What are your thoughts on (career) specialising?

#1

Yeah, I do. It’s tricky because the flip side is that specialising makes you… a specialist. You know what? I’m going to split this into a new topic because I’d love to brainstorm it with others.

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#2

I’ve split the above out from our welcome topic because it’s an interesting dilemma that @vanessaddmacedo faces. While on the one hand being a unicorn makes you very marketable, niche specialisation makes you in high demand for specialist (and therefore better paying) roles.

What are your thoughts @Experienced-UXers

#3

I find that my specialism changes depending on the client I work at (I’m a consultant). Last job was almost exclusively interaction design, but this role it’s a lot more research. I guess if you’re in the same role for X years your responsibilities won’t change that much though.

#4

hi @vanessaddmacedo and @HAWK

according to my experience, the best skill for a designer, in general, is the way how she/he faces the complexity.
It does not matter the sector, the product or the role you’re working on, what really matters is the way how you “connect the dots”.

Let me give you an example, is you are interviewing users for collecting data on how to design a new model of a microwave, you probably will start asking questions such:

  • do you use a microwave?
  • if yes, how often?
  • what are the most common type of food you cook with your current microwave?
    and so on.

Well, this “framework” can be adapted for other products and services and for an online experience as well.

What I want to say is that if you keep working on the same product you expertise will grow, that’s a matter fo fact. Such expertise, IMO, is extremely valuable when you want to change your job, position or company. The angle you will bring into the discussion will always be linked with a specific way of solving problems.

I experienced this by myself, after several years designing e-commerce platforms I moved to the fin-tech scene bringing with me all the learnings from the past experiences. I could shortly start interacting with more expert people learning from them the business and sharing with them the design prospective.

Did I answer to your question?

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#5

Hey @dopamino ,
Yes, I’m with you there! I completely agree with your point. I guess what I have been feeling is that hiring companies sometimes don’t see it exactly that way - especially in the early stages of recruiting, before one’s truly able to show that specific knowledge on methods and tools can easily be applied to other fields… So what sometimes worries me is that this can build this early obstacle when it comes the time to pivot.

But I it does bring a nice perspective of knowing you made it :smile:

#6

I think you’re talking tangentially. By specialise, I’m not talking product, I’m talking niche skills.

Rather than “should I be a UXer that specialises in e-commerce?” I mean "should I be a UX designer or an accessibility expert/ content modeller/ whatever "

#7

The last time i was looking for a job, the recruiter said that for senior level roles, he looks for length and breadth of experience i.e. industry wasn’t particularly relevant. I kinda agree with this as after all, if you have the transferrable UX skills, you can apply them to any industry you would think.

You have the length of experience, but personally, I would avoid being pigeon-holed into a certain area and expand your breadth of experience, but that’s just me. I currently work in a tech startup and if I didn’t get stuck into all sorts of different areas of UX, research and design, I wouldn’t survive, but that’s the way I like it. Depends on the person. What do you enjoy and where do you want to go with your career?

#8

I see your point, I don’t believe in design specialties though.
I think every designer is agnostic, our DNA makes us problem solvers.
Of course, we can sit on a specific area of interest/role due to our education, knowledge and wishes.
IMO, this should not block us to try and opt for other “branches” of the design world.

WDYT?

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#9

I fully agree with you, I believe the problem comes form another direction though.
Very often the recruiters/head hunters are not very familiar with the design topics and areas, especially for the digital-oriented companies. Just check the job posts on LinkedIn, sometimes the role is based on the experience calculated in years, sometimes on the expertise in certain tools, sometimes on your portfolio and sometimes on the result of mixing everything.

I know, it sucks!
That’s why I have stopped updating and sharing my portfolio. If I am interested on a role, in the presentation letter I write that I am more than happy to run an exercise to show how I deliver design solutions.

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#10

Do you want to be a specialist? Can you imagine always being in the industry you’re currently in? (if you’re asking the question, maybe not?)

As an industry specialist the upside is that generalists can’t really compete with your industry-specific knowledge. As you mentioned, the downside is that it might be harder to leave the industry (which isn’t really a problem if you don’t want to or have to leave it). Is the industry specific to the point where if you left your job for some reason, it would be hard to find another role as a specialist?

Usability specialization can be applied to a lot of industries, so that might be a lesser concern — I guess the trick would be to write a cover letter that demonstrates that your knowledge isn’t industry-specific? Even when listing skills on a resume, I imagine you can write an industry-specific version and a more generalized usability-focused version.

If you don’t feel the need to change positions, but don’t want to become too specialized with your skillset… is there any possibility of broadening your skills within your current company? That’s kind of how I broadened my visual design skills into UX, I took on an interest within my existing roles and offered to help out with research, interviews, and other UX tasks.

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#11

great insights @Kris, thanks for sharing!

This is for sure something I have an eye on right now. I think it’s a natural step to start shaking things a bit!

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#12

I’m of the opinion that it’s best to be a “broken comb” person as opposed to “T shaped” or “linear”.

By broken comb, I mean know 3 or so things very well (advanced/expert level), and a little of everything else (either beginner or intermediate level). I think it’s very rare that a person likes only one thing and is only interested in being or doing that one thing forever.

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#13

That’s a really nice point!

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#14

I can’t consider specializing in a specific role is an ultimate answer, Th business is changing very fast and the ultimate lines between skills, specialize, and roles Tends to transparency, One of the things that must be kept in mind that It highly depends on where you are.

I mean in the Middle East, for example, It’s hard to be specific in one role and applying for this, my current role combines these tasks:

  • Stakeholder Interviews
  • Content Maker
  • User Interface Design for both (Web, Mobile)
  • Interactive Prototype
  • Brand Development for the web - a lot of clients comes with their business logo only.
  • Some time I step back to create Mission, Values, Define Target Audience and brand personality.
  • Dealing with front-end developers … some times I create SVG animation for them and searching to solve specific problems to apply my ideas in final front-end code.
  • Testing Apps after development.
  • User Research, Interview Users, Online Surveys, Card Sorting … etc.
  • Secondary Research
  • Competitive analyzing
  • Heuristic evaluations
  • Graphic Design including drawing and using software like PS, AI, Sketch … etc
  • Content Design
  • Writing proposals
  • Talking directly with clients
  • Estimating development costs
  • Some times creating front-end code
  • Creating, Coding, Managing Newsletters
  • A little bit of SEO and content design

So it depends on where are you? what is the business/technology culture you are working in and, Are you growing your skills? Also, I agree with @deaduramilade eaduramilade " it’s very rare that a person likes only one thing".