UX designer using their phone

Webinar: How To Start Your Career In UX Design

Florence Collins

CareerFoundry webinars cover the latest trends in tech, with a focus on UX design, UI design, web development, and app development. Each webinar is presented by an industry expert, and followed by an exciting Q&A discussion.

The webinar ‘How to Kickstart Your UX Career’ is an inspiring talk for anyone looking to become a UX designer.

The webinar ‘How to Kickstart Your UX Career’ took place on 10th Aug, 2016 with freelance UXer, Clive K. Lavery. Watch the webinar to learn:

  • How to start building your own professional network at meetups and conferences
  • How to become part of the UX community even if you live outside of a major tech hub
  • That your empathy and enthusiasm are your greatest strengths

If you scroll down, you can also read a transcript of the Q&A session with Clive. Enjoy!

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Q&A transcript

RYAN: Great, we’ve got some awesome questions that have already come in and guys keep putting questions in there if you’d like. A great one came from Crystal, and I think a lot of people here probably feel this: do experienced UX people get tired of beginner UX people asking very similar beginner questions? You talk about going to meet-ups, meeting people and getting engaged, but do you think somebody hears the same question too many times and gets tired of it?

CLIVE: Well it depends, I guess there’s people that are like that… I’m not like that… I always like it when junior people, and I’ve done this before, I’ve met people for coffee and I just went over their portfolio, gave them a few pointers, and it is the same questions, but I like teaching and being educated, so it’s probably the kind of person you are. But generally in UX, no I don’t think so, becauseI think there’s a new flavor of the month every half year anyway, so even experts and seniors might not know some answers as well.

So, again, be agile about it, try it, if you think someone is bored - move on to the next person or maybe rephrase your question a little bit. I can’t say I’m bored with it, but that’s the kind of person I am, but I know other people for instance in the agency, when I look after the interns, it wouldn’t have been their favorite thing. So I think it’s just a character thing and not so much an industry thing. That answers the question, I hope.

RYAN: Yes, I think so, it sounds good. How easy is it to transition into UX from either being a graphics designer or a psych major or having some kind of background in something related, how easy would that be to pick up UX and go?

CLIVE: How easy… on a scale from one to eight: seven and a half? No, I don’t know. But I think you lay foundations, I’ve got a current student who’s been a long time visual designer and, I mean, he’s been doing UX things anyway without just knowing them and knowing that this method has this name maybe.

I’ve got a background in graphic design as well, a long time ago when I started out, in print design as well, I did artwork actually and all this digital stuff was this just crazy stuff for me. So it’s just something you learn to progress with. And in my career I came to a stage where, okay, I’m probably not the greatest visual designer on earth, it’s okay what I do, but I actually prefer doing the concepts and thinking about what happens behind it, and that was UX already without there being a course for it or anything like that.

So I think if, on a good graphic design course you also learn it’s not just designs, it’s about solving problems, and if you’ve got that mindset I think you’re good to go into UX was well. It’s not a magic thing, that’s what I’m trying to say, it’s not rocket science, you have to practice it, there’s a few methods you have to take on board, but it is, a lot of it is advanced common sense. So if you’ve got a design background I’d encourage you to do that and that’s a natural way as well.

One of my best interns, who I’m still in contact with as well, she came from a very visual design background and she did posters, tapestry, and all that and now she actually calls herself a UX/UI designer, which I sometimes think is a bit dangerous, but actually she can call herself that because she’s got a Bachelor’s in Visual Design, and then she did the internship, and she’s been working on UX projects. So definitely a natural way to progress.

RYAN: So as a junior UX student, as somebody who’s just getting into this, do you think that they really need to have their profile done if, or if they just have like one piece, like what is enough to make a portfolio worth it when you’re just starting up?

CLIVE: That’s a good question. I definitely like seeing, even if you haven’t done a lot of client work or professional work, just as a rule of thumb I think I’d like to see three to four projects and even if they’re then side projects or something you’ve done before or maybe something you’ve worked on to get a general idea of how you work and you approach things.

Because quite often in an interview I would give people half an hour to an hour and get them to solve a little problem, leave them in the room and go back, and it doesn’t have to be a perfect solution, it’s just, I just like to see how people think and how they process this and this is really important in UX as opposed to a UI portfolio or when you show your work.

It’s not so much about the finished, polished product it really is the kind of thinking that goes into there, what did you try that worked, what did you try that didn’t work and why did you come to this solution and what you did on the way. So, yes, as a rule of thumb try to have something like three things you can show and talk about, and no one expects from a 19-year old to have big corporate client experience, that would be just crazy. But, again, I want to see enthusiasm, I want to see that you maybe can talk intelligently about your work, maybe you’ve read a few books and taken ideas from that.

And for an internship or junior position I think that’s totally fine, because then you’re there at the company or with your mentor to you get you there, where you should be, so yes. But I think one is a bit, it wouldn’t really be enough, because I definitely need to see a small breadth of work to know that you know what you’re talking about.

And talking about that as well, in the blog post there’ll be a great link to a guy from Design Inc, an American company, who goes over young designers’ portfolios and it just is really an eye-opener and a bit shocking I guess to a lot of you, because you’ve put hours and weeks into your lovely portfolio and he might spend three to four minutes looking at them, grading them and saying yes you get four points, you get three points, sorry you’re out, and that’s really interesting, just watch it for an hour and get the thinking of people.

Because you must always remember you’re probably on a pile like this with 150 other portfolios, no one is going to read everything. They have first impressions and think maybe that’s interesting, oh she’s been doing workshops and has got 300 post-its on the wall, we always like seeing things like that, so yes that’s something I’d encourage you to do.

And maybe another one, a good one is if you haven’t got side projects just have a well-known service, maybe that is rotten, or just say how would you redesign AirBnb for instance or how would you redesign Google, and then just show that approach, that would be a good chance of showing your thinking as well.

RYAN: Yes, another good question here, is it okay to get your resume reviewed by a professional UX designer, like if you know somebody or if you want to reach out to somebody?

CLIVE: Totally, ask as many questions as possible, get it ripped apart and get good feedback, ask as many people as possible and no one expects it to be perfect from the start. Yes definitely, it’s totally okay and that’s, for instance, that’s what I’ve done with a young student who’s been to our UX book club, she was just looking UX research and jobs in Berlin and we just met for breakfast or lunch and I gave her some tips on her resume and she’s got an interview this week as well, so hopefully that helped. As I said, people usually are like that, you ask nicely, if you’re not an asshole, people are happy to sit with you. So I definitely encourage you to do that.

RYAN: I think we’ve got time for two more questions then we’re going to kind of wrap it up. So what are your thoughts on being a generalist versus a specialist?

CLIVE: Yes, that’s a good one. I think, that’s why I now call myself a UX person as well, because I’m just, as I said, I’m sick and tired of all these Ninja and Hero and Unicorn titles. I think UX is - there’s a nice graphic, I haven’t got it here, if you search for UX design umbrella there should be a nice graphic showing it - it really is an umbrella term and a lot of people would even argue you can’t actually design the UX of something, it is many parts, service design, interaction design, information architecture, so I think it depends on where you want to be going as well.

Now, in my situation I like doing a lot of research as well, and strategy, and I like getting my hands dirty with the design of the concept bit, but there might another person who’s a better interaction designer because he knows Sketch and Invision inside out.

It depends a bit on what would you like to be. I found often people with a vision design background, because they’re so into Sketch or Photoshop they tend to be more the specialist people and need to broaden their minds a little bit. Whereas someone maybe coming from a different background might be a bit too broad and you might tell him concentrate a bit on the basic skills of a UX designer. So know how to do a different, a solid navigation information architecture and things like that, maybe even the boring stuff, do quantum inventories in Excel, even if that’s not very sexy but really very useful.

Yes, it’s a bit up to yourself, there’s no clear cut answer to that and that’s probably frustrating and the most likely answer you get all through your UX career: it depends. It’s horrible answer but it’s usually the one you’ll get, and clients hate you for that as well.

But a good one to answer the it depends is ask why five times, even it hurts and if it’s really painful just ask “why”. So the client says hi there, we need an app, okay why do you need this app, why do you need an app, what problem are you solving, why have people have got this problem, why haven’t you done it this way and you actually get to the core of things and then maybe they don’t need an app at all, maybe they need a poster or a billboard, I don’t know, it’s just off the top of my head. So yes, it depends and ask why five times, that’s a good tip, and probably something you’ll hear very often.

RYAN: Yes, and this is the last question, do you think it’s worth it to go for a Masters degree or a college degree or something like that, or just go for an online bootcamp, just teach yourself and get right into it?

CLIVE: You know what’s coming… it depends. It definitely depends what kind of person you are as well, but to me, if there’s someone at an interview who has come from bootcamp or something similar, or someone who has got an MA, I might ask him different kinds of questions because I just assume, maybe it’s the wrong assumption, that someone with an MA would like to move on quicker into something like a senior position or maybe a middle management position, but that’s just an assumption.

Whereas someone who has done something really hands-on, so like a more vocational or a skills-based course, would actually like to get his hands dirty and work himself up through the ranks, but I couldn’t say I prefer one over the other. Again, I’d be much more interested to see what he or she has done, what she intends to do, how she would approach certain problems and it really depends.

I think a Masters or proper degree is great if you’re someone who needs a bit of a safe environment as well and you want to grow, because it’s not only about the course, if you want to grow as a person as well and have a community of people, again that will probably be your network later on, a lot of alumni who know each and then shuffle themselves jobs as well.

It probably depends on what stage of life you’re at as well. I mean if you‘re already working and you want to shift careers it would be a bit tough to actually dedicate 100% of your time to an MA or something like that and then that bootcamp might be just as valid, and to me that would signal, this guy or this girl is really dedicated and she wants to move out of his or her comfort zone and is prepared to put in the hours after their work, just as valid, so I’d definitely look at both and then it depends if they’re an asshole or not, if they stalk and talk, or if they get out of the building.

RYAN: That’s awesome, yes it’s great, yes thank you so much for that. We’re going to go ahead and wrap it up; I just have little closing statement here. Thank you so much for coming on and talking, I think I speak for everybody here, you had a great presentation and I think a lot was learned, it was really cool.

CLIVE: I hope it was helpful!

What You Should Do Now

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Florence Collins

Florence Collins

Editor at CareerFoundry

Florence is an idea generator, urban adventurer, and laughter advocate with a passion for travelling & collecting languages without ever quite mastering any of them. She lives in Berlin and writes content in all its forms - long, short, unsolicited.