Trying to prove yourself? You are doing it wrong
Everyone in the industry knows that being a young user experience team of one can be a tough challenge; it doesn’t have to be that way. Adopting behaviors that make you a better team player and hopefully a better designer, is the key to a healthier work life.
When I was a young designer, I experienced feelings and behaviors that were often the consequence of me trying to prove myself in a user experience team of one. I listed these feelings and behaviors just to remember not going down that path again. If unfortunately you recognise yourself in one of these feelings and behaviors, just remind yourself that you are not alone and that you can change the situation, this is what this diary entry is all about.
- The feeling of being lonely within an engineering team. This is often the result of not communicating effectively what a user experience designer does and where you can add value. Never forget that you and the engineers are working on the same mission, if you feel lonely within a team, the mission probably feels lonely too
- Giving up too quickly. You may have experienced that feeling before; when you are ignored in one group you may want to be part of another group that listens to you. Don’t give up, it genuinely takes time to establish a user experience team of one
- Believing that a user experience design strategy is “the strategy” for the product. It is in fact false, there are numerous types of strategies all playing an important role; the user experience strategy is just one of them. Ignoring other strategies such as; the corporate, brand and product strategy will just cause heaps of problems
- The urge of learning as many things as possible to boost the confidence level. The need to always question what you know and what you don’t know about your craft generates a lack of confidence, not to mention that it is also draining. In reality there is no need to run like a headless chicken reading every single material about your craft, gaining experience is what matters and it comes with time and practice.
Because I have been through these feelings and behaviors in the past, I have adopted a set of more constructive behaviors that are improving my work life as a designer:
- When joining a company as a new user experience team of one, take the time to prepare a “30 days plan” and socialise the plan with the team leader on your first day. The plan should outline what you will be doing to initiate the user experience design practice, in that way, the other team players can see what is coming
- Clarify your key responsibilities and areas of expertise to the team right from the start. Demystifying user experience design early is a necessary step, even in 2017 so that you avoid confusion about your role
- Take the time to understand every single team member and their expertise. Constantly listen to your colleagues, understand what they expect from you and how you can help better designing the product you are working on. Listening is an excellent first step, that said, sensing and pro actively acting is even better
- Observe how the engineering team works and gradually infuse design thinking on critical hypothesis. Never jump on the engineers’ delivery process hoping to make “a big splash”. Starting with a gradual involvement enables gradual learning of the user experience design practice, remember that not everyone is passionate about your expertise
- Never miss an opportunity to run a design studio and have team members involved in user research activities. As simple as it is!
- Experience only comes with repetition, I recall this quote “It took me 10 years to do this in 10 minutes”. Manage your appetite for learning; trying to learn everything in a short amount of time will just consume you, perfecting a craft takes time and practice, the long run is what matters
- If you are in an uncomfortable situation ask yourself “What feeling am I experiencing right now? Why do I feel that way?”. Manage your emotions and forget about people telling you to leave your emotions at the door. You are a human, you are not unemotional, so learn how to manage your emotions. This help in any complex environment that is our workplaces. So don’t forget to manage your emotions, meditation is an excellent tool that truly helps
To conclude my diary entry, I also wanted to share a few books about better collaborating, maintaining a user experience team of one and staying sane at work:
- The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide
- Designing Together: The Collaboration and Conflict Management Handbook
- Turning Pro
- Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life
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