Over the last 15 years, I’ve had a recurring conversation with senior UX professionals: “I want to progress in UX, but I’m not sure I really want to manage teams.” It seems to many that the one way up is the management track—and in many organizations, this is the only upward path for UX professionals.
In my long and varied career working on staff within companies and for clients in agencies and consultancies, I have seen many roles in User Experience that need a senior, mature person—some with people-management responsibilities; others that continue to focus on product design. These roles include the following:
UX Project Lead
Each of these UX professionals plays a specific role within an organization. For senior UX professionals, their quandary is to work out which role is required when and what role suits them best. Read More
“Order and simplification are the first steps toward the mastery of a subject.”—Thomas Mann
As a young product designer, I worked hard to perfect my craft. I read widely, studied the work of the masters, and challenged myself. But I was also fortunate: My managers in those early years were good mentors. They gave me projects that would test me, as well as the autonomy to work, learn, and mess things up a bit. They looked out for me—assigning projects that were suitable for my skill level and helping me to avoid any serious mistakes. However, whenever I asked them what I needed to do to move up to the next level, they’d give me answers, but not a detailed career roadmap. What I was lacking was a comprehensive overview of the specific skills and objectives that would be necessary for me to make progress in the professional world of User Experience.
Although I was mastering the design skillset, I soon realized that this was not sufficient to take me where I ultimately wanted to go. Mastery of craft is simply not enough. It is also important to master the work context so we can design effectively within a product-development organization, as depicted in Figure 1. Read More
In response to previous Management Matters columns, readers have asked me to explain the differences between a manager and a leader. In this column, I’ll explain these differences and highlight the value of moving from a tactical management role to a strategic leadership role.
In today’s marketplace, products and services must provide great user experiences as a key differentiator, and every company is trying to outperform its competition. The only way to do that is to have highly talented employees who are deeply motivated to make a difference. Companies spend significant amounts of time and money to find and retain such employees. So one of the fundamental roles of a UX manager is to hire the best UX researchers and designers, then grow and retain these employees. Managers must function as multipliers, not detractors. Read More