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Before you make a remark of this has been asked over and again, let me point out that I have done my research -

Do I have the skills for UX?

As a programmer, how do I move into UX?

Getting into UX as a CS undergrad.

and more..

This post is more about how, rather than what. I have read all of the advice given earlier, the most common of them being -

  1. Work, get experience via internships, volunteer, etc.
  2. Show Mockups, wireframes, etc.
  3. Read books, get a deeper understanding etc.

To do this, I am willing to go to a school with HCI as my discipline (most universities put user experience, usability etc under the umbrella of their HCI courses).

I am willing to find a job, internship etc.

However, the question is how?

The links I posted above and others do mention some places where jobs/internships are posted. I can google them out also, not a big deal!

How does a non-HCI person get noticed is the question! Not talking of big HCI giants like IDEO or Frog, even smaller companies are not willing to hire/take interns without a substantial HCI backing on the resume. How do you make yourself stand out to atleast get to the interview and not get scrutinized just at the entry-barrier level?

I can very well do AND have done couple of strong projects in the field of HCI, however to gain actual industrial experience, one would need experience with the industry which would require a job and/or an internship.

Similarly, people who are looking to target HCI for their schooling, would need to know of probably similar do's and dont's so that they can make their applications stand out.

So, can people here who have been through this phase share of how to do it (some tips) and not what to do (we have enough info. on that already).

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Understand that there's a group of related and overlapping fields of which HCI is only one: Usability, UI design, UX design, interaction design, human factors, CHI, front end design, UI engineering, etc - they're all overlapping and related and sometimes interchangeable. Don't limit yourself to only things with "HCI" in the title. –  obelia Feb 16 '13 at 22:14
    
Yes, I do understand that and I am completely aware of how they are different, and where they overlap etc. I just used HCI as the term, because if someone else decides to look for similar question, that is the first word they would search for given HCI is the umbrella used by most universities who teach such skills. Hence, the word. –  user22624 Feb 17 '13 at 10:32

1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Good question but a ticky one to answer :). Here would be my inputs considering I just broke into the HCI field a couple of years back or so:

  1. Understand that HCI is not about just graphic design or Information architecture or interaction design or user research. You could work as a developer and still have an active interest in human computer interactions or you could work as business analyst and still have an active interest in it. In my current team, I work extensively with program managers, project managers, developers and testers who all have excellent inputs on application design (both from an UI and front end perspective) and these inputs are supplemented not from any formal training but from their own experience of observing interfaces,understanding whats feasible and what their expectations of an interface are. So my first advice would be that dont limit yourself to just searching for UX centric jobs if you have skills in other domains too.

  2. Volunteer : I know you mentioned that you would need to get internships or volunteering, but I like to emphasize on the volunteering part as internships can be hard to come by. If you have time ( a few hours a week or so), volunteer your time in working with non profits in redesigning their site. Not only will this help you build your portfolio but it will also help you understand industry design standards and sometimes help you improve your coding skills too ( I volunteered for a non profit dealing with Cancer for about 11 months and it was an excellent experience as I learnt a lot about site design,working remotely with people,walking stakeholders through design practices,leading a design team and also HTML\CSS\Jquery). There are also a lot of open source projects which could do with a great deal of help from an UX\UI front and if you are fortunate enough to get involved in a well known project,its a boost to your portfolio

  3. Do some small projects : These projects can range anything from redesigning your favorite iphone app to coming with the design for a new app and then perhaps working with a developer to get it on the app store. Often in a portfolio for an UX designer, more than the final finished products, I want to see the thought process that went into it ( I dont just mean wireframes but also the logic behind why you designed the layout that way and why your user flow was a particular way and so on)

  4. Build a portfolio : I am sure you know this and there has been a lot said about but you need to get an online presence on the internet. Screening for any UX job often starts and ends with the portfolio and not having a online presence can hurt you. Your portfolio can consist of your volunteering work,your small projects and any other work you have done (remember you can break into the field from multiple domains)

  5. Blog : I'll admit I havent been doing this myself but this is a great way to show your thought process. Dont like a design? Dont like something about the interaction flow..Blog about it and present a solution which you think will work. Fascinated with designing for international audiences ? Research about it and write a blog. You might not get a job due to your blog but its a starting point to get yourself noticed and also something to add to your portfolio

  6. Network: I really cant stress this enough. The UX community is pretty small and if you have gatherings in your town which talk about UX, take the time to meet people there and just listen. You might not have much connections to make but you get to know people,collect business cards and if you make a decent impression, one day if your resume lands before these people they might remember you.

  7. Be passionate : While networking can show your interest, another way to build your credentials is to show your passion by being well informed about the subject and the changing trends. In that context, UX stack exchange is an amazing place and I would recommend trying to learn as much as possible form here while participating actively. Not only do you get answers to your questions but you also get a chance to analyze what difficulties others are facing. If you also achieve a decently high ranking it also helps (at times when you are talking to interviewers :))


From a perspective of trying to get a job after getting a degree in HCI (I am not going to into the arguments of whether getting a degree has value or not, I learnt a lot from my degree and it set me on the path to where I am today but thats a decision you have to take)

  1. Network : Most schools have tie ups with industries or alumni who have made it it fairly big in the field and who come to talk. Talk to these people,find out how they started, show your passion and impress them. ( I had a friend who got a offer to intern with Microsoft research because a HR who really liked him referred him to her friend who worked in MS - The HR was not even working for MS but a design firm)

  2. If your school as a HCI club or a UX club join in: This will not only broaden your horizons but also expose you to interesting projects and people who are working in those projects.

  3. Talk to your professors on getting involved in research projects: This might take some effort but if you can get going on a decent project which you can really use to sell yourself on your resume, you might just strike it big (a friend of mine did a poster presentation from a small research project in CHI and was selected to intern with Microsoft and is now working there full time)

  4. Look at internships with startups : The frustrating thing about some startups is that they might not be willing to pay which might be a deterrent to doing interesting work. However if you are very interested in what they are doing and think it will add value to your resume, think about doing it as it gives you some real world experience and also exposure to the fast paced life in startups

  5. Expose yourself to multiple technologies : One of the mistakes I made while starting out my career was to limit myself to just interaction design and wireframing and not being willing to learn to code or using Visual design tools like photoshop or illustrator. Fortunately I heave learnt them and I am fairly fluent in both wireframing tools and also Photoshop and HTML\CSS\Jquery coding which has greatly improved my value in what I can bring to a company and also what I can contribute to. Also the knowledge of additional skills will help you sell yourself better.

Hope some of this helps :)

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I have been reading this for two days and absorbing it; this hits me the most. After getting a degree, the points you mentioned are still very much within reach. As mentioned, I have done a couple of good research projects. I AM passionate about UX. I have already been active enough, gained a good amount of reputation in barely 2 months here. I still don't get how to network without something similar in my town. I have been trying for a year (which is less, I know) but still I would have expected atleast a hint of positive reply. Hence, the question if I am missing something! –  user22624 Feb 17 '13 at 10:39
    
what do you mean by a positive reply ? –  Mervin Johnsingh Feb 17 '13 at 13:06
    
Since there is no networking opportunities in town without a UX club/meeting/conference being held here. My point of contact has to move towards trying to get experience with smaller industry/design firm where I could potentially get absorbed. Not a hint of positive reply from that side. –  user22624 Feb 17 '13 at 15:45
    
Well its difficult to answer the question because the reason you might be getting a response is not because of your UX skills but the way you are selling yourself. Also if you are trying to get yourself noticed,i would recommend a higher online presence. On your profile I just see your email id which tells me nothing.Where is the link to you portfolio,linkedin profile,github profile etc ? Remember there is no magic bullet and you need to try different avenues to get noticed and enable them to find you –  Mervin Johnsingh Feb 18 '13 at 20:10
    
Yes I understand there is no magic bullet, I was just hoping for some pointers to increase the likelihood of it. The online presence makes sense. I'll try to focus more on it, instead of just passing online links via mail. Thanks. –  user22624 Feb 19 '13 at 10:36

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