Interaction Design Career Path

14 Nov 2008 - 2:10pm
1 week ago
17 replies
10525 reads
david.shaw6@gma...
2004

Hi all.... I can't remember whether there was a conversation about career
paths in our realm, so I thought I would start one. Currently I am a senior
IxDer and starting to plot out my career path. Would love to hear from
those who were in my shoes before that made the transition to the next step.
I'm curious as to not only your personal view on the career path, but the
employers' view on career paths in this realm too.
TIA,
David

--
"Art provokes thinking, design solves problems"

w: http://www.davidshaw.info

Comments

14 Nov 2008 - 2:19pm
Krystal Higgins
2008

Yes, I would also love to hear more on this--I'm in a more
junior/moderate role and, while I'm working on my career path with
my manager, want more insight on whether we're making the right or
standard choices.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=35603

14 Nov 2008 - 9:21pm
Chad Vavra
2008

I started my career as a video game artist/animator in the '90s, from
there I moved into web application design while learning programming
fundamentals in my spare time. Eventually I became a programmer and
contracted for 5 or so years. A little over a year ago I saw a gap
in my organization for a UX professional and decided that I wanted to
change my role from a developer, back to a designer. So now I am a
senior UX/IA/creative designer for a advertising agency.

I bring all this up because for myself my experience led to my
career. In other words, my career is the culmination of what I liked
about my past experiences and that is the best outcome I could
imagine...

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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14 Nov 2008 - 11:55pm
spaolantonio
2008

Interesting article about UX career path here:

"What makes a Senior IA? Is going down the management path the only way to get ahead? Do you need a team of generalists or specialists? How do you know when to promote someone? Are you hiring the person or the job description? These are questions all managers face, but some answers are better than others."

http://www.slideshare.net/kristenjohansen/creating-career-paths-for-ux-p...

18 Nov 2008 - 12:16pm
Dan Saffer
2003

On Nov 14, 2008, at 11:10 AM, David Shaw wrote:

> Currently I am a senior
> IxDer and starting to plot out my career path. Would love to hear
> from
> those who were in my shoes before that made the transition to the
> next step.

The hard part is at the top. It's a fairly straightforward path from
junior designer --> designer --> sr. designer. After that, the career
paths start moving in different directions: towards management
(creative director type roles) or some kind of super specialist (lead
designer). Or, you can go start your own firm and do a bit of both.

How the transitions happens vary pretty widely depending on the
company. Larger agencies and companies usually have fairly defined
career paths, while smaller ones often don't. The simple answer is
often to be already doing the next step in your career path. If your
company doesn't recognize that and promote you, probably somewhere
else will (all things being equal and stable).

Dan

Dan Saffer
Principal, Kicker Studio
http://www.kickerstudio.com
http://www.odannyboy.com

20 Nov 2008 - 1:37pm
david.shaw6@gma...
2004

Hi Dan,
Thanks for your reply. This is very interesting, and I'm surprised there
hasn't been more discussion around this topic. It would be interesting to
know what the IxDA distribution looked like as far as level of skills.
Unfortunately being a fairly new discipline (in the eyes of business), it's
hard to understand what the next steps are. That's why I'm looking to
people who have made that transition, maybe I can gleam some helpful nuggets
of information on how I can proceed.

Love to hear from others in that "after senior ixder" role.

Thanks,
David

On Tue, Nov 18, 2008 at 9:16 AM, Dan Saffer <dan at odannyboy.com> wrote:

>
> On Nov 14, 2008, at 11:10 AM, David Shaw wrote:
>
> Currently I am a senior
>> IxDer and starting to plot out my career path. Would love to hear from
>> those who were in my shoes before that made the transition to the next
>> step.
>>
>
> The hard part is at the top. It's a fairly straightforward path from junior
> designer --> designer --> sr. designer. After that, the career paths start
> moving in different directions: towards management (creative director type
> roles) or some kind of super specialist (lead designer). Or, you can go
> start your own firm and do a bit of both.
>
> How the transitions happens vary pretty widely depending on the company.
> Larger agencies and companies usually have fairly defined career paths,
> while smaller ones often don't. The simple answer is often to be already
> doing the next step in your career path. If your company doesn't recognize
> that and promote you, probably somewhere else will (all things being equal
> and stable).
>
>
> Dan
>
>
>
>
> Dan Saffer
> Principal, Kicker Studio
> http://www.kickerstudio.com
> http://www.odannyboy.com
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

--
"Art provokes thinking, design solves problems"

w: http://www.davidshaw.info

20 Nov 2008 - 1:46pm
achong
2006

David,

I think the career path that Dan outlined loosely defines the next
steps. Unfortunately I find that internally at my company I need to do
a lot of lobbying to be invited at a more strategic level. I'm also a
bit self-conscious about being able to speak the business vernacular
and clearly articulate the ux plan mapped to that business
understanding.

For me I feel like unless I want to stay in an executional role I'll
have to go back to school (for self-confidence and to get the business
acumen). I went to the Pratt orientation earlier this month for Design
Management and it sounds like a great program. That's where i'm
putting my eggs, at least for now :)

Adrian

On Thu, Nov 20, 2008 at 1:37 PM, David Shaw <david.shaw6 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi Dan,
> Thanks for your reply. This is very interesting, and I'm surprised there
> hasn't been more discussion around this topic. It would be interesting to
> know what the IxDA distribution looked like as far as level of skills.
> Unfortunately being a fairly new discipline (in the eyes of business), it's
> hard to understand what the next steps are. That's why I'm looking to
> people who have made that transition, maybe I can gleam some helpful nuggets
> of information on how I can proceed.
>
> Love to hear from others in that "after senior ixder" role.
>
> Thanks,
> David
>
> On Tue, Nov 18, 2008 at 9:16 AM, Dan Saffer <dan at odannyboy.com> wrote:
>
>>
>> On Nov 14, 2008, at 11:10 AM, David Shaw wrote:
>>
>> Currently I am a senior
>>> IxDer and starting to plot out my career path. Would love to hear from
>>> those who were in my shoes before that made the transition to the next
>>> step.
>>>
>>
>> The hard part is at the top. It's a fairly straightforward path from junior
>> designer --> designer --> sr. designer. After that, the career paths start
>> moving in different directions: towards management (creative director type
>> roles) or some kind of super specialist (lead designer). Or, you can go
>> start your own firm and do a bit of both.
>>
>> How the transitions happens vary pretty widely depending on the company.
>> Larger agencies and companies usually have fairly defined career paths,
>> while smaller ones often don't. The simple answer is often to be already
>> doing the next step in your career path. If your company doesn't recognize
>> that and promote you, probably somewhere else will (all things being equal
>> and stable).
>>
>>
>> Dan
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> Dan Saffer
>> Principal, Kicker Studio
>> http://www.kickerstudio.com
>> http://www.odannyboy.com
>>
>>
>>
>> ________________________________________________________________
>> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
>> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
>> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
>> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
>> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>>
>
>
>
> --
> "Art provokes thinking, design solves problems"
>
> w: http://www.davidshaw.info
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

--
Adrian Chong
www.adrianchong.com/blog

20 Nov 2008 - 2:28pm
Dave Malouf
2005

I don't have the link, but somewhere on LukeW's site lukew.com there
is a post about what they did at Yahoo in terms of career path. I also
know that MS is doing similar working in the area of career path in
their UX groups.

The way I look at it from my experience is that any designer role
should have equal billing to go up the manager/principal (your
choice) food chain. I know that agencies like R/GA and frog both have
paths towards ACD CD and ECD (CD = Creative director; A associate; E
Executive) where all manner of creative contributor can take on those
roles. This is also the model of ad agencies where many CDs tend to be
writers as well as graphic designers.

but yes, there is little room at the top of the pyramid that's what
makes it a pyramid.

But remember the bigger the organization you are working for, the
more pyramids there are, or it goes a lot taller before it gets
pointy.

Of course, going out on your own gets you a better "title", but
I'm not sure it really does in all cases advances your career. Most
successful solos as a career path usually used soloing b/c they
really broke the glass where they were already and just couldn't be
contained. going solo too early usually just means a flat trajectory.

-- dave

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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20 Nov 2008 - 2:56pm
Johansen, Kristen
2006

I hope you'll pardon the blatant self promotion, but last year's IA Summit I presented a workshop on career pathing for UX practitioners, and the slides (and handouts) are available from Slideshare:

http://www.slideshare.net/kristenjohansen/creating-career-paths-for-ux-professionals

It's aimed at UX managers but there are a few gems in there for anyone trying to determine their path, especially for creating a framework around career development and advancement that makes things a little less "fuzzy". I find that the first step is usually to work with your manager and/or organization to define what roles are (or will eventually be) needed and then start making steps to get yourself there.

Hope that helps!

k

21 Nov 2008 - 7:27pm
Catriona Lohan-...
2007

When I was in London, (old school graphic designers) felt left out of
the mix so they did a survey for designers and found that the were
mostly missing the skills to talk to C levels. They developed an MBA
in Design Management at the University of Westminister which I attended.

I think Pratt has an MA in US now but Dave you might know of the more
MBA specializing in (!X) Design.

Check out the Design Management Institute www.dmi.org and the
Corportate Design Foundation www.cdf.org both out of Boston. They do
great conferences and perhaps it's time for us to start giving talks
at these conferences too.

Catriona

__________________________
Catríona Lohan-Conway
User Experience Architect
917 405 5127
clohanconway at mac.com

P Please consider our environment before printing.

22 Nov 2008 - 5:24pm
Cwodtke
2004

erin malone wrote a number of excellent article on career path for B&A
including one on planning your future
http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/planning_your_future

You might also find this chart useful
http://www.slideshare.net/cwodtke/paths-for-designers-ias/

On Fri, Nov 14, 2008 at 11:19 AM, Krystal R Higgins <
kryshiggins at kryshiggins.com> wrote:

> Yes, I would also love to hear more on this--I'm in a more
> junior/moderate role and, while I'm working on my career path with
> my manager, want more insight on whether we're making the right or
> standard choices.
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=35603
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

24 Nov 2008 - 10:11am
Chad Vavra
2008

Guy Kawasaki has a great line in his new book Reality Check.

"... the higher you go in most organizations the thinner the air,
the thinner the air, the harder it is to support intelligent life."

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=35603

24 Nov 2008 - 11:13am
Anonymous

In really large companies, at some point you sort of make a decision
to either go the specialist route or the generalist route. Does this
phenomenon exist in the IxD career path? If so, what are the
generalist options?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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25 Nov 2008 - 10:34am
Michael Micheletti
2006

Hi Allison,

I'm guessing that the generalist path occurs most easily in a small shop,
perhaps where the entire design department numbers 1 (like where I am).
Opportunities present for graphic design, application design, coding,
writing, prototyping, testing, giving presentations, and some research. I'm
sure that designers who hang out a shingle and start their own consulting
business also get a good deal of general business-related experience along
the way.

I have done design work in a larger company, and was more narrowly focused
there. It gave me an opportunity to gain depth in a couple of areas, but it
took some effort on my part to incorporate other specialties of the design
craft into my work. I seem more suited to a generalist role by nature. I've
noticed that other successful senior members of our technical team here have
generalist tendencies as well. For instance, our CTO can variously debug
network traces, author patents, write interesting low-level software, test
phone gateways, give good presentations, and do terrific tech support. So
perhaps finding a supportive environment with generalist tendencies is
helpful.

Michael Micheletti

On Mon, Nov 24, 2008 at 8:13 AM, allison <alliwalk1980 at yahoo.com> wrote:

> In really large companies, at some point you sort of make a decision
> to either go the specialist route or the generalist route. Does this
> phenomenon exist in the IxD career path? If so, what are the
> generalist options?
>
> <snip/>

26 Nov 2008 - 9:08am
Al Selvin
2006

Allison wrote:
"In really large companies, at some point you sort of make a
decision to either go the specialist route or the generalist route.
Does this phenomenon exist in the IxD career path? If so, what are
the generalist options?"

Here's my experience. I'll get to the specialist vs generalist
question after some background. Sorry if this goes on a bit...

I work in a really large IT organization in a really large company,
and a few years back sort of made the decision to go the management
route. As with many other organizations, there isn't much of a
vocation-specific career path in ours per se -- that is, even for
developers and engineers, after a few levels the next moves are into
management of one kind or another.

In my own case, I was leading a small group of UI designers and
project managers associated with one of the company web sites, and
that role grew into managing a much larger set of teams that included
developers and testers as well, for several applications. Half the
group -- including some of the UI folks -- were in Hyderabad, the
rest in different US locations.

I did this for a few years and enjoyed some aspects, didn't enjoy
others, certainly learned a ton about what it means to manage
transactional applications and deal with issues like system
performance, infrastructure, databases, budget, disaster recovery,
outage bridges, and the rest of it -- hanging on by the skin of my
teeth in many cases, since really you need an engineering background
(or aptitude) to excel in such things, and my own educational
background is "only" in the humanities, film and video.

After several years I felt a strong desire to focus on the areas
where I had some native ability, namely in usability and user
experience. I talked to a number of people around the company, even
in non-IT areas, looking for ways to do this. Luckily, early this
year an opportunity came along to lead a small (9 people) team
focusing exclusively on the usability of applications used in our
retail call centers.

Getting back to the generalist vs specialist theme, even in this new
usability-focused role I still have to do a wide variety of things.
These include:

- working on cross-functional research teams (e.g. looking at ways to
improve average handling time without jeopardizing customer service
and sales)

- doing a lot of nitty-gritty design work (e.g. anything from
changing a few words in an existing dialog box to coming up with
entirely new applications including new standards, color schemes,
interaction patterns, etc.)

- doing a lot of "representing" and presenting to various client
and executive teams, laying out how usability can matter for them,
e.g. in the form of roadmaps, strategies, ideas of specific projects,
etc.

- acting as a change agent within IT (and our client teams) for
inculcating usability as a discipline and a goal, in an area that
traditionally is more operations-focused

- doing industry analysis, e.g. looking at JD Power and similar
reports and figuring out how they apply to things that IT can affect

- interacting with requirements, architecture, development, and
client teams in specific projects

- spending tons of time out in the call centers (this is one of the
best parts!) sitting with real users, listening to calls, observing
both what gets in their way and what they are skilled at, and taking
their ideas

- working with the people on my team on their own projects, helping
in whatever way I can, and trying to pay attention to their own
career development

- studying the flood of materials that come my way to try to
understand aspects of our business and our systems and look for ways
to improve their usability (e.g., recently I've spent a lot of time
looking at the complex mechanics and processes by which special
offers are generated and become part of the transactional flow, all
the way from customer contact to back end billing systems)

... and so on.

Although I guess all of the above add up to "generalist", in some
ways I feel more like a hydra-headed specialist. Each of these roles
requires some specialization. Since our organization has an ethic of
managers/executives "getting into the details" rather than floating
above them, I do feel like I have to act more like a specialist than a
generalist, a lot of the time. Luckily my team is very talented and
does most of the real specialist work, but I still have to dip in
when and where I can.

So "generalist vs specialist" doesn't quite feel like it explains
everything in terms of career path. At least for a management role,
the two are (can be) more like poles that you oscillate between,
rather than one or the other.

Al

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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26 Nov 2008 - 2:46pm
Anonymous

I'd also like to augment my question by adding, "What are the
specialist options?"

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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27 Nov 2008 - 12:36am
Cwodtke
2004

I think it goes like this

designer > senior designer > principal designer > 300hr consultant > don
norman.

On Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 11:46 AM, allison <alliwalk1980 at yahoo.com> wrote:

> I'd also like to augment my question by adding, "What are the
> specialist options?"
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=35603
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

24 Nov 2008 - 12:09pm
Anonymous

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

On Tue, Nov 25, 2008 at 12:13 AM, allison <alliwalk1980 at yahoo.com> wrote:

> In really large companies, at some point you sort of make a decision
> to either go the specialist route or the generalist route. Does this
> phenomenon exist in the IxD career path? If so, what are the
> generalist options?
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=35603
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

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