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7Feb
Yup, it's my puppeh

My UX Path

(Updated 11-23-2017) Everyone I meet who is a UX-something has had a different road to UX. Some folks started out as programmers, others as graphic designers. Some folks have even been lucky enough to gain HCI degrees. I find it extremely interesting to learn how others have come to UX and I thought I would share my path as well. My path is long and winding and still evolving.

Back in the nineties when I was in college, I started out as a biology major. I wanted to be an environmental scientist and save the world. Then I got into psychology and got pretty far in that. Psychological concepts are actually pretty important in UX, so this was a really good diversion. My best friend at the time was an art major and she encouraged me to take some art classes. I have always been into arts and crafts but never considered them viable career options. I took some classes and found them to be really rewarding. Another friend encouraged me to take a graphic design class-I didn’t even know what graphic design was. I excelled at graphic design and decided to change my major for the third time. I took a computer graphics class and fell in love with Macromedia Director and creating interactive presentations. I then got a student gig working on the university website and that is how I got started in the digital realm.

Even though I finished the graphic design program, I have never actually been a graphic designer. Sure, I’ve designed print pieces here and there along with many, many logos, but I have never had the title of graphic designer. I went straight into web design and production and have been an interactive something-or-the-other for over 18 years now.

Over the next few years, I taught myself HTML and CSS. I started writing functional specifications filled with wireframes and information architecture diagrams and user flows. I began to lead web development projects from start to finish, all the while doing all of the UI design and front-end production. I learned how to do QA testing. Then I became an expert in SharePoint branding and site collection administration.

I started to get into analytics and search analysis. I did competitive analysis and research and wrote a bunch of reports. I started to create training documentation, then I started to conduct in-class training.

After many years, I became a Creative Director and was responsible for large-scale redesigns of major e-government projects. Currently, I spend my days as Sr. UX Analyst and Designer at an asset management firm. My days are filled with research, wireframes, mocks, sketches, user testing and interviews, and UI design. I don’t do any front end development anymore, at least not at my day job. I also consult on the side doing expert UX reviews.

After all these years, it is easy to feel like you have it all figured out, but I feel like I am just getting started. I make a concerted effort to constantly learn new things, new techniques, new ideas. I also believe that a person’s career is in their hands and if your company won’t pay for training, pay for it yourself. Read books, blogs, newsletters, whatever. Teach yourself whatever it is you want to know-I did, that’s how I learned HTML/CSS and pretty much every thing I know that I use on a daily basis. I have or have had subscriptions to Safari online books, Lynda.com, Treehouse, over 30 Udemy courses, Creative Live and a membership to the Interaction Design Foundation. I also have two industry certifications – Certified Usability Analyst from HCI and an NN/g UX certification.

I’ve worn a lot of hats and have a wide-ranging set of skills. I feel like everything I have learned has helped me to be better at anything I do. I am able to solve problems quickly because chances are, I’ve solved it before (benefits of having a long career and working in different industries). I’ve worked at small agencies, at a death care company, an e-gov agency working with elected officials, and now, an asset management firm. I have always done freelance on the side, both for money and for the experience of working with more varied clients and projects. I am looking forward to another year in this industry and another set of skills that I hope to pick up.

Wherever you have started, you can use it as a stepping stone, just keep going and never stop. I sure won’t 😉

NOTE: That pup up there, yup, that’s critter number eight, Princess Buttercup. Adopt the planet!

3Sep

The Importance of Integrity

Sometimes I feel the need to wax poetic about non-tangibles, and lately I have been thinking about the role integrity plays in life. How many times have you thought about your personal integrity, or the integrity of those around you? What I mean by integrity is how a person chooses to act towards others, how honest they are, how trustworthy they are-all of that plays into the general theme of integrity.

I cannot express enough how important it is to not only live a life filled with personal integrity but how important it is to not be around those you feel lack it. If you encounter people in your daily life who consistently treat others with disrespect, are dishonest, possibly manipulative, these people will affect you negatively. If it means dropping friends or acquaintances, then do it. The people closest to you have a huge influence on you and what they say and do can poison the well of your own life. If it means getting a new job to ensure that the people you work with are in step with your morality, then do it. Never work for or with people you can’t or don’t trust because that lack of respect you have will become apparent, and the actions of these people can harm your work, your attitude, and possibly your career.

Beyond other peoples integrity or lack thereof, how you behave in your life and work matters. Strive to be a person who others can count on to tell the truth, to always be the person in the room that can be trusted with confidential matters. Strive to do your absolute best, no matter what activity you are working on. Lift people up around you and make sure that if you are in a leadership role that you seek out ways to mentor and grow those you lead.

More important than your reputation is your character, because it is what is real, while the former is what is perceived. Sometimes to maintain your integrity you have to risk your reputation. What value is your reputation if it is built on half-truths?

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

John Wooden

What does all this have to do with design? Everything and nothing. Integrity and character matter, no matter what you do for a living. If you are a designer, it matters. If you are a doctor, it matters. I only ask that we keep these things in mind so that we can all, as a design community, as a community of people, strive to be more than what others think we are. Be better, and everything we create will be better.

© Copyright 2016 Michelle Pakron, All Rights Reserved