In 2015 I returned back to Australia, after many years overseas. I had been successful working in my chosen field of User Experience working for organisations as diverse as the BBC, Argus Associates (Lou Rosenfeld and Peter Morville’s first IA company) and Time Out.
I was lucky to be introduced to a General Assembly by another ex-BBCer Mike Atherton and arrived back in Melbourne ready to teach career changers.
I taught three cohorts of students who ranged in work experience from straight out of high school, to working in industry for close to 30 years. With my TAs (Alex and Laura) we turned out 38 UX professionals.
But (and this is a big but) for a large number of the students they were working for the first time in project groups, managing clients and leading workshops. We only touched on this at General Assembly – our focus was teaching them the basics of UX, in particular iterative design and usability testing.
For the next 2.5 years, I’ve answered questions about deep IA, how to run a workshop, working with developer and how to scope a project.
General Assembly or university courses do not provide these answers to their students; neither are there conferences or workshops that focus on the complete professional. We expect that our juniors, mid weights and intermediate UX professionals will pick up these skills at work. This is a bit of a crap shoot, if a person gets a great manager then they develop these skills being shaped and mentored in each project; if not there are very few people that a UX professional can contact.
This is why Deeper T exists.
I recognised that our profession needs ‘complete’ UX professionals with technical, people and business skills, and this is not the technical unicorn everyone talks about.
So what do I mean by technical, business and people skills.
Technical skills – I get loads of questions and phone calls about deep IA and content strategy, as my ex-students work on projects where information has to be structured. They know the basics (mainly how to prototype and test), but past that anything that requires more in-depth research, or more that web/app interfaces they are stumped. The technical skills arena is where there is plenty of competition in the market — this is what’s taught.
Working with People – part of User Experience is working with others; in multi-disciplinary teams, with stakeholders, with clients, and with users. UX professionals need to hone these skills to be successful. And like most people working in teams is not instinctual. This is learning how to work with others, manage your own time, work out how to compromise, and give direction.
Business skills – moving forward in a UX career means working closer with business and product. UXers therefore need to understand the basics of business and how to measure impact on their organisations and users. Many UXers start off thinking their projects are just all about the user, and so it continues for many practitioners, but to be successful you need to provide value to the business; talking in their terms, presenting well, understanding ROI and working closely with product managers.
Deeper T has many parts to it, because a set of workshops does not do it all
- One-on-one coaching
- Training in house
- Career planning
But let’s start with the workshops…