Please tell us a little bit about yourself! Where do you work and what is your title?
I’ve been working in UI for 11 years and UX for 7 in settings from small agencies to large corporations. I’m originally from Cleveland, Ohio but decided to leave 5 years ago because there just weren’t a whole lot of UX opportunities there at the time. I’ve really enjoyed the UX community here in Chicago and am currently a Senior User Experience Designer at Hyatt.
What does a typical day for you look like?
I’ve worked on a few different projects while at Hyatt, but much of this year has been spent working on our mobile app. The development team is Agile so in addition to the wireframing and prototyping I’ve also been learning how to best design in an agile environment, so we’re working on getting Lean. In addition to project work, we’re also working on important internal projects like a design pattern library and attempting to establish ourselves as a small team within a large, global corporation.
What was your path to becoming a UX designer? (How did you break in, what was your first job like, etc)
Growing up as a teenager in the 90’s when the web really started to take off, I quickly became interested in how the websites I was browsing were created. After becoming a Microsoft FrontPage master, I finally learned HTML and CSS in college (after switching from a Computer Science major to MIS) and did a lot of front-end development to start off my career. I was also creating painfully huge functional design specs so that’s what I was first introduced to sitemaps, user flows and wireframes. While I was building website after website, I always found myself wondering where to best place form labels; whether an interaction should be on hover or click; should the navigation be up top or on the side?
Once I found out there was a whole science and industry behind questions such as these, I instantly became obsessed. After reading a couple articles about UX online, I bought Steven Krug’s infamous “Don’t Make Me Think” and knew this was what I wanted to do full-time.
Like I mentioned, I had a bit of UI experience, so by combining that with what I’d learned about the other aspects of UX on my own, I was able to land my first full-time UX job with a boss who, thankfully, was also a good mentor.
How did you first get involved with Designation?
I typically ignore most messages I receive on LinkedIn but when I received [Designation co-founder] Aaron’s invitation to become a mentor, it didn’t take me long to decide I wanted to participate. Looking back, I really appreciate some of the mentors I had in my career and, contrarily, there were also times when I wish I’d had one around. So I guess you could say I’m paying it forward.
“I really appreciate some of the mentors I had in my career and, contrarily, there were also times when I wish I’d had one around. So I guess you could say I’m paying it forward.”
What does mentorship mean to you, and why is it so important?
I truly believe experience is the best teacher and unfortunately for anyone just starting their career it’s something that’s going to be lacking. There’s no shortcuts for experience so being able to learn from someone who has more experience can be invaluable. I think this can be particularly true in UX where with project experience comes a better understanding of user behaviors along with which design solutions can solve which problems. Finally, it’s great to have a mentor who can teach you things that you never learn in school, such as how to run a meeting, what your career path might look like, or whether it’s better to work at an agency or large corporation.
Obviously your role as a mentor is to teach and instruct your mentee. But what if anything have they taught you?
The thing I’ve enjoyed most about being a mentor is that the enthusiasm and passion my mentees have shown for UX has reinvigorated my own passion for what I do. I certainly recall being their age and just starting off my career thinking the world is my oyster, while not knowing exactly which path I wanted to take. Some of them are dreamers and have big plans, which is great and I hope they never let go of those. Once you’ve been in your career for a number of years it can become easy to lose track of dreams and goals while focusing on the task at hand, but hearing the stories and aspirations of some of my mentees has helped me remember what’s most important.
“The enthusiasm and passion my mentees have shown for UX has reinvigorated my own passion for what I do”
And finally, what do you think is the future of UX design?
Mobile usage is obviously continuing to grow exponentially. In fact, working in the travel industry, I just read an article today that mobile travel booking is going to cross the 50% mark of all digital travel booking next year, so it’s officially hit the tipping point in that industry. Therefore, it’s obvious that we as UX designers need to pay attention to mobile, but even more importantly, we need to pay attention to the user’s cross-channel experience.
Mobile is growing quickly, but that doesn’t mean desktop usage is going to be obsolete overnight. Users use different devices for different tasks and in different contexts so it’s important to keep that big picture of a user’s journey in mind when designing for different channels. Mobile is just one of those channels, however with every new device that gains traction in the market comes opportunities for new types of UX design. Smart homes and in-car devices are just a couple of examples that will continue to grow in the coming years.
Designing for mobile is one thing but designing an interface for someone who is driving a car on the road is another. Virtual reality is another area that is just starting to make its way into the consumer market and with that will come completely new types of interfaces to think about. Certain UX principles will never go away no matter what the device, but the challenges of catering to these different devices and contexts will keep UX designers busy for years to come.