The mythical UX unicorn; we've all felt the pressure to become one, and many of us have gained or are actively pursuing unicorn status. But do we truly need to be masters of the entire UX spectrum? What happens if the path isn't all the glitter and rainbows you were expecting? Or you start down the path and discover you hate having a horn? We’ve captured ex unicorns to discuss the benefits of a multidisciplinary education, complications of unicorn life, and varying paths to success.
The result is that many UX professionals are attempting to be unicorns and either finding themselves unhappy in their process, unsatisfied in their role as a unicorn, feeling unqualified to move forward, or unsure of how to grow their career.
We’re going to reflect on our past experiences to share what we’ve learned; there is value to having a unicorn education and having a broad set of experiences, but we want to be honest about the challenges, too. UX is meant to be a team sport; it can be overwhelming to cover so many disciplines within one role, you can burn yourself out quickly, set yourself up to work alone and there is inherent bias in being the sole researcher, designer, and coder. If you’re responsible for all aspects of UX, you may design something that is easier to develop, or maybe you’ll end up phrasing research questions in a leading way. Having a team allows you to share ideas, give and get critique, build on the experience and perspectives of multiple individuals, and have each member play to their strengths.
Additionally, there are some people who don't want to be unicorns. Some of us are deeply passionate about research or in love with pushing pixels. While having a working knowledge of all the aspects of UX is helpful, we want to clearly emphasize that one does not need to be a unicorn in order to be successful. We’ll discuss how we’ve evolved our careers over time to best align with our preferences, strengths, and personal goals.
We also want to address those that are trying to hire unicorns, because they aren’t necessarily the best thing for a company. We’ll discuss the situations when unicorns work well and when a company is better off with more specialized roles.
We want to set the record straight that you do not have to reach unicorndom to be successful in UX.