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Does UX Have A Confidence Problem?

Rohan Irvine, UX Researcher at REA Group, General Assembly Instructor and Founder of UX Gatherings, says yes.

Aware many of his colleagues are working in isolation, Rohan Irvine is teaming up industry groups Ladies That UX, Prototypes & Popcorn, The UX Design Group of Melbourne and UX Gatherings for Mega Meet Up 2016 later this month, where experts can workshop shared challenges in the industry.

The Iceberg team asked Rohan to shed a little light on why working in isolation can breed insecurities, regardless of which industry you work in, and what needs to change in UX – both from an employer’s perspective and those looking for a job.

Why do you think UX has a confidence problem?

Often when you’re the only person in a company working in your field (and the same can be said of any industry), you can spend a lot of time justifying what you do, educating the wider team as to what you actually do and ultimately fighting to demonstrate value to the wider business.

This leaves significantly less time to actually get on with the job. And the impact of is that after a while, as the only person in your department, it’s pretty common to wonder, ‘Am I legitimate in what I’m saying? Does this make sense or am I stuck inside my own head?’ [Laughs].

So this, combined with a lack of conversations with your community can have an impact on your confidence as a professional.

On top of that, you have to make space for your own mental health, which is the first thing to go when you’re busy at work, right?

Right. You’re constantly in ‘Advocate Mode’, in that you’re constantly justifying UX’s worth and fighting for UX to be taken seriously.

So you need that perspective and reset button. When you’re mentally fatigued from fighting for your role and there’s now 80 million things to do – it can really wear on you and I’m not sure many employers completely understand this.

At REA Group where I’m at now, the organisation’s maturity is actually quite high in that it has a deep understanding of the value UX brings to experience and design for our users, customers and the wider community.

Something we’ve discussed is that many UX professionals are actually hesitant to reach out to recruiters for new job opportunities because of this precise problem. That people just ‘don’t get it’.

Absolutely. And to be quite honest, if you feel like the person representing you doesn’t understand what you do, it makes you lose faith and wonder if you’d just be better off getting a job yourself through your own channels.

And I’ve had some terrible experience with recruiters I’m sorry to say. But lucky for me, I enjoy networking and meeting people which actually led to the role I have now. Not everyone enjoys that side of things or finds it comes naturally.

When you have potential employers or a recruiter asking you, ‘How many projects have you managed?’, right then and there it’s a red flag. You should be asking me about my process, my approach, what challenges I’ve faced and how I overcame them. I mean, one project could take months, so on paper it doesn’t look like much experience but when you talk through the process you undertook it adds up to a wealth of knowledge and insights.

You can tell very early on in a conversation or job interview if the person interviewing you knows what you do. And it’s cool if they don’t, but you have to make a decision as to whether you’re prepared to educate them as part of the gig.

It’s like any new industry. Some companies get it, others have still to learn about it. I don’t think it’s a challenge unique to UX. It’s like where agile product design was ten years ago. The same evolution of understanding is happening, UX is becoming much more widely known and adopted.

Tell us more about the UX Therapy Sessions at the Mega Meetup on August 23.

We’re taking inspiration from all this and turning it into a positive!

Given lots of UX professionals are working in isolation, UX Gatherings has teamed up with Ladies That UX, Prototypes & Popcorn and The UX Design Group of Melbourne to pull together a team of experts who’ll workshop challenges our attendees have experienced. In this ‘UX Therapy Session’ we’ll workshop issues together, share knowledge, laughs, and I hope not too many tears.

The conference is a place where everyone who is working through challenges or enjoying wins at work can share them in a space where the objective is to get as many clever minds in one room to help solve problems. I suppose it’s a group therapy session for UX [laughs].

Connect with Rohan on LinkedIn and check out two upcoming events:

Mega Meet Up 2016, 23 August, Melbourne

UX at NASA: Steve Hillenius