Giant Conf Day 1 Take-Aways: Skillsets of a designer and Designing for Experience and Memory

Recapping a couple of things that stuck with me from the 1st day of the Giant UX Conference.  While there’s was a lot of content to cover, it’s always interesting what was sticky and catches my attention the next morning. The presentation by Patrick Neehman on “hunting unicorns: what makes an effective UX professional” got my head spinning a bit. Having had the experience of growing a design team from scratch, a lot of what Patrick resonated. Especially him identifying the lack of definition around our profession.


Specialist vs. Generalist

I’ve mentioned before that we hire generalists, not specialists. Patrick’s talk confirmed: UX is a broad set of skills requiring one to be a generalist. Doesn’t mean you can’t have an area you excel at such as visual design or user research, but any player on a UX/dev team is going to wear multiple hats. There were several talks about a “t-shaped skills” which was a new term for me.

design-disciplines-at-sparcPatrick’s slide blocking out the various hard skills a UX practitioner can have was complementary to something we created to explain the team as it grew. Scott Berkun’s opening talk disallowed the concept that job titles matter – stop creating title with guru and talking about innovation – creative ownerships is gained by doing & making, not by talking about it.  Still, without some definition it makes it a bitch to explain to my recruiting friends how to help scale our team.

IMG_1644Patrick also had a soft skills chart and explanations around what and why they were important to a well rounded hire.  I’d add to that the element of “client facing” – there is a necessary level of maturity needed to explain your ideas and listen when you may be the only person from your team there. And as a hiring manager, there is a lot of trust given when you let someone go in your place.


Our hiring secret sauce?

We may have told recruiting, get me another Matt or another Prashant, but we’ve never hired the same person on the team. Nor should we. Charts like these are great in thought drivers and help explain our professions skills to an outside audience. But little of it matters when you meet the person. Every candidate we’ve ever hired showed up with a skill that we didn’t know we needed. And it’s that hidden skill that brings something new to the team.

And just one more thought: Designing for Experience and Memory

This talk is unrelated but too good to let go. That the high and low points of a person’s experience with your product will average out to be their memory. So not only smoothing out the pain-points, but also focusing on the creative/unexpected high points a good UX designer can include. Those high points help create a better overall memory and create a happy return customer. Great talk by Curt Arledge and my thanks for getting my mind spinning on the subject.