Literally, Darling would like to introduce a new series following millennials with unexpected careers. Have an interesting career? Want to know how to get that position? Contact us with ideas and maybe we’ll feature your dream job next!
For this edition, we talked to Ann Enders, Staff User Experience Designer at BazaarVoice. If you’re anything like me, you vaguely know what UX design is, but are unable to describe it without using words like, “Internet thingie.” With five years of experience behind her, (and a recent accolade of “Top 50 Female UX Designers in Austin”) Ann is here to demystify this field for us.
LD: When did you first get introduced to UX Design as a career option?
Ann: I first encountered UX Design when I began working at Bazaarvoice in 2009. At the time, I was a User Interface (UI) Designer and worked closely with the UX Design team. The UX Designers would help build our products with the engineering team and I would implement those products for our clients as part of the Client Services team. Over time, I became passionate about having influence on the way our products were built and eventually moved into a UX Design role to have more of an impact.
LD: What kind of background did you come from? (What past jobs, education, etc, contributed to your ability to land this job?)
Ann: I went to the University of Texas at Austin and graduated with degrees in Journalism and Radio/TV/Film. As part of my Journalism degree, I did a lot of graphic design and worked for the The Daily Texan, the University newspaper, as well as the University magazine, Orange. I had internships at Texas Monthly and News 8 Austin where I primarily focused on visual design as a tool for communicating ideas. While on paper, Journalism and RTF don’t seem to be a direct path to UX Design, I learned a lot about how to visually communicate an idea, which translates directly into UX Design—a career that focuses on making a product intuitive and usable to a target user.
LD: Did you always have a passion for this kind of work, or did your career path have a lot of twists and turns?
Ann: When I graduated college, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, so I applied for anything I was remotely qualified for. I had aspirations to do film editing, graphic design, and web design. I had taken a web design class in high school and brushed up on the latest technologies so I could apply for those type of jobs as well. I landed an entry-level web design job for a SAAS (Software as a Service) company out of college, and began my post-college career implementing my company’s products for clients. In doing that, I quickly learned that I wanted to transition into building the products for our clients.
LD: Describe a typical day.
Ann: My day is spent collaborating with our software engineers and product managers to ensure that our clients’ needs are met as we build new products and features. This often takes the form of whiteboarding sessions, interviews with clients and client-facing teams, testing prototypes of new ideas, and peer-programming with the engineers.
LD: What is your favorite part about your job? The most difficult?
Ann: My favorite part of my job is building products that have an impact for our clients; I strive to build products that are intuitive and have an impact.
Since I am the advocate for the client, the most difficult part is making sure that I effectively communicate with my team what our goal is for a project and how it meets the needs of our clients.
LD: What do you consider your biggest professional accomplishment?
Ann: I am about to submit my first patent. It’s exciting to know something that I have contributed to my company will have a lasting impact on the intellectual property of our products.
LD: Where do you find your inspiration?
Ann: I am always downloading and testing out mobile apps. I love to look at the design of products on mobile because you want to have a high impact in such small screen real estate; this really helps to streamline and prioritize information and features. I also love looking at web apps, e.g. Gmail, Mint.com, etc. Popular web apps are usually familiar to most of the public and will have design patterns that users are familiar with and can successfully be re-used in other settings.
LD: What does a career arc look like for this position?
Ann: One potential career arc for a UX Designer is to move into management of a UX team. There is also potential to take charge of an entire product team in a company since UX Designers work hand-in-hand with product managers to own the vision for products.
Another potential career arc is to specialize in User Experience Research. UX Researchers are very important because they will go into qualitative and quantitate analysis to help inform the product owners the best ways to build their products.
LD: What are some of the essential qualities for someone who wants to go into this field?
Ann: I think empathy is one of the biggest qualities a UX Designer needs. As a UX Designer I am constantly trying to put myself and my team into the mindset of our user: the client. You also need to have a passion for building products as well as a curiosity about people and how they use technology. It’s also important to be a team player and receptive to feedback, which can be humbling for some creative personalities. In your toolkit, you should have a knowledge of user-centered design techniques and principles such as persona development, rapid prototyping, storyboarding, and knowing when and where to use them.
LD: What advice would you give to others who were looking to get started?
Ann: If you have a company that has a UX department, reach out to them and see how you can get your feet wet; usually UX is an understaffed department and they will probably welcome the help. In addition, there are some great programs that teach UX fundamentals: General Assembly, Coursera’s Stanford HCI class and UX Mastery to name a few. There are also lots of conferences and workshops that happen throughout the year: An Event Apart, UIE, Big Design, UX Week, to name a few. Finally, look for some local design groups to join and network with other designers: IxDA and UXPA are a couple of good ones to check out.
Want to see what this looks like in real life? Check out Ann’s portfolio at annenders.com
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