Member Spotlight on... Dean Birkett

One of the most valuable aspects of belonging to a community like this is networking and forming relationships with peers that have skills and interests that are similar or complimentary to your own. Because it’s my job to facilitate your socialisation within this community, I’ve decided to kick off a new initiative called [B]Member Spotlight[/B]. Its purpose is to introduce you to each other so that you’re able to connect with people of interest (or at least get more of an understanding of what other people in your field do).

Member Spotlight consists of a short, informal interview with a community member and will wrap up with an opportunity for the member in question to promote themselves, their work, or something that they are particularly proud of or interested in. I’ll aim to interview a different person on monthly basis, and it will generally be someone that has caught my eye by either being particularly active, engaged or entertaining (I can be bought with humour). I encourage you to ask questions each other’s responses.

First up was the 20th person to sign up to the UX Mastery community, and our most active member to date.

[SIZE=16px][B][SIZE=20px]Introducing Dean Birkett.[/SIZE][/B][/SIZE]

[B][SIZE=14px]What first sparked your interest in UX?[/SIZE][/B]
I’ve always had an interest in people, and looking for ways to make their lives easier. I come from a support background, and although the usual “Can you turn it off and back on again”, works some of the time, it is better to get to the root cause of the problem. More often than not, it is either a technical issue, or the user didn’t know what to do. Because of my interest in how people work, and the willingness to look for the root problems, UX became a good fit for me.

[SIZE=14px][B]Who is your UX role model and why?[/B][/SIZE]
I hate to use the UX catch-all “It depends on the situation” here, but it truly does. I read a lot of books that cover a wide variety of topics, from best practices, to forms, from content strategy to accessibility, and so the list of people I admire is ever growing. That being said, I was lucky enough to have a workshop with Derek Featherstone a couple of years ago, and since then accessibility has been something I have been drawn more and more to. The ability to shape products that can serve all regardless of ability, is something that is key to the UX profession.

[B][SIZE=14px]What is the dream project or client that you’d like to design the experience for?[/SIZE][/B]
I may actually be working on it right now! I have been working on some submission forms for the Europeana 1914-1918 website. The current forms were implemented without much thought given to the people who were using the form, and asking someone to fill out 27 fields is not going to lead to a good user experience. I have stripped the form to it’s bare minimum, moved it from one long form into many separate steps, have introduced a progress bar, smarter logic, and allowed the user to get instant immediate feedback - something that was lacking in the current implementation. Any project that allows you to take a step back, evaluate, and then test out other hypotheses is a good project for me.

[SIZE=14px][B]If you weren’t in your current job, what job or career would you choose?[/B][/SIZE]
I stumbled into IT Support, I stumbled into web design, and now I have found myself stumbling into UX. It’s a path that I wouldn’t change, but if I was to step back in time I would tell my seventeen year old school leaver self, that I should really do that college course - and not jump on the career path so early in life.

[SIZE=14px][B]When have you been the most satisfied in your life?[/B][/SIZE]
Leaving my job in the UK, and moving to the Netherlands. It was the boldest move I have made so far, and it has proven to be the best decision I could have made. Waking up each morning, looking out of my apartment window, and watching the sunrise over the Ij in Amsterdam makes me feel the most satisfied I’ve ever been, every morning, every day.

[SIZE=14px][B]If you could choose one superpower, what would it be and why?[/B][/SIZE]
Time travel would definitely be useful. That being said, shooting lasers out of my eyes could be quite a party piece!

[B][SIZE=14px]Lastly… do you have a site, a blog, a twitter feed or anything else that you’d like to use this opportunity to promote?[/SIZE][/B]
My website:
My twitter: @deanbirkett

Hi Dean, Hi everybody,

Very interesting interview. And I find that interviewing some members is a very good idea. “Cyber-Community spirit”, I like it.

As explained in my member introduction, I’m trying to get into UX field and I’m working as a volonteer for an association, to rebuild their website. But Dean explained he worked few years ago into IT support. Today, I’m working in IT support too and my question is: Dean, how did you manage to build your portfolio and become UX designer ?
For me there are so many things to know … Even if it’s really interesting (that’s why I want to become UX designer !)

What is your advice about where to start to build, quite quickly, a portfolio in UX design 2014 and be employed as UX designer soon ?

Thank you in advance for your answer and advice about this point.

Thanks again for asking me to do this HAWK!

Florence, I came into UX in a roundabout fashion, and I’m not joking when I said that I stumbled into it.

I taught myself web design, and used that to find myself a ‘webmaster’ position. Back in 2008 I had no idea what UX was, but I was doing elements of it underground, unknowingly. Checking ideas with colleagues, putting together prototypes on my own test server, and using these to speak to developers. (The whole UCD process and actually going out on the field was to come later). When I found out what a UX Designer was, and what they did, then I looked at my very out of date ‘webmaster’ position (what is a webmaster anyway?!), and suggested a new title to my company I have been very fortunate, and have been able (with my manager) to sell UX a little more into the organisation. It is still early days of course, but having a full UXer on board is a good step forward.

With regards to building a portfolio. I am a full timer at one company, so it is a little different. I have a cabinet full of folders from various projects, sketches, early wireframes, paper prototypes, user interview questions, printed personas, forms and the like. I also have folders on my Mac that are again split into projects, and contain photos, mockups, documentation. All of this can be used for a portfolio.

With public facing things I have my own website where I blog about things that interest me - I also try to keep Linkedin up to date, and my Twitter feed is usually UX related.

For yourself maybe use your voluntary position to get some things for your portfolio, also see if there are small companies that you can help? Alternatively, some unsolicited work on a problem - for instance:

Good luck!!!

Hello Dean,
I love the fact that you stumbled into the career or your dreams in a sense by your interest and opportunities prior.

[B]2 Questions[/B]:
How do you feel the previous roles that you’ve had, support your UX career now? Especially from the angle of being self taught.
Any regrets at all on the path you’ve made for yourself? I’m curious considering your ambition.

Thanks for conducting this. Its good to get to know fellow members and there background a bit better.
In a word full of tech and social profiles, its nice to know that others share similar stories.

Thank you very much Dean for your answer. And the link about Pete Smart work. Very interesting and inspiring.
Hawk, thank you as well for the link. I like David Travis UDEMY courses and advices.

I’ll keep you in touch about my progress in getting into UX (I mean as "a full time job "). :wink: