September 30, 2023
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Loveletter to UX

I love the world of UX, but lately, I've noticed some bitterness creeping into our community. We have a unique opportunity to assist mid-career professionals in bridging the gap between theory and practice. So, let's offer guidance whenever needed without becoming grumpy old UX people.

As I have recently learned, writing can be a great way to reflect and sharpen your thoughts, so instead of holding back any longer, I will give it a jab and try to get some of these feelings and thoughts about a love of mine a try. Ever since my earliest career phase, I felt right at home in UX. These people were my people; we thought and felt alike. A strong bond connected us through our work and how we see the world.

I knew I had found my place and a sense of purpose in a field that mattered.

Over the last twenty-something years, design and UX have given me more than just the luxury of earning an excellent salary doing the things I love. I reinvented my career a few times to fill different roles and paths. I would like to believe that our approach to understanding problems systematically by including diverse opinions and perspectives has helped me become a better, more thoughtful human being.

Lately, however, I have noticed a shift in the energy in the UX community I feel so close to.
More and more experienced and very senior UX professionals take on a tone of bitterness. Complaining about the lack of maturity in organizations, missing understanding of what great UX can provide in the C-Suite, and how the people coming up „aren’t actual UX designers. “ This bitterness sounds like arrogance and feels like giving up. I find this painful to see. So much so that I try to shield myself from such conversations.

I still remember very well how helpful senior peers were when I started what now feels like ages ago. They helped me not only learn the hard skills but also understand and deal with the realities of working in a product team that hadn’t been waiting for me to „guide them towards the light. “ The love and support I received truly made me feel like I was climbing the shoulders of giants.

Today I wish more of us with experience and battle scars would focus less on licking our wounds and try to become protectors of the next generation. While many things may have changed for the better, we still have a long way to go, and our field still has plenty of growth potential. But it’s on us. If we feel UX maturity is too low, let’s raise it step by step. If someone could learn a little more to understand UX better, help them. Yes, the times have changed, and while „true UX“ may have adhered to stricter rules in the past, the field has become broader and more open to different skill sets. That’s common to any successful topic; growth brings change. Let’s embrace the change. After all, it’s still what we love to do, and good relationships are hard work.

Many of the young designers coming to the industry now learn the craft in quick online courses and boot camps. I think it’s great that tools and methods are so easily accessible to so many people, but they can’t teach you how to deal with the day-to-day challenges you’ll face in real-life work environments. That has to come from experience.
And who better to share that experience than the ones who have already gone through it? I see significant demand for assisting mid-career professionals in staying focused on their career paths, making the right compromises with their teammates from other disciplines, or differentiating between theory by the books and product-building reality. For those of us who have seen enough of that life to know what is still missing, this would be a worthy cause and a rewarding form of engagement, in my opinion. And if nothing else a lot more constructive than becoming grumpy old people.

As I grow older and maybe a little wiser, I would like to learn to accept that my time in this industry will pass, and UX may fall out of love with me. Hopefully, when that day comes, I will have built our relationship in a way that allows me to make space for someone new and remain an old friend you can always reach out to for advice.

Written by

Marvin Olukayode Hassan

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