Started in Manchester, Ladies That UX is a monthly meet-up that creates a welcoming, transparent community of women that work in UX, who positively promote and teach each other.
What started as a result of not being able to find other women in the industry has grown, and at last count, is now thriving in 40 countries around the world.
We sat down with Gemma Sherwood, Lead UX designer at Intrepid Group and Co-organiser at Ladies That UX, to ask her about how she got into the industry and her experiences as a board member of not-for-profit organisation, Code the Future.
How did you get into UX?
I have a graphic design background. Before Intrepid, I was heavily into publishing. Layout was my strength. I was working on everything related to print for the company (brochures, ads) and started to do more digital work, comprising banners, EDM, and eventually User Interfaces.
I taught myself how to use CSS and HTML in my own time, after hours and on weekends. When there was an opportunity with our company expanding for UX to come up, I put my hand up and said ‘let me do this’ – and they did.
What were the parallels between your graphic design work and the new skills you were acquiring after hours in User Experience?
The design aspect came naturally because I had that background. I was able to apply the thinking from graphic design to User Experience. There was a large research aspect that I learnt on the job and continue to do so.
At Agency Iceberg, we frequently see high performers back away from potential jobs as they don’t have ‘all’ the experience. Your case is really inspiring as it outlines a proactive way you filled skill gap and asked your employer to invest in your professional development. As you didn’t have proven experience with UX in your organisation, can you share how you illustrated the benefit of engaging you in a new role to your employer?
Our company had grown at such a rate, that I could see this sort of role emerging at some point. I took it upon myself to train outside of hours, at my own cost to learn more and ensure my skills remained relevant to new opportunities.
I created my own projects and then used these to say to my employer when the role came up to illustrate I had the initiatives and skills. I said ‘I built this myself, I am pro active, give me a go!’
Given you have a small team, what are the biggest education hurdles you’ve overcome within your organisation?
The biggest challenges that I think any large organisation faces is communicating change internally so that everyone is clear on the outcome, experience and objective.
It’s also recognising not everyone will understand what good design is capable of delivering to customers (yet!) We are only touching the surface of what we can do what we can find out and what we can implement.
Is there a misconception around what you do that you’d hope others reading this might learn from?
Most people don’t know what UX means to be honest. So there’s an educational requirement for the industry as a whole.
The second misconception is that UX can ‘solve everything’. [Laughs] While I’d love that to be the case, nothing can be a ‘cure all’ and there are limitations to what we can do!
Pertinent to my experience is the observation there are lots of graduates coming out from higher education but it’s challenging to secure junior, entry level roles to get that foot in the door. It’s a really competitive industry in high demand.
Any tips for those looking to get into the industry?
There’s an abundance of juniors and a gap for highly skilled senior designers with a design background. If you can, consider doing design in conjunction with your UX studies and practical projects. They are really highly regarded skills.
Agency Iceberg are always on the lookout for talented UX and UI researchers and designers. Get in touch!