Resiliency of IxDA Jobs in a Major Recession

7 Oct 2008 - 5:44pm
4 years ago
15 replies
677 reads
Damon Dimmick
2008

Hey there, colleagues.

With the financial crisis and credit crunch hitting the economy squarely
in the wallet, my thoughts have been drifting towards musings on the
viability and resiliency of IxDA (and related) jobs during a major
economic downturn.

In the IT sector, I'm already seeing the early warning signs of a
downturn the likes of which I haven't seen since the Dot-Com bubble,
though the epicenter this time is outside of the IT world. Several of my
contacts and colleagues who are involved in the management of smaller IT
firms are already pulling back on investing in new hires, eying the
value of their current stable of employees, and preparing for the worst.

Generally, I feel like IxDA, while pretty valuable, is the type of work
which offers a business value that is not as easily understood by
numbers-minded executives who are constantly scanning for short-term,
demonstrable ROI. As with any job related to design, there's a real
tendency to minimize the value of the skillset because it doesn't have
the kind of immediate, measurable impact that a lot of managers like to
quantify. Of course, this isn't always the case, and many organizations
understand the strong importance of the field, but my anecdotal
experience seems to indicate that interaction / design people tend to be
scrutinized earlier and more closely when the time comes for personnel cuts.

I just thought I would throw my thoughts on the list, see what other
people think, and help stir up some opinions on how IxDA (and related)
practitioners can continually show their value in a market that may
become very tight, very very soon.

-Damon Dimmick
SitePen. Inc,

Comments

7 Oct 2008 - 6:09pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Oct 7, 2008, at 4:44 PM, Damon Dimmick wrote:

> I just thought I would throw my thoughts on the list, see what other
> people think, and help stir up some opinions on how IxDA (and related)
> practitioners can continually show their value in a market that may
> become very tight, very very soon.

Simply put?

If you don't yet know how to create clean, simple visual aesthetics,
then learn to do so. Also become an expert at using Photoshop,
Illustrator or Fireworks to create production level digital assets for
this work. Visio won't cut it.

If you don't know how to write good HTML+CSS markup, or have a good
enough grasp of JavaScript to be able to work with something JQuery,
then get some books and get to learning how to code. Axure doesn't cut
it. WSYWIG approaches to this won't cut it.

Designers in the technology sector that have these hard skills will
become the ones that survive should the economy force companies to
start serious cutbacks. Why? Because designers who can do these things
can also contribute to a project at a deeper level and cover multiple
jobs where cost cutting is happening. The good news is that these
skills are possible to learn in one's personal off time, and it's easy
enough to create personal projects to force you to pick up the skills.
That being: build a personal website, blog or whatever suits your fancy.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

7 Oct 2008 - 8:50pm
Scott Berkun
2008

As bad as things seem, the complexity of what's happening is so far beyond
what even the people in the middle of it can understand that this sort of
thing is premature. There are too many interconnections in how debt has been
allowed to work (which is part of how we got into this mess) to understand
how it will play out over the next year.

That said, It's easier to slice up the standing of the company you work for,
than how a profession as a whole will fair. A good pile of companies that
died in the 2000 dotcom bubble were very weak, fragile companies without
much of a story, and little sense of long term thinking. I expect the same
to happen.

Also, the strength of your employer is easier to evaluate than the strength
of a profession, and will have more to do whether you'll be looking for a
new job or not.

As Andrei pointed out, specialists are often first to go for obvious reasons
- having many proficiencies can make you more valuable. But if the company
can't make 15% of its payroll for December, it doesn't matter what talent or
job title you have.

-Scott

Scott Berkun
www.scottberkun.com

7 Oct 2008 - 9:10pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Generalists are more secure, but find a T spot that helps
differentiate you so you don't become a blur. AND so you have a
place to land when the crisis is over.

Andrei, a very specific question ... if I know Flash ActionScript 3
or Blend VB is that good enough? I don't qualify either way, but
I'm just curious why you were so specific about HTML/Browser tech?

-- dave

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=34025

7 Oct 2008 - 9:22pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Oct 7, 2008, at 8:10 PM, David Malouf wrote:

> Andrei, a very specific question ... if I know Flash ActionScript 3
> or Blend VB is that good enough?

Short answer: Yes.

> I don't qualify either way, but
> I'm just curious why you were so specific about HTML/Browser tech?

Long answer: If you know ActionScript or VisualBasic, learning
something like JavaScript is not a huge leap. Of those choices,
JavaScript is more popular and a bit more general purpose in its use
in the field (with more robust and useful OpenSource libraries and
tools like JQuery and such) so I'm recommending JavaScript given how
much it would cover if you were starting from scratch. However, if you
already know a scripting language, then learning another one is simply
tedious versus being a whole new world you might have to grapple with.

And as always, knowing all three is even better.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

7 Oct 2008 - 9:26pm
Jim Leftwich
2004

Good insights here so far.

It's true that we don't know how this will play out, but it's a
very good bet that we're in for some very rough and turbulent times
ahead. We've seen over 22 trillion dollars erased from the world's
credit markets this year, and we're seeing up close what that's
doing to our markets. About the best thing that can be said at this
point is that we've all got some window of time in which to plan and
act.

Now is a very good time to begin looking at what each of us can do to
maximize our survivability as designers in uncertain times. I like
Andrei's advice very much, just in general, as that's going to be
beneficial no matter what occurs. I'll add my agreement to the
importance of building up broad skills, and directly implementable
skills. Being "T-shaped," in your skillset will always be valuable
in terms of flexibility.

Also, it's important to consider the difference between those in our
community who work in corporations and the many of us that are
self-employed as consultants and contractors. Or, work in small
consulting or design firms. Economic turbulence can affect designers
differently depending on their individual work and employment
configurations.

In my career, most of which was spent as a consultant (either by
myself or with three or fewer employees), I found that consultants
and contractors can often pick up work from companies that might not
be in a position to hire or support full-time designers or design
staffs. So in a downturn, consulting and contracting is one option
that designers should consider. There are many challenges to going
it alone or with a few partners, but there are also rewards.

Consider looking into this option, if you're a corporate designer,
just as a fall-back option. It's not for everyone, but there are
usually increased opportunities when companies are slicing their
employee counts. The most successful products and services will
still need to be designed, so that design effort will have to come
from somewhere.

In general terms, look for ways to become self-sufficient. Make
certain you can secure your own computer and software and make
certain you're as networked as possible. Strong networks, such as
we have here within the IxDA community will likely be one of the more
valuable assets in surviving and regrouping during any serious or
protracted downturn. Connect as much as you can. And connect to as
many types of people as possible.

In shakeouts that come from economic downturns, it's inevitable that
some people will leave the field altogether to pursue or take
advantage of other types of work. If this happens to you, remember,
you're not simply what you're doing at any given moment. You're
the sum total of everything you've ever done and may do in the
future. If you leave the design field, you will always benefit from
the skills you've gained in this field. If you are forced to leave
the design field, try as best you can to stay abreast of skills and
larger trends in design and development, so that you'll be in as
good a position as possible to return, if that's your goal.

I believe that there's much collective wisdom here in our growing
community regarding the economic and career aspects of our chosen
discipline. Let's all contribute to and take advantage of that
great resource, and IxDA will be a valuable networking resource in
the period ahead.

James Leftwich, IDSA
Chief Experience Officer
SeeqPod, Inc.
Emeryville, CA

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=34025

7 Oct 2008 - 9:35pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Oct 7, 2008, at 8:26 PM, Jim Leftwich wrote:

> In general terms, look for ways to become self-sufficient. Make
> certain you can secure your own computer and software and make
> certain you're as networked as possible. Strong networks, such as
> we have here within the IxDA community will likely be one of the more
> valuable assets in surviving and regrouping during any serious or
> protracted downturn. Connect as much as you can. And connect to as
> many types of people as possible.

Extremely good advice.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

7 Oct 2008 - 6:23pm
Margaret Ann Schultz
2006

If you don't know how to write good HTML CSS markup, or have a good
enough grasp of JavaScript to be able to work with something JQuery,
then get some books and get to learning how to code. Axure doesn't
cut it. WSYWIG approaches to this won't cut it.
-- Andrei Herasimchuk

While this is true on one level, on another I'm not so sure.

Designers who have these coding skills are pretty expensive.
Designers without coding skills but with a solid understanding of the
technologies can still help an org out in a very beneficial way, and
at a lower cost than a developer/designer.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=34025

8 Oct 2008 - 5:57am
Anjali Arora, NYU
2004

Very interesting discussion here.

For someone who has been freelancing in the areas of UXD/ product strategy for the past few years, I notice a little oddity in the market these days: contrary to my expectation, given the dismal market sentiment, I see way too many openings for full time UX folk, than for freelance. Things may change as the bad news just keeps coming.

Anyone else notice this?
-Anjali

8 Oct 2008 - 6:29am
Troy Gardner
2008

I don't think it's meaningful at the short of a sampling.

I suspect that there will be a upto quarter lag before some sectors will be
show hit. Many companies have already allocated budgets for new hires,
which can be a lengthy process, and the ball is in motion regardless of the
financial meltdown this last week. In addition, not every company was
devastated. Solid businesses with solid savings/investments aren't
particularly limited by the credit crunch as those who rely upon credit.

In times of duress, while shopping may be less, people will be out for a
deal, so it's concievable volume will be higher for lower price escapism,
like video games, beer, soda etc.

Also for some sectors there will be an increased focus on making products
better than the competition in order to survive, so I think that the total
UxD market will be relatively unaffected, though as others have said I
expect the distribution to shift to the freelancers from the big corps, and
that the titles will be in flux more towards the general 'designer
programmer' role again. There are only so many ways to build great software
but the paths can be mysteries. Even today what people ask for isn't what
they really want, or need. Like technically I'm a Flash
programmer/architect/manager, but in meetings what people really want is the
role of IA, UxD, UcD, but there isn't enough business to have one on
fulltime.

Troy.

On Wed, Oct 8, 2008 at 4:57 AM, Anjali Arora <aa917 at nyu.edu> wrote:

> Very interesting discussion here.
>
> For someone who has been freelancing in the areas of UXD/ product strategy
> for the past few years, I notice a little oddity in the market these days:
> contrary to my expectation, given the dismal market sentiment, I see way too
> many openings for full time UX folk, than for freelance. Things may change
> as the bad news just keeps coming.
>
> Anyone else notice this?
> -Anjali
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
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8 Oct 2008 - 6:53am
Mark Schraad
2006

Every market since the great depression has presented business and
workers with opportunity. If the company you work for (large or
small) has been disciplined, meaning that they are conservative
fiscally, invest in research and quality process, then you will
probably be fine. For companies that have a habit of taking shortcuts
towards quick profit and ignore long term sustainability... problems
will likely to compound.

Having a diverse background can be very helpful. As pockets in the
market suffer (housing and development for example) designers should
be prepared to move to more prosperous pockets. You should balance
your 'T' shape between skill sets and domain expertise.

Expanding your tactical skill set (photoshop, html coding, etc) will
always be advantageous if you young and in a hands on role. This is
especially helpful if you are only marginally utilized within your
company. If the company you work for does not fully understand the
value of design and what you bring to the table you can expect to (de)
evolve towards a more 'production' role where simple metrics and
throughput reveal worth.

If however, you can isolate and share where you bring the most value,
you will be miles ahead when recovery comes back around. I think Jim
presented a pretty good outline of how to accomplish that earlier in
this thread.

Mark

On Oct 7, 2008, at 5:23 PM, Margaret wrote:

> If you don't know how to write good HTML CSS markup, or have a good
> enough grasp of JavaScript to be able to work with something JQuery,
> then get some books and get to learning how to code. Axure doesn't
> cut it. WSYWIG approaches to this won't cut it.
> -- Andrei Herasimchuk
>
>
> While this is true on one level, on another I'm not so sure.
>
> Designers who have these coding skills are pretty expensive.
> Designers without coding skills but with a solid understanding of the
> technologies can still help an org out in a very beneficial way, and
> at a lower cost than a developer/designer.
>

8 Oct 2008 - 9:16am
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Oct 7, 2008, at 5:23 PM, Margaret wrote:

> Designers who have these coding skills are pretty expensive.
> Designers without coding skills but with a solid understanding of the
> technologies can still help an org out in a very beneficial way, and
> at a lower cost than a developer/designer.

Many people in Silicon Valley get paid around $90K to $120K for being
senior level "interaction" types. Many of these people can't do the
two things I mentioned very well if at all. To get those skills on the
project, the company would have to also hire $70K to $90K coders (not
engineers, just front-end mostly web developer types) and $70K to $90K
graphic designers. This is all before factoring in health care,
benefits, 401K, computers, software, etc. which increases the costs
significantly as well.

It should be quite clear what is more expensive. Further, it should
also be noted that being someone who gets paid that much but requires
multiple lesser salaried people to complete your function is not a
strong position to be in. It makes you a big target when people are
looking to cut costs when the lesser people are the ones with hard
skills that can be used in actual shipping product.

Of the two things I mentioned, graphic design or coding, one should
consider at minimum picking one of those skills and getting to an
expert level with it so as not to require the business to need that
extra person to be paired with them to complete their job function in
times of cost cutting.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

8 Oct 2008 - 3:18pm
Nicholas Iozzo
2007

The advise to learn complementary skills works well for folks who are
on the junior side of things. But if you are 5-10 years into your
career, that could end up being a step backwards.

When times are very difficult, those are opportunities where our
unique skills can help us stand out. If your company is being
stressed, you might actually have better lines of communication with
the executives of your company then you ever did before. Find a way
to help solve their problems.

Every situation is different, so no formula exists on how to do this.
But if you begin to look for these chances and develop a reputation
for someone who commits themselves to solving strategic problems,
then you will become more valuable as things get worse.

This is the harder path, but it is another path you can take.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=34025

8 Oct 2008 - 3:55pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

It's interesting that no one so far has suggested that IxDs could actually
be in a great position during the current economic crisis. The notion that
we're all expendable contradicts what appears to be the current view of
Design (with a capital D) in today's so-called "experience economy".
More and more companies recognize these days that to remain competitive, and
even exceed, in the marketplace, they need to provide superior experiences.
Interaction designers are the people who enable that competitive edge.
Logically, IxDs should be in a great spot.

Yes, I know logic has very little to do with how people react in an economic
crisis, but from what I've seen, my theory is holding true. In fact, I swear
I even read something recently that supported it, but I can't remember where
(I just skimmed it—sorry).

I'm not sure the thing to do in an economic crisis is diversify your skill
set. Seems to me the people most likely to do well are the ones who excel at
something specific. I could be dead wrong, but at the moment anyway, I'm not
seeing it.

I know that at the same time the US economy has been sinking, I've been
picking up new clients at a faster rate than ever before. (Granted, most of
them are based in other countries, but the US economy directly affects many
others, so I'm not sure that matters as much as it sounds.)

All that said, I'm no economist, so I'm just thinking out loud here.

-r-

8 Oct 2008 - 5:00pm
Gloria Petron
2007

Robert, I concur. (I've always wanted to say that.)

For example: at the bank I worked for, and at the current company for whom I
now consult (law firm), it's all about email and document retention. Bad
email policies result in exorbitant storage costs and audit risks; lack of
well-communicated paper policies results in huge stacks of boxes that are a
nuisance to keep, expensive to keep, and are also audit risks. Both of these
problems present a wealth of portal design opportunities.

These companies have also gotten really sick of paying for big CRM software
packages which ultimately can't be used because the interfaces are so bad.
If you're the head honcho, what are you going to do...keep bringing the
vendor back to fix their sloppy customization, or go the less expensive
route, which is to bring on an in-house resource who can assist you with the
interfaces for *several* applications, and as an added bonus, also provide
the means to market them? This is a ton of opportunity.

If you know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em, and you're adaptable
enough to switch domains when needed, you can do pretty well.

-Gloria

13 Jul 2010 - 12:34am
LorenaK
2010

Recesssion is one of the reason why people are searching for job, but this is the problem that some of us are experiencing even those people who has already their job. They seems to get installment loans becasue we all know that simple salary is not enough if you have already your own family and even me, I seldom experience it even though I am living alone. That is why some are also having their extra sideline.

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