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Hello
Your UX Career Path: 

In-house, agency, 

both or neither?
What’s your next move?
In-house, agency, 

both or neither?
!
This is a superficial
question.
The deeper question:
!
What leads to UX 

career satisfaction?
Research
Approach
• Surveyed 96 UX Pros
• Interviewed 11 UX Pros
• Joined discussions online
• Discussed with colleagues
What is your role?
User Experience Designer
Interaction Designer
Information Architect
User Researcher
User Interface Desi...
What is the highest level of 

education you have completed?
High School
Some College
Bachelor's
Master's
Graduate
0 15 30...
Where do you work today?
Design Firm or Agency
In-house at a Large Company
Freelancer or Consultant
0 12.5 25 37.5 50
How many years of experience 

do you have in this role?
Less than 2
3 to 5
5 to 7
7 to 10
10 to 15
15 or more
0 7 14 21 28
Key
Findings
1.
UX Pros that have worked
in a variety of places are
perceived to be more
successful by their peers
The most successful user experience
professionals I know have worked:
In-house only
Agency only
Freelance only
In-house + ...
2.
People working in 

UX feel happy 

and successful
I love what I do.
Strongly Agree
Agree
Neither Agree or Disagree
Disagree
Strongly Disagree
0 12.5 25 37.5 50
Based on my own definition of success, 

I feel I am successful in my career today.
Strongly Agree
Agree
Neither Agree or D...
I am happy with my current 

overall compensation.
Strongly Agree
Agree
Neither Agree or Disagree
Disagree
Strongly Disagr...
I am happy with the level 

of autonomy I have in my job.
Strongly Agree
Agree
Neither Agree or Disagree
Disagree
Strongly...
My current job enables me to get 

better at skills that matter to me.
Strongly Agree
Agree
Neither Agree or Disagree
Disa...
My current job enables me to do what I like to do
in the service of something larger than myself.
Strongly Agree
Agree
Nei...
Autonomy
+
Mastery
+
Purpose
–Dan Pink
“Pay people enough so that they’re not thinking
about money and they’re thinking about the
work. Once you do tha...
Career Path 

Options
Just a Few
• In-house at a Large Company or Org
• In-house at a Start-up
• Agency or Design Firm
• Freelance or Consulting
In-house 

at a Large
Company
Pros
• Resources (financial and otherwise)
• Long-term involvement in projects
• Stability and predictability
• The ability...
- Khoi Vinh
“I think being "in-house" is the best job a
designer can have at this point in time. It
allows you to really g...
Cons
• You may be led towards specialization
• You may work on the same project 

for years
• Expect politics
In-house 

at a Start-up
Pros
• Dynamic and exciting
• Close knit team of dedicated people
• Exposure to different roles and
responsibilities
• Spec...
Cons
• You may be the only UX pro on the team
• When things get bad, they can get
personal
• You have a greater chance of ...
Agencies & 

Design Firms
Pros
• Exposure to a variety of project types
• Opportunities to network
• At smaller shops you can be a generalist
• Clie...
Cons
• Less influence and involvement 

on products
• It can be very deadline driven
• You’ll encounter bad clients 

from ...
Freelancing
Pros
• Be your own boss
• You can potentially make more money
• Learn about business (on training wheels)
• Work from home...
Cons
• You need to market and find clients
• Downtime can be financially stressful
• Fewer opportunities to collaborate 

an...
Things to
Consider
11 interviews
!
21 Suggestions
1. 

Discover what makes you
happiest and pursue it
I love what I do.
Strongly Agree
Agree
Neither Agree or Disagree
Disagree
Strongly Disagree
0 12.5 25 37.5 50
2.
Define success 

for yourself
Based on my own definition of success, 

I feel I am successful in my career today.
Strongly Agree
Agree
Neither Agree or D...
3.
Work in a field or 

industry that aligns 

with your values
4.
Request informational
interviews
5.
Evaluate the culture 

of an employer by looking
at the founders
6.
Determine how hard you
want to work
7.
Early in your career, find 

a job that enables you to
work with as many
talented people as you can
8.
Early on, don’t stay in 

one place too long
9.
Take risks when 

you’re starting out
10.
Avoid specialization, 

be a generalist
but…
11.
Don’t try to be an 

expert in everything
T
I N T E R E S T/ E X P E R I E N C E
SPECIALIZATION
12. 

Compliment 

your core skills
Consider
• Enhancing your writing / speaking skills
• Study graphic design and typography
• Code a little
• Learn about pr...
13.
Network, go to events,
reach out on social media,
talk about what you do
everywhere you go
14.
Accept that it’s ok 

“not to know” and reach
out to an expert
Tell them

“I don’t know, 

but I will find out”
15.
Be aware of internal
politics and realize you 

are not immune
16.
Understand your
employer’s (and client’s)
financial health
17.
Always have your
portfolio or resume ready
18.
Determine if you’re
interested in a
management track,

if you are, plan ahead
19.
Don’t get stuck thinking
you need to pay your dues
too long–when you feel
ready, go for it
20.
Analyze your setbacks 

and learn from them
One more option
–William Blake
“I must create a system or be 

enslaved by another man’s.”
21.
Start a business
Better yet,
design a business
Can I help you?
!
matt@fellswoop.com
206-369-1919
Your UX Career Path: In-house, agency, both or neither?
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Your UX Career Path: In-house, agency, both or neither?

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With User Experience designers in such high demand, those entering the field today have more choices than ever before. There’s no single right way to embark on your journey, but many before you have uncovered a path to success, so why not learn from them? Matt Dente has shared insights from surveys and interviews with UX professionals in this presentation. If you’re planning your first step in a career, or considering your next move, this presentation will provide insights that will help you make the right choices for your own path.

Published in: Career

Transcript of "Your UX Career Path: In-house, agency, both or neither?"

  1. 1. Hello
  2. 2. Your UX Career Path: 
 In-house, agency, 
 both or neither?
  3. 3. What’s your next move?
  4. 4. In-house, agency, 
 both or neither? ! This is a superficial question.
  5. 5. The deeper question: ! What leads to UX 
 career satisfaction?
  6. 6. Research
  7. 7. Approach • Surveyed 96 UX Pros • Interviewed 11 UX Pros • Joined discussions online • Discussed with colleagues
  8. 8. What is your role? User Experience Designer Interaction Designer Information Architect User Researcher User Interface Designer Experience Designer 0 12.5 25 37.5 50
  9. 9. What is the highest level of 
 education you have completed? High School Some College Bachelor's Master's Graduate 0 15 30 45 60
  10. 10. Where do you work today? Design Firm or Agency In-house at a Large Company Freelancer or Consultant 0 12.5 25 37.5 50
  11. 11. How many years of experience 
 do you have in this role? Less than 2 3 to 5 5 to 7 7 to 10 10 to 15 15 or more 0 7 14 21 28
  12. 12. Key Findings
  13. 13. 1. UX Pros that have worked in a variety of places are perceived to be more successful by their peers
  14. 14. The most successful user experience professionals I know have worked: In-house only Agency only Freelance only In-house + Agency In-house + Agency + Freelance 0 10 20 30 40 *Not even close to statistically significant
  15. 15. 2. People working in 
 UX feel happy 
 and successful
  16. 16. I love what I do. Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree or Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree 0 12.5 25 37.5 50
  17. 17. Based on my own definition of success, 
 I feel I am successful in my career today. Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree or Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree 0 15 30 45 60
  18. 18. I am happy with my current 
 overall compensation. Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree or Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree 0 15 30 45 60
  19. 19. I am happy with the level 
 of autonomy I have in my job. Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree or Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree 0 10 20 30 40
  20. 20. My current job enables me to get 
 better at skills that matter to me. Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree or Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree 0 12.5 25 37.5 50
  21. 21. My current job enables me to do what I like to do in the service of something larger than myself. Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree or Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree 0 12.5 25 37.5 50
  22. 22. Autonomy + Mastery + Purpose
  23. 23. –Dan Pink “Pay people enough so that they’re not thinking about money and they’re thinking about the work. Once you do that, it turns out there are three factors that the science shows lead to better performance, not to mention personal satisfaction: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.” http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/05/09/daniel-pink-drive-rsa-motivation/
  24. 24. Career Path 
 Options
  25. 25. Just a Few • In-house at a Large Company or Org • In-house at a Start-up • Agency or Design Firm • Freelance or Consulting
  26. 26. In-house 
 at a Large Company
  27. 27. Pros • Resources (financial and otherwise) • Long-term involvement in projects • Stability and predictability • The ability to take ownership • Career path options (CXO?)
  28. 28. - Khoi Vinh “I think being "in-house" is the best job a designer can have at this point in time. It allows you to really get a product right, which is, more than any other factor, what's necessary to succeed in digital media.”
  29. 29. Cons • You may be led towards specialization • You may work on the same project 
 for years • Expect politics
  30. 30. In-house 
 at a Start-up
  31. 31. Pros • Dynamic and exciting • Close knit team of dedicated people • Exposure to different roles and responsibilities • Special financial opportunities 
 (if you’re lucky)
  32. 32. Cons • You may be the only UX pro on the team • When things get bad, they can get personal • You have a greater chance of 
 getting laid off • Longer hours may be the norm
  33. 33. Agencies & 
 Design Firms
  34. 34. Pros • Exposure to a variety of project types • Opportunities to network • At smaller shops you can be a generalist • Client service is rewarding
  35. 35. Cons • Less influence and involvement 
 on products • It can be very deadline driven • You’ll encounter bad clients 
 from time to time • There could be bench time • Your performance is tied to billable time
  36. 36. Freelancing
  37. 37. Pros • Be your own boss • You can potentially make more money • Learn about business (on training wheels) • Work from home, Mexico, or anywhere
  38. 38. Cons • You need to market and find clients • Downtime can be financially stressful • Fewer opportunities to collaborate 
 and learn • You may get lonely • Early in your career this could 
 stunt growth
  39. 39. Things to Consider
  40. 40. 11 interviews ! 21 Suggestions
  41. 41. 1. 
 Discover what makes you happiest and pursue it
  42. 42. I love what I do. Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree or Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree 0 12.5 25 37.5 50
  43. 43. 2. Define success 
 for yourself
  44. 44. Based on my own definition of success, 
 I feel I am successful in my career today. Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree or Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree 0 15 30 45 60
  45. 45. 3. Work in a field or 
 industry that aligns 
 with your values
  46. 46. 4. Request informational interviews
  47. 47. 5. Evaluate the culture 
 of an employer by looking at the founders
  48. 48. 6. Determine how hard you want to work
  49. 49. 7. Early in your career, find 
 a job that enables you to work with as many talented people as you can
  50. 50. 8. Early on, don’t stay in 
 one place too long
  51. 51. 9. Take risks when 
 you’re starting out
  52. 52. 10. Avoid specialization, 
 be a generalist
  53. 53. but…
  54. 54. 11. Don’t try to be an 
 expert in everything
  55. 55. T I N T E R E S T/ E X P E R I E N C E SPECIALIZATION
  56. 56. 12. 
 Compliment 
 your core skills
  57. 57. Consider • Enhancing your writing / speaking skills • Study graphic design and typography • Code a little • Learn about project management • Learn about business & finance • Learn about the sales process
  58. 58. 13. Network, go to events, reach out on social media, talk about what you do everywhere you go
  59. 59. 14. Accept that it’s ok 
 “not to know” and reach out to an expert
  60. 60. Tell them
 “I don’t know, 
 but I will find out”
  61. 61. 15. Be aware of internal politics and realize you 
 are not immune
  62. 62. 16. Understand your employer’s (and client’s) financial health
  63. 63. 17. Always have your portfolio or resume ready
  64. 64. 18. Determine if you’re interested in a management track,
 if you are, plan ahead
  65. 65. 19. Don’t get stuck thinking you need to pay your dues too long–when you feel ready, go for it
  66. 66. 20. Analyze your setbacks 
 and learn from them
  67. 67. One more option
  68. 68. –William Blake “I must create a system or be 
 enslaved by another man’s.”
  69. 69. 21. Start a business
  70. 70. Better yet, design a business
  71. 71. Can I help you? ! matt@fellswoop.com 206-369-1919
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