My notes from Jared Spool’s talk “Designing the Growth Path for UX Leaders and UX Managers”.

  • Junior and senior job titles are not that well defined. Just like job titles in general don’t describe clearly and precisely what a person does.
  • Why is this? Every organization is different since they are made up of people, and every group of people is unique. Organizations need different things, and even parts of an organization need different things, so they ask people to do different things even if they have the same exact job title.
  • Junior is generally understood as somebody at the beginning at their career, they don’t need special skills or deep capabilities, they just need to show up with passion and do the job. Seniors are more seasoned in their career, they have an amount of projects done under their belt.
  • Graduating from junior to senior is less about technical execution, how well they can perform the specific pieces of their craft. There is of course some improvement over time about things like efficiency and systems thinking, but softer experience like driving projects, work across the organization, solve complex challenges describe more seniority.
  • To think about seniority it’s more useful to think about growth vectors, so was there a continuous improvement in a person’s experience. This is not related to the amount of years spent on somebody’s career. Doing the same projects for ten years, that is essentially doing the first year of their career over and over again. On the other hand doing more, differently, better in each year describes a clear growth vector that leads to having ten years of experience and seniority.
  • Why do we need to see growth in people? For executing and pushing UX strategy we will need to deliver more and better over time, this requires individuals in the design team to also do more and better.
  • To have growth vectors, we need to design them for people. One path would be individual contributors, people getting better over time in their specialization, be that product design, interaction design, information architecture or user research. The other path is management and leadership skills.
  • Leadership is about setting visions for people to follow. Management is about making sure we are getting to that vision as effectively as possible.
  • As these two are different, they are sometimes not found in one person in a design team.
  • Managers are appointed by the organization, manage people, so you can recognize them if they have direct reports. They have role power (for example to fire people), but this mostly works if they are in the room right next to the people working. Since they focus on managing people (designing people and teams) their skills include coaching, 1:1s, creating great environments for people to thrive.
  • Leaders can be recognized by them having a vision and followers who are excited about that vision. Since they don’t have direct institutional power, they use influence to achieve their goals.
  • For UX strategy to succeed, we need both.
  • Both these skillsets can be taught. We need to create an environment for growth, where risk is low and people can grow into these roles. This is unique to each organization, since each organization is unique.
  • Good managers are good since they consistently make good judgements that comes from the experience of making lots of judgements in the past among them lots of bad judgements.