Tag Archives: Anna Colton

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
Herndon, VA
703-763-2691 (desk); 571-220-3776 (mobile

Society for Technical Communication

Interview with Anna Colton: Designing Your Future Career in UX

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Author’s note: Today we are speaking with Anna Colton, a senior partner at PROVEN, Inc. Anna will be hosting a UX Career Q&A session with DC/MD/VA folks on November 20. She will be discussing the UX industry as a whole and how to get the UX job that you’ve always wanted.

Norm: Can you tell us a bit about PROVEN and what you do?

Anna Colton

Anna Colton

Anna: We are a staffing firm that is headquartered in California. At our Herndon, Virginia office we support employers in the Washington DC region around three primary hiring areas: information technology, which is my focus area, finance and accounting, and human resource roles. Within our IT practice, we  find and place senior to management level user experience professionals. I’ve been doing this for about 13 years… I’m a particularly enthusiastic advocate of the industry because there is a cross section between these positions and the things I used to do.

How competitive is the UX market in DC?

The job market favors the candidate that is senior level in their career and distinguished in the user experience field. Most [of these types of] candidates that have been actively looking have multiple offers to consider. They have a lot of options, and counter-offers are actually very common – employers don’t want to lose them. It’s competitive but if you’ve got what it takes, you’re going to be able to write your own ticket. It is a very good market that tends to favor the job seekers as far as UX goes and generally anything related to IT.

When UX professionals can map their experience to how the company makes money, they put themselves in a great position. It is important to be able to show how their work has developed quantifiable results for their customers by sharing really good case studies.  When a UX professional can show and narrate some specific example of their finished project in an interview setting, that’s something that’s becoming more in demand and valuable as well.

How is the UX hiring market in DC  compared to other parts of the U.S.?

One thing that I think distinguishes this market is that there are a good number of positions in the government contracting space. Government contracting is not heavily represented in other markets [nationally] as it is in the local area.

The only other area of the U.S. that I think competes really strongly is probably the Silicon Valley area because it is such a rich tech area out there. At our Silicon Valley office, companies are looking for UX professionals that have worked for business-to-consumer organizations, whereas in the local area it tends to be more for people that have worked in UX for enterprise software or software that businesses are creating for other business users.

Do you notice any trends in the UX job market?

My perception is companies like to see a more holistic professional. When I first started, there were information architects, web designers, technical communicators or content developers. There was more stratification. Now, there is more opportunity for a more consummate and holistic UX professional who understands the integration of all those functions.

What are the most important skills to have in pursuing a UX career?

Maybe less about technology skills and more interpersonal and people skills. The ability to adapt, collaborate, and educate other team members on the importance of user experience.

I placed a person in July for a company had not really had anyone in a UX role. One of the reasons she got the job was that the CTO saw her ability to translate the value of UX to developers and engineers.

In the DC area, what types of companies are hiring UX professionals right now?

Most of the opportunities are in product development firms. The number-one opportunity are companies that are developing software for enterprise or consumer use. Next are companies that are developing custom software or solutions for either government or commercial clients. Lastly, IT departments that are developing web systems or mobile applications for internal employee use. The necessity of designing quality and effective user experiences for mobile users is fueling a lot of growth. People that have any experience in mobile development are highly sought after.

Want to ask Anna additional questions? Be sure to join us for the Designing your Future Career in UX Q&A event on November 20!