Top 5 Skills to become a Successful UX Professional?

Goal of this article: If you are NEW to User Experience as a career, then the 5 skills below will have you at the TOP of your Game.  Our goal as UX’ers are to serve our PEOPLE- at the highest level of customer service and customer care that we can architect…

1. Generally like other Humans

Firstly, you gotta like PEOPLE. I am also a hybrid introvert, however, UX IS ALL ABOUT HUMANS AND THEIR EXPERIENCES and being SOCIAL is one of the many ways you go about uncovering relatable human-driven insights. 

To me, and from doing award winning work with teams 20x smarter than I, most us true blue Information Architects and/or User Experience Practitioners who are good at our job—love people.  In fact:

Most User Experience practitioners genuinely care about other humans. This is the very heart of USER EXPERIENCE; humanity converging with technology in a simple, healthy, effective way that improves life.

We aren’t hermits who cyber-bully on Dribbble, or design in dungeons with just mommy to impress. Instead, we LOVE humanity, appreciate people in all colors, shapes and forms and are constantly amazed at the sheer brilliance of HUMANITY and emotion (emotive design kick ass article found here by HUGE Inc. own Sherine Kazim).

2. Have your own Opinion and Viewpoints

If every problem can simply be solved by the owner of the company, I doubt many of your favorite songs, dishes, even clothes would EXIST. People have stupid ideas, all of the time—I have/had/will-have tons of them. Without an opinion, you disservice the art of enlightment. We value your perspective.  Voice your own beliefs and values when appropriate. The person consuming or depending on your design to accomplish a goal/task will certainly have an opinion on what your team puts out into the wild. Opinions matter. So voice yours.

3. Be a Lifelong Student, forever in Research-Mode

This is more of a life-lesson; but always remember to “learn.” Learn from the latest UAT session on what to ask and what not to ask. Learn from the many pioneers in your own city, who practice successful User Experience methods and strategies. Learn from the many many mistakes you will make as the WINS will give you a rush of endorphin, yet the ROI of win-streaks pale in comparison to personal and career growth from project-failures. The lesson is forever in the attempt and seldom the end-result, for your client or employer. I can guarantee you that your largest blunder has helped give you a foundation that is completely unshakeable.

4. Remain humble and grounded

You have to be humble, with a spirit of humility. You must be–there are no two ways about it. You have to be able to tolerate people telling you stuff like this:

“we dont need to test this, we KNOW our Users because we have done this for the past 300 years”

“just because your research shows XYZ, doesn’t mean we have to do ABC”

“leave the business stuff to my team, you worry about colors and boxes”

“in my day we called it Graphic Design”

..and it goes on. By the way these were actual quotes from real-life situations in which UX was wildly disrespected as both a science and profession. Fact is, you will face old ass stakeholders and young ass stakeholders. You will demo in front of people who hate you. You will demo in front of people who dislike you because your last name is a famous soap brand and that you listen to music they can’t even understand.

This will happen to you. Guaranteed.

But the difference beween the Practitioner and the Imposter; is that the humbled praciticioner will put his cards on the table each and every time and never fold while remaining ever so HUMBLE. Someone offended you in a meeting? GREAT–much like Politicians of late, at least you KNOW who your worst fans are, and hey, your BIGGEST ones as well. Look forward to the feedback. You see, when you look forward to User feedback, you GROW from the input given. A humble UX Pracitioner does not get mad at feedback, instead, we reverse engineer, we improve on what we are weak at, then we re-test and improve.

5. Have a healthy work / life balance

From doors to airplane windows, to Orange-juice containers; everyday objects can be vastly improved through the philosophy of sound Usability design. This said, I do get it–UX is everywhere. However, you only get one life, pending your beliefs, and it shouldn’t be spent “working.” Give your workbrain a chance to refuel through offline activities that promote physical health. Fact is, and I do mean FACTS, the facts are that healthier people produce BETTER results. So as a UX Practitioner that is gearing for success, be sure to leave bandwidth for acticities that matter to YOU. Its your right to be selfish with your own work/life balance. I personally find that I am most productive in the AM, from my own office, with a core team via SKYPE. Or for offline touchpoints, I like 2-3 hour iteration sessions then meet once or twice a week to clear up any business-related roadblocks–usually including a technical architect that is more backend focused to ensure our proposed solution can be done. That is my IDEAL setup. Find out yours and DO IT.

To recap

To recap, here is your possible happy-path, in an applicable step-journey within UX and job/career…

1) Like People. – During interviews, you will meet many teams and concerned managers who want someone that can fit in while standing out–other humans can detect when you aren’t likeable. So get your people skills way up in advance of the interview.

2) Have your Own Opinion and Viewpoint. – After securing the Engagement or “job” or Project, you will be relied on for advice and direction. Be sure your opinion is sound in data and sensible experience that is beneficial to both Stakeholders as well as Users of said product.

3) Be a Student. – Always learn. From workmates, from mentors, the maintenance tech at your new building may be best buds with the CEO. So don’t base your lessoning on positions and titles; instead, base it on gut feelings and evidence. Sure, your goal may not be to maintain the upkeep of offices across America, but it may be to learn how your CEO thinks. That is why you must always be in student-mode. At all times.

4) Remain Humble – By now, you are getting kudos on your first project, or accomplished your first successful Stakeholder demo. Now is the time to remain humble to the process and never ever start feeling yourself to the point you believe you are Don Norman himself. You aren’t. You are YOU; a humble, ever-learning Practitioner that gain results. Remain humble.

5) Have a Healthy Work + Life Balance. Don’t become a loser who knows every new UX toy out there, every new flat/skeumorphism design ethos, yet still lives at home at the age of 45, have ZERO friends and have no type of outside life. Dont be that person. You will become a cash-rich snob that nobody wants to fuck with and no job wants to hire–turning next into a broke slob who has no choice but to be humbled. Have a life outside of actual work. Make friends who are polar opposite of yourself. Ride a bike. Surf. Listen to Gucci Mane or Gospel or Led Zeppelin. Learn to cook. Wash. Learn Guitar. Learn fashion and style so you can dress for success. Surf. Eat at a restaurant by yourself. Go to Trinidad. Visit Germany. Go to Kenya and learn about agriculture. 

Long article. But its CORE to success.

ps: Sure, there are a ton of stuff I left out. Lets talk about it!


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