None of my experiences appear officially on my LinkedIn profile or my resume, because what I do is much more than what I do professionally. But each helps me in the day job more than I could ever admit, because while it’s not relevant to design, it is to the process to creating amazing things and seeing the big picture.
I don’t tell many of my friends about some of them, because it seems overwhelming and I’m a fairly private person, but when I meet other people that have also taken unorthodox paths in life, there’s a certain kinship that is wonderful.
Each experience brought me something different and varied, and each had it’s own unforgetable moments: from a shake machine catching on fire, to photos that seem to capture something other than reality, to driving down the Harbor Freeway and seeing the rightful anger of 1,000 neighborhoods glow in the night.
Each I’ve took pride in and I’ve grown from.
Each has helped me learn from my mistakes.
Each has helped me leave a legacy at places I go, friends I meet, and places I have worked.
Now’s the time many designers are graduating from college. That’s great — we need more designers in the field — but it’s really, really hard to break into.
I’ve written about this a lot (read my Career Guide, I have about 40,000 words there about this and probably should publish a book), but I still get the occasional email asking me questions about how the process works, where to download a resume template, and if we actually get to do the complete UX process (The answer: “No, we don’t, especially in startups.”).
So, before you email me and I make fun of you over the phone or Skype, here’s a few questions you should ask before you hit the send button.
Yes, awesome. You have something to show on your first interviews!
If you haven’t, you’re already a year behind of most your classmates. Some have been working on startup ideas or coming up with neat little websites that do things.
Many students spend time during their Bachelors and Masters programs working as interns to learn the craft of interaction design. They might have been working on something during school (the best idea is to turn a school project into a potential startup).
Remember, the job search isn’t fair. If you don’t put the effort in moving ahead of your classmates, your path deserves to be much, much harder. You have to make your own luck, and that’s through hard work.
That’s where you put all those projects you did at your internship. When you see how thin the portfolio is, you’ll be motivated to do more work.
The portfolio shouldn’t be cute or show too much of your personality (they aren’t hiring you for your like of cute flowers). What it should show is your line of thinking, soup to nuts in a project so they know how you think.
Behance is good enough for most people (Every time I talk about this, I bring up LaiYee Lori’s portfolio, because it’s amazing), and most of us just want the design to be clean.
Do you know how to do front end coding, can design simple graphics in Photoshop, or know your way around Visio? Those are the kind of questions that you’ll be asked at any interview or first job interview.
We honestly don’t care about the super cool science project you did; we want to know how you built it so if there’s something than you can do we can’t.
Most of older designers will be looking for interns that know how to code up a page because a) we hate doing it, and b) some of us don’t have that in our skillset. Frankly, there’s a serious shortage of front end developers right now, so if you can pick up that skillset before you graduate, you’ll have an advantage over every single designer you are up against. You have a whole summer to learn it!
I will gladly give that work to them because they can build interactive prototypes that are perfect for doing usability testing.
And, if you’re smart enough, you’ll get to do the testing too.
I did mention both of these are perfect to put in your portfolio, right?
If you’re applying directly through them, it gives you about .41 percent chance of getting the job. That’s right around a 1 in 260 chance.
You’re better off buying lottery tickets or responding to one of those Nigerian scams.
All that work you do to pretty up your resume may not work — some applicant tracking systems present only a text only version of the resume on the first display (they have to download it to see the real deal). This is the first impression the recruiter gets. It may work for smaller startups because they usually accept resumes through email.
The better thing? Stalk people on Twitter or at events and become a personal referral.
I encourage you to find companies on LinkedIn that you want to work at, find out who works there, and find them on Twitter. Or even better, go to a something like Jobvite’s job board, where you can see the connections you may have at the company. Invite them out for a coffee.
Being a personal referral works: Those people that apply for jobs through personal connections or recruiters have a 10 percent chance (or better) of getting hired.
You probably aren’t going to be hired into an organization and get to develop Facebook Home. you’ll be a wireframe monkey or doing research that may (or may not be) used. Don’t expect to get something at Twitter. You can apply, but don’t bet on it.
The employers have the upper hand, and once you realize that life becomes much easier. The competition for those jobs is intense, and best if you actually know somewhere there.
Even better, look at companies that are boring, and see if they are interested in internships. Reach out to companies without a program. They might create one for you. Go to any meetups for these companies (and ironically, not the UX ones) to talk to recruiters and hiring managers.
If you’re lucky, the work might be interesting, but the reason you intern is that you gain valuable connections in your profession and learn who the process is different than the ideal they teach in school.
Don’t be. Don’t give up. You have an amazing path ahead of you: read Christina Wodtke’s post for more education of how you should craft your career.
User Experience is a meritocracy — we want to see what you can do. Find the right place, and you’ll do amazing things.
Twitter is a great resource for User Experience information and engagement with professionals in our field. I also think it’s invaluable as a professional branding tool. One of the groups that has embraced this most are user experience professionals.
I have a list of people that I respect and follow to retweet their content. The list I have is literally called Stuff I Follow. It’s not all UX types — some of them are personal friends — but it helps me keep up to date on what’s going on.
Yes, I play favorites. Yes, this may promote people I like. But it’s my list.
Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:
The problem with data is that the way it is used today, it lacks empathy and emotion. Data is used like a blunt instrument, a scythe trying to cut and tailor a cashmere sweater. Some folks do a better job of making data interesting — like the fine folks at Foursquare. They use cutesy phrases to remind me of my coffee addiction and occasionally point out that Jared Kim and I are besties when it comes to eating ramen noodles or visiting Hakkasan, but they don’t really tell the whole story and they need to do more.
[Foursquare] knows that I check-in with a handful of people, whose relationship to me can be inferred from the social graph. Add to the mix the fact that I have left tips and taken photos at that spot. Now, compare it to all other coffee shops I have checked into and how they rank against this one location. Add all of them up, and you end up with a rudimentary conclusion: I don’t go to this coffee shop simply because it’s an interchangeable part of my daily routine, or because it’s on my way to work. I visit it because it is my happy place, my one cup (or dozen) of zen. And a company like Foursquare could use that fact to package even more compelling experiences for me.
The symbiotic relationship between data and storytelling is going to be one of the more prevalent themes for the next the few years, starting perhaps inside some apps and in the news media. I was reminded of the future filled with data narratives when I saw this visualization – Out of Sight, Out of Mind, by Pitch Interactive. It takes data about drone attacks and makes them visual and easy to understand, and in doing so, elicits a strong reaction.
But it merely scratches the surface — presenting a slight improvement on an infographic that might have appeared in the pages of a magazine. In a future where we have tablets and phones, packed with sensors, the data-driven narratives could take on an entirely different and emotional hue.
How are you using data?
I’ve been kicking the tires of a new collaboration platform, Hunie. It’s a place where designers can posts their designs and get feedback from other designers who are experts in the field (you know, not those self proclaimed experts).
Designs are easily annotated, and it provides even non-designers and great platform to comment and collaborate.
Congratulations to Damian Madray on the launch.
Every once in a while, I read an article that is completely spot on about software development. Oscar Godson’s What I Learned At Yammer is one of those articles. Remember that he’s a developer when you’re reading this, not a user experience professional. Great developers understand the user experience process and how it works with software development. They know what it means to test, build fewer features, and concentrate on an end goal of a product sold holistically, and not by bullet point.
Every one in software development should read this. Cheers.
Today marks my last day at Yammer. It’s been a hell of a ride. It’s bittersweet. I’m leaving Yammer to be back in PDX to be near family and long time friends. I’ll be starting at Simple as a front-end dev where I’ll be changing banking for the better.
While at Yammer I learned a lot. Not just about programming, but about running an engineering team and project management as well. Yammer not only made me a more skilled programmer, but a smart programmer. I decided to write up some of the things I learned outside of just programming that I’ll probably bring with me to every company I work with in the future.
I can’t stress this enough. If there’s one thing I learned at Yammer it’s that you need to test everything, and by everything I mean, everything. It’s not just about getting your users to come back or to engage with your software more. That’s a large piece of it, but it’s also about saving countless engineering time. A lot of people I talk to who don’t do any testing say that they feel their intuition is doing fine because they can see that the overall new and returning users are increasing. What they’re missing is that, how do you know what feature is driving those gains? Which features are hardly even being used? Could you increase your new users by 2x, 4x, 100x, what it’s increasing at now?
I spent some time trying to think of a good analogy of this problem and this is the best I could come up with:
Not testing your software is like playing darts in a pitch black room. When you throw the dart you will be able to hear if it hit the target or hit the wall and fell to the ground. What you can’t really do is adjust your throw. You don’t know where you hit the target when you did, just that you did. Testing is like turning on the lights. Now you can see the target. You might still miss here and there, but if you miss you can readjust.
Testing also allows you to figure out what features to kill before you spend too much time on them. You might have this idea that some feature is going to be super awesome and everyone and their dog will want to use it. So, you spend all this time building it out and you put it into the wild. Overall it gets good reviews from a vocal minority (probably power users). What you might not know is that most people don’t really use it or don’t understand it. Now you’re spending 90% of your time making features for <10% of your users, or not, but you really have no idea. This feature could be expensive time wise to keep up. Maybe it has a lot of support tickets or is unreliable for some reason.
Testing allows you to move faster, make better products for consumers and keeps engineers from wasting time with features nobody uses.
I didn’t get how important unit tests were until I had to refactor a large chunk of code for a project. I had absolutely no clue what I could and couldn’t remove or change and even if I thought I could remove or change it I wasn’t sure if I had broken anything somewhere else in the product. Around the same time there was a huge push at Yammer on the front-end side to put tests on everything. It became a rule that you can’t ship it unless you have tests. Looking back I wish that was the rule from the start.
A lot of people think tests slow you down and it’s over hyped. It’s not. Sure, making a small bug fix that’s a 1 line change and having to write 12-15 lines of test code seems overkill and a waste, but you get all that time back tenfold when someone goes “Huh, wonder if we need this line here?” deletes it, and the “preventLaunch() is called to prevent accidental nuclear weapon launches” test fails. Not only does the next guy know it’s important and why, if the code needs to be refactored they know what they’re missing and can make sure the app runs as it did before.
If you’re the owner, manager, etc, let your employees do their job. Hire engineers you respect and leave them alone. If you can’t trust them to do their best work and work that’s acceptable for your product you shouldn’t have hired them. Simple as that.
Instead spend your time helping them break down obstacles and blockers. Make them happy. As long as they get their work done, don’t question when they come and go or if they watch cat videos and browse Reddit /r/wtf all day. Some of the best engineers I know work only a few hours a day, but get more done than others working 8hrs. Being creative is hard and giving them more rules kills creative thinking.
Originally Yammer had no policy on vacation. They called it the “take what you need” policy. We all rejoiced. I thought it was amazing and it’s a great selling point when trying to recruit people. The problem is nobody takes vacation when they can’t lose it and there’s no pressure to use it. When you do use it there’s no limit so you have to decide what’s acceptable. Obviously, not every employee thinks this way, but when we introduced a three week vacation policy people were actually happy including me.
My suggestion to startups thinking about unlimited vacation? Instead, give 3-4 weeks of vacation, but if an employee wants more just give it to them.
Burnout is real and it’s deadly to your company. Yammer was great about this. We were regularly asked how busy we were and how we felt about our workload. We were asked if we felt others were feeling overworked too. If you were feeling overworked it got fixed.
Your employees shouldn’t have to work long hours on a daily basis. If your employee is working long hours to complete a projects regularly you’re mismanaging the projects. The choice is pretty easy actually: would you rather have an employee for 1 year who worked 12-14hr days but burned out, was unhappy and quit, or an employee for 5 years plus who worked half as many hours, but was happy and working optimally? The hours don’t matter it’s what they produce.
I had never used Yammer until I started at Yammer. In fact, to be honest, I was skeptical about working at Yammer at first because I wasn’t sure how interesting it would even be. “It’s just some crappy Facebook clone”, I thought. My friends there insisted it wasn’t, so I decided to give it a shot.
The first day it became pretty obvious just how useful it was. All our docs were on there. On-boarding processes, tips for new employees, everything. It was all where I could find it. I could message HR about general HR questions, in the public feed, get responses and months later someone else would drop by and say thanks or expand on it. People don’t realize just how useful it is and once you start using it you forget how useful it is until you don’t have it anymore and you’re jumping between a dozen different products with fragmented conversations between email, chat, and other products. Yammer pulls it all together.
It’s also extremely useful for project management. At Yammer we’d make a group for each team (engineering, front-end, rails, etc), as well as groups for each project (inbox, online now, etc). This made it so we could put specs, comps and the conversations around those in a central location where we could easily find it. This also killed the need for doing stand ups, weekly team meetings or SCRUM. We could see what everyone was working on at any time in any project. It’s also extremely useful to be able to share a Yammer thread to show past decisions about the product and why those choices were made.
Another added bonus is there’s a great API. You can have things auto post things like deploys. “Oscar is deploying release XXX to production”, for example. Or, if your spec fails, “Oscar broke the build!”. Super handy because now you can have an archivable conversation about these things. Maybe that production deploy was failed and brought the site down. 6 months later someone could link to that thread.
That’s all folks!
There’s so much more I learned, but I’m thinking about expanding on these individual topics, or things I didn’t cover in separate posts. Yammer was the first job where I came out feeling like I had more to offer my next team aside from just better programming skills. If you have any questions about any of these things feel free to contact me.
Do we want to live in a world that’s always on? Walk into any bar in places like San Francisco, Seattle or Los Angeles, and there are hordes of people that are splitting their attention span their “Jesus” phones and conversations.
Even now, do you really have anyone’s undivided attention?
And then’s there’s Google Glass. Mark Hurst writes about how this is even worse with the new device:
The key experiential question of Google Glass isn’t what it’s like to wear them, it’s what it’s like to be around someone else who’s wearing them. I’ll give an easy example. Your one-on-one conversation with someone wearing Google Glass is likely to be annoying, because you’ll suspect that you don’t have their undivided attention. And you can’t comfortably ask them to take the glasses off (especially when, inevitably, the device is integrated into prescription lenses).
But wait, there’s more!
Finally – here’s where the problems really start – you don’t know if they’re taking a video of you.
The user wears them unintentionally becomes part of the world’s biggest webcam network.
Now pretend you don’t know a single person who wears Google Glass… and take a walk outside. Anywhere you go in public – any store, any sidewalk, any bus or subway – you’re liable to be recorded: audio and video. Fifty people on the bus might be Glassless, but if a single person wearing Glass gets on, you – and all 49 other passengers – could be recorded. Not just for a temporary throwaway video buffer, like a security camera, but recorded, stored permanently, and shared to the world.
Google Glass is like one camera car for each of the thousands, possibly millions, of people who will wear the device – every single day, everywhere they go – on sidewalks, into restaurants, up elevators, around your office, into your home. From now on, starting today, anywhere you go within range of a Google Glass device, everything you do could be recorded and uploaded to Google’s cloud, and stored there for the rest of your life. You won’t know if you’re being recorded or not; and even if you do, you’ll have no way to stop it.
Isn’t that a slight privacy violation? Where’s the checkbox I can click?
“It’s weirdly self-centered and creepy to be broadcasting my whereabouts to the whole world, and then be rewarded for it with some worthless piece of clipart,” said Tampa, FL college student Theresa Gibson. “I don’t want to know where other people are, I don’t want them to know where I am, and I definitely don’t want it all to be tracked by a website that pits us against each other to see who can share our locations the most. Frankly, it doesn’t make any sense why that would ever appeal to anyone.”
“Nobody needs to get my immediate take on everything I see online,” said Atlanta printing consultant Deirdre Levinson, questioning the merits of any site that, without knowing her level of intelligence or expertise in a particular topic, would deem her worthy enough to engage in a discussion. “And they’re sorely mistaken if they believe I could actually add something of value to the conversation. At best I’m just going to parrot back some loose approximation of what I’ve heard before, which will just prove that I never should have weighed in in the first place.”
“Don’t always ask me to send everything I’ve read to everyone I know. And by the same token, I don’t need to know if they’ve read the same thing. That information means nothing to either of us,” said Glendale, AZ shopkeeper Dan Allenby, who could not think of a single instance where it would be helpful to sign into another website through his Facebook account. “If I wanted to tell someone about something, I’ll just tell them individually. Or better yet, they’ll stumble across it on their own.”
I’m going to be presenting with Jon Fox in Orange County at Kareo with Jon Fox:
From Application to Interview: How to get a Great UX Job
Patrick Neeman presents: The process of getting a great user experience job isn’t as hard as you would think. This workshop covers all aspects of the interview process, from presenting a great resume and portfolio, what to expect during an in person interview.
Mobile as a UX Driver
Jon Fox presents: Showcasing how the user experience movement of simple design, quick data consumption and connectivity is driven by the rise in mobile devices, small screen applications and on-the-go mobility.
Now I’m moved.
So I was catching up on Twitter and blog reading, and I came along this post. Kyle Neath has always kind of cracked me up — that photo on Twitter — but the blog post about how the internet can level the playing field is great. To paraphrase, he didn’t know the value of his early work, and found solace through a Ruby on Rails community.
It took me until early 2009 for me to realize the real value of this network. I was miserable at my job and I sent a long-winded email to court3nay inquiring about working with ENTP. ENTP was a half-product, half-consulting agency at this point comprised almost solely of caboosers. All of whom had never met me or ever heard my voice. About 30 seconds later I got a response:
That’s pretty fuckin awesome, if you’ll pardon my french.
We’re just heading out to breakfast, I mean, an important company meeting, but I’ll get back to you today.
Courtenay & Rick
And then a follow up:
OK, I’ve talked it over with everyone (unanimous— “kyle? awesome!”)
I think you’ll fit into our team perfectly.
No in person interview. No phone calls. No technical test. They were confident enough in my pixels to give me what equated to my dream job at that point in my life.
Really fucking crazy.
This industry we work in is magical. For the first time in human history, it’s possible to be represented (almost) solely through the merits of your work. Build something magical, push it up to GitHub under a pseudonym, and you could become one of the most sought after programmers in the world.
Do great work. Reach out. Pixels don’t care. Exactly.
Rogers has been responsive at doing this investigation. Here’s the recap.
I get it — not everyday are they going to get someone on the other end the designs iPhone applications, has travelled internationally, is comfortable with social media and can navigate email systems. But their customer service runs the risk every day when they mistreat customers. This is all bad press, and probably will cost them customers.
They would get a lot better press if they said, “We’ll forgive this,” and would probably get a renewed contract that’s worth over $2,000 over the next year. Otherwise, there’s a good chance they’ll lose a customer over this. Sean Van Tyne, a friend of mine, talks about how good service breeds loyal customers.
A great service design culture really starts from the top. Loyalty comes from the promises companies make to their customers. Period.
Here’s a few recommendations:
More updates tomorrow. Stay tuned.
Really poor customer service. So poor, I have to take to social media to get any proper attention.
A friend of mine received a phone bill from Rogers Communications, a cellular company in Canada. On it was $619 for international roaming charges — six days in Hong Kong and China which no one could explain. She was there for two months, and is very experienced international traveller.
She knows how to turn data roaming off.
What’s worse is the customer service received in response to this issue:
Several incorrect answers that less experienced people would have accepted.
Several customer service representatives giving incorrect information.
No resolution other than one representative offering to be put on a pre-paid plan of 80 dollars. That would have meant paying 80 dollars for phantom usage. She was running from Starbucks to Starbucks to get her email.
All this trouble for a customer who’s cellular phone contract is up for renewal. You know, a customer that’s been with them 10 years, and through all this doesn’t want to switch companies.
Will someone help? Please?
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