This blog, created in 2008 to track the pursuit of a new career in UX, lived for less than a month before succumbing to its demise at the hands of a product management job I accepted in April of that same year.
I had driven from the DC area in 2007 to pursue UX (see the epic cross-country blog). I thought that because I had done a fair amount of UX work in my role as a product manager at the College Board for five years — doing wireframes, data diagrams, and user flows — and had been further inspired after attending Adaptive Path’s UX week in 2006, I was ready to make a go of a career in UX.
But I was hopelessly un-hip (here I am signing in at UX Week 2006 — you see what I mean?), and completely unprepared for the tidal wave of hipness that was about to knock me flat when I arrived back in what I thought was my proper home, the Bay Area, where I’d previously lived. I’d left California in 2002, when hipness was nascent, but by 2007, it was a completely different, invigorated animal. In DC I’d basically been living in a hipness time warp, comparatively speaking.
I say all this not because I think hipness is essential to the practice of UX (though it doesn’t seem to hurt); I say it because at the time, this perceived deficit of mine was one element that prevented me from pursuing this line (that, and having only the most rudimentary of practical, marketable skills in the field). I was neither a heavy-hitter nor an effective faker. So I scrambled back into hiding — back into product management, the refuge of the un-sexy folks who get stuff done, on time and within budget, charisma be damned. After all, I knew it, and was good at it.
Suffice it to say I am in a different place now and ready to follow my interests. So far, without any pushing, I have found myself naturally drawn to many subjects that classify themselves within UX. I will see where this takes me.
OK, enough woo-woo. Here is the rundown on the BayCHI program I attended last night.
Leah Buley (UX Team of One)
The intro to this post was inspired by something in Leah’s talk. It was her questioning what other UX practitioners had that she lacked. She said this was the real secret she wanted to convey, beyond what she wrote about in her book.
The secret: charisma. She saw herself as a “reformed nerd.” For examples of charisma in UX, she pointed to Jeff Veen, Dan Saffer, and Ryan Frietas. When she was just getting started in UX, she wanted to know how she could build support for it within an organization where she might be viewed as a “defensive weirdo.”
She gave a nice reduction sauce of “keystone habits” (referencing Duhigg’s book), that she thinks point people toward success in UX:
– learn code
– do guerrilla research
– seek out design inspiration
– cultivate good taste
– read up on strategy
– write a blog
She referenced her talk, Secrets from a UX Agent of Change, and had these further tips:
– truly listen
– make things together
– recognize “good enough”
– invite people in
She also pointed us to The ROI of User Experience with Dr. Susan Weinschenk.
Good stuff. Yeah Leah.
Scott Berkun (The Year Without Pants)
This wasn’t about UX, but about working remotely, a topic near and dear to my heart. When Scott came on board at WordPress, everyone was working remotely using three tools: IRC, Skype, and the WordPress blog template “P2.” Using IRC was akin to bumping into people in the hallway and talking. Skype was for small team meetings, but using the chatting feature instead of voice. The blog was a de facto bug-tracking system. He referenced the 37Signals book, Remote.
Also, before Scott came on board at WordPress, it was completely flat — no managers or organization of any kind; everyone reported to the founder. The “innovation” Scott introduced was… wait for it… teams. Phew, well that wasn’t so scary, was it? But he had to convince people there to try speaking to each other rather than just sending messages.
It was great to hear about a place that was so extreme. It made me feel that my new demands for my own work/life balance (the ability to work at home a couple of days a week, and to be with a team, in person, the rest of the time), were well within reason.