Tag Archives: interview

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!

UX Interview with Dan Brown: Working in DC, Conflict, and Collaboration

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Author’s note: Welcome to the inaugural UXPA DC Interview series! Today we have Dan Brown, a founder of EightShapes, a prolific UX consulting firm in DC. He’ll also be presenting at the UXPA Conference Redux on October 25.

Norm: Why did you think DC was ripe for a user experience design studio?

Dan: Nathan Curtis approached me in 2006 to go out and start a company… We ended up getting engaged with companies who were looking to create more structure in their design process, specifically their design outputs. Nathan took the lion share of the work in developing a product we call EightShapes Unify, which is a set of templates and assets for for creating user experience documentation. We feel like being based here in DC is good for us because there’s a great pool of talent here.

What was the tipping point for user experience really taking off as the hot profession to be working in?

…Maybe a series of tipping points, it’s like watching your children grow up. We were talking to my son this evening and one of his teachers is celebrating a big milestone birthday. He’s seven and he asked, “When was my last milestone birthday?” I said to him, “You know, when you’re little, every birthday is a milestone because you’ve had so few of them, they each represent these new big stages in your life, but if you ask me and your Mom, everyday is a milestone.” …And that’s almost how I feel about user experience. Right before the bubble burst, even if it wasn’t new, it was clear this was the future. Everything was going to be online. Nowadays, for me, one of the most interesting design problems is people genuinely using the Internet and the web to solve real business problems… There’s sort of this trifecta of really difficult problems to solve: complex user experience design, real business strategy, and difficult IT architectures.

Awesome. And Dan, you participated in both the 2012 User Focus and the 2013 UXPA International events. What were your presentations about?

My most recent work and thinking has moved on from artifact and document creation, which was really important for user experience when it was in its infancy, to team dynamics which has largely grown out of my interest in documentation. My thinking really revolved around the idea that conflict is essential to design.

Poodle growling at a second dog that is trying to avoid conflict

Conflict in the sense that people need to disagree in order to come to a shared understanding. It’s that process of building a shared understanding that is nutritious for the design process…it sort of energizes it.

The other side of that coin is straight up collaboration techniques. How do we make use of collaboration tools? How do we build collaboration virtues into our culture to reward people for engaging with each other? My talks are really focusing about how do we deal with conflict and how do we make our collaboration more effective.

You’ve got a new book out on conflict and collaboration, right?

Yeah that’s right, it just came out in June and it’s called “Designing Together.” It gave me the opportunity to do two things. On the one hand, to try and articulate some of the underlying theory [of conflict and collaboration], and the second half of the book is almost like an encyclopedia of different situations, techniques, and behaviors you should be cultivating in yourself and your design teams in order to collaborate more effectively… What I keep coming back to is, if you look all of these online journals dedicated to our craft, you’re starting to see a lot more attention being paid to people skills, management skills, business skills, things that people need in order to thrive in an environment where we are constantly working with other people. I’m totally biased here, but if user experience isn’t at the center of that process, then I don’t know what is.

Are you going to be at any other local events soon?

One is called the Digital PM Summit, this is the first year it’s happening. It’s really around project management. That’s happening in Philadelphia. And then later on that week I’m actually going to Richmond to talk collaboration as well. I’ll be speaking at the UXPA DC Conference Redux event in late October. The UX Book Club in DC is doing my book in early November so I’ll be attending that, talking about “Designing Together.”

Dan, thanks again for being our gracious guest. And to our readers, thank you for joining us for this interview. Check back on the UXPA DC blog for more interviews coming soon!