Aspiring UXer, in a unique situation. Need advice!

29 Apr 2011 - 4:59pm
3 years ago
3 replies
977 reads
mikequery
2011

Hi there,

I'm new to the community, thanks in advance for the welcome :) So I've been out of college since 07, and I'm in a pretty unique situation with my current role and I'd like some advice for how to proceed. 

Quick background: For 2 years I was working as a "design consultant," a role which basically had me managing churn and burn web design projects for small businesses. I learned a lot and leveled up my photoshop and design skills, but I was not in a position where I was building sites from the ground up. Each site was small and focused on a central conversion point, such as a "Call Now" number or a "Sign up now" button, so I learned a lot about calls to action. 

So now, I am currently working as a "web strategist" for the company I work for, working with content and offerings from HR on the company's intranet. The reason I think it's a unique position is because we're afforded the time to take a project (a project would be, let's say, revamping the Leave of Absence section...adding new content, and structuring it in such a way as to enable employees to find the leave they need to take quickly and easily) through all the UX procedures. User research, personas, wireframes, design mockups, usability tests, feedback...we get to do it all. And by "we" I'm referring to myself and my boss...that's our whole team.

So I suppose my question is, what do you recommend I do to make the most of this opportunity and grow in these areas, and really dive fully into them so I can come away after 1-3 years with a solid understanding of UX, and be headed in the right direction if UX is going to be my new career (as I believe I'd like it to be)? To break the question down:

 

  • Readings - What are some essential readings to get the fundamental skills down? I am currently reading "A Project Guide to UX Design" by Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler
  • Higher/Continuing Education - What are some courses I should be taking, and what would you reccomend for a potential Masters degree? I would very much like to continue school, but in the right direction. Only masters program I've found so far is a quasi-HCI degree at San Jose State (I am in the Bay Area)
  • Side Projects - How can I get involved in some side work to boost my portfolio and up my skills? I have a potential project that may be an option. A friend and his startup, a group of 3-4 ex-Googlers, approached me with potential work, mostly because we're friends and he'd like to work with friends. They would need UX work...I think it'd be a great opportunity, but I may be too green.
Well that was a huge post, and if you're still reading I truly appreciate you taking the time to give me input. I really want to keep diving into this stuff, and hopefully I'll still be doing it 3-5-10 years from now!
Mike

 

 

Comments

1 May 2011 - 9:19pm
Angel Anderson
2010
  • Reading - Read "Design for The Digital Age" by Kim Goodwin (my #1 pick for learning end-to-end process), "About Face" By Allan Cooper, and "Designing for Interaction" by Dan Saffer.
  • Education - The UX programs at SCAD, Carnegie Mellon, and Art Center are decent if you have a lot of time and money, however I believe that experience can be the best teacher and it sounds like your're getting that right now so I'd focus on workshops like Cooper's Interaction Practicum. (Super practical, 4 days long, and worth every penny!) Since you're part of a small team, I'd highly reccomend networking with other UX folks so you can learn from others and see that your situation is actually quite a great way to get started. Attend (or organize) local face-to-face IxDA events and UX Book Club meet ups in your community.
  • Side Projects - The startup with a a group of 3-4 ex-Googlers sounds like an ~awsome opportunity. As long as you're up front with your friends about your experience level, I'd say go for it!


Good luck!

2 May 2011 - 5:26am
pjohnkeane
2008

Reading/Education: Don't focus purely on practical guides. Level up on what people are capable of, and why (aka cognitive psychology - try Raskin's The Humane Interface). And look beyond web-sites. It won't have passed you by, but the trend towards mobile technology is important not just for designing for mobile interfaces, but for mobile context too (modes of interaction and people's requirements change based on their environment). That relates back to cognitive psychology (impacts on perception, attention, and motivation) as well. You can't escape it!

And +1 for workshops and gaining direct experience. Grab hold of that side project if you can.

Whilst I remember, Aza Raskin's recent post "So You Want To Be A Designer" (http://www.azarask.in/blog/post/be-a-designer/) - which reminded me of The Humane Interface - rang true for me.

4 May 2011 - 7:19pm
mikequery
2011

This is great guys, thanks a ton for the input. The project my friend invited me to be a part of is for a fairly simple ipad game. It sounds like a lot of fun, but I've only worked withing the confines of a website. Any insights on how to approach this new medium?

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