

Anything you can share or contribute would be very welcome! Does anybody
have a "Chief Design Officer" example yet?? I'd especially love to receive
org charts & information from established companies like Apple, Yahoo!, IBM,
Google, eBay, SAP, etc. since your companies lead the industry in terms of
hiring & establishing expectations for our profession. (I can leave
corporate attributions or remove them if desired, just let me know....)

Collecting information about this question would benefit the entire IxDA
community, and I intend to contribute my general findings to the Resource
Library if all goes well. I'd like to create something analogous to Challis
Hodge's great model of UX career paths (see
<http://www.challishodge.com/models_ux_careerpath.html>) but with an eye
more towards practitioners working on complex software & systems beyond the
web domain.

Thanks very much for any help you can provide!!

Cheers,
Liz

* Each member of our group handles activities ranging from ethnographic
research, product definition, interaction design, user interface design,
information architecture, ergonomics, and usability testing, through ongoing
usability benchmarking, requirements review and software development
support.

Comments

5 Jun 2006 - 11:17am
russwilson
2005

IMO:

- What are the possible career paths for IxDs?

I'm beginning to see titles all over the place like "VP Product Design",
"VP User Experience", etc. But, my exec recruiter points out that it's
still
much more difficult to find req's out for positions with those titles.
I have found that it requires significant selling (and rep, experience)
to land
these positions. I am currently the Director of Product Design,
reporting
to the CEO of a software company (160 people and growing fast)
specializing in
network performance mgt (B2B). The CEO recognized the need for design
leadership
in the company, and I am expected to show ROI (even if it is fuzzy).
But, there
is probably not a good justification in our company for a CDO. We
aren't a consumer
product, and I fight "it's good enough" all the time.

So, with all of that said, I do see the following:

IxD/IA --> Senior IxD/IA --> Manager IxD/IA --> Director of UX/Director
of Product Design --> VP (same) --> CDO

(disregarding the issues of a talented designer moving into
management, etc.)

I have also considered moving into more traditional roles and
emphasizing design.
For example, VP Product Management or VP Development. The problem there
is that with
VP of Product Management you wind up doing and being responsible for so
much more outside of
pure design, and you're in marketing (which has it's own set of politcal
problems). With
VP Development (which I've been) you also are pulled in other directions
and it requires
so much people management... Neither an ideal choice, but thought I
should bring them up
because they have crossed my mind and have been suggested to me in the
past.

- What sort of strategic value are IxDs expected to offer once they
possess a certain level of experience?

At the Director (and up) level, the expectations broaden a little beyond
just IxD and seem to cover
more aspects of UX; strategic thinking becomes more important. I think
about how we can improve our UX
and align it with our corporate goals to stay ahead of the competition
and drive our revenue goals all the time.
I also think about staffing and resources and how best to grow the
department to optimally service the needs
of the organization and to ultimately create "best of class" products.

- What sort of organizational & departmental structures best support
IxDs advancing within a corporate environment?

I believe that the IxD function (and IA, etc.) needs to be within the
development organization, or possibly sit between
development and marketing. It should not be within marketing because it
will be positioned somewhat "against"
development and designers will have a hard time with politics and
gaining the *cred* with the development team to drive
their designs. That doesn't mean that it can't work (I'm sure there are
examples out there), but I don't think it's
optimal. Designers need to be aligned with developers. In my company,
I actually have my own indpendent design
department, and I work daily with product managers and architects and
programmers. I carefully work politics between
the two.

Anything you can share or contribute would be very welcome! Does anybody
have a "Chief Design Officer" example yet?? I'd especially love to
receive org charts & information from established companies like Apple,
Yahoo!, IBM, Google, eBay, SAP, etc. since your companies lead the
industry in terms of hiring & establishing expectations for our
profession. (I can leave corporate attributions or remove them if
desired, just let me know....)

Collecting information about this question would benefit the entire IxDA
community, and I intend to contribute my general findings to the
Resource Library if all goes well. I'd like to create something
analogous to Challis Hodge's great model of UX career paths (see
<http://www.challishodge.com/models_ux_careerpath.html>) but with an eye
more towards practitioners working on complex software & systems beyond
the web domain.

6 Jun 2006 - 3:42pm
Josh Seiden
2003

Hi Liz,

One of the challenges with designers--as with other similar roles--is that
what makes people good designers doesn't necessarily make them good
managers. In the past, I've worked at places that tried to create two
advancement tracks, one in which designers move into more traditional
management roles, and a second path in which they stay in design roles, but
take on greater/more interesting/more challenging/more valuable design
responsibilities.

I've recently been reading "First, Break All the Rules" by Buckingham and
Coffman, and they do a good job discussing this dynamic. They recommend a
number of concrete tactics to create productive solutions. I recommend it
highly.

JS

> Hi folks,
>
> I need this group's expertise for an investigation into
> career paths for Interaction Designers. I do IxD & UX work
> with the title of "Human Factors Design Engineer" at a
> medical device company.* I am charged with creating a
> blueprint for our department to use as we grow the group and
> promote senior staff. Some of the questions I need to address are:
>

6 Jun 2006 - 10:01pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Similar to Josh I think there are at least two paths for designers and only
1 is towards management.
The other is what I have called the "principal designer".
The role is one that I pursued at my current organization for quite some
time, until it became clear that they needed a real manager, and so I have
stepped up into that role.
The role I was hoping for was one where I could be the design thought leader
of the organization (which I still am in my current managerial position).

I think though this is something for small organizations to consider. It is
hard for small organizations to have the luxury of this dual track system. I
think it is fine for a team under 10 to expect the leads to manage, and
managing while not everyone's forte is definitely learnable. I know for my
part I have looked for internal mentors in management and have succeed well
there, while I look for external mentors in design. I have also not been shy
of taking a few management courses since it was clear that this is the
direction I'm heading and they have been really fruitful. There is very
little out there in the design community that teaches you how to manage a
team and work as a corporate leader of design in your organization. There is
lots in adjacent fields or just in management training itself.

I think that a principal path is noble, but I think it is fair that many at
a senior level figure out how to lead people, and not just do design well.

-- dave

7 Jun 2006 - 12:15am
Simon Asselbergs
2005

> One of the challenges with designers--as with other similar roles--is that
> what makes people good designers doesn't necessarily make them good
> managers.

I have often seen organisations where they don't distinguish leadership and management. Ghandi was a good leader, but that doesn't make him a good manager. Leadership means inspiring and motivating people to set them in motion to some direction. I think that requires highly empathic, analytical, or even philosophical skills and knowing how to address to a diversity of people. A visionairy that can address a crowd.

Management is a administrative job. It requires analytical and people skills related to breakup abstract business ideas into a prioritised workplan and know how to delegate them between people so that they are most productive, and monitor progress. It requires a sense of timing.

Often I have seen people who work a long time eventually get management tasks. But I seldom see people being good leaders and/or managers. To get people perform beyond average they have to be motivated quite a bit. To get the most out of people they have to be inspired deeply. I guess people who often asks themselves the question "how am I able to manage and lead myself?" will eventually develop some skills that are required for leading and managing others. The ability to see opportunities and become inspired and creative, also the ability to work efficiently and autonomously. I guess the other challenge not to feel lonely while being the one with a lot of responsibility.

--
_______________________________________________

Search for businesses by name, location, or phone number. -Lycos Yellow Pages

http://r.lycos.com/r/yp_emailfooter/http://yellowpages.lycos.com/default.asp?SRC=lycos10

7 Jun 2006 - 2:18pm
russwilson
2005

I would 2nd Joshua's recommendation of "First, Break All The Rules".
Also check out "Now Find Your Strengths". I typically steer clear of
management/leadership books because 99% are garbage, but I'm a fan
of Buckingham's books. We are actually working directly with him in
our company and have shown proven results from his methodologies
(e.g. hiring talent, placing people in roles that best match their
strengths, etc.)

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Joshua Seiden
Sent: Tuesday, June 06, 2006 3:43 PM
To: 'Elizabeth Bacon'; discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Career paths & organizational structures for
IxDs

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
material.]

Hi Liz,

One of the challenges with designers--as with other similar roles--is
that what makes people good designers doesn't necessarily make them good
managers. In the past, I've worked at places that tried to create two
advancement tracks, one in which designers move into more traditional
management roles, and a second path in which they stay in design roles,
but take on greater/more interesting/more challenging/more valuable
design responsibilities.

I've recently been reading "First, Break All the Rules" by Buckingham
and Coffman, and they do a good job discussing this dynamic. They
recommend a number of concrete tactics to create productive solutions. I
recommend it highly.

JS

> Hi folks,
>
> I need this group's expertise for an investigation into career paths
> for Interaction Designers. I do IxD & UX work with the title of "Human

> Factors Design Engineer" at a medical device company.* I am charged
> with creating a blueprint for our department to use as we grow the
> group and promote senior staff. Some of the questions I need to
> address are:
>

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