5 key lessons I’ve learned as a Uxer (A thank you note to my mentors, Mike & Amy)

Fresh out of school I took a position as a visual designer but I knew I wouldn’t be completely satisfied with this for long — I was soon eager to get my hands on anything interactive. I scouted for ways to become involved in a product — any product — within my company. It was around this time that I was thrown to the wolves (aka my mentors, Mike and Amy).

As a new wolf to the pack, I naturally had to prove my worth. They had me complete a series of tasks which felt like some sort of initiation (which later I found was indeed just that). At that point, I had never worked on enterprise software, nor was familiar with the B2B (business to business) space, but I was forced to step up and solve things for myself but this was just the beginning.

I somehow proved my worth and I’ve been now working with them for just over 2 years. Time and time again, Mike and Amy force myself out of my comfort zone to push me harder. This is my way of saying thank you.

Here are 5 key lessons I’ve learned that I want to pass on:

Lesson 1: Teamwork is everything and your team IS everything

1–2–3. Mike — Amy — Kaitlyn. If one of us has a bad day, we all have a bad day. Sounds like some sort of weird triplet telepathy …. and maybe it is, but it just demonstrates how close we are as a team. When you are truly a team it means if you have a problem, so do I. I think it’s important to note there have been times where we haven’t directly worked on the same product yet we still support one another and problem solve together.

A team isn’t just a head count on a paper. It’s a dynamic set of people with a dynamic set of skills. Beyond this, a team knows how to take advantage of each other’s strengths while balancing out the weaknesses.

Now, to clarify, working well together doesn’t mean that we always agree with one another because that definitely doesn’t happen. I think anyone walking by our work room would know that we have our fun but there has definitely been yelling involved, or I mean, we’ve had some, um, ‘heated discussions’. That being said, if anything, I think it makes us a closer team. We are all passionate enough to be fully engaged and stand up for things that we think are right: all for the benefit of our users.

Even when we don’t get along, at the end of the day, we are a team. We work through it together and do awesome work and somehow manage to still stay friends.

Lesson 2: The world won’t end if you make a mistake

For anyone who is a UX designer, you would know that designers are trained to ‘fail fast’. The theory behind this is that we know that good design is a constant iterative loop, we know that nothing can be perfect first glance so the trick is to get out all of your bad ideas right away. It is better to leave your bad ideas in a sketch book rather than wait until you spend the time, energy and money to develop them.

Within my short two years, I have worked in one capacity or another on a total of 8 different products and/or teams and I have never seen a team that takes this ‘fail-fast’ mentality to heart like Mike and Amy. They embrace mistakes and turn them into learning opportunities both internally within our company, and externally with users.

Lesson 3: Passion is key for survival

“I only want to see the work that you love”.. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this phrase from Mike and Amy. Sure, in our daily jobs we all have tasks to do that we are not fond of or just down right hate — but the point is anything you are producing you should love. Typically, the only way you can truly do this is if you have enough passion driving you.

As an individual, you need to have this passion to drive you, and as a team you also need to have this. This is where the true magic happens.

Lesson 4: Everything is simple

Everything is simple… don’t you know?

There are many times when I have turned to Mike and Amy looking puzzled as ever at a complex problem and every single time Mike has the same confident response … “well it’s quite simple really”.

I’ve learned that everything is about perspective. When faced with a complex problem it’s easy to get lost in the weeds — which I admittedly do — but instead it’s helpful to take a step back from your screen, go for a walk and really think about the big picture. It’s important to remind yourself to constantly abstract your thoughts on a higher level before digging deeper.

Lesson 5: Learn to become a story teller

“Every great design begins with an even better story” — Lorinda Mamo

Whether you are explaining a concept to a co-worker, a mockup to a customer, or writing a post — creating that human connection through storytelling is crucial and UX would be nothing without it.

From starting a new release sprint to a small studio presentation, we always ask ourselves one question — “what is the story we want to tell”. Once you write the story, everything becomes clearer and falls in to place.

Maybe these lessons will help you in your UX journey — maybe they won’t, but if I have one final piece of advice it would be : find your passion, find people who share your passion, and you will create magic!

Cheers Mike & Amy, thanks for being awesome.

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