Category Archives: Pure Michigan

History Continues

My work on the history of user experience in Southeast Michigan is continuing slowly and steadily. The biggest obstacle, unsurprisingly, is that paid work always takes precedence over the history project. Not that I necessarily want to get paid for the history project. It would be super scary to actually be obligated to complete it. I have to admit, though, it would also be exhilarating to have this work be my primary job.

I’m hard pressed to identify what is most time-consuming about this work, but my best take on it, in ascending order of time-consuming-ness, is:

  • Interviewing people
  • Booking interviews with people
  • Transcribing interviews and otherwise digesting what I’ve learned
  • Assembling a narrative from all this information I’m gathering

I do think, however, that the narrative will get easier at some point. I’ve already found that to a certain extent, some of my interview subjects have shed light on episodes that I otherwise have a handle on.

I still have to push further into talking to people about the post-2005 time period. I’ve addressed it a bit, and the oddest part of trying to write about it is that I start to enter the story after 2005. I’m not sure how, exactly, to handle it. I’m also pondering the issue of whether to expand my scope beyond the rather arbitrary boundary of Southeast Michigan and just encompass Michigan and part of Ohio. I know far fewer people outside of Southeast Michigan, but places like Lansing and Grand Rapids have had an impact on events in my home region. Also: How much do I talk about non-UX things like the local Society for Technical Communications and human factors work (such as in the auto industry).

It’s hard to say how I could ever truly be done with this project. Well, obviously – history has a way of continuing to happen. Even so, it’s hard to see where I’m going to call it “finished” if I’m working at this rate. I have no plan to abandon the project yet, but even if I do at some point, I suppose a half-finished history is more helpful than no history at all.

Ignite UX Michigan 2015 is Just Around the Corner

Not much longer now until Ignite UX Michigan 2015! We’ve got 12 great talks lined up this year. We’ve moved from Conor O’Neil’s to Live so we can try to accommodate the crowds we’ve had in the last two years. I’m super excited.

The two most important things about Ignite UX Michigan are that it is a free event and that we promote diversity in our list of speakers. Being a free event has meant that getting sponsorship has been important, and once again we have some generous support from companies in Southeast Michigan. Diversity is an ongoing project and I welcome feedback and, better yet, help in making that happen.

This year’s event is also taking place about a month earlier than in 2013 and 2014. That’s because, starting in 2016, we’re moving permanently to March-ish. That timeframe will probably be a better fit for involving students, although it’s going to make for a tiring sprint. It’ll be worth it, though.

If you’re in the area, I hope you can make it to the event! It’s free and awesome.

The Myth of the Shortage of UX People

There’s this pernicious idea out there that there’s a glut of UX job openings and a shortage of UX people to fill those roles. To pick just one article on the subject, let’s take a look at UXmatters’ “Why Is It So Hard to Find Good UX People“. It has such gems as:

“It is so hard to find good UX people because they’re scarce!” exclaims Tobias. “There just aren’t a lot of people out there who are actually UX people. There are not that many people coming out of the right college programs—for example, CMU, Bentley, or Clemson—and those few get hired right away.”

Or about about this:

“The first problem that I’ve observed is with the supply to demand ratio: there is so much UX work out there that those with UX experience get snapped up very quickly,” replies Cory. “Because of the supply and demand issue, I’ve seen employers who end up lowering their required number of years of experience. It’s simply too hard to find UX professionals who are super experienced. However, employers do not always recalibrate their expectations to match a UX person’s years of experience.”

I fully agree that there is frequently a mismatch between what employers are looking for (or think they want) and what they can realistically get, but that’s not exactly a UX-specific problem. What gets me is this idea of a “supply and demand issue.” I’d love to see some numbers on this, because from where I’m sitting, there isn’t any such thing.

Instead, I see an environment where UX people looking for full time work have to scour the landscape, looking for those openings. I see recruiters and hiring managers so swamped with applicants that they don’t even have time to reject the ones that they interview. And if you’re going to treat people in the community with such disrespect, it’s clear that you’re not really concerned about your ability to find more UX people. I see that searching for job openings in a single area produces just a couple of jobs at any given time, and the chances of one of those jobs being full time is slim.

Maybe this is a Michigan thing, and in other places there really is a shortage of UX people. I guess if that’s the case, I would encourage some of these companies that are hurting for UX people to come check out Michigan.