Hiring woes, searching for the best

17 Oct 2004 - 8:51am
10 years ago
29 replies
500 reads
Dave Malouf
2005

This might be just a NYC thing ... but I think I'm seeing signs elsewhere
...
Is it my imagination or is it getting really hard to get top-tier talent to
work in-house?

It just seems to me that everyone (almost everyone) is moving to create
their own consultancy. I can't think of a single "guru" in the field who is
in-house (not working for a consultancy theirs or a big name) anymore.
What's w/ dat?! Many of them have recently made the switch from in-house to
consultancy in what could be perceived as a mass evacuation.

I can see a few things that may be causing this:
1. the in-house experience is just well not condusive to the personality
patterns that "experts" share.
2. the in-house clubs ain't payin' enough
3. how long can anyone be expected to work on the same problem sets
4. Since most in-house's don't put design as a direct link to the CEO it
might feel like a glass (steel) ceiling
5. The "contractor" cycle that has sprung up (I know in NYC) makes it almost
impossible to be a full-time employee for anyone, b/c moving from full-time
to contractor is almost impossible, so you might as well just stay outside.

As someone who is lookin' for a top-notch IxDer I'm really interested in how
this can change. I know for myself that I like the long term feel of working
in-house. I wish their was a more transparent line to the CEO, and I wish
there was less scorn in moving between jobs every 2-5 years to get that
"problem set" variation. Not every company has the lateral mobility of a
giant supercorp like IBM, Microsoft, Adobe, etc.

-- dave

Comments

17 Oct 2004 - 9:50am
Kevin Cheng
2004

Being on a pseudo job search myself, I can say that a consultancy appeals to
me more because of the diversity of projects available.

To say no gurus work in-house is sort of a self fulfilling statement,
however. Gurus are made such because they publish their work and run
speaking events. UIE, NN/g, Adaptive Path, Creative Good all have their own
workshops. That's simply a part of their revenue stream.

Non-consultancies who might be considered "guru" are those who are outspoken
and publish articles via their own blog and perhaps through sites like Boxes
and Arrows. Wodtke, Herasimchuk (before leaving Adobe), people in the
CSS/Design world like Shea, Bowman are all considered at least experts in
their fields largely because of their frequently updated blogs.

Outspoken and talented as they may be, that doesn't mean those who aren't
speaking up are any less talented. It's a question of goals. Does your
organization need a talented and high profile IxD or is the talented part
sufficient?

As for retaining top notch talent in smaller firms, that's a difficult
problem. Not only does it get dull to work on the same problem sets, as an
organization you may not WANT the same person on the problem for the long
term because you don't get a fresh perspective. The only solution there is
to have the organization (and its opportunities) grow with the individuals.
That's not a problem specific to designers.

Kevin Cheng (KC)
OK/Cancel: Interface Your Fears
kc at ok-cancel.com
www.ok-cancel.com

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.
com] On Behalf Of David Heller
Sent: Sunday, October 17, 2004 2:52 PM
To: discuss-interactiondesigners.com at lists.interactiondesigners.com
Subject: [ID Discuss] Hiring woes, searching for the best

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

This might be just a NYC thing ... but I think I'm seeing signs elsewhere
....
Is it my imagination or is it getting really hard to get top-tier talent to
work in-house?

It just seems to me that everyone (almost everyone) is moving to create
their own consultancy. I can't think of a single "guru" in the field who is
in-house (not working for a consultancy theirs or a big name) anymore.
What's w/ dat?! Many of them have recently made the switch from in-house to
consultancy in what could be perceived as a mass evacuation.

I can see a few things that may be causing this:
1. the in-house experience is just well not condusive to the personality
patterns that "experts" share.
2. the in-house clubs ain't payin' enough
3. how long can anyone be expected to work on the same problem sets
4. Since most in-house's don't put design as a direct link to the CEO it
might feel like a glass (steel) ceiling
5. The "contractor" cycle that has sprung up (I know in NYC) makes it almost
impossible to be a full-time employee for anyone, b/c moving from full-time
to contractor is almost impossible, so you might as well just stay outside.

As someone who is lookin' for a top-notch IxDer I'm really interested in how
this can change. I know for myself that I like the long term feel of working
in-house. I wish their was a more transparent line to the CEO, and I wish
there was less scorn in moving between jobs every 2-5 years to get that
"problem set" variation. Not every company has the lateral mobility of a
giant supercorp like IBM, Microsoft, Adobe, etc.

-- dave
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17 Oct 2004 - 11:09am
Dan Zlotnikov
2004

On Sun, 17 Oct 2004 09:51:54 -0400, David Heller <dheller at htmhell.com> wrote:
> This might be just a NYC thing ... but I think I'm seeing signs elsewhere
> ...
> Is it my imagination or is it getting really hard to get top-tier talent to
> work in-house?

I can only speak for Canada, but US and Canadian numbers are very
similar in most economic issues, so there's some relevance.

First of all, part-time employment has risen over the last twenty-five
years, and the numbers are speeding up. Take a look for yourself.

Approx. rate of change (annual)

F/T P/T
1985 110% 165%
1990 125% 185%
1995 125% 205%
2000 140% 220%

In 1999, 73% of all part-timers were happy to be part-timers, up from
69% in 1997. Add to that statistic that since 1996, the only sector
that has experienced an increase in total jobs has been the
technical/professional sector, and you get a whole lot of part-time
workers in IT and IT-related business.

More and more people are moving to working part-time, and more and
more people are becoming self-employed. I can't find anything broken
down by occupation, but StatsCanada lists almost 1/6 of the workforce
in 2000 as being self-employed, and that excludes those who are
incorporated (they are employees of their own corporations).

You're more likely to see self-employment in the service sector, which
is, again, where IxD experts fall.

You're also more likely to see self-employment, and especially
part-time self-employment in the more experienced groups, simply
because they have the connections to get the clients and the skill set
to set rates high enough to maintain their lifestyle with only
part-time work.

Now, the grain of salt: I've never worked in this field, so all of the
above is theoretical analysis.

Dan

--
WatCHI
http://www.acm.org/chapters/watchi

17 Oct 2004 - 12:46pm
Thomas Vander Wal
2004

I think this goes beyond NYC, as I have run into similar trying to
hire for a long-term government contracting in the DC area. I would
talk with folks that were interested in doing the work, but not
working on-site (they were not interested in moving or they had been
working virtually for 80 to 90% of their work for the last two to
three years. The pay can be tough in the Washington, DC area, but I
was able to compete with salary after making some strong
justifications to the company I work for and the client.

I am getting burned out with hiring lower and then doing the training
myself. We have a lot of work to get done and this model of working is
not getting us to the level that is needed.

There seems to be a line where the top-teir go out on their own
(frustration working in the system takes its toll) or join a boutique.
The large consulting groups have very few top-tier folks in the DC
area, actually their top folks (in a seven tier structure) are not in
the top two tiers. There are some stellar people in the DC area, but
most are bouncing between companies out of frustration, going out on
their own, or are leaving the area.

Your number three, pay, in conjuction with carreer path for in-house
is where I hear a lot of folks complaining, not on in the DC area, but
elsewhere. The pay issues is really odd as I will see companies limit
their in-house salaries at 80 to 90k per year, but will spend 200 to
300 an hour on outside consultants. The cost often are more using the
consultant, but the biggest loss is knowledge. With consultants the
knowledge walks, even with fantastic documentation the skills needed
to do similar work over time is not easily transfered nor retained.
This becomes a huge cost to the company.

Personally, I am strongly thinking about making a move of some sort as
the inability to hire so I can delegate rather than train really has
me frustrated. The pace and passion are not to the levels that keep
me driven. Not being able to look forward in the work environment is
also a drawback. The carreer ladder is running out of rungs or has
run out as the case may be, but there is still room to grow. This is
where the lack of top level managment access becomes a problem as the
top managment levels do not have the understanding of the limilts they
have put on their growth and creation of efficiency and usability.
Pure technology buys (often that do not solve the problems or create
more problems) are given value over improving design and efficiency.
There is a lack of education in these areas and a lack of desire to be
educated. Many top executive that I know discount design (other than
brand) as they believe it is simple and they understand more than
enough. This last item makes it rewarding on the consulting side as
by the time they call the management has realised they have a problem
that they can not solve, which makes it easier to get to a solution.

Just my 2 cents and sadly I am glad there are others in the same boat.

All the best,
Thomas

It may be the in-house model has to change to the in-house folks
manage the projects or just the budget components

On Sun, 17 Oct 2004 09:51:54 -0400, David Heller <dheller at htmhell.com> wrote:

> This might be just a NYC thing ... but I think I'm seeing signs elsewhere
> ...
> Is it my imagination or is it getting really hard to get top-tier talent to
> work in-house?
>
> It just seems to me that everyone (almost everyone) is moving to create
> their own consultancy. I can't think of a single "guru" in the field who is
> in-house (not working for a consultancy theirs or a big name) anymore.
> What's w/ dat?! Many of them have recently made the switch from in-house to
> consultancy in what could be perceived as a mass evacuation.
>
> I can see a few things that may be causing this:
> 1. the in-house experience is just well not condusive to the personality
> patterns that "experts" share.
> 2. the in-house clubs ain't payin' enough
> 3. how long can anyone be expected to work on the same problem sets
> 4. Since most in-house's don't put design as a direct link to the CEO it
> might feel like a glass (steel) ceiling
> 5. The "contractor" cycle that has sprung up (I know in NYC) makes it almost
> impossible to be a full-time employee for anyone, b/c moving from full-time
> to contractor is almost impossible, so you might as well just stay outside.
>
> As someone who is lookin' for a top-notch IxDer I'm really interested in how
> this can change. I know for myself that I like the long term feel of working
> in-house. I wish their was a more transparent line to the CEO, and I wish
> there was less scorn in moving between jobs every 2-5 years to get that
> "problem set" variation. Not every company has the lateral mobility of a
> giant supercorp like IBM, Microsoft, Adobe, etc.

17 Oct 2004 - 2:09pm
Todd Warfel
2003

It's a cycle. Perhaps it's one of the things that comes with economic
recovery. Seems like several years ago the trend was to move in-house.
Might have been due to the nature of the economy tanking (bout six
months prior to the current administration taking over). When the
economy is down, it's a greater risk to go out on your own.

It seems like since the economy has taken a turn for the better in the
last year-and-a-half or so, companies are having a harder time bringing
top talent in-house - people are leaving to start their own
consultancy, or join smaller boutiques, or in the case of Eric Meyers,
when your company/division gets dissolved, it may be your best option.

That's not to say it can't be done. Yahoo!, AOL, and a couple of others
have some pretty good talent in-house. But it does seem to be the case
that it's harder to do.

So, I'd add economic recovery (suitable environment for supporting
consultants) to your list of five below.

On Oct 17, 2004, at 9:51 AM, David Heller wrote:

> Is it my imagination or is it getting really hard to get top-tier
> talent to
> work in-house?
> [...]
> I can see a few things that may be causing this:
> 1. the in-house experience is just well not condusive to the
> personality
> patterns that "experts" share.
> 2. the in-house clubs ain't payin' enough
> 3. how long can anyone be expected to work on the same problem sets
> 4. Since most in-house's don't put design as a direct link to the CEO
> it
> might feel like a glass (steel) ceiling
> 5. The "contractor" cycle that has sprung up (I know in NYC) makes it
> almost
> impossible to be a full-time employee for anyone, b/c moving from
> full-time
> to contractor is almost impossible, so you might as well just stay
> outside.

Cheers!

Todd R. Warfel
Partner, Design and Usability Specialist
MessageFirst | making products easier to use
--------------------------------------
Contact Info
voice: (607) 339-9640
email: twarfel at messagefirst.com
web: www.messagefirst.com
aim: twarfel at mac.com
--------------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

17 Oct 2004 - 3:58pm
whitneyq
2010

At 09:51 AM 10/17/2004 -0400, David Heller wrote:
>Is it my imagination or is it getting really hard to get top-tier talent to
>work in-house?

To all the other comments, I would add that there are a lot more jobs out
there than there used to be. Just judging by the UPA job board (which
charges to list) we've seen the number of postings go from 1-2 to 15-20 per
month. That means that there's a lot more competition for people.

The same thing happened in the last cycle, by the way. It's just the ebb
and flow of supply and demand.

However, I'd suggest one other change: every time corporations lay lots of
people off, those folks have to learn to fend for themselves - and often
discover that they can. The lure of the "full time job with benefits"
starts to drop in what I'm thinking is a real trend across (at least US)
corporate life.

It also means that the companies with the most interesting projects (on any
of a number of dimensions) or working conditions have an edge in hiring.

W

Whitney Quesenbery
Whitney Interactive Design, LLC
w. www.WQusability.com
e. whitneyq at wqusability.com
p. 908-638-5467

UPA - www.usabilityprofessionals.org
STC Usability SIG: www.stcsig.org/usability

17 Oct 2004 - 4:23pm
Thomas Vander Wal
2004

On Sun, 17 Oct 2004 16:58:39 -0400, Whitney Quesenbery
<wq at sufficiently.com> wrote:
> At 09:51 AM 10/17/2004 -0400, David Heller wrote:
> >Is it my imagination or is it getting really hard to get top-tier talent to
> >work in-house?
>
> To all the other comments, I would add that there are a lot more jobs out
> there than there used to be. Just judging by the UPA job board (which
> charges to list) we've seen the number of postings go from 1-2 to 15-20 per
> month. That means that there's a lot more competition for people.
>
> The same thing happened in the last cycle, by the way. It's just the ebb
> and flow of supply and demand.

The last cycle was far more robust than this cycle, but I think the
lack of sexiness this go round has less people in the field(s) than
before. I know a lot of folks that were good that left the
marketplace. The pool of folks seems to have very limited experience
(less than two years).

> However, I'd suggest one other change: every time corporations lay lots of
> people off, those folks have to learn to fend for themselves - and often
> discover that they can. The lure of the "full time job with benefits"
> starts to drop in what I'm thinking is a real trend across (at least US)
> corporate life.
>
> It also means that the companies with the most interesting projects (on any
> of a number of dimensions) or working conditions have an edge in hiring.

I completely agree with this. Particularly if there is a more demand
and less supply. I am thinking of leaving the in-house government
contracting gig, just because the interesting projects are making it
tough (among other factors listed before) to get good people in the
door.

The companies that have been doing well are Yahoo! and Google. AOL
has had a tough time getting passionate folks interested, but they do
have a fantastic team of developers and designers. I know of a few
smaller companies that are doing well, but outside of these most folks
I talk to are struggling to find in-house folks that are in the top
tier range.

All the best,
Thomas

17 Oct 2004 - 5:53pm
Tanya Rabourn
2004

On Oct 17, 2004, at 10:50 AM, Kevin Cheng wrote:
> To say no gurus work in-house is sort of a self fulfilling statement,
> however. Gurus are made such because they publish their work and run
> speaking events. UIE, NN/g, Adaptive Path, Creative Good all have
> their own
> workshops. That's simply a part of their revenue stream.

To add to this, working in-house means getting permission from the
corporate lawyers to talk about anything you've done. Often, to
speak/write about anything even tangentiality related to what you do
means getting permission from someone depending on the company. There
are large companies with vague policies that seem to assume any IP you
produce is theirs whether it's related to a specific project you're
working on or just in the area of IT in general. It's not impossible to
get permission of course, but it does add a bit of a hurdle.

-Tanya

17 Oct 2004 - 6:26pm
Listera
2004

Whitney Quesenbery:

> The lure of the "full time job with benefits" starts to drop in what I'm
> thinking is a real trend across (at least US) corporate life.

Yep. Legalities aside, sooner than later, the notion and label of a "full
time" job will dilute to insignificance. After all, what *is* a "full time"
job? Is it something you have until you are laid off? Is it a sequence of
projects? Is it a collection of benefits you could also purchase yourself
perhaps at a higher rate but with more freedom? Etc.

One way to test this is when a hiring manager says, "This is a full time,
not a contract position," ask him if he can guarantee the "full-time-ness"
of the job in writing for, say, five years? He wants your commitment, but
can he commit the company to you for five years? Most likely he'll laugh at
you. Not because he's mean but because that's an eternity in
technology/marketplace/budget terms. If companies cannot commit to you for
the long(er) haul (and I'm not saying they should or actually can), why
should you? What then happens to the notion of "full time"?

A saner way to approach this is "project based" engagements: If both sides
are happy and there are projects to be done, you remain engaged. If not, you
move on. There are examples of these contractual but long(er) term
engagements in other industries, TV and entertainment being two often
publicly discussed ones.

Very few companies in the world can afford to hire full time, senior
IA/UI/UX designers, simply because it would be impossible to keep them
profitably and productively engaged full time. Let's embrace this fact and
reorganize around it. Then many more companies can actually benefit from the
services of senior designers in a more predictable and mutually beneficial
manner.

When confronted with the choice of hiring a senior designer at a higher cost
for a short time or a junior designer at a lower cost for full time, I
suspect, most companies would choose the latter. There's a problem somewhere
in there. :-)

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

17 Oct 2004 - 7:04pm
jstanford
2003

Consultant vs. in house. Great question.

I was just visiting a friend last week at Google which appeared to me to be
the most amazing place in the world to work and so I asked myself, would I
give up my life as a consultant if I was offered a position at Google? And,
immediately, the answer was no.

Why? Well, for many of the reasons you listed below and then some. Here's my
commentary.

> 1. the in-house experience is just well not condusive to the
> personality patterns that "experts" share.

I am not sure that it's an "expert" personality thing. For me it's more of
an, "I have a personality that is comfortable with risk and likes do to do
new things all the time" personality thing. This may or may not be a
personality type that overlaps with Interaction Design in general.

> 2. the in-house clubs ain't payin' enough

I wouldn't make anywhere near how much I make if I worked in house, and, I
would probably have to work more and have less flexibility. No brainer.

3. how long can
> anyone be expected to work on the same problem sets

As I mentioned previously, one of the things I enjoy most about my job is
that I can learn about many new industries in the course of working with
clients. I excel at quickly getting up to speed on hard problems in
interesting industries and so it's a great fit. This would obviously not
happen in house working on the same problem set in house which I did for
three years. In fact, I've found that when I want to work on a problem from
beginning to end until the product launches, I find clients that let me do
that. And, when I instead I am in the mood for just some general consulting,
that's an option too. Gotta love it when the economy has improved.

4. Since
> most in-house's don't put design as a direct link to the CEO
> it might feel like a glass (steel) ceiling

I think that this is still a ceiling sometimes as a consultant. But somehow,
as an outsider, you have more credibility to try to poke some holes through
it. But, I don't see this as primary.

A few other reasons that I think that in-house will never attract me again,
includes:

- Interaction Design is very cross-functional, often putting you right in
the middle between engineering and marketing. This is the nexus of political
issues. As a consultant, these are fortunately not the political issues that
I have to fret about because I don't have any personal agenda for getting
promoted or annoying the other department. I just want to make the best UI
possible and make sure that other's are on board. Much easier to do when
you're an outsider and can escalate if needed without all your internal
political baggage.

- Every company has their own set of personalities. If I don't like someone
at a company -- no problem, in a few months I won't have to work with them
again. If I don't like someone I work with everyday and I am in house, tough
luck. Poor work environment (i.e. working with difficult people) is one of
the top reasons that people are unsatisfied with their work even if the pay
and the work itself is great. As a consultant, not a problem...

- As a consultant, I depend on myself first and foremost to create career
success. I don't have to wait for someone to promote me, give me a raise, or
let me go on vacation. The trade-off is that I need to find work on my own
for this flexibility and it is not just handed to me, but it's worth it.
I'll give up free lunch, snacks, and drinks anyday to be able to have
freedom.

Julie Stanford
_____________________________________
Julie Stanford
Principal, Sliced Bread Design | www.slicedbreaddesign.com
650-799-7225

17 Oct 2004 - 9:39pm
boese
2004

Kevin Cheng wrote:

>Non-consultancies who might be considered "guru" are those who are outspoken
>and publish articles via their own blog and perhaps through sites like Boxes
>and Arrows. Wodtke, Herasimchuk (before leaving Adobe), people in the
>CSS/Design world like Shea, Bowman are all considered at least experts in
>their fields largely because of their frequently updated blogs.
>
>Outspoken and talented as they may be, that doesn't mean those who aren't
>speaking up are any less talented. It's a question of goals. Does your
>organization need a talented and high profile IxD or is the talented part
>sufficient?

My first thought in answer to this good question is simple:

If they are in-house and high-level, they've been forced to sign
confidentiality agreements and non-compete clauses, so that their
methods and results are kept exclusively in-house as well. No one
outside the company will ever learn anything from their advances in
method or findings. In such company's scarcity model, interaction
design becomes just another "trade secret."

For that matter, such studies taking place at universities are also
being coerced into the same restrictions, to the point that in some
cases Human Subjects Review Boards aren't even allowed to review the
terms and methods of the study AT ALL.

Which is, by any measure, an extremely disturbing development.

Chris

17 Oct 2004 - 9:59pm
Dave Malouf
2005

> If they are in-house and high-level, they've been forced to sign
> confidentiality agreements and non-compete clauses, so that their
> methods and results are kept exclusively in-house as well. No one
> outside the company will ever learn anything from their advances in
> method or findings. In such company's scarcity model, interaction
> design becomes just another "trade secret."

I don't understand this:

1. When I was working at a consultancy, I signed an NDA on hire that said
that I would abide by my consultancies NDAs. Basically, I am still held at
secret and the consultancy and most likely the client end up owning the
final work that I do and the secrets attached to them.

2. When I was contractor the same thing.

Who would ever hire you w/o NDA? I can't imagine it. So this line is not all
that real to me.

The answer that made the most sense is that only by being your own master
can you have the flexibility and freedom do come up w/ your own work and
make time to disseminate it.

But there is a good side to the inside track ... That is growth. Growing a
product, owning the product through your own investment. This is something
that can only happen on the inside track. How often as consultants does the
final implementation not look like our vision b/c we are removed by the 2nd
or 3rd releases of a product a year later. Isn't there anything to be said
about the pride that comes from rearing a child over time? Is this not
enough? Is this attainable on Ziya's 5-month contracts that he suggested?

--dave

17 Oct 2004 - 11:34pm
Listera
2004

David Heller:

> How often as consultants does the final implementation not look like our
> vision b/c we are removed by the 2nd or 3rd releases of a product a year
> later. Isn't there anything to be said about the pride that comes from rearing
> a child over time? Is this not enough? Is this attainable on Ziya's 5-month
> contracts that he suggested?

Fair and balanced point. :-)

In no way do I mean to diminish the importance and contribution of designers
who maintain and improve a product during its lifecycle. But is that really
where a company can and should utilize experienced, senior designers who'd
normally cost more?

I've designed a lot of stuff that were never released and, surely, stuff
that didn't quite look like what I last submitted. But in each case,
whatever the particular reasons were, I wasn't paid a premium to massage and
maintain the shipping product or its third incarnation. I was paid to solve
more complex/abstract problems and redesign workflows that weren't
efficiently optimized by the in-house staff or previous contractors. I was
brought in to provide a fresh look, a new way of working, a different way of
getting at the solution...not to blend into the house
style/methodology/politics/etc.

This, of course, is not unique to our industry. Most corporations have
in-house lawyers, but when they are sued or confronted with tough decisions
they almost always seek outside help for guidance, more expertise, different
approach, etc. It's imply more cost-effective.

Part of the problem is the self-confidence of hiring managers. Some can't
think beyond not being able to 'control' a 9-5 cubicle seat-warmer, others
know how to maximize the balance of in-house and outside resources.

Julie, for example, detailed the mindset of a typical consultant. The
challenge for the hiring manager is not to fight Julie to conform to his way
of doing things, but to figure out how best to utilize her experience and
skills, which, in all likelihood, may be missing in-house.

----
Ziya

Heterogeneity happens.

18 Oct 2004 - 6:16am
CD Evans
2004

-------
On 18 Oct 2004, at 00:53, Tanya Rabourn wrote:

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

On Oct 17, 2004, at 10:50 AM, Kevin Cheng wrote:
To say no gurus work in-house is sort of a self fulfilling statement,
however. Gurus are made such because they publish their work and run
speaking events. UIE, NN/g, Adaptive Path, Creative Good all have their own
workshops. That's simply a part of their revenue stream.

To add to this, working in-house means getting permission from the corporate lawyers to talk about anything you've done.
Often, to speak/write about anything even tangentiality related to what you do means getting permission from someone
depending on the company. There are large companies with vague policies that seem to assume any IP you produce is theirs
whether it's related to a specific project you're working on or just in the area of IT in general. It's not impossible to get
permission of course, but it does add a bit of a hurdle.
------

That would be the main thing for me, if I was a hot shot guru.

I don't really like this whole 'top secret' mentality. I'm not a bloody secret agent or under house arrest. The culture of NDA's
seems not only counter productive and ridiculous in terms of low morale and excessive stress, which are not good things by
the way, but it seems to go against the grain of creating networks. Ahem, isn't that our job?

If companies were more open about the projects they are working on, I'd feel a lot less guilty working with them, and I'd
assume their public image would skyrocket as well.

This isn't some sort of espionage, this is design. We should all just chill out. The intellectual property thing is making us sick,
it's like an infection, and we're starting to look really inept in terms of creating new designs as a result.

CD Evans

- Proprietary Information Contained Within - This message is worth three hundred pounds a character if used as a consultants
recommendation. This is subject to the laws and restrictions governing the aforementioned including intellectual rights and
disclosure policies. Failure to keep this message private will result in potential trips to the management office.

18 Oct 2004 - 6:14am
Dave Malouf
2005

> In no way do I mean to diminish the importance and
> contribution of designers
> who maintain and improve a product during its lifecycle. But
> is that really
> where a company can and should utilize experienced, senior
> designers who'd
> normally cost more?

Hmm? I've never been in an in-house situation where I ONLY did maintenance.
I'm always reaching for the next "big" thing.

I think this discussion is quite interesting. The point about the ebb & flow
that was mentioned. In tough times people went in-house, now that its easing
up they are spreading their wings.

It sounds like there is a perception or reality that wings can't be spread
while working on the inside:

IP controls prevent sharing, or even outside the workplace contributions.
Less control over one's time; I mean how can you go on a speaking tour if
you are tied to a cube, right?
Glass ceiling of both money and leadership

All good reasons ... Thank you.

-- dave

18 Oct 2004 - 10:05am
bill pawlak
2004

The primary reason I left my "in-house" situation (did I go
"out-house?) was that as my talents and responsibilities increased, I
got saddled with more and more mangerial duties (performance reviews,
compensation meetings, etc.) and "dog and pony show" sales efforts
(giving tours of our testing labs to the VP of this or the C_O of
that.)

bill

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18 Oct 2004 - 10:30am
Thomas Vander Wal
2004

This is my exact situation. But, the desire for the IxD/IA/UCD skills
I have has increased greatly at the same time, but the skills and
staffing are not there to move the projects forward as the client
desires. Promises of staff augmentation have been laid out there, but
there are no resources made available. Getting the skills on the
staff, while being honest about the environment is tough.

All the best,
Thomas

On Mon, 18 Oct 2004 08:05:15 -0700 (PDT), bill pawlak
<billpawlak at yahoo.com> wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> The primary reason I left my "in-house" situation (did I go
> "out-house?) was that as my talents and responsibilities increased, I
> got saddled with more and more mangerial duties (performance reviews,
> compensation meetings, etc.) and "dog and pony show" sales efforts
> (giving tours of our testing labs to the VP of this or the C_O of
> that.)
>
> bill

18 Oct 2004 - 1:05pm
Listera
2004

David Heller:

> Hmm? I've never been in an in-house situation where I ONLY did maintenance.
> I'm always reaching for the next "big" thing.

Yes, but as a senior consultant you should/would almost NEVER be hired to
ONLY do maintenance. It makes little business sense.

Yes, you may be reaching for the next big thing, and you are lucky if you
can in-house, but a huge chunk of your time and focus is eaten up by
maintenance. So, generally speaking, you're at a disadvantage vs. outside
consultant on that score.

No, I'm not saying at all that there are no progressive organizations that
allow growth for their in-house designers or that in-house designers are
inherently inferior, it's just that logistics and business favor a certain
trend in this regard.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

18 Oct 2004 - 1:26pm
Mike Beltzner
2004

Joining the conversation late ... although I scanned the thead so
hopefully this won't be going over already-covered ground.

David Heller wrote:

> What's w/ dat?! Many of them have recently made the switch from in-house to
> consultancy in what could be perceived as a mass evacuation.

One thing I didn't see mentioned was the fact that in many cases a lot
of IDx folk were pushed towards consultancy-like work by the bubble and
burst of a few years past. I was hired into IBM's User Centered Design
division straight out of school, and as I entered, many of my colleagues
jumped to new companies where they could get more influential and
impressive positions as lead designers and heads of usability
departments, etc. A sensible choice given the wealth of opportunities
and the horse-blinders that everyone was wearing making them think that
they'd just signed on to the next big thing ...

When the bust came, and IT budgets were cut back, these companies
started shedding their in-house IDXers who were seen as "frills" in the
face of the harsh economic times. Few companies were willing to hire a
full time, in-house IDxer, so lots of my friends and ex-colleagues
turned to consulting engagements in order to make it through.

Now that times are better, a lot of them are very much entrenched in the
consulting lifestyle, and not all that willing to tie themselves to a
single engagement.

> As someone who is lookin' for a top-notch IxDer I'm really interested in how
> this can change. I know for myself that I like the long term feel of working

I wish that I were mobile at the moment, as I've always wanted to work
in NYC, and would love to send you a resume. Not that I'm tooting my own
horn or anything, but I did want to point out by counterexample that
there are some IDxers out there who don't mind working for a single
master :)

cheers,
mike

18 Oct 2004 - 1:37pm
Listera
2004

Mike Beltzner:

> there are some IDxers out there who don't mind working for a single
> master :)

I'd be interested in your reasons to do so.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

18 Oct 2004 - 2:11pm
vutpakdi
2003

--- Julie Stanford <julie at slicedbreaddesign.com> wrote:
> Consultant vs. in house. Great question.
>
> I was just visiting a friend last week at Google which appeared to me to
> be
> the most amazing place in the world to work and so I asked myself, would
> I
> give up my life as a consultant if I was offered a position at Google?
> And,
> immediately, the answer was no.

As with most things, I think that whether or not to be a consultant or in
house depends on what is important to each individual. Well, that and how
congruous what they think is important to them is to what really is
important to them.

> > 2. the in-house clubs ain't payin' enough
>
> I wouldn't make anywhere near how much I make if I worked in house, and,
> I
> would probably have to work more and have less flexibility. No brainer.

I think that I'm paid quite well in terms of overall benefits and salary.
I could probably make more in dollar pay outside of my in house employer
(but I'm not clear on that part). But, when you add in benefits and the
fact that I get to have a good degree of flexibility (in hours, working
from home or elsewhere, and projects) *AND* that I work 40 hours a week
without having to travel, this in house job suits me at this point in my
life.

>
> 3. how long can
> > anyone be expected to work on the same problem sets
>
> As I mentioned previously, one of the things I enjoy most about my job is
> that I can learn about many new industries in the course of working with
> clients.

Okay, this one is one area where I wished things were a little different.
While the oil and gas industry is okay, I've had more fun working with
airline software, and I'd love to have a chance to work with medical
software. Financial software was okay, but that memory is colored by other
factors. ;-)

> - Every company has their own set of personalities. If I don't like
> someone
> at a company -- no problem, in a few months I won't have to work with
> them
> again. If I don't like someone I work with everyday and I am in house,
> tough
> luck.

True. Another minus for working in house

A plus for me is that I've set myself up to be sort of an internal
consultant to various projects. I have some assigned to me (or where I'm
requested), but I do have a fair amount of flexibility to take on other
projects.

While I'd like to be working with different industries and doing *some*
travelling (as opposed to just a conference and the occasional trip up to
our other offices) and while I'd probably consider working for a consulting
company (again) at some point, at this point in my life, being in house
suits me quite well.

All depends on what is important to you at this point in your life. :-)

Ron

=====
============================================================================
Ron Vutpakdi
vutpakdi at acm.org

18 Oct 2004 - 2:43pm
Wendy Fischer
2004

My take on this:

As an interaction designer, I tend to work on a project by project basis as a sole interaction designer or a team lead and like to focus on new products or redesigns. I really like the creative process and like designing and building things. Personally, I don't want to be overwhelmed by personality conflicts, management issues, budgets, etc, which as a permanent employee, is what I usually find at happens at large places. If my job isn't creative, then I lose interest in it really quickly.

Additionally, when there are large UI teams at large corporations, I find it common place that there are several interaction designers who are working on "features" as opposed to a product. In one of the bad experiences at a large corporation that I had, there were extremely competent and senior UI designers who were depressed and angry because they were forced to serve more as basic "answer" consultants (if the developers had a question, then the UI designer was supposed to provide an answer) rather than as designers. Needless to say, they spent more time surfing the web, being bored out of their minds and complaining about their situation because there was no design work for them to do. It was a very large company and a great waste of talent.

I personally prefer consulting, and after two bad permanent job experiences, I had a really great year from 2002-2003 consulting and worked on 3 really interesting projects for the State of California. I then had a consulting gig with a medium sized company that morphed into a permanent job.

I like my current job because there are only 2 of us and we work on different projects, which tend right now to be new products. It's the shortest commute that I've had in 7 years.

Because the company has a relatively rapid release cycle and because of the width of my skillset and lack of resources, I do everything from interaction design, project management, icon design and usability testing. There are times when I wish that we had more of a team and a budget in order to handle all of the products' user experience (there are several and they need usability help) however, I am busy and don't have a lack of new projects coming my way. I am lucky with my current job.

>From a project standpoint, I do prefer consulting because each experience tends to be different, consulting work tends to be more creative, and it also allows you more control over the types of projects that you work on, and your schedule. Additionally, you can walk away after a certain period of time and take a break from your coworkers, something that you necessarily can't do in a permanent job.

I miss my 5-10 weeks of vacation a year when I was a consultant, but at the same time, I don't miss the panic trying to find work and doing my own biz dev, long commutes, and worrying about how to pay the mortgage.

-Wendy Fischer

18 Oct 2004 - 3:23pm
Mike Beltzner
2004

Listera wrote:
>>there are some IDxers out there who don't mind working for a single
>>master :)
>
> I'd be interested in your reasons to do so.

My reasons to work in NYC or my reasons to work for a single master? :)

For me, the benefit of working in-house is the ability to build and
develop relationships with the project stakeholders, the users, and the
product itself.

Many companies are still at the early stages of adopting a user centric
design process, and many simply don't do design of any kind. I enjoy
advocating for such a process, building and refining such mechanisms. I
like the idea of not only changing a product for the better, but also
changing a company or organization.

Working in-house also usually means staying with a product through more
than a single development cycle, which allows a designer to build a
stronger understanding (through longitudinal study) of the user base.
This in turn helps to ensure that innovations are truly serving the
needs of the customers ...it also allows for a longer-term view of the
design. I can focus on driving certain innovations into this release,
with the full intention of moving towards the desired end state
somewhere down the line.

There's additional benefits of course, in terms of the steady paycheque
which helps pay the mortgage and the wife's tuition, but for me it's
mostly about that ability to work both at the high level and then dive
down into the details to fix a problem before flying back up to spot the
next one that might crop up in the future.

cheers,
mike

18 Oct 2004 - 4:02pm
Pradyot Rai
2004

> Mike Beltzner:
>
> > there are some IDxers out there who don't mind working for a single
> > master :)

Listera
> I'd be interested in your reasons to do so.

I feel tempted to rescue Mike's point of view here, with slight
moderation is words -- I am for full-time job, not necessarily for a
single master. But that is not impossible to expect from this
industry. I have worked on both sides and know good and bad(s) of both
world. So let me be the devil's advocate here --

1. Security -- Full time job provides more time for you to spend time
with your family, planning you future/ambitions. Also look form the
perspective of those global citizens (who are not necessarily citizen
of the country they work) -- full time job is good job for them.

2. Benefits -- Full time jobs can provide you benefits that comes
costly if you have to go get them yourself. Besides, those obvious
ones, education, training, flexible timings are few to mention.

3. Less investment -- No marketing, promotion, sales, accounting,
legal, insurance required. No need to prove yourself "guru". People
think that when you are consultant, you are own own boss. Think again.
You have to know people, recruiters, managers and all those who will
place you "there".

4. Learn-ability -- Consultancy seems to be giving some of people lots
of new things to learn. Not for everyone. You only learn with very
narrow perspective. Under an umbrella of an organization you learn
many other things -- business processes, management skills, besides
those design and technical skills. You are in better position to
demand quality work in the full-time job, if you can prove competence.

5. Challenges -- I do agree that people working in-house go through
more with politics, but that is challenging to many to counter these
and climb to positions to make more decisions. Besides, staying a
designer/IA/UX all his/her life may not appeal to everyone. For many
managing and controlling design, setting up design expectations, or
creating scope for design can be factor which can be met only in
full-time position.

6. Money Maters -- People have thrown so many numbers which does not
make sense at all. We just can't talk about it. There might me few in
the list who will be making $150 - $300 per hour. And there may be few
who will be finding it tough going beyond 80-90K a year. These figure
means nothing. What matters is how many hours in a year/quarter are
you billed, if you are a consultant, against how much your salary +
benefits + free-time is worth in full-time scenario(?). And I am sure
if you are top notch you can negotiate good salary/benefit in full
time too.

And also, most of the permanent jobs are not stagnant. One has
opportunity to work on different projects at a time. There is also
opportunity for one to work as consultant in one team or be in other
control positions in other team. The way IBM Global Services works is
a perfect Modal for this argument. You can have variety in the full
time job, if you want.

Many companies are luring professionals with greater benefits to come
for fulltime positions. There are many which are changing the mind
set. You may think all that I have said is unattainable, but that's
just a mindset. In slightly more than a year time frame I have worked
on very different products -- tools for loan origination, underwriting
and managing funds, auctioning of loans between primary and secondary
market. I love doing work from ethnographic research to the visual
design and I have done all within one full time job.

Could I do better just as a consultant, I am not confident. But I am
confident that I can create a place for myself in a company which has
fair processes, and equal opportunity for it's employees, which is not
guarenteed in consultant's position.

Anyway, this whole debate is just about mind-set. There is no right
answer, neither I am trying ot change anybody's mindset. I am tempted
to write this only to bring other perspective so that young folks who
are out there planning their career can get all the perspectives. Many
a time the hastly taken decision for consultancy can ruin your long
term career options, and it has done so in my previous life.

There's one point that nobody has expressed in this debate. What are
the worst possible outcomes of being a consultant?

Prady

18 Oct 2004 - 5:25pm
Listera
2004

Prady makes some good points:

> 1. Security -- Full time job provides more time for you to spend time
> with your family...

Perhaps. If you are able to set your own schedule as a consultant (one of
the more significant benefits) then you can actually spend more time with
your family, especially with kids when they are normally awake.

> planning you future/ambitions.

I think the experience of the late 90s and outsourcing should have taught
every one that having a full-time/staff job is no guarantee that it'll be
there next year.

> 2. Benefits -- Full time jobs can provide you benefits that comes
> costly if you have to go get them yourself.

True.

> Besides, those obvious ones, education, training, flexible timings are few to
> mention.

Education: between projects you can actually train yourself and learn new
things as a consultant far more flexibly than in-house, but you have to pay
for it yourself. Flextime: you'd have better luck with this as a consultant.

> 3. Less investment -- No need to prove yourself "guru".

If you stop "promoting" yourself in-house, you are slowly digging your own
grave.

> 4. Learn-ability -- Consultancy seems to be giving some of people lots
> of new things to learn. Not for everyone. You only learn with very
> narrow perspective. Under an umbrella of an organization you learn
> many other things -- business processes, management skills, besides
> those design and technical skills. You are in better position to
> demand quality work in the full-time job, if you can prove competence.

Dave, who started this thread, was looking for senior designers. Solo
consultancy by junior designers is a difficult undertaking, I'd agree. A
seasoned designer, on the other hand, has already been through the corporate
maze and should definitely be familiar with business stuff.

> 5. Challenges -- For many managing and controlling design, setting up design
> expectations, or creating scope for design can be factor which can be met only
> in full-time position.

I don't see why. Most of my consultancies have been precisely this more
abstract, conceptual work or setting global design guidelines, etc.

> 6. Money Maters -- People have thrown so many numbers which does not
> make sense at all.

I agree. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is your own
level of personal satisfaction. As a consultant there have been numerous
occasions where I cut my rate to accommodate because I liked the people,
project, product, hours, etc.

> And also, most of the permanent jobs are not stagnant.

I'd say *most* are.;-)

> Many companies are luring professionals with greater benefits to come
> for fulltime positions.

And I just don't understand why. What's wrong with establishing long term
relationships, as long as there are projects to be done?

> In slightly more than a year time frame I have worked on very different
> products -- tools for loan origination, underwriting and managing funds,
> auctioning of loans between primary and secondary market.

A) Consider yourself lucky.
B) It's still in one category: financial.

> Could I do better just as a consultant, I am not confident. But I am
> confident that I can create a place for myself in a company which has
> fair processes, and equal opportunity for it's employees, which is not
> guarenteed in consultant's position.

Again, consider yourself lucky. What if your company was not progressive? As
a consultant, you don't have to ever work again with a company you don't
like.

> Anyway, this whole debate is just about mind-set.

Absolutely.

My goal in all this has been to remind hiring managers that if your job reqs
require full time, you're missing out (on what senior design consultants can
provide). If you insist on requiring senior consultants to do maintenance,
you're missing out. If you're forcing consultants to adopt your in-house
ways just because you can, you're missing out. This is not an either|or
situation. Best managers should know how to balance and maximize.

> There's one point that nobody has expressed in this debate. What are
> the worst possible outcomes of being a consultant?

Having to deal with people who insist on full time? :-)

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

18 Oct 2004 - 7:15pm
Pradyot Rai
2004

I said:
> > There's one point that nobody has expressed in this debate. What are
> > the worst possible outcomes of being a consultant?

Ziya said:
> Having to deal with people who insist on full time? :-)

Common!
Seriously, there are somethings that keeps everyone awake at night.
Becoming consultant is not self actualization, for everyone!? :-)

I don't necessarily disagree with any of your counter points. They are
very valid *options*. Probably, after 20-25 years of fun and
adventure, and when I am all set for life, and wants to work for fun,
probably that will be the time I would want to grow the gotti, gray my
hair, and launch a career as "Consultant". I completely respect your
points there. I am skeptical tossing it when I wants to invest in long
term career. I think you agreed with this in your reply.

So, my point to take this position is only to show gray areas to
people, in different life-stage and situations. Decision is not binary
between consultancy vs. full-time.

Thanks,

Pradyot Rai

18 Oct 2004 - 7:26pm
Mike Beltzner
2004

Listera wrote:

> Dave, who started this thread, was looking for senior designers. Solo
> consultancy by junior designers is a difficult undertaking, I'd agree. A

Good point, and I should point out that I'm not a "senior" designer and
so my answers are coming from someone who's only been working full time
for 4 years.

I understand why consulting might be more attractive for someone who's
been in the game for 10-15+ years. I still think that there are some
positive things about in-house positions, but yes, you're quite right
that the majority of those positions come with upper-level management
responsibilities that might not be interesting to someone who's just
looking for IDx work.

> I don't see why. Most of my consultancies have been precisely this more
> abstract, conceptual work or setting global design guidelines, etc.

Mm ... interesting. I think that I'd want to work with the team after
the abstract work to help it become a reality. Perhaps this will change
after I've gone through the cycle a bunch of times, though :)

> ways just because you can, you're missing out. This is not an either|or
> situation. Best managers should know how to balance and maximize.

I'm curious: would you recommend engaging a consultant to work with an
in-house team? This seems to be an easy way to balance and maximize, but
I'm a little skeptical of how the team dynamics might play out in that
situation ...

> Having to deal with people who insist on full time? :-)

Heh ... I'm quite sure that doesn't happen all that often. I think a lot
of people look at the life of your average consultant with envy :)

cheers,
mike

18 Oct 2004 - 8:17pm
Listera
2004

Mike Beltzner:

>> ways just because you can, you're missing out. This is not an either|or
>> situation. Best managers should know how to balance and maximize.
>
> I'm curious: would you recommend engaging a consultant to work with an
> in-house team?

Yes. I'd recommend a consultant pretty much anytime.:-)

A *senior* consultant (the one I've been talking about all along) has seen
it all. I am amazed that more companies don't make it a *formal* part of the
consulting contract for the consultant to mentor the in-house team...and pay
for it. What a missed opportunity.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

18 Oct 2004 - 10:01pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Design is IP
If you want to build IP (assets) internal to your organization, you have to
build the term internally, otherwise, you will never have IP inside the
organization.

Culture - many hiring managers are trying to create a culture. Every culture
is different, but in the end, if you are a successful manager, by bring
people inside, you can build a long-term team w/o worry of the volatility
that comes w/ constant outsourcing.

Outsourcing (consultants) cost a premium and it is in fact cheaper to hire
internally in a long term situation.

Product lifecycle - A real design leader has to have insite into the full
product lifecycle and have relationships with the internal x-functional
teams. These are imperative for making implementation match design.

I have been on both sides of the outtie -- innie circle and while both have
merits, both have negatives. I am amazed at home many people choose outtie
b/c they are afraid of personality conflicts. We are people people. We
should LIKE people and not shy away from personality conflicts but see them
as part of the change management problems that are necessary for good design
to be successfully implemented. Wholist design REQUIRES that you deal w/ the
x-functional teams and thus the personalities inside that team.

Where consultants succeed most is when a shift is required. When the
internal staff has become stagnant (this happens b/c of bad management,
IMHO). There is NOTHING that an internal team can't have if the management
is good.

On a side note ... There is an interview with Jonathan Ive, VP Industrial
Design at Apple talking about his shift from outtie to innie.
http://www.designmuseum.org/design/index.php?id=63

Apple brought in their design teams after outsourcing a ton b/c they
realized it was the only way to truly manage the long term vision of the
total design process and since then they have been doing design that earns
them a tremendous amount of respect.

-- dave

18 Oct 2004 - 10:38pm
Listera
2004

David Heller:

> Outsourcing (consultants) cost a premium and it is in fact cheaper to hire
> internally in a long term situation.

Yes, but cheaper doesn't mean better. I don't think you're saying that
senior consultants are at a premium simply because they are inflated, are
you? They bring a certain value which the in-house team usually doesn't
have. Like I said, I don't think this is an either|or situation; the manager
should learn to use and balance either side cost-effectively. Insisting
in-house only is as shortsighted as outsourcing everything.

In reality, there are *very* few companies in the world that can afford to
cultivate in-house design competency. It just isn't cost-effective. Whether
it's legal, pre-press, post-production, accounting or garbage collection,
industry after industry, non-core competency practices are either outsourced
or mixed with consultancy help. Apple can do it in-house because software
and industrial design is their #1 competency. Even then, Apple had to go
outside to get the basics of the iPod. For the vast majority, design isn't
core competency.

Just to set the record straight, as I received a few private emails on this,
I'm not arguing for consultancy over in-house. That's highly
situation-specific. What's universal is the effectiveness of balancing the
two in a smart way. My complaints are about companies that fail to take
proper advantage of senior consultants, either by insisting on full time or
by not fully exploiting their strengths.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

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