Monthly Archives: April 2007

UX Management List Announced

Today the fabulous Mags Hanley announced the creation of the UX Management Discussion List, sponsored by the IA Institute. In her words:

The purpose of the list is for UX Managers to talk about the things closest to their hearts; developing teams, individuals, themselves and UX practices within their organizations.

I’m really excited about this discussion list because I’ve been feeling a little without peers lately. Being among IAs is great and I always feel like I’m among family, but it’s like being the oldest kid among all your cousins; when you’re a teen you don’t really want to have every conversation with 8 year-olds. They just don’t “get” you anymore.

Mags facilitated a great workshop during the IA Summit titled UX Management: developing and growing yourself and a team of user experience professionals, which was excellent. It was a unique opportunity to talk to my peers about things that are 100% relevant to my day-to-day, so now we get to further that conversation on this new list.

During the workshop we discussed the idea of peer coaching (which Mags experienced very positively at the BBC). The group coaching could be done using something like Skype allowing a group of 4-5 people to have a phone conference once a month for an hour. Each person would bring a problem that the other members of the group would coach them through. I love the idea and I’m looking forward to making it happen.

If you manage any type of UX professionals, please join us.

Tagged: Malicious Social Network

I keep getting invitations to Tagged and I am getting really annoyed. There are several signs that it’s malicious and I feel like I’m trapped.

First, the ‘invitation’ email:

Tagged "Invitation"

I quote the word ‘invitation’ because you’ll notice that it says “Click here to unsubscribe from Tagged”. I never subscribed and never once gave them the right to use my email address so I am certainly not subscribed. However, because people have invited me to join using my address, they took the liberty to subscribe me. Not ok.

(It also gives no context as to who is inviting you. I know about 8 people called Ana).

When you try to unsubscribe, you see the obvious CYA message:

Keep unsubscribing, we think you're an idiot

Which is fine, except, it says “We will not share your personal information with your partners”, which leads me to believe that they have already shared my email address. What’s more absurd about this is that if you get a new pseudo-invitation, you have to keep unsubscribing!

If that wasn’t enough, when you visit the site you will notice the quality ads that it displays. I don’t have an issue with display banners, but at this day and age, a pop-up with animated cursors spells MALICIOUS six ways to Sunday. If that doesn’t convince you, take a brief look at profile page to get a sense of the type of SPAM that goes around this network.

Profile sample

Lastly, their ‘About’ page is (conveniently?) broken, so you can’t really know much about who they are. I may seem like I’m picking on them, but when you only have a link to the About page on your homepage but not anywhere else on the site, and that link is broken, I think you’re cheating.

What I want to see in a resume

Tomorrow I’m speaking at the IA Roundup – Panel and Workshop on IA Resumes. Olga approached me to participate asking what challenges I’d come across in finding the right information architects for my team. The challenges were many, but poor resumes (poor quality, not lousy professionals) certainly makes my life harder than it needs to be. This is what I want to convey tomorrow:

How to get a job

  • Have a sense of purpose
  • Have a truthful resume that promotes you
  • Have a portfolio (online preferably)
  • Build professional networks

Three words about hiring designers

How to write a resume

  • Use a plain, 10 point Serif font.
    Resist the urge to design your resume.
  • Name, address, phone, personal email, portfolio and URL.
    Centered and bold at the top.
  • Write up your job history, presented in reverse chronological order.
  • Each job has Start-End Dates, Your Title, Company Name and Location.
  • Follow with 2-3 sentences describing responsibilities.

    Answer the question, What job did you have? For example, “Responsible for conducting user research for e-commerce and financial clients”, “Responsible for managing team of 27 information architects and researchers across 3 satellite offices in Mumbai, New York and Sidney, as well as coordination of $1MM research budget for remote and in person usability testing”.

  • After responsibilities, list your major accomplishments using bullet points.

    Answer the question, How well did you do your job? This describes how well you fulfilled the responsibilities you spoke of before. Example: “Drove satisfaction metrics up 10% over redesign goal by utilizing a fast iterative approach to collaboration with developers”, “Nominated for the IA Institute board of directors by my boss for my leadership and community commitment”, “Nominated most valuable contributor across design teams worldwide in ’04-’06”, “Improved efficiency by creating reusable patterns with Visio stencils and training all IAs across the organization to use them”.

  • Lastly, two lines for your education. Degree, Year and Institution

Note: A GREAT resume is one-page long.
Here is a template I put together (Word document).

Tips on what to include in the responsibilities:

  • How large was the audience for the work you did – hints to the kind of impact you can make and how comfortable you are working with large scale initiatives
  • How large was the group you worked with – hints to the types of interactions and demands you are subject to depending on size of team
  • How large was your client (for consultants), employer (for in-house employees) Example: “Fortune 50”, “$200MM annual revenue” – hints to the level of business challenges you’re exposed to and the risks you were subject to while working with them

Tips on what to include in your accomplishments:

  • Activities that resulted in cost saving and efficiency gains (better performance, less people/hours on projects, etc)
  • Activities that resulted in increased value (explicit satisfaction score gains, increased revenue and profit margins, etc)
  • Company and industry recognition (awards, nominations, remarks from annual reviews, etc)

Anything else you may want to promote about yourself goes in the portfolio. Anything else you may want to say about what you want and expectations for future jobs goes in your cover letter.

Interviewing to get the job

  • Ask Name and title (responsibility) of the people who will interview you
  • Google their names and learn about them before the interview
  • Learn about the company and their current situation before the interview
  • Dress professionally
  • Be on time
  • Bring your portfolio (preferably printed).
  • Prepare questions about the things that are important to you in working day-to-day (you should be interested in the company and work dynamics)
  • Be honest
  • You’d think that dressing professionally, being on time and being honest were obvious. You are right, they are. But it’s because we don’t re-state the obvious assumptions that people forget them and then I’m faced with a guy in flip-flops telling me some story about being late to the interview.

Telling a compelling story

When I return from the panel and workshop I will elaborate a little more on some of the points.

Keeping track of ideas to let them grow

I have tons of ideas every day. They are often about things that make life easier or improve productivity or efficiency (mostly innovation in processes), sometimes they are products and services ideas too. I try to turn the good ideas into concrete things, but more often than not I forget all about them and that really bothers me.

As much as I have no shame in labeling myself a procrastinator, the big reason why these ideas don’t come to fruition is because they go off my radar. Granted, not all ideas are good, but not all are bad either. But if none of them get a chance to grow, how would I know (yes, I’m a maximizer, so I feel as though they are all potentially good and it’s my fault I don’t do anything about it)?

Self-blame apart, I’ve found that not acting on these ideas happens mostly due to not registering them. Leaving them as passing thoughts is what causes them to perish. They are either forgotten altogether (at least the guilt is gone) or the big insight of the idea is forgotten (“what was this widget sketch idea supposed to accomplish anyway?”).

Capturing an idea is concrete step that helps you shape it and frame it, giving enough boundaries to allow it to grow. It’s like eggs: If the chicken doesn’t sit on its eggs, they won’t hatch. On the other hand, if the chicken is a really busy web professional, she needs a hatcher to handle that for her.

In many ways, the tools that the GTD methodology puts in place do help you keep ideas alive – simply registering something on your “someday/maybe” list may be sufficient, or taking a few moments to do a “mindmap” as part of your “natural planning process”. Truth is, not everyone is a GTD geek and even those of us who are may not use it to the extent that the system is sufficient to keep the dynamics of innovation and idea generation where it needs to be. Moreover, if you want to foster idea generation in a team environment, sharing is a big part of keeping an idea alive and helping it grow (and not all use GTD or want to).

I definitely don’t have a method for dealing with this that is satisfactory to me yet, but during my one-on-ones with my team I hear so many great ideas which get forgotten later on, that I figured something needed to be done. I do need to give credit to Austin for the initial concept. We started a wall for anyone on the team can quickly capture them. The WALLIDEA (kinda becomes /wah-lee-dee/ in my head).

Throw it up and see if it sticks

The goal is twofold: to make it concrete by putting it down to paper, and turn it into a conversation by sharing it with the team. It’s meant to be very quick. Taking the time and putting in the effort to register an idea is the biggest barrier so fast and cheap is #1 priority in this system. If it’s going to eat up your time you are much less likely to do it, so all that’s required is a sheet of paper that contains minimaly:

  • What is it called – Give it a name, or a tagline. Show it off.
  • What does it do? – How it works and/or what problems it solves.
  • What does it look like? – A sketch, behavior flow, napkin drawing, nothing at all.

(It should have a name and date – it helps with communication and when revisiting the idea later the date can hint to wether or not something was a silly idea and doesn’t deserve pursuing).

Wallideas

The premise is that it only takes five minutes – we generally already do spend those 5 minutes just thinking about the idea, so why not actively register your thoughts as they evolve in your head – better yet, why not use the process of registering them to mature your idea faster? The process of preparing it is more important than having it up on the wall. It helps establish the intent. Having it on the wall is a plus, because anyone can check it out and comment on it, or add to it.

We’re still experimenting with the wall (2 weeks old now). Having put just one idea up has already helped me shape it into something more meaningful. And not forgetting about it entirely.

IA Roundup – Panel and Workshop on IA Resumes

UPDATE: The panel and workshop went great – here’s what I talked about.

This Saturday morning April 21, 2007 from 10am to noon, I’ll participate in the first IA Roundup, a panel/workshop to discuss successful resumes for information architects.

With increasingly blurred lines across disciplines in the UX world, how should information architects present their work and experience to potential employers?

The User Experience Network, DC-IA, and UPA-DC will facilitate a panel discussion and workshop to help distill what makes this challenging and what can make it successful.

Bring your resumes for one-one-one feedback from panelists and event volunteers

Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center
4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda, MD 20814

Online registration is recommended.
$5 donation welcome to support space and refreshments.