[accent]Career Advice For UX TalentThe growing user experience design industry is one of the hottest and most sought after professions in the digital creative space. Onward Search has some of the best UX opportunities in the country, allowing our UX talent the chance to further their careers in the best roles.

As a sponsor of UX Week 2013, we asked some of the expert presenters what advice they had for UX professionals, and this is what they had to say.[/accent]

Giles Colborne

Giles_ColborneGiles Colborne is author of Simple and usable web mobile and interaction design and Managing Director of UX design agency cxpartners.

What piece of career advice would you give to a UX professional?

“Know yourself. Think back over the important and interesting things in your history and understand what you’re good at, what you’re not good at, what you love doing and what you hate doing. Find jobs that involve things you love and are good at and look for ways to delegate, drop or outsource things you hate and are bad at.”

What is one (or more) trait that a UX professional needs to be successful in today’s industry?

“Soft skills. Being great with people – listening, understanding, mentoring, moderating – all these are in short supply and are crucial to the collaborative activities that are at the heart of UX work.”


Steve Portigal

Steve_PortigalSteve Portigal is the author of Interviewing Users: How To Uncover Compelling Insights and the founder ofPortigal Consulting.

What piece of career advice would you give to a UX professional?

“UX peeps need to be passionate about their convictions. At the same time, they need to be open to new and challenging perspectives and belief systems.”

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Sara Wachter-Boettcher

Sara_WachterSara Wachter-Boettcher is an independent content strategist, writer, and editor. She’s the author of Content Everywhere, out now from Rosenfeld Media; the editor in chief of A List Apart.

What piece of career advice would you give to a UX professional?

“One trait I think is essential in a UX professional is adaptability. We all have our own specializations, preferred processes, proven methods. But no one working in UX and or its related disciplines can hope to be successful without being comfortable with change. This has always been true—not only is every problem or project different, but fundamentally, we’re here to work for our users, to bend the experiences we create to fit their needs and expectations. But I think today, it’s more critical than ever to be able to adapt, because the web is changing really rapidly. The devices and interactions and contexts we’re designing for today aren’t the same as they were last year, and they won’t be the same next year. So the more comfortable we get with constant change—with getting a little bit uncomfortable—the better.”

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Fawn Ellis

Fawn_EllisFawn Ellis is a Lead Experience Designer at Adaptive Path. She is an empathetic experience designer with a behavioral science and strategic background.

What piece of career advice would you give to a UX professional?

“In UX, it seems we are expected to know how to do everything. Don’t focus on everything. Identify what you are passionate about, master it and be knowledgeable in the other realms of UX. Look for jobs that support, understand and integrate in a collaborative team, the various pillars of UX expertise.”

What is one (or more) trait that a UX professional needs to be successful in today’s industry?

“Get creative in understanding users. You need to be able to understand human experiences (emotions, attitudes, expectations, aspirations etc) not just usability and analytics. Be able to use numbers to support or validate qualitative insights.”

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Don Carson

Don_CarsonDon Carson is a concept illustrator & designer working in the theme park and computer game industries.

What piece of career advice would you give to a UX professional?

“It has taken me 40 years, but I have finally realized that there is only one gift you can creatively give the world. That is that your work looks like you did it. Trust your own instincts, be willing to take chances, and release yourself from any inclination to have your work be like anyone else.”

What is one (or more) trait that a UX professional needs to be successful in today’s industry?

“Having a clear understanding of what you “don’t do” is often as powerful as knowing what you do do well. This knowledge frees you up to excel at work that pulls from your own inner landscape and design predispositions. It also insures your clients are getting the very best you can give them.”


Dan Saffer

Dan_SafferAt Smart Design, Dan is one of the directors of the interaction design practice, leading and advising teams to create new interaction paradigms across a wide range of products, spanning both digital and physical. Dan’s insightful, thoughtful approach to design has been captured in the three books he’s written—Designing for Interaction, Designing Gestural Interfaces, and Designing Devices. His latest book,Microinteractions, was published in May 2013.

What piece of career advice would you give to a UX professional?

“Never work alone, especially at the beginning of your career. Design is a team sport. Even most “celebrity designers” have a team of people working with them.”

What is one (or more) trait that a UX professional needs to be successful in today’s industry?

“The ability to frame problems. Or, really, re-frame problems that seem like givens. This allows you to have non-obvious insights as to what is actually going on, then create products to address those needs.”

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Dan Klyn

Dan_KlynDan Klyn, co-founder of The Understanding Group (TUG), teaches information architecture at the University of Michigan School of Information and serves on the board of the IA Institute. He does IA work for clients including Herman Miller and JSTOR and his research focus is also his hero: Richard Saul Wurman.

What piece of career advice would you give to a UX professional?

“Just because your day-to-day work elapses in “internet time,” the way you grow your capability as a person and in your vocation elapses across a “long now.” For example, at 78, Richard Saul Wurman is realizing an information architecture project he invented 53 years ago.”

What is one (or more) trait that a UX professional needs to be successful in today’s industry?

“The ability to understand what it’s like to not understand.”


Brenda Laurel

Brenda_LaurelBrenda Laurel has worked in interactive media since 1976 as a designer, researcher, writer and teacher.

What piece of career advice would you give to a UX professional?

“Human-centered design research methods are vital. Advocate for qualitative research as early in the process as possible, and include the client when you can.”

What is one (or more) trait that a UX professional needs to be successful in today’s industry?

“You need the ability to identify and deeply understand the audience for a product or service and stand up for your findings when they differ from the client’s ideas about who will use it in what sorts of situated contexts.”

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Julie Dirksen

Julie_DirksenJulie Dirksen is an independent consultant and instructional designer and she is the author of the book Design For How People Learn.

What piece of career advice would you give to a UX professional?

“Well, it’s undoubtedly my bias, but I think that knowing about how people learn and develop, and about what factors influence peoples’ behaviors is extremely useful.”

What is one (or more) trait that a UX professional needs to be successful in today’s industry?

“Karl Fast (a friend of mine, and all-around smart person) talks about UX this way “User experience design is not about right vs. wrong, it’s about better vs. worse. Ask yourself “is this better” instead of “is this right.” Having that focus on better, rather right is an incredibly useful perspective to have. Better is low-ego and low-blame, while right can cause people to have to defend their positions, which can lead down all sorts of unproductive paths.”

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Jeremy Keith

Jeremy_KeithJeremy Keith lives in Brighton, England where he makes websites with the splendid design agency Clearleft. You may know him from such books as DOM Scripting: JavaScript’s New Hope, Bulletproof Ajax: The Browser Strikes Back, and HTML5 For Web Designers: Return Of The Standards.

What piece of career advice would you give to a UX professional?

“You should probably remove the letters U and X from your business cards and stationary.”

What is one (or more) trait that a UX professional needs to be successful in today’s industry?

“To be successful in today’s industry, UX professionals should have really killer paisley shirts. Some people will tell you that it’s more important to have good hair and straight teeth, but in my experience, a really good paisley shirt will really take you places.”


James Macanufo

James_MacanufoJames Macanufo is a co-author of Gamestorming and a thought-leader in facilitation and interaction design.

What piece of career advice would you give to a UX professional?

“If you work at a company, really any kind of company, go find the accounting/HR/back office folks and hang out with them immediately. Those people know how to have a good time. And they have it all figured out already, unlike that creative person you work with who is still trying to decide on what hat/t-shirt combo to wear today.”

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Ian Bogost

Ian_BogostDr. Ian Bogost is a scholar, author, and game designer. He is Ivan Allen College Distinguished Chair in Media Studies and Professor of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Founding Partner at Persuasive Games LLC. He is the author or co-author of seven books, the most recent of which are How To Do Things with Videogames, Alien Phenomenology, and 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10.

What piece of career advice would you give to a UX professional?

“Don’t get too comfortable as a “UX professional.” The world isn’t made of UX, but of bricks and computers and linens and asphalt.”

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Heather Gold

Heather_GoldHeather Gold is a writer and performer and web veteran applying interactive elements to live performance and has since made over 50,000 cookies with “audiences” in her hit solo show “I Look Like An Egg, but I Identify As A Cookie“.

What piece of career advice would you give to a UX professional?

“Interaction without screens is theatre.”

What is one (or more) trait that a UX professional needs to be successful in today’s industry?

“A sense of humour.”

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