Long Radio Silence
It’s been a while since I last posted here, so I thought I’d catch people up to what I’ve been doing.
I am back to job hunting after a 6 month contract at a local Business to Business (B2B) Real-Time Location System (RTLS) startup. The position was not a great fit for my skillset, as it was astonishingly difficult to get access to customers and users and I was the only UX person there. There were other problems, too, but those were the two major ones.
That said, it was hugely helpful to be able to do full-time UX work at an actual company rather than on my own or with friends. I am much more confident in my skills than I was, and have slightly increased my visual design (in PowerPoint because that’s what the person doing UI work used) skills. I am also more able to explain why I do what I do. I got to explore the complications of B2B and lack of access to users, including using alignment personas. Still prefer to have access to users, though, since I am a researcher more than a designer!
Sadly, due to NDA, I cannot include what I did here in my portfolio. I knew this going in, but it’s still frustrating!
I got really close to a job offer from GitLab, where I’ve been volunteering. They are awesome people, but alas they went with someone else who had more experience. I suspect that I was their second choice, based purely on the timing of what happened when. I’m going to keep volunteering with them, having finally finished entering all the issues I found while helping with their accessibility Voluntary Product Assessment Template (VPAT) for which I got MVP.
I also got close to a position at a local healthcare company called InterSystems, but someone else was a better fit. They were pretty nifty people, although I did like GitLab better. I suspect that I may have been a second choice here, also, although I’m less certain than with GitLab.
I have a call tomorrow with BookBub about a researcher position. I tried to figure out how big a team they have online and had a great deal of trouble locating information, so that will be part of what I find out tomorrow! I do know that I will be speaking with their head of design, and figure that there are probably other UX folks simply because researchers tend not to be brought in first. Honestly, even one other UX person — which the head of design clearly is — would be a huge improvement over the contract position and most of my existing work.
On the plus and interesting side, when they asked about availability they also mentioned their interest in making the interview as pleasant as possible. So I took the chance and asked if it was possible to have a video chat rather than a phone call because it’s much easier to have a good conversation if I can see who I speak to. This is especially the case given how little information is available through cell phones as compared to landlines. Pleasantly, they are happy to do a video chat! I shall have to remember to ask future interviewers if that is an option, because it does make a huge difference for me.
Looks like an interesting business concept and I’m an avid reader which… may or may not be good given that one wants to not forget that one is not the only or even ideal user as a researcher. Mind you, I do love interacting with users and learning what they need as well as finding out how well our design ideas work, so most probably I won’t fall into (or at least stay in?) that particular design trap.
When I was commenting on my desire to have a stronger sense of visual/graphic design the main UX guy at InterSystems specifically mentioned Robin Williams’ “The Non-Designer’s Design Book”, so I’m definitely going to play around with that one more.
I’ve also got a book by someone from UX Mastery, Rachel Reveley’s “Learn Graphic Design (Page by Page)”, so I’ll be playing with both books in the short term. I may end up a researcher, but it would be really useful to feel slightly less flaily about graphic design.
I did find it fascinating while at the company I contracted at that while I feel less certain about knowing how to make something look pretty, I definitely know how to make it more consistent and some basic theory about appearance once someone else has translated my low-fidelity design to something higher fidelity.
As I mentioned above, I plan to continue volunteering with GitLab, in part because they are, by far, the best experience I have had UX-based volunteering so far. Perhaps because everyone is remote, they are _very_ clear and transparent about stuff. They also respond pretty quickly to requests for clarification and information, which has not been the case at other places that I’ve tried to volunteer. When I asked if they wanted research help, the head of the research team was shocked — sounds like usually people want to do visual design, not research.
Hopefully I will be able to get experience on one of the two things about which I got feedback for missing: lacking in experience applying generative research techniques in the real world. I’ve asked about helping with that, and should hear back from their newly hired senior UX researchers once they have their feet under them and have something to include me in. The other thing I didn’t do enough of was ask questions: this is complex when there is a lot of information available about GitLab online! Nest time I’ll look at the past and pending research to see if there is anything that grabs my interest to ask about.
But, if you are interested in volunteering for GitLab, the term is actually ‘contribute’ not ‘volunteer’, and you can see more about that at their Contribute to GitLab page. If you are looking to help with research specifically, things get more complicated. I asked about research help during a public online meeting about the UX team and I’m not sure when another might be.