UX somehow attracts the best people from all industries.
Aneta Kmiecik spent over seven years studying and working on designing buildings in Poland and Japan, before realizing that architecture didn’t bring her any joy.
This led to her experimenting with some alternatives and she finally found her place in UX!
We discussed navigating a UX career with Aneta.
This article sums up her advice on:
Deciding which company to work for is tough regardless of where you are in your career.
If you are just entering UX, you might not have too many choices. As your career grows, however, it will be important to pick the right companies to work for.
From our talk with Aneta, here are two things you may want to control for:
✅ UX Maturity of an organization
✅ Work culture (and if it prevents burnout)
Organizations go through six stages of UX Maturity. At first, UX is entirely absent from their work and by the final stages, the entire company is driven by what users need.
It’s worth remembering that organizations change and their UX Maturity is not static. They can get more mature or lose some maturity over time.
Low UX Maturity companies are in one of these stages:
Working at low UX Maturity companies comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities.
Some of the challenges include:
Of course, there are plenty of opportunities as well:
If possible, Aneta recommends researching an organization before you join them.
Is it mature enough for you?
How do you answer this question?
Let’s say you’ve found some dream organizations with the UX maturity you want.
Here’s what you will have to learn next -
At some point in your UX career, you will be faced with stakeholders who simply don't get what you do or where your insights come from.
To navigate those moments, the best skill you can build is facilitation.
Facilitation skills will allow you to resolve these moments by bringing all your stakeholders to collaborate on solutions that work for everyone. They are an incredible set of soft skills that do not receive the attention they deserve.
So how do you “facilitate” conversations between stakeholders and get them on your side? Here are the specific skills you should employ to facilitate better conversations with stakeholders and create team alignment:
1. Enable people to speak.
Get to know your participants and stakeholders ahead of time and figure out the best way to make sure they are comfortable voicing their concerns and ideas.
This prior research should also help you take care of the group dynamics in your workshop or session. As long as everyone feels heard and comfortable, your session should be smooth 🧈.
2. Prioritise listening over interpretation.
Instead of rushing to conclusions about what your stakeholders or workshop participants are saying, give them a chance to be heard first.
Making people feel heard has two benefits:
3. Peak somewhere and then end strong.
When people recall your meeting or session, they will not rationally recall the entire meeting. Instead, they will remember the highest peak of the session and its end.
Sandwich the most important info there—peak somewhere with the most important info (suggestions for action, for example) and bring it up again at the end.
4. Highlight the progress that a workshop or a meeting has made.
Stakeholders are more likely to engage in your workshops / meetings if you show them the progress from the conversation at the end. It's basically like saying, look—this time meant something! We were able to achieve these crucial goals by being here today.
This feedback also makes people feel more involved in your process—if they feel like they're contributing to and affecting your work, they're more likely to support the project in the future (after all, it's something they worked on!)
5. Use the parking lot method to stay on track.
One of the biggest challenges in a large meeting is keeping everyone on track—how do you make sure you’re talking about the most relevant topics, and not sauntering down the path of a stakeholder’s preference (that was not on the agenda, of course).
Whenever a participant goes off-topic, you can either rudely interrupt them and lose their interest (always fun) or gently tell them that their ideas, while interesting, are outside the scope of the current meeting or workshop. “Park” these ideas on a notepad for a more relevant discussion.
6. Use ‘How Might We’ to reframe problems as potential opportunities.
When a product manager tells you how frustrating it is to ship a complex feature only to have no one use it, note it down as How Might We conduct research on the need of a feature before shipping it. Engage with said product manager on the How Might We, and you might be surprised at the projects that emerge.
You can also use this as an opportunity to show your PM that if you had researched this feature, perhaps we would’ve known it won’t work before we shipped it out.
7. Let participants work individually and collaboratively.
This applies more specifically to workshops. While they are a great tool to enable collaboration, they should also provide some space for participants to work on their own.
Ideally, your structure should let people work and think by themselves first. Once they have some thoughts of their own, they should move on to collaboration and discussion.
This makes sure that people actually have something to contribute to the discussion and no one just sits there listening to everyone else!
Aneta’s book recommendations for facilitation: https://www.instagram.com/reel/CoICRBsqGv7
Once you have the stakeholders all working together, it’s time to share your insights in ways that capture their attention.
Another important soft skill that will boost your UX career is storytelling!
Your ability to craft a narrative and get people to care about a problem will greatly impact how much buy-in you have from your organization.
Here are some tips on improving your storytelling skills:
1. Know your audience.
Understanding what your audience will resonate with is crucial to how you frame your story. If you aim to persuade an audience, the narrative you create should be based on the following questions:
2. Do not overwhelm your audience.
Providing too much information at once will just ensure that your listener misses out on half of it.
Instead, provide this information in easily digestible chunks and keep a check on whether the listener is following what you’re trying to convey. Know when to stop talking and listen instead.
For the scary slide above, you’d break it up into smaller slides that are easy to read and digest.
3. Use a storytelling framework.
You will never remember a presentation as perfectly as you remember the funny story your coworker just told you about their weekend.
For this reason alone, you should incorporate storytelling into your communication if you hope for it to make a difference.
(Here’s a TED talk about how we are neurologically hardwired to pay attention to stories: https://blog.ted.com/what-happens-in-the-brain-when-we-hear-stories-uri-hasson-at-ted2016/)
Several frameworks can act as guides for you to craft your story around. Aneta recommends studying them and incorporating them into your daily work.
A few popular frameworks that Aneta recommends are the Hero’s journey, Minto’s pyramid, and Freytag’s framework.
Read more about using the Hero’s Journey in this in-depth guide by Idea Sandbox.
Editor Group does a great job of explaining Minto’s Pyramid in this guide.
Arijit Dutta has explained Freytag’s framework with real-world examples in his article here.
It's worth remembering that no framework is ideal. We have to practice and try it out. We can end up not using those frameworks as well but just thinking about a change - before and after.
Aneta’s book recommendations for storytelling: https://www.instagram.com/reel/Cl6MHrEjBcv
To get Aneta’s advice as interesting vertical videos, follow her on Instagram.
Aneta’s photograph used in the cover was clicked by the talented Klaudia Koldras.
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