We heard about UX, so we decided to hire one

8 Jun 2012 - 8:22am
4 years ago
4 replies
1461 reads

There seems to be a lot of hiring for UX professionals, now, in the New York City area.

I was looking for an opprtunity much closer to home and this company was accomodating, since I do work full-time.  But I was shocked, even though, in the past I had suspected that a few of the companies I had interviewed with had never hired a UX professional before.  That was never really my concern, but this company, did not know very much about user experience.

I was wondering if anyone has landed an opportunity in much the same situation as myself.  This is a full-time position, but because of the circumstance I am not sure it will last too long.  I prefer not being a UX team of one, been there and done that.


2 Jul 2012 - 4:53pm
Jeremy Kriegel

Much of my career has been spent as a team of one. When you consider the opportunity, assume you can convince them that what you do is extremely valuable. Do you see enough work to swamp you such that they will hire a partner for you?

4 Jul 2012 - 8:44am
Sean Pook

There can be two scenarios where you're the 'one'. Some companies will be willing to embrace UCD completely and will look to you for advice and consultative services as well as being a hands-on contributor. You'll need to be a good communicator, knowledgeable, and proactive.

The second scenario can see you joining a firm that has heard UX is the next cool thing or they want to be the next Apple, or it's cropped up in an executive golf course conversation and thus you find yourself at a company where no one a) understands UX b) wants to understand or integrate it into the company.

It's vital you know what you're facing before you join. Some folks like scenario A, and I've met one or two who enjoy scenario B but to most people it's hell.

12 Jul 2012 - 3:47pm

Jason, I'm guessing you took the position? I've noticed the same thing - I'm also in NYC.

I find myself in a similar situation right now, working for a company that never had a UX person before and they seem fairly clueless when it comes to UX design and the general trajectory of the internet, it seems. When I was considering them, I was thinking they would be like *scenario A* Sean mentions above. However, I'm not sure that's what this will be. They do need a lot of help, but I get the feeling that no on understands UX and they aren't ready to integrate it into the company even though they said they've needed a UX/Usability person for a long time. The problem is that their company culture is really slow to change and I'm afraid that by staying where I am, I will have to wait for them to get caught up with where I want to be. If I had a ton of experience or I was just starting out, I'd be OK with this. But, I'm somewhat early-career/mid-level and I feel that I really need to learn from someone more senior.

There are a lot of articles and blog posts about hiring and managing UX team, but there's not much about how to find the right UX position for each individual. That info would be very helpful.

15 Jul 2012 - 10:53am
desiree mccrorey


I've been hired as a "novel act" - UX/UI team of one - at several companies, large and small. I found I had to be prepared to wear a minimum of three full time complementary hats simultaneously to be successful; the fundamental UX/UI work, a UCD evangelist and a politician. And it's vital that you have a strong respected upper management champion in your corner that at least has a clue.

Some within the company will be confused about what you do and why you're there because designing is nothing more than left-justifying everything, adding a nice logo, and few rounded corner buttons. Some will feel you're there to upset the peace or take over their job. Some will consider you the answer to their prayers.

They will expect extraordinary work from the UX/UI team of one. In addition to designing, they will expect you to instantly comprehend their software products, deftly navigate their internal development structure and political processes and understand the market they work within. They may expect you to update the UI of their very complex desktop application, produce a web version and oh by the way crank out an iPhone version and do all that in a few months. IOW, leap tall buildings in a single bound. When you reply with anything other than "No problem" they will start to feel they've hired a dud. After all, how hard could it be?

Rare and highly gifted UX/UI individuals can do well in that environment, primarily because they work extremely fast and have a natural ability to stroke upper management's collectively furrowed brow. They're also very good at talking multiple dialects; upper management, developer, product management, etc.

If you're not that gifted, for your sake and well as your manager’s, convince your manager that a successful strategy to introduce UCD into the company is for you to work on a focused pilot UCD project.  Otherwise you will quickly get swamped, pulled in a dozen different directions, become the universal bottleneck, scapegoat and ultimately fail because you didn't complete enough assigned tasks in time thus delaying everyone else.

If the company has been "agiling" it might not be that hard to get the approval to do a pilot UCD project focused on a part of the product. You may want to join forces with a front-end developer to crank out a few interactive prototypes, for example. Then do a few "before & after UCD" briefings. Any opportunity you can think of where you can rapidly produce and present focused, effective results will help you.

Explain that by adopting some basic UCD methods you were able to produce a better, more usable version (which can lead to blah blah blah). This will not only make you look good, your manager will look good in his/her's manager's eyes. And hopefully you will have gained the trust of a few more folks, folks who want to adopt the ways of that "new" successful project. Then you can build on that success by working on increasingly larger or more valuable projects. With any luck, a crazy amount of work, and a few significant, well advertised successes you'll soon be in high demand. That's an optimal time for pushing to grow the UCD team from one to whatever.

Frankly, I've never lasted long enough in those situations because I'm a lousy politician. I'm way too candid, can't hold a poker face long enough and I don't stroke egos hard enough. Schmoozing is so not in my nature. However, those situations do have their good points. You will learn to wear many UX/UI hats; analysis (market, user, tasks, goals, competitive), storyboard, wireframe, design, prototype, front-end develop, UA test, writer (specs), market research, etc. That kind of experience can only help you in your career. Secondly, No one can make you look unskilled because no one else in the company really knows what you do.

Because of the last point, it's vital you keep a very honest and solid comm line with your manager about the what, where, when, how and whys of what you need to do, since s/he will be defending you to upper management and s/he will be evaluating your performance. Believe me; it sucks to be evaluated by someone who doesn't understand what you do and how you’ve contributed to the cause.


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