UXer Going To The Next Level

27 Apr 2011 - 4:08pm
2 years ago
3 replies
1658 reads
fj
2010

Here in London I am pretty much seeing four classes of jobs being posted by the recruiters:

Junior, entry level, up to £30K

Mid, 3 -5 years of experience, up to £45K

Senior, 5+ years, up to £70K

Head of UX, so be a manager instead of a UX practitioner, £80K

Supposing you actually like doing UX work and are not big on setting budgest and dealing with recruiters as your job, pretty soon you end up with the real question 'So what is next?' How does someone with 11 years of experience differentiate themselves in the workplace from the 5 years of experience? Currently they get put in the same class. How does one level up after Senior?

I have been asking this question to a number of UXers. One well-known speaker here in Europe told me how he decided to Level Up in the standard way of opening his own agency, acquiring clients, expanding, and then after a few years realizing he was building crap for other people and their screwed up processes, and nothing for himself he truly truly liked. He shut the agency down, and now makes mobile apps and does the lecture circuit training others how to make mobile apps and what is important in making experiences. Others I know set up specifically a very small agency and purposefully keep it small to have it sustain a good life and no more, but find themselves dependent on one big client, and are now very relieved to have diversified. So basically their stories are: ste up your own company, but make it fit you perfectly if you can.

I have seen a few 'black swan' jobs go by here in the UK for more than the senior level salary, as a very Senior UX person to work on a very specialized system or issue, but those are very few and far between. But inside larger companies, I really see no progression, unless it is into management. I guess more senior people get the more interesting jobs, but I equally see them put on bread&butter so that their skill lets the agency / company get through their moneymaker faster and reliably.

So, what do you see in UX as Levelling Up? How have you Levelled Up? What paths have you seen? Do we ever get to the $200K / £150K levels of salary without becoming managers?

Comments

27 Apr 2011 - 8:55pm
dantemurphy
2010

It all comes down to value.  One way to increase your value to an organization is by improving the work of those around you, and this often (but not always) takes the form of a supervisory position.

 

But there is another way, and this is relevant because I went through this very exercise just a few months ago.  Our London office needed to hire a full-time UXer who could be a strategic partner in the business, supporting both business development and design documentation.  It was not easy to find one that we liked, but we did, and I woudl say that she has been extremely valuable to the organization without having any direct reports or administrative responsibilities.

Those will come, but they aren't part of the current value proposition.

29 Apr 2011 - 4:28am
mingfungho
2010

Agree with previous poster about value proposition.  As "level" goes up, it is also about influence; the above dealt with influence by a) directing more people, and b) dealing with the business.  I'll add my comments upon a third area: influencing the functional architecture.

Consider what happens when a product suite gets big.. really big (think MS Office)..  but still has to work as one coherent end to end system, while keeping complexity to the user low.  You have multiple product managers of various components, multiple product development teams, and mulitple technical architecture teams, etc..  So how would one go about optimizing the entire UX of the product suite, and making it a core value of that product?  The problem has stakeholders with product management and technologists, yet transcends them both, with multi-year, multi-release lifecycles.. way beyond the attention span of most agencies or senior designers.  I've seen "head of ux" try to do this, but ultimately fail, just as the "head of development" often fails if he also wants to be the "chief architect"; it's not skill, it's time.

So let me coin a concept that I've often used... that of "strategic design".  To get beyond the salary range of a "senior", at least in a large company/product in my experience, you'd have to show value by driving UX that drives $100m+ revenue/yr. It cannot be reactive to product requirements, it has to drive them, just as a Chief Technical Architect often has plans to drive technology over multiple releases, in anticipation of technology trends.  It is less about individual use cases, but strategic use cases.  To sum it up, "business owners" figures out how to "make money off the bridge", and "technologists" figures out how to "build the bridge without it falling down, minimizing costs and maintenance", so who is responsible for making sure the bridge has the right functionality?  That is a discipline unto itself well suited for UX, in my opinion, but is currently attached as a side job to business owners or techologists.

I do not know if others in the industry see the same thing, but for myself I have been fortunate to get that type of job..  a chief/director level position on par with a chief architect, without being a manager or going into consulting, and I love it! 

-Ming Ho

 

27 May 2011 - 3:56pm
Lee Andrese
2010

Great discussion. I get asked this question all day long.
There are many UX freelancers billing $250k+/year. They are not managing the people, process or technology, and consider themselves practitioners and trainers in this domain. They are true consultants. They work with managers and UX teams acting as subject matter experts, and have learned how to manage their own business development. The latter is the key, business development. In fact, they've become savvy sales people, frequently managing a cue of work. 


If you're wondering if you have what it takes to go out on your own, talk to an experienced UX consultant. They'll tell you like it is, and give you a lot to think about.

Cheers,
la--

Lee Andrese, CUA
AQUENTDirect Line: 410.975.4183


On Wed, Apr 27, 2011 at 5:57 PM, fj <fj.ixda@exonome.com> wrote:

Here in London I am pretty much seeing four classes of jobs being posted by the recruiters:

Junior, entry level, up to £30K

Mid, 3 -5 years of experience, up to £45K

Senior, 5+ years, up to £70K

Head of UX, so be a manager instead of a UX practitioner, £80K

Supposing you actually like doing UX work and are not big on setting budgest and dealing with recruiters as your job, pretty soon you end up with the real question 'So what is next?' How does someone with 11 years of experience differentiate themselves in the workplace from the 5 years of experience? Currently they get put in the same class. How does one level up after Senior?

I have been asking this question to a number of UXers. One well-known speaker here in Europe told me how he decided to Level Up in the standard way of opening his own agency, acquiring clients, expanding, and then after a few years realizing he was building crap for other people and their screwed up processes, and nothing for himself he truly truly liked. He shut the agency down, and now makes mobile apps and does the lecture circuit training others how to make mobile apps and what is important in making experiences. Others I know set up specifically a very small agency and purposefully keep it small to have it sustain a good life and no more, but find themselves dependent on one big client, and are now very relieved to have diversified. So basically their stories are: ste up your own company, but make it fit you perfectly if you can.

I have seen a few 'black swan' jobs go by here in the UK for more than the senior level salary, as a very Senior UX person to work on a very specialized system or issue, but those are very few and far between. But inside larger companies, I really see no progression, unless it is into management. I guess more senior people get the more interesting jobs, but I equally see them put on bread&butter so that their skill lets the agency / company get through their moneymaker faster and reliably.

So, what do you see in UX as Levelling Up [1]? How have you Levelled Up? What paths have you seen? Do we ever get to the $200K / £150K levels of salary without becoming managers?

(((Ple
Syndicate content Get the feed