Back to the Career Path Question...What if you are the only one?

29 Jun 2006 - 4:24pm
7 years ago
1 reply
782 reads
Pam Migliore
2006

I've gotten WAY behind in my digests and am just now getting to the thread
on Career Paths.

The question I have for the group is what are the opportunities for
growth/promotion/etc. when you are the only "You" in the company?

My current *title* is "UI Designer." My responsibilities range from writing
UI Specifications for embedded software to defining user interactions, to
performing user studies and testing, to empowering engineers to become more
customer-centric. I am nested within a development organization and work
closely with Product Marketing but report to the Director of Engineering.

I am the only person within the company doing this type of work with no
prospects of additional team members in the foreseable future. I have been
in this same situation at other companies and have struggled with "what
happens next?"

Do I keep tacking various titles of seniority to the beginning of my title,
even when there aren't "junior" people with related titles? Similarly, I
don't really fit into any of the established "tracks."

At my last company, I was a member of a development team within an internal
IT department (we built tools other employees used daily.) My manager
promoted me onto a specific track (business analyst, with accompanying job
titles) because he didn't know where else to put me. That proved difficult
because my title and job description had nothing to do with my actual
responsibilities and it became difficult to rank me against my *peers* when
promotion/raise time came around.

I'd be interested to hear from others who work for product-focused
companies/internal IT shops who have similar experiences.
--
Pamela Migliore
UI Designer

Comments

30 Jun 2006 - 8:37am
bhekking
2006

> My responsibilities range from writing UI Specifications
> performing user studies and testing, to empowering engineers to become more
> customer-centric. I am nested within a development organization and work
> closely with Product Marketing but report to the Director of Engineering.

> I am the only person within the company doing this type of work with no
> prospects of additional team members in the foreseable future. I have been
> in this same situation at other companies and have struggled with "what
> happens next?"

Wow, this sounds familiar! I'm now in my third stint in just such a role, and
it's not easy. I used to be a UI 'Developer', but have traded up to 'User
Experience Designer' although most of my time is spent on the requirements end,
since there's so much need there.

Although I was able to convince my last employer to hire another one of me, the
usability champion (VP of Development) was sacked and I left.

Currently, I'm in development, but I've gotten decent traction from both
Product Management and Development. I think the main difficulty is that we
folks are really internal change agents, and without a clear role in the
organization (as hasa always been the case for me as well), we are left to
define it for ourselves...and success in that regard depends a LOT on the
company culture and your manager's willingness to provide what you need (time,
money, projects, opportunities to teach and share, etc).

In the absence of those resources, I've fared best with the attitude that "it's
better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission", that is, find a need and
start applying your expertise to solving it until and unless someone tells you
to stop. I you succeed and save the company money, improve customer
satisfaction, etc, then you're in a stronger position to ask for more
resources, a team, etc. If you don't succeed or are asked to do "real work"
instead, odds are you're in the wrong company or department.

If there's one thing I've learned since starting my career in usability, it's
that it's up to you to create and manage your own career path, and to establish
"tracks" of your own. Since usability, unlike QA, Product Management, or
Development is still "new" to most companies, you really do have to forge your
own path.

The alternatives are (IMHO) to become a consultant or to find a place where
usability roles are an established, recognized part of the business.

Best of luck,
Bret Hekking

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