Keeping It Real About UX!

The Importance of Re-Learning

     We all know the mantra that helping others learn what we do as user experience designers allows us to learn more about our profession. Last night I had the privilege of meeting with an individual who wanted to get a clearer view of what information architecture/interaction design was really all about. I was honored to try and help portray as much as I could about the profession, while at the same time wondering if I could really help. After all, I’m just your average Jane.

     We began with some general conversation around the UX community here in NYC. Person A, as I’ll call them, had already done a great deal of research about the available resources. I was impressed! AND I actually was able to learn about some resources that I didn’t know. We then talked about tactics to trying to network within the profession. Again there was a great deal of pre-research and experience. Person A amazed me in that they took a great deal of initiative to gain the information they thought they needed to be a successful professional! With no pay, no job, no incentive except knowledge. Our last activity was to review together a task flow analysis that Person A put together. Again, something that they did on their own. Person A went out, spotted a design problem, researched it, then came up with recommendations on how to improve it. This was incredible! Someone who can’t get their foot in the door professionally but instead of giving up, finds their own problems to solve! The learning on my end that came from this last activity was how quickly my mind thinks from the user point of view, as well as how much knowledge I’ve acquired over the years regarding IA, IxD and UX. It came to me so quickly when explaining it. I was able to look back and say wow, that was a lot of work on my end. But of course there is still much more work to go. One of my most immediate goals is to focus on how to explain the process of my work more clearly.

     From this I wanted to highlight the importance of what I’m calling “re-learning’. I suppose it’s really a first learning as well (if you already know it you can’t re-learn per say). Last night’s experience gave me an entirely different perspective which is allowing me and forcing me to think differently on how I can improve myself, my work and those around me. This will only make me a better user experience design and person overall, and it is a lesson that I wouldn’t have seen if I didn’t take the opportunity to “re-learn”. Thanks Person A!

What I Learned from Vacation in Italy

This time last week I was just arriving home from a 12 day trip around Italy. I had a wonderful vacation and got to spend 12 days with my cousin and brother whom I like to deem my travel buddies. We saw all the great sites and kept busy doing many different things (esp eating!) but I thought I would write about the thoughts and reflections that I had while I was there.
I always enjoy my trips to other countries because the pace of life is so different. I especially enjoyed and appreciated the Italian pace of life for its emphasis on quality over quantity as well as enjoyment of life. I spent a great deal of time reflecting on these and asking myself how I would begin to incorporate these reflections into my life. I made some pretty great decisions in my opinion :-).
How then does this relate to User Experience Design and my day to day work life? As I mentioned most of what I learned from the Italian way of life was:
1. Take pride and care in the work that you do. I rarely saw people rush through a job just to see it complete. They wanted to be sure that their product/service was the very best it could be. I decided that I wanted to be sure that I pay closer attention to the quality of my efforts as opposed to the deadlines bestowed upon me (although these are of course extremely important just not the sheer focus).
2. Don’t do something if there is no purpose. My goal is to find purpose in everything that I try to do and if there is new purpose then there is cause to reevaluate the action.
3. Take time to ENJOY life! This was probably the most important lesson that I learned. I decided that I would take the time to eat enjoyable and healthy meals (mostly healthy) most days of the week. I enjoy food and cooking and I don’t take enough time “enjoying” doing either. I’m always rushing to the next thing. I also decided that I would take the time to enjoy my work and my profession. To go out there and really get more out of the local and regional events instead of just showing up for networking and showing myself.
Perhaps you’ve already taken these steps in your life and this post is irrelevant. But in my observations I find that many people don’t take enough time to do the above, myself included, and this is a trend I want to stop in my life. Life is for living, including the work times, and I’m gonna start living it better.

Hubert Experience Design is up and running!

Yesterday was the big day… I set up my doing business as name: Hubert Experience design. I reserved the name, got the federal tax ID and now I’m ready to rock (not that I wasn’t rocking before). It is such a great feeling to realize that I’m doing experience design for myself. Soon I’ll get some new business cards created, and will make some site updates but for now I’m trying to get everything else in order. There have been a ton of resources that I’ve been using along the way that I’d love to share here:

Runway Project

New Work City

All of my friends over at IxDA

I officially have a lot more information than I thought possible, but I’m always looking for more. If you have any resources to share I’d love to hear about them!

Success is so sweet…

Last week was my first face to face client meeting… not being the client. I traveled alone, met and worked with the client alone (except for some here and there support from an EXTREMELY busy Sr. Account Manager) and conducting sessions with the client alone. The result from the client’s (horse’s?) mouth. “This is the best project we have going with you guys.”. Ah was that soooo great to hear!
I believe that my background working on the client side has enabled me to have empathy for the client while also having an awareness and knowledge of what is going on in the agency. I’ve decided that I enjoy both realms so far, and really just focus my choices on the types of work that come.
First client trip: Check! Let’s see what’s next :-).

The hard decisions

This week has presented me with one of those times in your careers where you know you are setting precedents for how you will handle certain situations from here on out. I was presented with an offer, a pretty good offer, however it was one that would require me to give up my independent status. The idea of doing so actually brought a physical reaction of dread to me. How was I going to give up an opportunity that would provide stability in order to “see” if working on my own would pan out? Of course, this is what being an independent worker is all about!
After talking with some veteran independents, I quickly realized that keeping my status wasn’t a hard decision at all. Working as a freelancer is something that my life is moving towards and now is fully invested in. I have confidence in my skills and abilities to be very successful in my new realm… which is quickly becoming not so new. I am grateful that in these hard times I have choices, but I’m also aware that we create our own fortune!

Working from home week 4

Well my fourth week at home is coming to a close. I love Friday! This week I learned some incredibly important and exciting lessons. First, now that I’m freelancing there are times where I’m REALLY, REALLY busy and there are times when I’m just semi busy. The great part is now in my non working hours I have the time to attend some local events as well as network a lot more. It’s working out really well.
Also, last week I wrote that I needed to work on taking breaks throughout the day which I was much more successful at this week, perhaps because it was a semi busy week? Any thoughts on this?
All in all it’s going great. I have a few virtual seminars coming up 1. regarding Taxonomies 2. regarding getting info about legalities and freelancing. Should be awesome! Have a great week :-).

Working from home – week 3

Wanted to get in a quick update on the new freelance adventure. It’s been a little difficult to write as I have been VERY busy. I’ve been working from home about 3 days a week and am lucky to have access to the company office at my leisure, so I work from there about 2 days a week. The communication issues have sorted themselves out pretty well. Of course there are still challenges but now that I’m in a rhythm things are much better.
The one thing I am finding a challenge is taking enough “breaks” during the day. Most of the times I’m so heads down that I barely come up for air. Of course this is leading to a burn out effect which I’m now having to counter. Do any other freelancers out there have any advice on how to divide work time?

Working from home… week 1

Today is day 3 of my working from home adventure. So far, it has been going really well. I’ve been able to set aside an area to work during “work hours” and promptly put everything away when I close up shop for the day. I do this in order to separate work from home life (even though in reality they are the same place!) Here are the things I’ve found the hardest so far:

  1. The places I have to sit aren’t very comfortable and it’s not feasible to set up shop on the couch. Then again I’m not sure my chair at the office was very comfy either.
  2. Communication has been harder. This is not due to the lack of trying on both ends, and I contribute this to many factors. First, it is early on in the project and things are still fuzzy and due to the size of the effort they will be fuzzy for a little while. Also, not being able to sit at someone’s desk and hash things out is a hard habit to break. I’m sure, however, that myself and the team will continue to refine this process until we find a grove.

Despite those two things, I’m really not running into any issues, although it is only day 3. Do you work from home? Any suggestions, comments or heads up??