365 Days of Random

Random musings about nothing at all

Professional Idols

Professional Idols! We all have them, those people you hear about but never really think you’ll get to meet or interact with. The ones that are ‘legend’ in your professional world. The men and women that you read books by, or seek ideas/advice from.

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times before, I work in UX. What is UX you ask? UX = User Experience. It’s a ‘young’ (still maturing) component of the software and web development industry. There are lots of roles that can fall under the umbrella of user experience – I am what you might call an “Interaction Designer”. There are many, many names for this role but basically my job is to understand what someone is trying to do (outside of a software system) and translate that to the interaction within the software or on the web. Interaction Designers design how a user gets from point a to point b. The ‘user experience’ part comes in when you understand that every interaction should be simple, efficient and FUN to use. If people struggle to use something they won’t really want to use it again.

As a UX professional there are lots and lots of fantastic people that I consider to be among my idols. These are people I am constantly learning from. They are people I want to emulate in my professional life. Anyway, that’s not the point, the point is that while I have lots of these idols, I recently had the chance to MEET and interact with one such idol. As I am sure you can imagine, that was a great experience. What was even more mind boggling was the fact that said idol was incredibly impressed with work being done in UX at my company. So much so that he’s mentoring us on how to present about it in the industry. How did this all come about you ask? Well I’ll tell you….

A few weeks ago some colleagues of mine and I gave a presentation at a local UX ‘Bar Camp’ (google that if you don’t know what it is) about some work that we’ve been doing over the last year. We expected a VERY small turn out. Turns out that our provocative title did it’s job and coerced a solid 30 some people into the room. One of which was this idol of ours. He sat in the front row, pulled out his notebook and pen and settled in to listen. Of course this made us all just a tad nervous but we pressed on. Throughout the presentation he was taking copious notes and asking all kinds of questions. He seems sincerely interested and engaged in what we’d done, how we’d done it, what we’d learned from it and how it was impacting our work overall. When the session ended he continued with the questions and was expressing honest to god excitement about what we’d accomplished. I have to admit it was a huge highlight for me (and I think for my colleagues too). This idol wanted us to speak about it to a broader audience in the UX world and set about helping us get a presentation slot at the upcoming IA (Information Architecture) Summit in Colorado. In addition to that, he’s decided to help us shape the material and our presentation of the material to ensure a ‘home run’ of a session at the conference.

Right about now a few of us are floating around on both personal and professional highs. When you hear comments like ‘incredibly smart and talented people’ and ‘you could have huge success teaching others to do this’ and ‘you are doing some incredibly cool and innovative things over there’ from your professional idol – well it kinda leaves you speechless. But the coolest part by far – he added me to his ‘network’ on Linked In.

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January 27, 2011 Posted by | Design, Inspiration | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Accepting the Challenge

So it’s a new year, and a co-worker of mine issued a challenge to “write” 750 words every day. We are user experience professionals and as such are generally seen as the ‘creatives’ in our company. I do like to think that I am creative, I suppose though that this description depends on your definition of ‘creative’. We are designers, we design things, there is inherently some creative energy needed to accomplish that. Being creative doesn’t mean you need to draw or paint or write stories or play music or build something. It means you think about things in a completely different way and see how to put things together in ways others may not that results is something better than initially perceived. Being creative is a wonderful state of mind. However, creative people do, on occasion, get blocked, and when that happens you just don’t know where to go. This can be a stumbling block when being creative is your bread and butter. The challenge issued by my co-worker (let’s call her “L” for now) suggests that daily writing, about anything, is a tried and true way to get (and keep) those creative juices flowing.

I like to write, and people often tell me I am a good story teller. My issue has been that I have never found a topic that I wanted to write about consistently – not even the ‘adventures within my own life’ and so I always start blogging with gusto and fall off after a month or two when it takes too much effort to think of something to write about. That is why I am choosing to accept L’s challenge in the following manner: While I am not really sure I can accomplish the 750 words per day, my acceptance of the challenge is this. I will write, every day for one year. I will write about one random thing each day. These may be things from my life, my work, or any other thing that happens to come to my mind. Some will be odd, some will be boring as hell, but some will hopefully be rather amusing. Writing about random things seems much easier than having to come up with a “theme” or “topic” or “area of expertise” that I want to write about.

So, that’s my first post – the acceptance of L’s challenge. Here’s hoping I can step up to the plate and that the few people crazy enough to follow my progress find one or two tidbits along the way at least mildly interesting and amusing.

January 6, 2011 Posted by | Challenges | , , | Leave a comment