There and Back Again: A UX Apprentice Tale Concludes (part 3 of 3)

Part 1  Part 2 sorcererThe end of Apprenticeship is nigh. The other day someone asked me if I got what I hoped through the experience. My response is a resounding “YES.” The Apprenticeship has done what it set out to do; help close the experience gap between people who are interested in UX design, and have a broad knowledge, to land that first UX position. Three of the four Apprentices have now accepted Associate level positions with The Nerdery, and one will most likely return after she graduates. Over 12 weeks we learned a lot, not just by doing but also through observation. I have been surprised by how much I have learned simply through observation. During one of my first weeks in the program, I spent several hours listening-in on phone interviews with target audience members. Watching my mentors in those phone interviews taught me valuable lessons that I will use throughout my career:

  • Be comfortable with silence, pause longer than you might in conversation, and allow the interviewee to expand on their original response – often it’s these moments that provide insight.
  • Ask questions, even if you think you know the answer. Let go of your preconceptions. People often respond with a different answer than the one you might expect (this actually blew my mind). I’ve been trying to use it in everyday interactions with my family and friends, and have been learning so much about them.
  • Being really different from the audience you are interviewing could be an asset (single male v. woman with children); it allows the interviewee to be the experts.

Other takeaways from the Apprenticeship: I talked to my fellow Apprentices: Heather Wydeven @heatherwyd, Claire Bailey @clairevsbailey, and Maddy Settle @MaddySettle, to get a more comprehensive list of takeaways:

  • Roll with the punches. There are a lot of things out of our control, such as project scope changing, or stalling.
  • Ask for feedback. Though you may be doing a good job, there is always room for improvement.
  • “Get comfortable being uncomfortable” (Shelly Wilson, author of Content Strategy for the Web). There is a high learning curve to Apprenticeship and we don’t know what we are doing a lot of time, and we don’t know what we don’t know. But as Fred Beecher said, “We can be confident that we are learning to use tools to help us uncover what we don’t know.”
  • Have clients sign off on assumptions – it can be a powerful way to communicate the need for research, and it also covers your butt if something doesn’t turn out quite right.
  • Get out of your head and share your thoughts. It’s an important part of collaboration. Even when your ideas are bad, they help move towards better ideas.
  • There’s more than one correct way to do things. Whether it’s your process, or decisions on using various methods at different times.
  • Analysis should be kept separate from reporting. Time needs to be allotted specifically for analysis, otherwise important elements and findings could be overlooked.
  • It is always important to have well-defined goals. Make sure you know why you’re doing something before you begin.

The four of us have grown a lot in the three months we have been here. We thank our generous mentors for sharing their time and expertise with us. Thank you to Fred Beecher and The Nerdery for being at the forefront of developing UX designers. We really can’t over emphasize what a valuable experience this has been. We started in diverse careers in theater, print, psychology, and advertising. We had returned to school for a second degree in design because we knew that being designers could lead us to a worthwhile purpose: empowering people by designing better tools.

About the Authors: Claire, Heather, Leah, and Maddy are proud to be the first participants in The Nerdery’s usability study of the Apprentice program.

Leah Honsey

Before Leah Honsey joined The Nerdery as a UX Apprentice, she returned to school for a second degree in Graphic Design after working for ten years in advertising and media. Her first job out of college was selling online advertising to clients, who sometimes told her that the internet would never catch on, and that people weren’t going to be buying personal computers.

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