It’s late and I’m on LinkedIn. Hello.
I’ve been really enjoying the work at SUBTXT, my consultancy we started in 2009. However, this year I decided to test the waters, just to see if there might be something full time for me out there. I cast a wide net, looking at both product and UX jobs. All in all, a little disappointing. Here’s what I found:
After viewing quite a few of the UX position descriptions, I found a few similarities:
• UX jobs usually sit in product departments, reporting to a PM or product officer
• UX jobs are often described as “product designers” or “product contributors”
• Graduate design degrees preferred
Likewise, I found some similarities among product manager jobs that are out there:
• Product jobs sit in product departments, reporting to a C-Level product officer
• Product jobs are often called “product owners” or “product leaders”
• MBA degrees preferred
(If enough of you ask me, I’ll go back and find a bunch of links to these jobs – I just wanted to post quickly.)
It’s About Ownership
I’m not sure if the above is typical of these roles. For me, having been a consultant for quite a few years, I was surprised how circumscribed the UX role in most job postings. Even with senior UX roles, final ownership sat with product, not UX.
Of course, this is what product managers do. The best product managers I’ve worked with and know are bright and open individuals who connect all the dots to make work happen. You get it done on time. On budget. It’s thankless, and it’s not easy. And any great PM will give users priority, and without a doubt, most believe user experience is the key to beautiful products. Which is why, in the jobs I’ve looked at, I was surprised to not see any UX roles who shared ownership of the product.
What do I mean by ownership? I mean owning the product alongside product managers. Being responsible for judging hard trade-offs, working with C-level accountability to investors and customers. Any full time job I would ever consider taking must have this kind of real and final product accountability.
Ownership is the number one reason I started SUBTXT. In my consultancy, my role is broad. I conduct user research; I help pitch to potential investors. I evaluate and manage the risk of various paths, define minimum and required features, and often measure (and get measured) by P&L for some of the projects I am on. I often run the scrum tasks for engineering, work with marketing, creative and executives all the time. I understand the complications of business development deals and API integrations on users who need to be migrated from point A to point B.
What I’m saying is, I don’t want someone to give me product direction. I’d rather work somewhere where I can have true product collaboration and true product ownership. I’d rather have peers with different expertise who challenge me. I work at SUBTXT because I like being on the line for product success and failure.
User Experience Is Not Design. It Is Strategy.
The most important thing I’ve learned over the last decade is that user experience is not about design, or science. It’s about strategy. It’s an intellectual entry point – like marketing, finance or engineering – a frame and perspective for solving problems. Regardless of what discipline you come from, or what industry you’re in, product companies are about solving problems, and about asking the right questions in the first place. There’s no one career path to own this domain knowledge.
User experience is not about executing design. ‘Design’ is simply the last 5% of work that is done after building a strategy that starts with user discovery and the conception of new product paths. This knowledge can be directly applied to support products after they have been defined. However, it is much more important to make sure this knowledge helps define the strategy of how products get defined in the first place.
A Broader Role
The role of the UX professional is far broader than I am seeing in many job posts. The way product and UX could work together is much more collaborative, and far less of a silo. For more on this, read my next post, “UX as Science“.
Also, I put together this table describing the kind of shift I am talking about. (Let me know, maybe there are already companies out there doing this?)
Help A Brother Out
I will be continuing my search, a little apathetically and delicately. Connect with me if you think I’ve got it wrong, or know a company that will change my perspective here. Here’s my LinkedIn profile. I’d love to hear examples of corporations and organizations that shake up the role of UX. I know this is a hot topic and would love to hear other perspectives.