The creation of my 'new normal' career in UX design
At the beginning of this year, I made a plan to take a month off work in April to take a break and return with a greater focus. For those of you who don't know, I'm a user experience designer. For me, this means that I do user research, user journey flows, design interfaces, make prototypes and test them, in order to create whole (or parts of) digital products.
The end of March came, and I put myself into isolation as I presented with symptoms of COVID-19 one morning. I moved my entire working setup from my study into my bedroom to stay away from my wife and children as much as possible. Thankfully, through social distancing and so much hand washing that my skin resembled and arid mud flat, it ran its course and nobody in the house seemed to have caught it from me.
It was now early April, my work had come to an end, and now, for the foreseeable future, I wouldn't be looking for a job in an office environment. Businesses were looking to save on costs by furloughing employees, and not looking to bring in more people that they would have to pay, regardless of their expertise at this particular time.
So my planned time away from work was extended. I have now been out of work for 3 months, and yet I have been particularly busy. Aside from homeschooling our 4 children in 4 different school years and from 2 different schools, I have helped my wife produce a podcast about positive changes, and I have edited a manuscript for her new book which will be coming out next year. I had a go at streaming video games on Twitch, which was fun for a while but could get considerably lonely when speaking into the void of an empty chat window. But it was still fun in short bursts and might be something that I pick up again for fun in the evenings.
I'm now at a crossroads
What do I take on next? Do I go back into a user experience design position in an organisation that could utilise my expertise and experience? Or do I look to take on something more challenging? Something out of my comfort zone?
As I write this, I don't think I've made my mind up about what I'm going to do, but it occurs to me that this could be the point at which I commit to something that could change the direction of my life and career.
I've always tried to educate others in the work that I've done, regardless of where I have been working. I have pushed for better design practices and more inclusive ways of working for over 15 years, and yet I've only technically been called a designer for the last 5 of those. I've delivered talks on design and related subjects at multiple conferences and local meet-ups since 2013. In 2019 I even wrote a book on UX aimed at bringing developers closer into the design fold.
I've always enjoyed sharing what I have learned over my career. I find it rewarding to help others in their career journeys, and it provides others with the chance to question the way I do things. In turn, this helps me to become better at what I do, creating a cycle which means I can pass everything I learn onto those that are open and willing to listen.
Time to make a decision
So here I am. Just a few short paragraphs ago, I was wondering which path to take, and now, having written those words in between here and there, I think it has become fairly clear what I need to do next.
I will be working on a platform to help others learn practical skills in the field of user experience design, and it starts now.
I don't know which form this new direction will take, but I'm hoping that you'll join me in helping shape what it may become, and help to reach others who will be interested in learning about user experience design from a seasoned professional in the field.
I'll be starting by publishing written content on my blog and across different platforms, but if you want to get in early, and help to shape the future of this endeavour of teaching and learning about UX, it's time to sign up!
Collectively we have no idea what the future will be like, or if we will return to what we called 'normal' just a few months ago. What I can do is provide a place for people like you to learn from my unique experience, and how you can apply it to your career, whether you are a seasoned design practitioner, looking to transition your career into user experience design, or if you're starting out from scratch.
I hope that you'll join me on this journey, and together we can learn how to become better designers in a world that is very much in need of them.