Jennifer Aldrich, UX & Content Strategist at InVisionApp
Where do you work and what is your current title?
I work at InVisionApp and my title is UX & Content Strategist.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself & your background.
I took a circuitous route into the design industry. My intro to programming was Hypercard, and it wound up being a gateway drug to website design.
I built my first website—a total GIF’d-up hot mess—in the 90s and had a blast doing it. At that point it didn’t occur to me that design was something I could turn into a career, so I wound up heading to college and getting a degree in education and another in psychology.
While I was finishing up my second degree, I took on a part-time job as a computer lab tech. I worked with software ranging from word processors to engineering programs, and I got to witness first hand the impact that well executed software has on the workflows and levels of productivity of members of various industries. I also got to witness the impact of poorly designed software—the loss of time and energy and high levels of frustration that it could inflict. I found it fascinating. That’s the point I was bitten by the tech bug.
After college I took a job at Verizon Wireless, where I trained staff at various locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia on how to set up smartphone software. (Smartphones were only Palm Pilots and Blackberries back then.) Then the iPhone hit, and I got to see the start of the smartphone revolution first hand.
From there I took on a job as a software trainer for a tiny local startup and traveled all over the country (I’ve now hit 26 states), and had the opportunity to watch users interact with our software as I trained, to talk to customers after the sessions to get feedback on our UI, and to pass that feedback to our team back at the office. Our startup grew rapidly and was eventually acquired.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a designer?
When I was a software trainer, I was loaned out to our dev department to help out with some content strategy when we overhauled our entire flagship product and converted it to .NET to allow for our next level of features. I got to witness the product design process from the ground up and completely fell in love.
What was your first design job? Any interesting stories about how you broke into the field?
After my experience working with the development team, I knew that product design was my passion, and that I wanted to make it into a career. At that point our amazing VP of Product Design and Innovation created some new UX positions, and I had the opportunity to take on the role of UX Editor. I dove in and started doing formal user research, usability testing (synchronous and asynchronous), product content strategy, and UX reviews of new product designs and legacy products that we were looking to update. I had incredible mentors who worked with me throughout my time there. Eventually my role shifted from research and strategy to designing UIs for new product features myself.
Please describe a normal day at your current job. What’s the workflow like? What are your primary responsibilities?
Right now I’m in a pretty multifaceted role at InVision. I’ve had the opportunity to work with our product managers and product design team, I regularly write articles for the InVision Blog, I have the opportunity to connect with and build relationships with some of the industry’s top design leaders (I still occasionally fangirl while talking to some of them—it’s crazy getting to chat with people I’ve idolized my entire career one on one), I write and contribute to industry publications (like net Magazine, UXMag, Media shift, Usability Geek, and others), I work on some great partnership programs, I interact with our awesome InVision family through social media, and the list goes on.
Basically, all of my favorite things are rolled into this job. I’m loving every second at InVision.
“After my experience working with the development team, I knew that product design was my passion, and that I wanted to make it into a career.”
Are there any memorable war stories, client interactions or close calls that have taught you something important about how things work?
Early in my career, I went to a design industry event with my team. Our design team was made up of 5 women and 4 men. When we arrived, I was stunned to find that out of the 150 attendees, the only women there were the 5 on my team and 3 others. Having begun my career on a team that was predominantly women, I was shocked to see the huge gender gap.
Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to speak at various conferences, and I’ve been incredibly happy to see that gap shrinking significantly. The last event I attended was about a 60/40 split. A majority of the designers I interact with, both men and women, are passionate about continuing to close that gap. I’m so proud to be part of an industry full of amazing people who take issues like this one seriously and actively work to come up with solutions.
What’s a common mistake you often see entry level designers make? What are some tips to avoid or overcome it?
When people announce themselves as “junior designers” in interviews/in their portfolios/in bios on social media, it gives me a twitch.
Leaders I’ve chatted with in the industry have mentioned not interviewing entry-level candidates with the “junior designer” title in their resumes because it comes across as a sign of lack of confidence. You’re a designer who is gaining experience in the industry—you’re not a junior designer.
Any industry sites or blogs you read on a regular basis, or anything else you read for inspiration?
Oh, man—there are so many. Muz.li is definitely one of my favorite stops for inspiration. I love netMag and UX Mag and read them regularly. And, of course, I’m a huge fan of the InVision Blog.
As far as books go, my top 3 are probably The Design of Everyday Things, Hooked, and Designing for Emotion.
“Basically, all of my favorite things are rolled into this job. I’m loving every second at InVision.”
There’s something new and amazing coming out every day. What’s something awesome you’ve seen recently that you’re dying to share, or something you’re excited about?
Tesla’s vision of a solar future has me completely stoked to be a designer right now. I’m seeing the next 10 years of tech and design focusing even more on integrating green energy. We’re already getting the opportunity to design and use apps and the internet of things to conserve energy, but we’re coming up on a time when solar is going to really jump off in all kinds of industries. I definitely see solar-powered phones (not just power packs, but the phones themselves) coming at us in the near future—I can’t wait. And of course, AR and VR are becoming more advanced and exciting everyday.
“I’m so proud to be part of an industry full of amazing people who take issues like this one seriously and actively work to come up with solutions.”
What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the industry?
Get yourself a solid mentor or mentors to help you navigate the first few years of your career. Take on small jobs to build your portfolio while you’re applying for full-time gigs. Freelance for a while in addition to your day job if you can’t find full-time work up front to keep your portfolio growing. Designers can never really be “out of work.” We’re just either freelancing, or working in-house or for an agency. Keep your passion ignited and don’t get discouraged or give up if you don’t land a job right away. Network as much as humanly possible. Social media is a great place to start, and attending industry related conferences or local meetups is a fantastic way to network in person. If you can’t swing a conference financially, volunteer to help out. You can get reduced or free conference tickets for volunteering your time to plan/setup/work at various conferences, so reach out to the conference of your choice to see if they need help. There are also sometimes scholarship programs available for conferences—just contact the conference directly. Keep working and moving forward, even if you don’t land your dream job right out of the gate.
“Tesla’s vision of a solar future has me completely stoked to be a designer right now. I’m seeing the next 10 years of tech and design focusing even more on integrating green energy.”
What do you think is the future of your industry?
Design has entered a new space culturally. We’ve moved into a phase where designers are valued not just for their hard design skills, but also for their methods of evaluating and solving business problems. Rather than teams being handed specs, they’re being handed a problem that needs to be solved, and they’re asked to come up with and then execute a solution. At this point we don’t have enough designers and UX professionals to keep up with cross-industry demand.
It’s a really exciting time to be in the UX and design fields, and the future looks just as bright.