Some advice for a newcomer to IxD

20 Mar 2012 - 1:59pm
4 years ago
1 reply
728 reads

Hello all!   From what I can tell, this board is full of seasoned vets and experts, so I was hoping you could give me some advice.

I'm a 21-year-old graduate with a Journalism degree from Unviersity of Missouri.  My emphasis in school was Advertising and PR -- a sequence called Strategic Communication.  A couple years ago, I landed an account services gig at a digital agency, which led to a Content Strategy gig at another agency last summer.  During this time, I carried out several UX tasks such as taking notes for stakeholder meetings and creating a high level sitemap of a client's intranet.  As you could have guessed, I adored my team and everything about the internship.  Luckily, the agency I worked for has brought me on in a role that straddles CS and UX.  I've been working for a couple months.

On one hand, I feel qualified for this job and am extremely excited about what this position could mean for my career.  From what I've read in books and seen at this agency so far, there are plenty of skills that overlap between advertising and UX.  On the other hand, I can't shake the feeling that bringing me on is a bit of a gamble since I still have so much to learn.  I worry about my billable hours and if I am adding value to the team.  It seems like I've been spending at least 60% of my time reading and watching training videos and only 40% contributing.  I can't say enough great things about everyone I work for.  They have all been very reassuring that in a year from now, I'll be far more comfortable in my job.  Still, I want to reach out to some outsiders who may have different perspectives.

I suppose my real questions boil down to these:

  • How much of a handicap does not having a degree in a related major add?  Do you any of you know of anyone in this field who started out like I am?   I'd be thrilled to find someone who's successfully made the jump from advertising to UX.
  • How much should I be worrying about my hours?  What is usually expected for a beginner where you work?


I'm open to any suggestions about how I can learn more about interaction design, research, and UX.  I read books, blogs, and message boards every day.  I also go to local meetups whenever possible.  I'd like to find a less passive and more active way to learn, whether or not my time can be put towards a client project.  Any ideas would be GREATLY appreciated.



25 Mar 2012 - 8:13am
Al Selvin

With interaction design, the definition of "a related field" is pretty broad. I know talented IXDs with varied backgrounds, only some of which include a degree in an official IX or UX discipline. The main things that matter are an ability to design, a sensitivity to user (and other involved people's, including developers, clients, etc.) needs, discipline and focus, high communicative competency, and mastery of the tools. None are unique to a particular family of degrees. Like a number of people in the field, I came into it from a "related" field -- film and video -- have never taken a university course in an official IX area, and neither has ever been a handicap.

It sounds like you have a passion for the field and are pursuing it on many levels. The main thing I don't see mentioned in your post is how you are working to understand users and their needs. Look for opportunities to get close to users and how they experience the technologies you're working with, in their own context.

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