UX Careers Interview: 5 Questions With Diego Mendes
Diego Mendes is a Research Associate at the Design and Usability Center at Bentley College. He has worked in the branding and revamping of large educational institutions, the design of social media marketing campaigns and successful consumer products. He is interested in researching human interaction with smart interfaces across a range of different products. He also answered these 5 questions about careers in user experience.
What’s the best way to find a job that I really like in UX?
Diego Mendes, Research Associate
First, you want to focus on learning everything you can about the field including the different roles and all the skills needed to work and succeed in those roles. Then, honestly assess your abilities in terms of where you are (your skill set, knowledge, interests) and try to bridge the gap to what your dream job would require.
Second, as you are learning, network as much as possible to develop a strong support system. As you meet people, ask them right then and there if you can do an informational interview. I requested informational interviews from about 35 different people at different companies before I even applied for a job. It gave me great insight into the companies, their culture, team structures and what they were looking for, plus, it got my foot in the door. When you ask to speak to someone without the message of, “I want a job”, everything is much more relaxed and you’ll build stronger relationships. In the end, you’ll have a great company that fits your ideal job and you’ll have a connection that was built on a desire to learn, not the secondary interest of getting a job.
What should UX professionals know about working in-house vs. consulting before they accept a job at either?
With Consulting, there is always a much greater need to adjust things for the client. You won’t always have a great amount of control over the final product or what the client does with it so it requires some flexibility. On the plus side, you are always far more engaged because you’ll work on more and a greater variety of projects. When you work in-house, you ultimately have more control over the process, and progress, of getting to the final product, as well as what’s done with it. Seeing the product develop from beginning to end is a benefit on its own.
Same question as #2, but with regard to big vs. small companies.
In a small company, one benefit you’ll find is your ideas meet much less resistance because there aren’t as many layers between you and the decision makers in the company as you’d find in a larger organization. With less bureaucracy and a smaller team, everything you do can have a much bigger impact sooner.
On the flip side, you’re getting more support when you work in a bigger company. You’ll have more people to bounce ideas off of, more teammates to work with and a greater sense of collaboration compared to the independence of a smaller company. There is also much more opportunity for mentorship and learning in a larger company which is great at all levels of your career.
Do you recommend UX professionals develop a focused skill set or varied skill set?
It depends on the size of the company you want to work for. In larger organizations, you’re more likely to see specialists who are very focused on achieving specific results. In these cases, management functions more as a support system to ensure specialists have the resources they need to get the job done, so it makes sense to hone a very small area of your skill set and get really good at it. With smaller companies, you’ll find the opposite. A smaller structure and fewer people means that everyone needs to cover more ground, so a broader skill set is needed, and appreciated more, in these companies.
What are the top 3 characteristics that employers look for in a UX professional?
First, employers want more than just the UX skills. Professionals that have a broader understanding of what a positive impact UX has to the bottom line of a business are more likely to get hired. Having that understanding means a person will make a greater investment in the process and final product, which is exactly what employers want. Second, well developed soft skills are a must. Third, relational skills are very valuable in UX. The ability to meet people and quickly build bridges is so important. Great ideas and amazing products come out of strong relationships. It’s also important to help others connect with other people. Being a strong connector and influencer are highly sought after in this industry.
Bonus Question: Who is your industry hero?
I’ve had quite a few heroes over the years but right now it’s Chauncey Wilson. He’s the author of User Experience Remastered and he’s one of my professors here at Bentley. He puts User Centered Design alongside innovation as a driving force for user experience, which really is the best perspective. Innovation alone for innovation’s sake doesn’t lead to breakthroughs. I believe every UX professional should have a class with him.