I’m going into my 3rd year as an official UX designer, although I’ve been practicing UX my entire career as a former front-end developer. How far can I go with my career if I don’t want to be a manager or director? Or will I change my mind in a few more years?
I think the same can probably be asked of any career path. I know that I agonised over this in my early days as a developer.
I think you need to weigh up the pros and cons. Are you happy to possibly limit your earning potential to ensure job satisfaction?
And yes, it could be that you change your mind in a few years. That’s cool though.
It really depends. Senior individual contributor roles exist but they are few and far between.
The thing to remember is at a senior level you’ll be expected to take on some of the responsibilities of a manager - leading projects, mentoring junior staff - anyway. It’s just a question of how much management you want to do vs implementation/deliverable creation.
Director is a whole separate flavor of vision and management than manager, though.
In the San Francisco Bay area, there are a lot of roles like this. Either Principal UX Designer or Architect. You really focus on craft, but you are expected to mentor other designers.
I would say you still have a ways to go if you have been doing the UX part for three years. These roles expect over 10+ years in a strict UX role.
As a career trajectory, you can also focus on industry or the depth of various UX niches such as accessibility. There is room to grow!