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 catchafire.org; craigslist.org for opportunities).
  • Take online courses (check out coursera.org 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
PROVEN
Herndon, VA
acolton@proveninc.com
703-763-2691 (desk); 571-220-3776 (mobile

Society for Technical Communication

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