How to Get a Job in UX Research: Michael Le

“I am self taught. It took me 2 years to transition from developer to designer. I made a lot of mistakes along the way. I think my path was slow and looking back I think if I had better connections I would move along faster.”

Michael Le

How to get a job in UX research is a series of interviews with UX professionals that served as user research in my career pivot from marketing to UX. In this post I spoke to Michael Le, Product Designer at Pivotal Labs and former UX Designer at The Telegraph.

I first heard Mike speak at a General Assembly UX meetup in February. I was struck by how down-to-earth and sincere his presentation (‘Delight with trust’) was – explaining the practices, boundaries and risks of unethical user tracking. He impressed the audience, talking about the seedy and controversial subject in an informative and funny way.

I invited him to connect on LinkedIn and met over coffee a few weeks later. By that time, I’d already shortlisted the questions I wanted to ask, having refined them based on the usefulness of answers I’d gotten from previous interviewees. Here’s the actual notes I prepared (interview script if you will):

Interview Notes

Interview Notes

We regularly kept in touch since that packed hour of questions, CV and motivation reviews. Mike drew lots of sketches to illustrate problems and solutions – another UX skill I was excited to learn.

The best thing about Mike is his no-bullshit advice approach and his empathy in sharing his personal career transition experience – from making processes “faster, cheaper” as a finance sector developer to designing for human needs in UX.

Finally, the most appreciated career pivot feedback I got from Mike was embracing the ‘fake it till you make it’ mindset – I highly recommend his article on how he created his first portfolio, when at the time he had no idea what he was doing either.

On Knowing Yourself

“Know your strengths, your weaknesses. Understand what the client wants and what the user wants.”

On User Research Questions

“Tell a story. What was the problem? What activities did you do to find or validate the problem? What are the results of your research? How do you want people to use this research moving forward?”

On Packaging Portfolios

“Mix your background in market research – using quantitative data (stats) and qualitative data (interviews), formulate design hypotheses or recommendations. Link how your market research and interviews informed your user personas. Or how your personas informed your user flow. With the user journey it’s good to see how all of the screens flow together.”

On Navigating Transitions

“Asking or convincing your bosses to train you in UX skills from scratch won’t work most times if it doesn’t enhance your current role. I tried to find tasks that I did as a developer (i.e. customer interviews, requirement gathering) and tried to do that in a UX way – this helped as experience when I eventually went for interviews.”

On Self-investment and Promotion

“There are many free resources online to learn from. Blog about what you do, because you need to be your own cheerleader of your work in addition to any other contacts you meet along the way.”