Based in the coastal city of Halifax, Canada, UX Salon Halifax markets itself as a group that gathers to inspire and entertain one another. Meeting roughly every 2-3 months, the group aims to provide a forum for collaboration, networking, and expanding your knowledge on the burgeoning fields of UX and UI design.
To find out more about the group, we caught up with UX Salon Halifax organizer and CareerFoundry alumna Juliana on her journey from being a newcomer to the field to leading one of the biggest UX design events in her city.
Hi Juliana, thanks for joining us! Could you start off by telling us about how you got into UX design?
After a 15-year career as a teacher, I felt it was time for a change—so I started thinking about what other avenues I could go down. I was always interested in art and design, so graphic design seemed like an option. After doing some research, I came across UX design, which I initially assumed was similar to graphic design. After I dug a little deeper, I was surprised at how much UX design overlapped with teaching. Everything just seemed to fall into place. I enrolled in CareerFoundry’s UX Design Program, and also took the UI Design Program too. The rest is history.
I’m now the sole UX/UI designer at my office. I work for a platform that helps caregivers take care of their senior loved ones by allowing them to live more independently. I discovered the job through CareerFoundry’s advice about networking, and so far, I absolutely love it! I’m learning so much—and was even recently promoted to a director level!
How did you discover UX Salon Halifax?
Having been a regular at the local UX meetups, I really enjoyed the sense of community that I would come away with. I felt inspired to start my own meetup and started to think about what kind of meetup I would want to create. I wanted a meetup where people could have their questions answered in a structured way.
I’d signed up for UX Salon Halifax months earlier on the Meetup App, but no events were announced during that time. When a callout for a potential new organizer for the event popped up on the meetup app, I jumped at the chance.
The former organizer of the event reached out to me and explained, to my surprise, that UX Salon was a huge UX design event in Israel. I made contact with the event’s founder, and he took me through all the logistics—from how to plan the events, to how to promote them. Since then, I’ve been the official organizer.
What’s your vision with UX Salon?
I wanted to create a community of people that could help each other. CareerFoundry was a great foundation, but I didn’t want the learning to stop there. There are so many people in the community who have 15+ years of experience, and I wanted to create a forum where myself and other newcomers to the field could openly ask them for help and advice, and talk to them about their experiences. It’s provided me with such a strong network and shown me that everyone can learn something from someone. There’s also a lot of promotional value in it for the startups and companies that attend and speak at the events.
It started off as a fireside chat kind of thing, where we would discuss anything that I thought would be an educational talking-point for the community. Halifax is a new and emerging tech hub here in Canada, and it’s a fast-growing city. Since we started UX Salon, so many more people have gained an understanding of what UX design is, and why it’s so vital for business. It’s not just UX and UI designers who come to the meetup now; we also have a lot of developers, company founders and marketing people walk through our doors.
How do you find speakers for the events?
We started off with a post-it wall where people could post about what they wanted to see or hear about at upcoming events, so I’d use those topic suggestions as a jumping-off point for finding potential speakers. Sometimes I’d ask our attendees to lead workshops, or for something more specific, I’ll approach a company or startup. We’ve had some fantastic presentations so far; ranging from how to navigate obstacles in UX design to creating a content strategy.
How has leading UX Salon impacted your career?
I feel that my name has gotten out into the industry—which, of course, is fantastic. It’s also given me such a strong network of people who I know I can call if I’m ever feeling stuck or confused about something. For example, we recently interviewed someone from Digital Nova Scotia who spoke about the new accessibility guidelines that will soon be coming into place in our province—so it was great to get a heads up about that. Now it’s on my radar, and I am working on my plan to make sure I am prepared for when those changes come into effect. These little insights stick with you and grow into big concepts. I’m so lucky to have a great boss who always encourages me to explore other topics and take on external projects, as I’ll bring those developed skills back into my role.
Talk us through the planning of your event.
Just like when you’re planning an app, I’ve learned that it’s so important to plan your event extremely well; don’t make people guess or think too much, and make things straightforward. I plan out an itinerary minute by minute, and it’s all there on the meetup page so that people know what to expect before they even arrive.
I used to co-organize the event with someone, but as they recently took on more responsibility in their job, it’s now down to me to organize the events alone. I once tried sourcing help from the event attendees by sending out a call for help to set up ahead of the event, and it worked really well. From calling out for help, people have volunteered to take on more permanent roles to help with UX Salon Halifax in the areas of photography, food sponsorship, and social media.
I’ve learned that the most important part of planning a UX event is setting goals for each meetup: what is it that I want to achieve during this event? What do I want the attendees to take away with them?
I like to meet the speaker for coffee beforehand so that I can get to know them and run through what they’ll cover in the presentation or workshop. We do the events in a co-working space, and although I know a lot of meetups regularly change their venue, I’ve found it such a huge help to host it in the same place every time. We also offer prizes and draws for attendees, such as UX design starter kits that include notebooks and pens for sketching. That’s pretty much it!
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own UX event in their city?
Probably the most important piece of advice is to do the research first. Attend as many meetups as you can, and get a sense of what other organizers are doing. Stick to things that people like to pull a crowd in, such as healthy food and prizes.
I’d also advise breaking everything up into 20-minute sections to avoid people getting bored. Break up the speakers too—no one wants to hear one person waffling on for an hour! Overall, it’s crucial to plan as much as you can, get reliable people to help you, and delegate clear responsibilities to those helpers so that you can avoid a “too many cooks” scenario. But remember: no one expects it to be perfect! Running a UX event is a learning curve, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
What’s next for UX Salon?
I definitely want to keep growing UX Salon into next year. We’ve already gone from 96 members to 439—which is a huge achievement. Usually, most of the chairs at the events are filled up, so I know that the demand is there. I think that in 2020, I’d like to explore doing more workshops, as I think learning-by-doing is a really fun avenue to explore. I can’t wait to see where the next year takes us!
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