A career in user experience design first came up in a conversation with a friend. I had been exploring design as a new work direction, having realised I wanted a new challenge.
I began reading articles and learning about “user experience”, with a growing feeling it was a good fit for me. Skills I’d developed in previous jobs would translate over — things like creative problem-solving, collaborative working, and empathising with people’s needs and frustrations.
After discussions with friends and family and weighing up the pros and cons, I decided it was time to take a leap into the unknown.
I worked at OVO Energy in our customer services team, and we’re lucky to have over fifty UX people across the company. So I started by looking up the UX community of practice on our intranet and researching how they worked.
In my next catch-up with my manager, we discussed how I could explore this area further. We thought it’d be good if I sat with a user experience designer to start learning first-hand.
I contacted a few of our designers, who agreed to spend some time with me. I spent three days observing and asking questions. Lots of questions. This was really helpful and I saw how they approached methods like sketching and wireframing, user research and personas, usability studies, affinity mapping, and backlog refinement. This was very exciting and encouraging, only weeks earlier I’d had no idea all this was happening so close by.
Shadowing designers gave me a clearer picture of what a career in UX could be and gave me even more confidence that I should go for it!
Here’s some resources I found useful:
Growing my network
I wanted to maintain momentum and follow up on recommendations, so I contacted OVO’s user research lead. I outlined my ambition to move into UX, and why. We arranged to meet for coffee so we could chat in more detail. This was really valuable and established a student-mentor relationship. I also took away new contacts and avenues to explore.
I was later connected with a user researcher and a service designer. I spent an hour chatting with each of them and saw examples of their work, and how each role fitted into OVO’s bigger picture.
I also began joining the weekly UX open space — where all of OVO’s researchers and designers share knowledge and experiences. I’d encourage anyone interested in user experience to join a community meetup like this. I saw more great examples of work, learned about influential industry practitioners, and found everyone approachable and welcoming. I really got a feel for the culture of the community and could imagine myself working in that environment.
My journey of discovery so far helped me construct a mental map. Exposure to the methods, culture, and structures of our UX community gave me a starting point for a self-directed project — an opportunity to practice some of the principles I’d learnt and see how I got on.
I decided to develop a support guide used by my customer service team. As an experienced user of the tool myself, I had a lot of context and insight I could build upon. I wrote a proposal for what I wanted to do and why, and my manager gave the okay to get started.
My aim was to improve the tool’s functions to give users the right Compliance information, at the right time (something it didn’t already do!). I knew that Compliance caused a lot of anxiety across my team and the pressure on customer service agents to recall specific information to customers meant that focus was directed away from fully engaging with customers.
As the form was, it provided some useful information and performed a few basic functions but it wasn’t very user friendly. Information was presented without much thought, making it dense and hard to understand. The features that it did have were useful but not much thought was given to the overall presentation and so it lacked structure.
Using the methods I’d picked up on my journey, I designed a tool which built on top of the existing features while introducing a chronological structure. The form was tailored to provide the information that was important to that specific call at that specific time, rather than general information in a one size fits all style.
Some of the things I’m proud of from this piece of work:
- Proposing a hypothesis and research plan
- Sending a questionnaire to 60 agents, to gather suggestions and challenge my own preconceived ideas
- Analysing the questionnaire results for trends
- I sketched wireframes of changes to the tool’s interface, using my subject expertise and research feedback to create a new flow and potential features
- Refining the wireframes, thinking about information layout and visual hierarchy
- I taught myself a prototyping tool and built a testable prototype
- Creating a research plan and identifying participant criteria, methods, and objectives
- Carrying out usability studies on the prototype with four people
- Analysing the video recordings and planning the next stages
I really enjoyed working on my self-directed project. Through focus, persistence, communication, and lots of support from OVO’s UX community, I came up with an improved solution in a relatively short time. And I established a great relationship with OVO’s UX community.
A little while later a new junior UX role opened up, which I applied for.
My brand new role as user research coordinator began twelve weeks ago and I’m absolutely loving the space I have to work on designing services and supporting user researchers. I’m developing really valuable new skills and I’m very excited about the next stage of my career.
I hope my experience can be a reference point for anyone else wanting to follow a similar path, but is perhaps unsure where to start. If you’re interested in this career pathway and you’d like to discuss it with me, drop me an email and let’s chat!