Getting a start in IxD from a technical background

14 Jul 2009 - 7:16am
5 years ago
4 replies
889 reads
bminihan
2007

I was in your situation about seven years ago, having built several
web sites from both angles, but more toward the development side.

You may have heard this before, but moving into a new career field
often requires taking a step downward, then working your way back up
again. I took a pretty junior design position with a big company
(whose forte was not software engineering), and worked my way from
there to director of usability over four years. I learned a TON
along the way, and finally scraped together enough of a portfolio to
land my next job - interaction designer and CTO for a startup.

Of course, I'm still the oddball designer and my jobs tend to blend
design, development and management. I'd rather be designing, but
I'll make do with enough design to keep me happy, at least.

Keep looking, and you'll find someone who needs your particular
skills enough to help you get started down the path toward
interaction design.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=43689

Comments

14 Jul 2009 - 8:28am
Alla Zollers
2008

Hi Mark,

I completely understand where you are coming from. I too have a
technical background and a Masters in HCI.

The way that I was able to get into the field is by taking a
cross-functional job. My first job was officially called
"Usability/Front-End Developer", where I did my share of
development but also build prototypes and tested them. It was
certainly not a straight IxD job, but it got my foot in the door.
>From there, my prototypes were enough to land me a real IxD role
where all I did was design.

I also think you have an advantage right now with the market being
what it is, as many companies are looking for people who can be
cross-functional because it saves them money. So if you can code and
design you should be golden.

I would also suggest being strategic about what types of jobs you
apply for. Don't apply for the web design jobs, go ahead and apply
for the interaction design position that also requires knowledge of
DHTML/AJAX.

Finally, even if you do end up getting a job that is not ideal, you
could always figure out where improvements are needed, talk to your
manager, and get permission to "go beyond your role" so that you
can build up your resume. I believe you can find opportunities to
design and build up your skills irregardless of your official title
:)

Good luck!

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Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=43689

14 Jul 2009 - 9:06am
jet
2008

Mark Goetz wrote:
> I'm looking for my first job in interaction design or something
> similar, having recently earned my Master of Science degree in HCI.
> I'm having a bit of difficulty with the job search, in part because
> I have a background in computer science and most of my experience is
> in web development.

I'm looking at a similar situation, and the advice I've been getting
(and that I plan on following :-) is to build a portfolio that shows my
design chops. It might mean keeping my day job as an engineer and
doing projects on the side for friends or on the cheap for charity
organizations, but I need to show that my design skills are good enough
to hire me as a designer first, coder second.

--
J. Eric "jet" Townsend -- designer, fabricator, hacker

design: www.allartburns.org; hacking: www.flatline.net; HF: KG6ZVQ
PGP: 0xD0D8C2E8 AC9B 0A23 C61A 1B4A 27C5 F799 A681 3C11 D0D8 C2E8

14 Jul 2009 - 3:21pm
Mike Myles
2009

I'm surprised someone with a MS in HCI is not considered qualified
for an IxD role. What do they see as your skill deficiencies? Is it
primarily an experience issue (too senior a post), or do they feel
you are lacking some specific training?

As far as I'm concerned, some reasonable level of competence in
development technologies is a necessary qualification for a well
rounded interaction designer. It's not the only skill one needs, but
it's certainly not a detriment to have.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=43689

15 Jul 2009 - 5:03am
djlittle
2009

Hi,
I asked something similar a few months back as someone in a same position --
I've got a web development background and am hoping to move more into an
IxD role. I summarised the answers people kindly gave me in a blog post:

http://tr.im/sqAU

I don't think it says anything desperately original or which hasn't been at
least hinted at in the answers to this post but I mention it in case. In
general however, the answers were positive and supportive, which was
encouraging.

Personally, my approach is to try to take on more IxD / usability work in my
current role -- which luckily is being supported. I'm also trying to do some
work on the side, even personal projects, as and when I can. I hope that
will allow me to build up more of a design-focused portfolio.

I've also taken a postgrad-level course in UI design, but not a Master's.

Good luck -- I look forward to hearing about your experiences :)

Cheers,
David

2009/7/14 Mike Myles <mmyles2001 at yahoo.com>

> I'm surprised someone with a MS in HCI is not considered qualified
> for an IxD role. What do they see as your skill deficiencies? Is it
> primarily an experience issue (too senior a post), or do they feel
> you are lacking some specific training?
>
> As far as I'm concerned, some reasonable level of competence in
> development technologies is a necessary qualification for a well
> rounded interaction designer. It's not the only skill one needs, but
> it's certainly not a detriment to have.
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=43689
>
>
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