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
Many articles about UX leadership focus on what managers do or target those who have direct reports. Such articles typically cover building a UX culture, hiring the right people, developing people, and of course, selling the value of User Experience to the C-suite. While these are all valuable pursuits that are vitally important to building a user-centered culture in your company, leadership does not end with directors, managers, or even team leads. Leadership extends to individual contributors, too. In fact, depending on your company’s UX maturity level, leadership arguably begins with individual contributors—perhaps you, the UX designer.
Unfortunately, UX designers are often in short supply in large enterprise environments, in comparison to people in information technology, engineering, and marketing roles. This, in turn, perpetuates scenarios in which UX designers must be, in equal parts, practitioners, evangelists, and presenters—roles that together exceed the scope of what most UX designers expect they’ll need to do when they first embark on their career. However, being a leader also means cultivating skills that may go beyond the bounds of your craft. But what does leadership really look like for people in creative roles who don’t have any direct reports, lack easy access to the C-suite, and have not had a multi-decade tenure at their company? Read More
Setting up a UX practice inside any organization—whether small or large—can be a challenge. As a UX leader, to ensure you keep the highest-performing individual contributors on your team, you should make sure they have a clear understanding of what they must do to expand their careers within your organization. While leaders often have a clear growth path inside a company, it is often less clear how individual contributors can nurture their professional career.
For example, in some companies, the only way to advance from an interaction designer, visual designer, UX researcher, or other individual-contributor discipline is to become a manager. But, for individual contributors whose talents are less as people managers and more as superstars in their discipline, who love what they’re doing, and who want to continue to be the best at what they do, their way forward is unclear. Read More