Over the last couple of months, for a variety of reasons, I have been asked to state and explain exactly quite what it is I claim I do for a living. I have, therefore, in the last couple of months realised just how hard it is for me to s and e exactly what I d for an l.
After all, I’ve only been doing this job, if you can call it that, for six years. It’s simply unreasonable to expect me to know already.
No, OK, it isn’t. And I know I’m not doing myself any favours by setting myself up as a moron who can’t even give a name to the source of her income, never mind one of those elevator pitches I was taught to rehearse on my very first day of consultancy training.
But the thing is, I’ve been forced into it. It seems I’ve spend these last six years standing twixt a turbulent ravine (or more realistically, tumbling into it) as I try to bridge the gap between happily doing my job with colleagues who understand, respect and complement my discipline, and explaining it to those who don’t know UX from OXO.
It feels a bit like this:
Buns are hurled on both sides and neither actually knows what the other does, beyond a few stocks phrases and TLAs that are never explained. (Really, what is a GANNT chart? I’m still not sure I know. And doesn’t it have an H in it somewhere?)
In repsonse to this, I’ve been on the defensive. I’ll tell someone flippantly that I sit in the corner with crayons, or that my real job title is Solutions Magician, or if I’m feeling really generous, go on a rant about how nothing in the WORLD would EVER WORK if it wasn’t for us MATRYS playing attention to the poor users oh won’t somebody think of the children, as if we were the first tribe on earth to equate simplicity with happiness.
It sucks, basically and we should all stop it. Let’s actually believe that most people in an organisation are there for a reason (most), and recognise that just because we might not personally understand the precise machinations of their daily tasks, that doesn’t mean it’s worthless. Or, more commonly, let’s stop pretending that just because you only have a simplistic view of my role DOES NOT mean it is so simple you could do it your-bloody-self. (Sorry, sore spot.)
So, to kick things off, here’s a nice, neat summary of the role of a UX Architect (yes, I have finally reconciled myself to that title. Boo.):
Ah, well, yes. Like I said, I don’t actually know. I only realised this in the last few weeks when, due to a mixture of career development and a freelance role involving selling my skills, I’ve had the ear of people who (a) know what it is I do, and can probably articulate it better than I can; and (b) aren’t easily impressed by a self-depreciating joke, which is always my fallback in these situations. People want to know, not because they don’t understand, but to check that I do.
And I do, but I’ve never had to say it. Get on with it, yes. Produce results, yes. Write documentation, yes. Change the world, nearly. But never, ever, have I had to tell someone who is positive, knowledgeable and sympathetic about my role how I perceive and practice it.
Turns out, it’s rather hard. I fluff my lines, forget terminology, ramble on failing to make any point at all. Put me in front of a client who needs a reduced version, or a testing candidate who needs reassuring, I’m fine. But with someone who knows my role inside out, I end up sounding like the feeble graduate I think deep down I still believe I am.
So next time an uninitiated bod asks me what it is I do, I’m going to practice on him. Try and explain, properly, kindly and clearly. And probably bore him to death, but never mind. I need to practice and he needs to stop calling me crayon kid. Although I do quite like that. It puts me in my place.