Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

LTUX London: 10th Birthday

When I was first learning about UX, one of the things I did to learn more was start to attend UX events. Most were in London and some asked you to pay for a ticket. As a junior living outside of London this started to get a bit expensive, but I soon realised that an easy way to get a free ticket was to volunteer at the events. So I did.

I attended my first LTUX London event in Nov 2014 and I was hooked. It was such a nice environment, everyone was so friendly and the event itself was fab. By 2016 I was volunteering with them.

Photo shows a box full of mini cupcakes.  All in pastal colours, iced with the LTUX London logo on top

So it was a bit surreal to help organise and then attend the 10th birthday event this week! How has 10 years gone by so fast! I’ve gone from an admin who was just learning what UX was, to a Senior UX Researcher in that time.

What was even more special about the event, was the fact that all our panel members had spoken at LTUX London events in the past. It was so good to hear from them all again.

The event was held at the Marshmallow offices and sponsored by Askable.

We had two panels. The first looked back at the last 10 years, while the second looked forward to the future.

Sophie, LTUX London founder kicked us off, with a reminder of the last 10 years from her point of view, why LTUX was set up in the first place and the sad fact that it is still needed.

Then Katie Valentine, Head of UX Research at Marshmallow kicked off the past panel with Julie Kennedy, Anne Stevens, Remya Ramesh and Lizzie Kelly-Dyson.

They started by introducing themselves, and we quickly saw a common theme – none of them had studied UX and as a title or role it hadn’t existed. They had either started with some creative role like graphic design, or computer science. The other thing they all had in common was a passion for the work and the willingness to learn on the job.

Remya reminded us that we should focus on our strengths, not our weaknesses.

So did they think that we need formal training? Unsurprisingly they didn’t. Drive and passion can take you a long way. But it does help if you can find somewhere that will support you as you learn.

However, they agreed the courses available now are more advanced than they were, faster paced and with more links to industry, so it can still be a helpful path to take.

Have the challenges they faced changed?

They agreed that while there are still challenges, things have changed, mostly for the better. It is easier to get permission for research now, for instance.

But they felt the mixing of UX and UI has muddied the water a little over what UX does.

Linked to this, they are still having challenges getting buy-in and educating teams and leadership. But maybe this is a 'hard truth' and the education will never really stop.

Many of our panel had caring responsibilities and they talked about how this had affected their career paths.

They agreed that things had gotten better, but so much more still needs to be done. It seems it depends on how supportive your boss is more than anything!

Anne said she had worked a 4 day week for years while her children grew up and she can see how far ahead the chaps who she started with are.

And Remya spoke of how we can be good allies. We need to be inclusive to everyone, supporting all the needs by doing things like not setting meetings at school drop off or pick up times. She also spoke of how the LTUX events she was involved with in Australia, started running morning events to fit in with their community.

We could have gone on for longer, but we stopped for a break and birthday cupcakes!

When we came back together, it was for the second panel, Looking Forward.

Hosted by Gwen Jones, Lead Content Designer at Marshmallow, the panel consisted of Vennessa Bennett, Lisa M Moore, Lorisa Dubuc and Sandra Gonzalez.

Again these were all ladies who had never envisaged a career in UX, but had stumbled into it through graphic design, computer science and a love of content.

They started by discussing the changing roles and responsibilities within UX.

Sandra suggested that those of us in senior roles should join company boards to look down through that glass ceiling and influence ethical change.

Others could see AI coming and the things we need to do to prepare for it, but also how it will help us get rid of some of the grunt work.

But all were aware that businesses are really looking at the bottom line now and as we have seen, design and research have often been affected by recent layoffs – where companies can’t see their value.

Which led nicely into what are they looking for when recruiting and building a team?

Of course it depends on the level, but they need people who can solve problems and communicate well at all levels. They need to show the impact they have had with their work.

But they all agreed there were more important skills than having a degree. A good portfolio that shows passion is a good start. Typos and bad grammar in your CV/portfolio is not going to go down well for content or any other ‘details’ based role.

But they were aware that junior roles are few and far between and suggested it is up to managers to add these roles to their teams – giving opportunities and support.

Lastly they talked about AI and how it offers so many opportunities but we need to be careful. After all garbage in, garbage out.

There are so many things it can help us with, for instance research ops – scheduling participants and writing better transcripts and as a second set of eyes when looking at findings, but it is up to us to design these uses.

This was another panel which could easily have continued if we had had the time.

It was a great event and I think it was a brilliant culmination of 10 years of events for LTUX London. Organising the events can be hard work, but it was worth it for this one.

Thank you to all our speakers! But also everyone who took the time to attend the event.

Here’s to the next 10 years!

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