In the professional world, hustle can be a key component of success. To put it frankly, Sarah Doody has a level of energy makes me tired.
To say that Sarah keeps moving is an understatement. She is the founder of The UX Notebook, a UX education company and consultancy that aims to help people think like a designer. She’s a teacher of UXers, a writer, and a speaker, and a sage.
She even has a sub-4-hour marathon.
Sarah works hard to help get UXers off on the right foot in the next step of her career. She’s generously given our readers 50% off her UX Portfolio Formula course as well as 25% off her UX Portfolio Template and free access to her UX Portfolio Blueprint PDF
Sarah is also generous with her time, cutting a chunk out of her busy schedule to answer some of our questions.
How and why did you get into coaching UX professionals?
I created the curriculum for and taught General Assembly’s first 12 week immersive back in 2012. Since then I’ve created many other programs, trainings, and workshops. The focus on UX professionals and their careers started really with a problem … my inbox was FLOODED with emails such as “how do I create a UX portfolio?” and “how do I prepare for UX job interviews?”
I used to answer all these emails each Friday, and one day I was honestly tired of repeating myself over and over. So creating The UX Portfolio Formula was my first step at trying to help UX folks learn how to create a profitable UX portfolio that showcases their skills and gives them a foundation for how they’ll go about presenting their work for years to come.
In addition to the online program, The UX Portfolio Formula, I also offer more in depth UX career coaching where we work together for about 3 months and focus not just on your portfolio, but the full job search and interview process.
It’s been awesome and unexpected to now receive weekly emails from people who tell me they got their dream job at companies including Harvard, Google, Salesforce, Deloitte, Home Depot, Warner Brothers Entertainment, American Express, and many startups and UX agencies.
What’s the single biggest mistake new UX pros make when trying to get into the industry?
Hands down, not treating their UX portfolio like an actual UX project. You have to do your research, understand the user, identify what they need, and then actually take your portfolio through a proper design process. In other words you don’t just start designing it. You wouldn’t start designing a new product by jumping into high fidelity designers. First, you’d do research, come up with a strategy, and work through iterations of userflows and wireframes so before you ever get to the visual design.
In terms of getting into the industry, the biggest mistake I see people make is to not be proactive about solving the problem of “I can’t get hired if no one will give me experience”. I don’t buy it. That’s a problem you CAN solve! How? Well by being a problem spotter. Open your eyes and start looking for problems all around you. Then, be proactive and solve those problems. That initiative will be noticed.
Of course, you will still encourager companies that demand “real-world” experience. That’s a variable you can’t control. So focus on the variables in the hiring process that you can control.
You stay well-connected with the UX world with your speaking, writing, newsletters, etc. What’s the best tip you can give UXers on how to stay up-to-date with the industry?
Trying to stay up to date in the industry is a huge time suck. Unfortunately, and I hate to say it, but there is a lot of surface level content out there that’s aimed to get likes, clicks, and tweets. It’s draining.
To avoid getting burnt out on trying to stay “up to date” I recommend that you set aside some time on your calendar each week to actually read a few longer form articles, or watch a talk or two. But not just any talk. Try to structure your learning. So maybe make User Research your focus for October. This helps serve as a filter so you don’t get pull in all kinds of directions.
And, use something to organize articles you want to refer back to — Instapaper is a great one!
There’s been a lot of focus on the UX portfolio as an entity lately, but you maintain that it’s part of a larger “Experience Ecosystem” that plays into getting hired. What other pieces does that ecosystem entail?
Sure, the portfolio is important and is on a ped-istool right now it seems. But you cannot discount every other touchpoint in the experience of getting hired. The give key components are:
- Cover Letter
- UX Portfolio
Each of these must tell a similar story. Hiring managers and recruiters don’t go through these in a linear order. So you need to make sure that each of these is communicating what you did and the results or outcomes of each project.
Don’t forget that each of these are an opportunity to showcase your ability to write, speak, communicate, and present information visually — even if you aren’t a visual designer. If you’re a user researcher, you should still be able to put together a well laid out presentation. If you can’t, then how are you going to communicate your ideas once you’re hired?
You have the NYC Marathon coming up quickly! How’s the training going, and do you have any goals you’re looking to hit?
YES!!! It will be fourth marathon (third time running NYC). The training has been really great. It’s been 16 weeks of building the mileage. Last year I think I over-trained so I’ve been very careful in order to not get injured. The overachiever in me used to treat each run as an opportunity to get faster. But through my coaches, some of them past Olympians, I’ve learned that sometimes you have to slow down to speed up!
My goal for NYC this year is to not get injured and really soak it all in. I know what to expect, I know the course, and I just want to have fun!
Sarah Doody is the founder of The UX Notebook a UX education company and consultancy that aims to help people think like a designer. You can find her on Twitter @sarahdoody.