What do UX managers do?
Internal companies External agencies
Manage/coach team Manage/coach team
Network in company Client relations
Hire/sta projects Hire/sta projects
Project work Project work
new processes new processes
UX teams may look like this...
information researchers visual designers
or like this...
usability analysts ethnographic researchers graphic designers
design strategists information architects interaction designers writers/content
or like this...
We do research,
strategy, IA, interaction
design, and more. I write, among
user experience architects
UX managers I interviewed
Peter Merholz Jennifer Bohmbach Livia Labate Richard Dalton
President, Adaptive Path Chief IA, Sun Sr. Manager IA & Usability, UX Manager, Vanguard
Catherine Courage, Andrew Sandler Lillian Svec
UX Managers, Salesforce.com UC Santa Cruz Extension
How is managing UX teams di erent?
Challenges of managing creative professionals
Generalized skill set, varies greatly
Sta ng model
External pressures (“what do you guys do?”)
“Professionals, like athletes, when left to their own devices,
don’t accomplish as much as they do when they are supported
by a good coach.” — David H. Maister, “Managing the Professional Services Firm”
Where do you nd people?
Personal networks only go so far
We’ve found some great people using these resources:
Craigslist (believe it or not)
Industry groups like ASIS-T, IA Institute
Others swear by
Recruiting fairs at ID
Lots and lots of networking
Look for people transitioning from other elds
Think of hiring as an ongoing process
What to look for in a hire
ability to make pretty deliverables, clear communicator,
clear thinker, consulting experience, creativity, education,
enthusiasm, t with the team, general job skills (IA,
interaction design, strategy, personas, research), good
listener, interest in learning new things, presentation skills,
personal work style, personality, quick learner,
software pro ciency, talent, variety of work, years of experience
Katrina’s cardinal rule
Don’t hire closed people
What to look for in a hire
“Passion is tops. They need to have a love for the work.”— Peter
“Good critical thinkers. People who get the big picture.” — Jennifer
“Good communication. If you can’t communicate e ectively,
you can’t do your job.”— Catherine
“At Salesforce, everybody codes. You have to have technical
“A serious commitment to the IA community.”— Livia
“Soft skills! We work in teams a lot. You have to collaborate well.”
“With researchers, you want them to be exible and creative about how
they conduct their research. Rigorous academics aren’t enough.” —
Skill sets I look for
Group facilitation skills
Juniors vs. Seniors?*
Too much procedural work Too much brain work
Need more seniors
Need more juniors
= current sta
*Adapted from “Managing the Professional Services Firm”
= required sta
Juniors vs. Seniors
UX sta ng at boutique agencies
Principals, practice leads
Justin, the intern
Some mistakes in sta ng
“We had a brilliant interaction designer who was a freelancer.
We pushed him to be an employee, and it was a mistake. He was
“I hired someone who I knew was a bad personality t. I should
have listened to my gut. We eventually parted ways.”
“The worst hiring decision I made was when I didn’t follow my
own instincts. I was swayed by my boss’ opinion.”
“I made the mistake of putting someone in a leadership role when
he was more of a detail person. It took a lot of coaching.”
Moral: If you have a round hole, nd a round peg.
Bad boss behavior*
Findings from a survey of more than 700 workers by researchers at the
Florida State University College of Business:
39% said their supervisor failed to keep promises.
37% said their supervisor failed to give credit when due.
31% said their supervisor gave them the quot;silent treatmentquot; in the past year.
27% said their supervisor made negative comments about them to other
employees or managers.
24% said their supervisor invaded their privacy.
23% said their supervisor blames others to cover up mistakes or minimize
*Source: Florida State University
Hot UX: Most important qualities in a manager?
Give clear direction
…but don’t micromanage
Keep me in the loop
…but act as a bu er from company angst
Facilitate and encourage my learning
Show you care about my well being and my work
Show you have con dence in me
Give me honest, regular, informal feedback
Be a good “coach”
Listen well, appreciate multiple points of view
Show maturity, breadth of experience
“Recognize my strengths and weaknesses. Give me opportunities to shine,
and low-risk opportunities to grow.”
Hot UX: What motivates you?
Projects that o er value that I can see
Clear, direct feedback (positive or negative)
Working with visual designers to nd creative solutions
Trying new things
Opportunities to be creative or challenged
Making people (client, boss, colleagues) happy
“An avid interest in the project subject/concept is the biggest motivator
for me to do great work.”
Encourage downtime projects
“It lets you get o the consulting hamster wheel.” — Peter
Encourage group learning
Weekly team meetings
Takes classes, go to conferences, report back
Host an o -site
“Vanguard is a pretty progressive place for encouraging people to do
the right thing. I can count on one hand the times people brought me
a suggestion and I had to say no.” — Richard Dalton, Vanguard
Have a process and be prepared to deviate from it
Discovery Strategy Design Build Transfer
Our approach to research
Our research Some of these These insights
reveals many ndings lead to inspire new and
detailed ndings. insights about creative design
what the target ideas.
Create an environment where people can do their best work
De ne the career path
At Hot: UX > Senior UX > Director > Principal
At Adaptive Path: 3 tracks
At Salesforce: 2 tracks
How do you know there’s a problem?
Have regular 1-on-1s with each team member
Check in with clients and business partners
Establish good relationships with other disciplines
PMs, especially, are your canaries in the coal mine
Common performance issues
Great ideas, but poor presentation
Di culty collaborating with project team
Poor time management; leads to sloppy work
Unmotivated, thinking is lazy
Your decision tree
No Address it
Problem Is this a and move
Can it be No to say
De ne clear
Establish a connection.
Express criticism as a question.
Listen to his side. Really listen.
Be clear in your feedback, keep emotion out of it.
Use speci c examples.
Basic communication 101
Example: “I can’t give this to the client because _________.”
Example: “This creates a problem for me because _______.”
Don’t wimp out.
You can’t be everyone’s friend, but you don’t have to be a jerk, either.
If something is a chronic problem, you need to document it.
Feedback model* (thanks Livia!)
Step 1. Ask
“May I share some feedback with you?”
Step 2. Describe speci c behavior
“Jane, when you stick your tongue out at clients . . .”
Step 3. Describe impact of behavior
“. . . here’s what happens. It hurts the team morale. . .”
Step 4. Discuss next steps
“What can you do to change this behavior?” or “How can I help you?”
* More at www.manager-tools.com/feedback-model
What’s it really like?
“When you’re a manager,
you’re very aware of how
the sausage gets made.
You have to be
comfortable with that.”
What’s it really like?
“…for the typical manager of professionals, the day is broken up
into numerous small chunks of amazing diversity: dealing with a
disgruntled client, handling the personal problems of a sta member,
analyzing nancial reports, interviewing a potential new recruit,
approving various administrative arrangements, working on a new
business presentation, and a thousand other matters, each of which
must, in rapid succession, command the manager’s full attention.”
— David H. Maister, “Managing the Professional Services Firm”
How practice leads add value
admin. & ﬁnancial matters (10%)
billable work (10-20%)
10% client relations (20-40%)
managing team (30-60%)
Adapted from “Managing the Professional Services Firm”
What do you like about your job?
“There’s no one standing over my shoulder. I have a lot of autonomy
for project work and non-project work.”— Richard
“I like getting recognition within the company of the power of IA as
its own service.” — Livia
“There’s always something interesting going on here. I like doing
things that expand the work, making signi cant improvements.”
“Creating an environment where great people can do great work
that supports their individual goals.”— Peter
“Managing the Professional Services Firm,” by David H. Maister
Design Management Institute, www.dmi.org
“Getting Things Done: the Art of Stress-free Productivity,” by David
“First Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do
Di erently,” by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Co man
June 16-20, 2008
UPA international conference
Principal, User Experience and Content, Hot Studio, Inc.
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