What have I been doing lately?

I’ve been up to a lot of different things, focused mostly on increasing my chances of getting a job.

Organizing my links

I have a lot of UX-related links. They aren’t even all in the same place, as some are in bookmarks, some are in OneTab, and some are in email.

To handle this problem, and to offer others the chance to benefit from them, I’ve been sorting them into Enboard pages:

If anyone has any thoughts on how to better organize these, I’m all ears. Especially the UX Beginners one, as it’s becoming unwieldy.

After I finish sorting the ones I have, I hope to ask some folks about their preferred terms for things and organization preferences (as per Information Architecture, aka IA) and improve the organization that way.

Online Courses

Skill Share

I’ve been taking an IA course on skillshare (https://www.skillshare.com/classes/UX-Series-Designing-Web-Navigation/503660567/) which has been decent. Unfortunately, it appears that the course instructor isn’t paying attention to it anymore, so it’s not possible to get answers to questions or ask for broken things to be fixed. Even so, though, it has been useful guidance and practice.

Skill share is free for a two month trial period, and if you get your friends to sign up, you get an additional free month per friend once they pay for their first month.

O’reilly Safari

I used the two week free trial of O’Reilly’s Safari to get a quick introduction to Sketch (https://www.safaribooksonline.com/library/view/working-with-the/9781491998748/). This was amazing, as it didn’t require me to do visual design as past of learning Sketch, and the instructor is excellent at making sure to explain things, including the need to be organized and prepared before jumping into Sketch.

I also used it for Success Skills for Introverts (https://www.safaribooksonline.com/library/view/success-skills-for/9781491930700/) which was useful for concepts like:

Filling this out ahead of time makes it a lot easier to engage in quick, useful conversations. It also means that you have good back and forth, and are much more likely to make connections.
  • Meeting preparation. Some of the things that hadn’t already occurred to me or I have trouble remembering included: asking if there is an agenda (to help keep things on track) and offering to make one if there is not, figure out something to say within the first 5 minutes of the meeting — aka the First Five Minute Rule (so you don’t get stuck in a position of never saying anything or being heard from), practice the heck out of your presentation (and make sure you say it aloud, whether to yourself or to a friend), and making sure you know why you’re there and what you can contribute. (https://www.safaribooksonline.com/library/view/success-skills-for/9781491930700/video217196.html)

Joe Natoli’s Portfolio Course at Give Good UX

Finally, I’m about halfway through an excellent, concrete and straightforward course which should help improve the user experience of my (and your!) portfolio (https://wispfox.wixsite.com/hillmanconsulting/portfolio — the one I’m working on, not yet official). It costs a bit under $90, which is not bad at all. https://learn.givegoodux.com/courses/enrolled/217467 — I’m at the point of starting to make changes based on this course and on feedback from someone I had a chat with from http://designmentors.org/.

Unfortunately, I’m unable to make the live chat for the course, as I’ll be at AthenaHealth’s hackathon in Watertown (http://athenahackathon.com/).

I’m planning to write up a Medium post about portfolios after I finish this course. Maybe it’ll help others more than most such articles seem to?

What about Visual Design? And Quantitative Research?

I’m also trying to figure out the best way for me to learn Visual/Graphic Design. I’m currently hunting through SkillShare’s offerings, to start something after I finish my current courses. I have some idea of the basic stuff from the Coursera course I took on Design Principles (https://www.coursera.org/learn/design-principles/home/week/2), but I’d like to have stronger skills for contexts like my portfolio and to be able to say that I have experience with basic visual design when job hunting. Many jobs in the Boston area want visual design skills and already have folks who do research.

Similarly, I’d like to better understand how to incorporate my existing quantitative research skills from graduate school into my UX practice. At the moment, I’m perusing a PDF of “Measuring the User Experience” by Tom Tullis. Lots of people suggested it! I have also obtained “Quantifying the User Experience: Practical Statistics for User Research” by Jeff Sauro and James R. Lewis as I suspect that it’ll be useful for someone with a statistical background like myself.

Projects

Recycle Bot

The Recycle Bot toy project I’m mentoring Radhika Sundararaman on is proceeding slowly. Our free Axure licenses expired before we did usability testing, so we translated it to InVision using screenshots from the Axure shares we’d published (you cannot access your Axure files when your license expires).

We’ve since done a pilot test (with each other) and will be making some changes to our scripts and tasks. Due to the expiry of Axure, we won’t be making any of the obvious changes that came up during the pilot test.

If I find time, I may see about adjusting some of what’s in InVision to be less inconsistent with itself. We hadn’t originally figured out how to make it possible for us both to work on the project in InVision at the same time, so I’d been talking Radhika through some of the problems and confusions she ran into (sadly without the option to see her screen and what she was trying to do). We since managed to share her prototype with me, but it’s a lot of work to change the screenshots after the fact.

We’ll be looking for a few people to do usability sessions with soon, and in cases where they are people we know well, will see about having the other person work with them to avoid some bias.

Newbies First Jobs in Greater Boston

I’ve presented to the board, but they are currently focusing on the UX Fair that’s coming up early next month.

Folks who weren’t at the meeting I presented at offered feedback on the summary I sent to the president of the board. This was a bit awkward for a couple of reasons:

  • I hadn’t realized that I was writing something to be shown to people who weren’t there, so it was much less well fleshed out than I would have liked.
  • I cannot reply to the list, so any replies I give go to the people I’m replying to, not everyone.
  • When I asked the president to forward one of my replies, I wasn’t cc’d. So I have no idea what, if anyone, was said in reply.

That said, much of what they offered was useful. Some seemed to be assuming that I was focusing only on what I personally could do to get a job, when I’m hoping to help others as well. My current plan is to figure out how to follow-up on those points after the UX Fair.

I’ve also emailed with the XX-UX folks in San Francisco, as they have a mentoring program going. I’m aiming to get an idea of what they are doing, have done, and what has been working for them. They did suggest that I needed two other folks to work with on the mentoring idea (or creating an XX-UX branch in Boston), which has been difficult. I’ve had people say they want to help out with this project, but they end up being too busy for one reason or another. Alas!

PatternFly

The user dropdown research I was doing with Patternfly has turned into research on UI specifications for standard menu design patterns (https://github.com/patternfly/patternfly-design/issues/464). I should be able to use some of the information I gathered on the user dropdown, and the results of this ought to be related to that work.

Simmetri

I’ve been chatting with a couple of guys who are working on a tool called Simmetri (http://simmetri.com/) to help non-developers create VR worlds. We met at MIT’s Reality, Virtually hackathon (http://www.realityvirtuallyhack.com/), which was otherwise not a good experience for me for reasons not MIT’s fault.

I am _so happy_ this tool exists, and spent a couple of hours downtown a week or so ago offering them feedback on the things that tripped me up, and offered suggestions for areas where different organization was needed. The UI was initially based on Photoshop, which isn’t really an interface I’ve ever liked.

I don’t know what the best practices are around designing a design tool, especially a 3-D design tool or one that is meant to connect with VR devices! I also would want to identify their competitors to figure out what their unique contribution in this space might be (and see what others have done for their interface).

They are currently looking for funding (in the art/creative space) from friends and family, and indicated an interest in bringing me on if they get it. I typically would avoid a startup, but I _like_ these two guys a lot, and they seem like they’d be reasonable about the fact that I don’t know all pieces of the UX umbrella.

Information Architecture on a friend’s game’s site

I’ve not yet started this, in part due to the sheer number of other things I’m working on, and in part because I’d like to finish the IA course I’m taking. However, a friend has suggested that his site isn’t well organized and would like my help. I definitely like the idea of getting real IA experience, so that sounds good to me.

This friend has already found a couple of people in his gaming group (using his system) who would be happy to talk to me. Very nice!

Querki

I’ve not forgotten this project! I have been a bit stumped about how to approach it after I finish up with some of the things I’m working on. I have an ok understanding of what it’s about and for, but no strong sense of the users and their needs (which may mean that I need to watch some of the users who are not the developer use it?), nor the best areas to tackle first.

I think part of the problem is that it is a pretty nebulous concept (“support and encourage collaboration about and sharing of information within communities.”), which makes it more difficult to approach.

I shall keep it in the back of my head, but for the meantime it’s on a back burner.

Job Hunting

Red Hat

Looks like Red Hat is only looking for mid-level interaction designers, as they’ve got lots of junior and senior level people. At least based on the most recent opening I saw, this appears to mean at least 5 years of experience.

I’ll keep my eye on their jobs, but it’s looking unlikely that I’ll be working in UX at Red Hat any time soon.

Vitamin T

I’m happy with Vitamin T as a recruiting agency. They talk to me when I indicate interest in a position they send me, quite quickly.

No idea if it’ll go anywhere, but they’re passing my info along about a contract position in Waltham.

The Creative Group

I’m pretty happy with The Creative Group, too. They also want to talk to me when they have things that relate, and the person I most recently talked to specifically suggested that I get in touch if I see something I want to apply to. They may have contacts that I do not, and all.

Other

Job hunting is frustrating. I’ll have the two years most junior positions seem to want as of February. Maybe that’ll help.

And I do need to finish updating my portfolio based on the course and the feedback I got from the designmentor.org guy.

Networking

I’ve been going to a decent number of UXPA and Boston Chi events, although not all of either of them. Getting home from Boston proper isn’t easy to do, since commuter busses have stopped by then.

It’s really odd to have the major project I’m working on be the one about finding a first UX job. People ask me what I’m working on, and I find it a little awkward to talk about given that I am myself looking.

I’ve given my card and suggested resources to lots of other newbies, though. I have a lot of info after almost two years of this! Too bad I’m not getting paid to help my fellow newbies. ;)

I’ve also been using the #ux tag more on Twitter after attending the UX Careers Handbook presentation by Cory Lebson. Among many other things, he pointed out that it was a very useful way to be seen as involved with UX. I shall get that book at some point, because it does a good job of helping one keep track of the things involved in the job hunting process.

I’m doing a lot of things!

I sometimes forget. No wonder I feel overwhelmed at times.

I think my focus needs to be threefold: Finish the IA course. Fix my portfolio and make it be the new official one. Finish up the project with Radhika.

The portfolio part is definitely the most daunting piece. I’ve been working on that for so long! I guess it means I have a good grasp of what I’ve worked on?