Your First UX / ID Job -- Q from the HCI Class of \'09.

7 Mar 2009 - 5:58pm
5 years ago
5 replies
2070 reads
Jonathan Cohen
2009

Hello world,

HCI grad student here. As my fellow students and I near graduation
and explore all the different kinds of opportunities out there, it
would be extremely helpful to learn about your entry-level
interaction design experience.

What was your first ID job? Generally speaking, is there anything
you would have liked to be different? Which experiences were most
beneficial in the long-term?

Thanks!
-Jon
http://jonathangcohen.com

Comments

8 Mar 2009 - 6:47am
Janne Kaasalainen
2008

Hi,

Ah, nostalgia. :) My first job on the field was not even called
anything like design/HCI. It was 10 years ago, very accurately at
that, and I was in a developer position to design and program
auditorium control systems. These touch-screen things you all must
know and which never work as they should (Crestron, AMX, Cue and alike).

It was for a small retailer, though, where I was the sole responsible
for the systems I made (they later on had others to scale up).
Everybody thought it more of an engineering job, but it was really the
whole package. It was also very much on shoe-string budget at times.

I did that to fund my studies, and it was fun while it lasted (Toyota
Motors, Accenture, Finnish Defence Forces, etc.). There certainly was
a lot to be hoped for too, especially when it came to established
processing (none), but I think what was most beneficial was that it
was so chaotic at times. You were able, and had to, experiment on your
own and got to see various approaches and outcomes, some of which
worked better than others. Additionally you got direct customer
feedback from the actual users of the system and had to iterate and
fix your things within the technical boundaries that were there. It
also taught to speak and co-operate with others who built the wirings
and designed electronics to support non-standard stuff.

Oh, those were the times indeed. :)

-Janne Kaasalainen

9 Mar 2009 - 10:37am
Samantha LeVan
2009

When I finished grad school, I chose to work on a commercial software
product as both designer and researcher. I was hesitant about the
company but really thought the application was a good fit and I'd
get a chance to do a little bit of everything. But it really is like
Scott says - you should pick the company, not the project. While I
loved the product I worked on, and definitely had good managers and
colleagues, the company wasn't strong or supportive and very soon
the development team for my application was sent overseas.

Look for a company with potential for growth and that demonstrates
respect for employees with educational/training support, a team
atmosphere, and a pleasant working environment... and if possible,
that offers a chance to work on a variety of project types.

Samantha LeVan
www.perfecttuna.com

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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9 Mar 2009 - 12:54pm
Jen Randolph
2008

Class of '08 here, so while I don't have loads of experience to draw
from, I can speak about some of the things I've noticed going on in
the field right now, in terms of finding work.

I second Scott's suggestion to "Pick the company, not the
project." My first job (actually an internship) was at a really
great company that is very well-respected in the interaction design
field. It was only for a few months, but it's since brought me many
great job opportunities because it looks great on my resume.

I'm currently working at another high-profile agency where, just as
Scott said, projects get killed all the time. But the company and
client list looks great on my resume. My most exciting projects are
outside of the office - in this economy, many people now need more
for their web strategy than just a website, so I've been doing my
most creative work "on the side" for friends and family. The
benefit to this is I get to dictate what I do for them and how to do
it, and I often get to experiment with new types of interaction and
engagement. So I'm using the company I work for to build a good list
of companies and clients on my resume, while using my "side
projects" to demonstrate my abilities.

My other piece of advice to you and to anyone else out there who just
starts working: don't let anyone pay you dirt just because you're a
recent grad. My reasoning is that, since I just spent 4 years and
about a quarter of a million dollars obtaining a professional degree,
I deserve a fair salary commensurate with the experience of a
mid-level designer.

My 2¢ :)

--
Jen Randolph, Interaction Designer
http://www.jenrandolph.com

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Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=39620

9 Mar 2009 - 2:21pm
Katie Albers
2005

Jen --

Just FYI: "Entry level" is generally understood to be "immediately
post-degree" and a couple years after that and your education is
understood to include applicable experience. Asking for the
compensation of a mid-level designer is a bit pushy and unlikely,
generally, to meet with success. That you have internships and so
forth in the field will usually push you to the high-end of that
range, but isn't generally something to rely on.

That being said -- if you've managed to pull it off, Good For You! But
it isn't something most new graduates are going to be able to do.
Bargaining hard for the best possible salary is a good thing.
Bargaining from a false understanding of your own position is
generally dangerous.

kt

Katie Albers
Founder & Principal Consultant
FirstThought
User Experience Strategy & Project Management
310 356 7550
katie at firstthought.com

On Mar 9, 2009, at 10:54 AM, Jen Randolph wrote:

> Class of '08 here, so while I don't have loads of experience to draw
> from, I can speak about some of the things I've noticed going on in
> the field right now, in terms of finding work.
>
> I second Scott's suggestion to "Pick the company, not the
> project." My first job (actually an internship) was at a really
> great company that is very well-respected in the interaction design
> field. It was only for a few months, but it's since brought me many
> great job opportunities because it looks great on my resume.
>
> I'm currently working at another high-profile agency where, just as
> Scott said, projects get killed all the time. But the company and
> client list looks great on my resume. My most exciting projects are
> outside of the office - in this economy, many people now need more
> for their web strategy than just a website, so I've been doing my
> most creative work "on the side" for friends and family. The
> benefit to this is I get to dictate what I do for them and how to do
> it, and I often get to experiment with new types of interaction and
> engagement. So I'm using the company I work for to build a good list
> of companies and clients on my resume, while using my "side
> projects" to demonstrate my abilities.
>
> My other piece of advice to you and to anyone else out there who just
> starts working: don't let anyone pay you dirt just because you're a
> recent grad. My reasoning is that, since I just spent 4 years and
> about a quarter of a million dollars obtaining a professional degree,
> I deserve a fair salary commensurate with the experience of a
> mid-level designer.
>
> My 2¢ :)
>
> --
> Jen Randolph, Interaction Designer
> http://www.jenrandolph.com
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=39620
>
>
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12 Mar 2009 - 9:04pm
Anonymous

Hi Janne,

I think Scott's reply really hit the nail on the head. The only
difference is that I would make his #3 point my #1 point.

For your first job, you should really be looking for an opportunity
that will allow you to learn about 60% of the time and contribute
about 40%. You should look to not only grow your design and research
skills, but, your business savvy skills as well. Find a team that
will help you learn to:

* Understand the business and how your role fits into the entire
process

* Effectively present your designs to the organization

* Win the tricky battles vs. Program Managers, Developers, and
Testers

* Accurately craft work estimates and timelines

* Influence others and become a trusted contributor

Finally, don't be afraid to look outside of the typical software and
web companies.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=39620

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