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Navigating a UX Career with Aneta Kmiecik
Home > Blog >
Navigating a UX Career with Aneta Kmiecik

Navigating a UX Career with Aneta Kmiecik

Satvik Soni
March 30, 2023

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!

You’ve probably already seen Aneta.
Having switched careers successfully, she now helps others in UX through her content on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Aneta's instagram stats
Do you have 65k followers!?

We discussed navigating a UX career with Aneta.

This article sums up her advice on:

  1. Knowing if a job is the right fit for you
  2. Getting stakeholders to care for and agree on UX decisions
  3. Sharing your insights to get people to take an action

How to know if a job is a right fit

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)

UX Maturity in Companies

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.

Stages of UX Maturity
You can read more about these stages on NN/g’s original article about them.

Low UX Maturity companies are in one of these stages:

  1. Absent: UX is ignored or nonexistent.
  2. Limited: UX work is rare, done haphazardly, and lacking importance.
  3. Emergent: UX work is functional and promising but done inconsistently and inefficiently.

Working at low UX Maturity companies comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities.

Some of the challenges include:

  1. Not enough time to work on your craft. Since your work will include evangelizing UX within your company and building UX processes that are already present in more mature companies, you will not spend all of your time designing or researching.
  1. No mentorship. Since you’ll be among the first few UX hires, you shouldn’t expect a lot of mentors to come your way. You’ll likely mentor the next UXers instead. 
    💡If you’re in this situation, ADPList is a great place to find mentors.
  1. Lots of advocacy. Since you will be bringing in a lot of organizational change, you should expect to spend a lot of time in stakeholder management.
  1. Working in silos. Since there are no UX processes in place, it’s often difficult for UXers to collaborate with each other. As a result, they end up working in their silos.

Of course, there are plenty of opportunities as well:

  1. Shaping their UX culture. Since no one knows what UX is, you get to take up a lot of ownership and define how the company’s UX work will look.
  1. Leadership opportunities. Since you join the company’s UX work at an early stage, you may be expected to take up leadership roles. 
    The same would be impossible in more mature organizations where it would take many years to enter leadership roles.

If possible, Aneta recommends researching an organization before you join them.
Is it mature enough for you?

How do you answer this question?

  • Speak with people who work there or who have recently quit (the latter is even better—they’ll be honest!)
  • Look up reviews on

Other factors to consider before joining an organisation

  • Who will be your coworkers? How experienced are they in general? Do they share some personality traits?
  • Of course you won’t be able to get a glimpse of everyone’s personality traits from LinkedIn and Glassdoor alone. Do some background research and then hope for the best!
  • What is their business model? What helps their bottom line? Is that something you want to contribute to?
  • If they are a product company, do they have good reviews?

Let’s say you’ve found some dream organizations with the UX maturity you want.

Here’s what you will have to learn next -

Winning over Stakeholders with the underrated skill of facilitation

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. 

  • Is anyone anxious about speaking in front of the group? Can you help them collect themselves?
  • Is someone likely to be overly contrarian and block the meeting from progressing? Any plans on listening to their concerns but also preventing needless debate?

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:

  • If they feel like you’re listening to them, They're more likely to return the favor and listen to you. This opens up a dialog
  • They are more likely to flag important issues if they know they are in a safe space.

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:

Once you have the stakeholders all working together, it’s time to share your insights in ways that capture their attention.

How to share your insights

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:

  • What do they value?
    You cannot make someone care about your work just because you do. Instead, tie your message back to what they already care about.
  • Convince the product people by focusing on the metric they’re trying to move this quarter (if you help them look good / get promoted, they’re more likely to work with you!)
  • Convince the business folks by focusing on the impact on the bottom line. Sometimes it’s just about $$$
  • Are they emotional or logical decision-makers?
    Your cold and logical presentation will be rejected by an audience that cares about how your narrative makes them feel. Similarly, an audience that lives by the numbers may not by convinced by a single user struggling—find ways to back up your findings with analytical insights, surveys or data from support tickets. 
    💡 Find a balance that works here. No one is entirely logical or emotional.
  • How familiar are they with your jargon?
    If you’re presenting to other researchers or designers, don’t waste your time explaining concepts you all already know.
    If you’re presenting to the rest of the organization, you will lose them the minute you utter jargon—that means no mention of “IDIs”, “mixed methods”, or “visual hierarchy”.
  • What do they need to know?
    The PM who will directly be using the findings of your study needs all the details. The head of product does not. Tailor what you include in a presentation to (1) how much time/brain space they have to consider the findings, (2) what do they care about most (put this upfront)

2. Do not overwhelm your audience.

User Pain Points
My eyes! My eyes!!!

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.

Navigation pain points
Loading Speed Pain Points
Checkout process pain points

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:

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:

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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