UX people are people people – and other lessons for aspiring designers

NEW YORK—How do you get into UX work when it’s not even on a school curriculum and many of the UX designers come from various fields? It turns out there are many ways of answering the question because there are no specific skill sets required for a UX designer, as the panelists conveyed last October 19 at the qLabs in Chelsea.

You could be an architect (yes, your sketching skills will come into play), an advertising copywriter (yes, the way your process information and organize your thoughts in writing is right on the money), a graphic designer (yes, your visual eye will be of immense help) or a sociologist or anthropologist (as work can comprise understanding human behavior),

If you’re the numbers type and you like to use Excel, it’s said to be a beautiful skill to bring to UX as well. The field is wide open. Something you have done before can be leveraged for UX.

If you’re a good storyteller, it mitigates lack of experience but you will need to be all-round, multi-disciplined, and passionate about acquiring more skills. You could be doing user research, sketching wireframes, doing prototypes or thinking of the strategy behind a project. It really depends on the company. The bigger the company, the more specific your role becomes. The small company will have you holding multiple titles.

In terms of thinking, you need to have an opinion on visual space, designing a product or service, having design as a mindset, calling out assumptions.  

Most important of all, you need to have empathy. A suggestion points to reading lots of literature to develop empathy. Usually, writers are empathetic, which also qualifies them. One panelist said, “If you are a good note taker and you organize your thoughts well, you already got 85 percent of the job. It’s all about being a very good listener.”

So if you think you can be a UX designer, what do you think?

For a start, look to learn from experienced UX designers by checking their portfolio online and doing your best to do the following:

·        Find UX designers on Linkedin. Reach out to them

·        Go to meetups and conference as well

·        Participate in hackathons.

·        Find projects you can do.

·        Read everything and know the writers writing about UX.

When it’s time for you to show your expertise, you won’t get a job right away. The valuable advice: “Volunteer. Work for non-profits to test your new skills”

And don’t forget to build a portfolio. If you have nothing to show, make case studies and do spec work. Applying a narrative approach is said to be the best way to present your work out there.  For reference, check out UX case studies from the Airbnb and Netflix sites.

If you’re still intimidated think of it this way, “You don't have to be a Photoshop expert, but you must be able to simplify things.” You can use paper for prototyping, if you don’t have the graphic software skills.

And while you’re doing all these, don’t forget to build on your social capital. Sometimes it's about connecting to someone with power and influence as much as your need to relate to something and connect to something.  

As a junior UX designer, you need to show initiative, curiosity, and passion. You need to have a sense of collaboration. “UX people are people people.”