Career switch from PM/ BA to UX after 7 years in software industry


#1

Hello everyone. This is Tina here, and this is my first post. I am glad that I hit UXmastery during the month of July, only to realise that its the CAREERS month. Yippee!

I am currently transitioning my role from a PM (project manager)/ BA (business analyst) to a UX expert, in my current company. I have spent past 7 years (in same company) doing sales, requirement analysis, customer consulting, wire-frames, project management and more. I was wondering if this experience is enough for me to move into a UX role, with of course some self reading/ learning over the internet. Or, do I need a formal training in the UX field.


#2

I’m a big proponent of the idea that if you can do the work and have demonstrated success, your level of formal training, degrees, and certifications doesn’t matter.

There are two big questions you should strive to answer positively for any perspective employer. Can you do the work? Can you be successful building functional UX?

How you go about proving this is different for different people, and formal training usually seeks to answer the first question rather than the latter.

In all honesty, I never had the time or money for formal training once I moved on from my college days. For quite some time, web development and my understanding of usability was a mere side business as I worked on my journalism career. When I started to think about getting into the field, I knew had to answer the “I can do the work” side of the equation a different way.

Fortunately, my previous job incorporated quite a bit of UX work, though my job title wasn’t anywhere near UX-related. I also volunteered my services for open source projects, and worked with a few independent developers on smaller projects to hone and prove my skills. By doing this, I was able to build a portfolio of real-world experience that was enough to convince my current employer that I satisfied the “I can be successful at UX” side of the equation.

It sounds like you have a similar situation in that you have experience you can emphasize and build on to prove that you can actually do the work. The next step is to prove that you can successfully apply that knowledge to real-life UX issues. If you have a portfolio of work that allows you to speak intelligently about your UX contributions to a project, then you have a great start. If not, you’d see a benefit of going through formal training that allowed you to build a problem-solving portfolio of work based off your school assignments.

Additionally, employers in general value real-world experience over classroom experience. If you need to go through formal training to build your skills and portfolio, you’ll want to make certain that you can speak extremely well to how your projects would translate into real-world success. The best way to do that is to get a mentor and discuss your classwork as you go, with a focus on how your mentor applied similar knowledge to real-life UX, what worked, what didn’t, and why.

I hope that helps and makes some sense. Let me know if I can clarify anything.


#3

Hi Tina,
I think you will definitely be able to be successful in a UX role. Getting hired, proving to a future employer that you are more qualified than other UX candidates might be tough, but if you are moving roles within an existing company I think you can learn all you need on the job, with practice.

The three things I think that UX designers need most are:

  1. Empathy. You have to get into the heads and hearts of your customers. Your PM/BA background should help a lot, although you’re going to have to shift from focusing on business goals to user goals, which might put you at odds with some on the business side of things.

  2. Common sense. UX is not rocket science. If you know your users you should be able to know whether an actual user would really want to use this feature or go through these steps to accomplish their goal. You have to be able to call out the crazy features that sound really cool but that nobody would use and argue against convoluted workarounds that developers propose because it’s easier for them to build.

  3. Knowledge of Design Patterns. Be able to know when to use radio boxes vs. list boxes, what a “blank slate” template is, whether to use breadcrumbs, tree navigation, and other wayfinding methods. Good UX design is the intelligent application of existing patterns, much more than inventing new ways of doing things.

Some links in the spirit of what I’m talking about:

Hope this helps. Good luck!
- Leon


#4

@dougcollins, thank you so much. It is truly inspiring and motivating to read your story. Your story gives me the confidence that I am not alone, and that I can do well without a formal training even - thanks to my past experience. You are right, I do have a rich portfolio of UX contributions made in my past projects (in my current organisation). I am going to collate everything in one place to make the most of it. Thanks for the lovely idea!! :slight_smile:


#5

@leonbarnard, this is very helpful. Thanks a ton! I couldn’t have asked for more. I am doing couple of UX projects at the moment, and these links that you shared seem to be very useful. :slight_smile: thanks once again.


#6

Always happy I can help!