Monthly Archives: December 2013

Tech the Halls 2013: Geeking out in Style (w/pics!)

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Tech the Halls

There has been no better place to get your geek on in style this year than Tech the Halls. The event on December 12 at Co Co Sala brought together around 180 entrepreneurs, designers, developers, coders, strategists and UX professionals. It was the perfect opportunity to make new connections and strengthen old ones both within the UX community and within the broader DC tech community. Nine great local and national tech groups were represented.

Chocolate Parfait at Tech the Halls

Chocolate Parfait at Tech the Halls

This year the event had an air of elegance. The venue, Co Co Sala, lived up to the hype with a chic ambience and warm atmosphere matched with delicious hors d’oeuvres and desserts. A DJ kept the mood light and drink tickets made for a no-fuss evening at the bar.

At the end of the night, everyone received gift bags with tech-related goodies from sponsors including a 30-day trial of Adobe Technical Communication Suite 4, some Co Co Sala chocolates, and a pad of “buzzworthy” sticky notes from the Beekeeper Group. A lucky few also won raffle prizes like the Adobe Technical Communication Suite 4, an Amazon Kindle Fire HD, a UXPA DC lunch box, and much more. (Sadly, I was not one of the winners.)

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Thanks to Bri Monet of Bri Monet Photography for most of the photos in this post. To see more photos from this event, check out the Society for Technical Communications’ Tech the Halls Facebook Album.

Interview: MoDev East’s Pete Erickson

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Pete Erickson

Pete Erickson

Author’s note: I had the privilege of asking Pete Erickson, founder of MoDev and Disruptathon, about the upcoming MoDev East conference on December 12-13 in McLean, VA. Here’s what he had to say:

Andrea: Can you describe MoDev East for anyone who hasn’t been?

MoDev East is a mobile conference in its third year. It is at the Gannett and USA Today Conference Center December 12th and 13th and it’s a conference that has mobile development as the centerpiece but then includes all things around that as well. It has 4 tracks—enterprise, UX, marketing and mobile development. There’s also a hackathon that’s going to happen during the course of the conference starting Thursday morning extending all the way through Friday evening.

We like to bring together a real mix of professions and people to our conferences. We find that creates a really interesting, fun environment, a lot of creativity. A lot of really great connections happen when people meet that are from different aspects of the development ecosystem. So, MoDev East is a collection of really smart people from several different disciplines all focused on mobile.

What’s in store at MoDev East this year that’s new from the previous years?

What’s in store this year is really an expansion of the content. We have 4 tracks going this year. We’ll do enterprise and UX on Thursday the 12th and we’ll do marketing monetizations and development on the 13th. I think what attendees are going to see is an explosion of content over the previous year, 120 speakers this year versus maybe 35 or 40 speakers the previous year.

I think that it’s an interesting time right now. We’re going to see people touching on wearables. We’ll see people touching on the internet of things and a lot of the trends that are happening right now, trends that we see like Snapchat. Where is this coming from and where is it headed? We see companies like Snapchat get offered $3.5 billion and turn it down. There’s something happening in that space. And the fight for those users is really amazing.

One thing that can be certain is all the companies that we know about today and hear about at MoDev East, there will be ones that are household names next year that we haven’t heard about yet. And if you look at this year, what’s interesting is, you know companies like Snapchat and others that we didn’t know about a year ago. There’s always something new and exciting in mobile.

We like to say mobile is moving way too fast for any one individual or any one company to keep up with. So, MoDev’s mission is to connect people with the information they need, not because we know what the information is, but because our peers oftentimes are learning about things just as fast as anybody else. We try to spread that knowledge in a peer-to-peer manner and that’s really what MoDev East is all about.

So, come learn about the industry by folks that are just like you working hard to advance whatever causes they are working on. Chances are every individual out there knows something new, unique and interesting about development or tools that others need to hear about. We are always encouraging people to become thought leaders. Don’t just be a coder, don’t just be a UX expert, don’t just be a designer, get out there and teach what you know because it’s important. It’s also a great way to learn.

What are you personally most looking forward to for this upcoming MoDev East?

For me personally, I get a lot of enjoyment out of bringing smart people together. So, I’m looking forward to hearing from a lot of really smart people on both the main stage and in the breakouts. And also being lucky enough to be the one to connect a lot of people, and knowing that we have a hand in creating lifetime lasting relationships that can build businesses. I look forward to the event more than I look forward to any single talk, although I can tell you that there are a lot of really interesting talks that are going to be happening at MoDev East, very compelling, cutting-edge, from smart people. I look forward to hearing them, but I really look forward to being a party to connecting smart people and then seeing where that leads.

Want to learn what’s cutting-edge in mobile development? Join other UXperts at MoDev East.

13 things to know about getting a UX job in DC

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On November 20, UXPA-DC and the DC / Baltimore Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication teamed up to host Anna Colton, a Senior Partner at PROVEN, a national recruiting firm that provides high quality talent for employers in the VA/DC/MD metro area. Anna specializes in Creative and IT Search for local technology companies. Anna has placed Information Architects, Content Developers, Usability Specialists, Visual Designers, Interaction Developers and UX Designers.

During Anna’s talk UXPA-DC President Jen Romano Bergstrom took copious notes. Here is what we learned:

1. In DC, there are more and more jobs in the UX field. People are highly specialized and get multiple offers and counter offers. This is a hot place to be in for this field, and employers and candidates are highly selective. Companies are very demanding and specific. They want to interview numerous people before making a decision. Candidates want to interview with numerous companies before making a decision. This leads to salary increases for folks in this area.

2. What is fueling the growth of UX jobs?
The overall IT market is more and more robust. So companies need better UX. Mobile technology growth has created challenges for UX – people use phones as their computers; we interact with technology in different ways than we used to (e.g., social media). Now apps need to be compatible with multiple devices. All of these changes lead to complexities with the user experience and competition among providers. It has also become a big part of company strategy, and “good UX” sets companies apart from others.

3. In DC, what types of companies are hiring UX’ers?

  • Mobile – new mobile apps or making current products work well on mobile
  • Software product developers: business, consumer
  • Web and e-commerce – creating a web UX
  • Media companies
  • Professional services firms – government, commercial
  • Membership-based associations and non-profits
  • Agencies/consultancies
  • Internal IT (non-tech orgs that are developing an Intranet, etc.)
  • Academia, higher education, research organizations.

Compared to other parts of the US, DC fares well. Outside of Silicon Valley, DC is probably #2. There are just more B2B and B2C opportunities.

4. What are the key skills that employers want in UX candidates?

  • Team and organizational fit is key
  • Cultural fit
  • Personality
  • Ability to map UX to money (helping companies make or save it)
  • Ability to educate, persuade, collaborate, translate, manage up, down, across
  • Holistic professional.

5. What does someone who is just starting out need to learn?

  • Educate yourself about the opportunities that are out there
  • Aim for goals
  • Connect: network and find a mentor
  • Assess where you are now and what you need to do/gain
  • Learn what you need to do.

6. What about technical communication people who want to transition into UX?
A. What skills do you have that are translatable?

  • Analyze why UX is not working (even if they do not know HTML or coding); can analyze sites/etc.
  • Jargon, headers, bullets etc. – you all are the experts; pitch it with a different name and then once you are in, advertise that it is called “technical communication.”

B. What skills could be acquired?

  • You may have to be more extroverted – attend meetings; gain visibility with higher ups in company, frame it in ways that display your user advocacy – it becomes UX.
  • To build your portfolio, you may have to volunteer and do pro bono work (check out; for opportunities).
  • Take online courses (check out for free online courses).

C. How do you get around not having rights to your work (online work)?

  • Cite it and mention that you cannot put it online
  • Have a slide per project and during the interview, use them as case studies.

7. Does your LinkedIn profile matter? It is mattering more and more. People use those examples to see your work; even if they do not use it, once you are hired, you make them look good. It is an opportunity to brand yourself, and it should be consistent with your resume – it does not have to be the same thing, but the message should be the same thing.

8. How to shine in a UX job interview

  • Use examples – artifacts, portfolios, case studies – show challenge, problem you were solving, goals, deliverable, end result (get around confidentiality issues with showing finished product) – your examples can demonstrate organizational fit
  • Show value translation – map to money; previous vs. improved state; increase customers; keep customers – data points that get to the strategic goals of the company
  • Cases/problems – specific examples of evolution or problematic situation and translate it to the company; sometimes candidates are given a challenge and are asked to solve a UX problem or to evaluate a site
  • Understand the interviewer

9. What is the future of UX jobs? What might be different in a few years?

  • Tech support will go down. Good UX means support is needed less. Cost of tech center will go down – like robots – other jobs go down; reliance on other parts of company will go down.
  • There will be more UX groups within companies.
  • UX will be more defined.

10. How much is being outsourced?
A lot is outsourced; many are beginning to insource as they learn the importance.

11. Besides UX, what other buzz words do companies look for?

  • Content strategy & development
  • Design, architecture
  • Usability

12. UX gems you should know about (thanks to Jared Gold for these!)

13. Interested in learning more about UX jobs in DC? Contact Anna!
Anna Colton
Senior Partner, Technology and Creative Search
Herndon, VA
703-763-2691 (desk); 571-220-3776 (mobile

Society for Technical Communication

Tech the Halls: 6 Reasons to come (like a Cyber Monday discount!)

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Tech the Halls is the event we at UXPA-DC look forward to all year. We get to blow off steam and enjoy an outstanding party. This year, it’s December 12 at 6:30 p.m. at Co Co Sala, and you definitely should be there! It’s where entrepreneurs, startups, designers, developers, coders and strategists come together to eat, drink and be merry, not to mention to network and exchange ideas. So here’s why you should come to Tech the Halls 2013:

1. Cyber Monday Discount – save $20!

Buy ’em today! Tickets for this mega tech holiday party are on sale until Tuesday, December 3 at 11:55pm for $35. Go to the registration site and enter the code “TTHCyberMonday”. After the sale, the price will go up to $55.

If you already bought your ticket at regular price, you can get a second and third ticket for $30 each. Just forward your email receipt to to receive a special discount code.

2. Enjoy great company

Tech the Halls brings together all the brightest and most creative technologists from 9 local and national tech groups:

  • User Experience Professionals Association DC Chapter (UXPA-DC)
  • DC Web Women (DCWW)
  • Society for Technical Communication, Washington DC – Baltimore Chapter (STC WDCB)
  • Interaction Design Association DC Chapter (IxDA-DC)
  • Web Content Mavens
  • Content Strategy Meetup
  • Reaching Latinos Online
  • Color of Tech
  • National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs (NAMDE)

3. Amazing food and drinks

Who doesn’t love chocolate,  drinks (you get two with your ticket), and unlimited food? You can have all three at Co Co Sala. It’s a chocolate lounge and boutique, at 929 F Street NW in DC.

4. Techie Gift Bags

The Tech the Halls gift bags are getting an upgrade this year. You get to take home a nice tote bag and tech-related swag.

5. Learn What’s Going on at Adobe

As the official event sponsor, Adobe is giving us a special treat, and sending one of its leading content professionals to talk with us.

6. Win Great Prizes

With a slew of great sponsors like Adobe, you have the chance to win great door prizes like Adobe’s Technical Communications Suite 4 (almost $800 in value), Amazon Kindle Fire HD, UX Design books and much more. Is one of those not for you? This year, you can choose which raffles you want to enter.

So register for Tech the Halls and remember to use the TTHCyberMonday code. See you there!