Paul Sherman

Principal Consultant, ShermanUX & Assistant Professor, Kent State UXD / Cleveland, OH, United States

The Unicorn Is Dead: Soft Skills Trump Coding Skills

Good news everyone! UX salaries are up and hiring is strong.

If this is the case, why do so many internal UXers feel like they have to fight for a seat at the grown-up table? Is it because we’re not unicorns? That is, we're not a UX researcher, designer AND front-end developer hybrid?

That's not the reason. The real reason is because UXers love to explore design and solution spaces — it’s what we do. Some of us even love or like to code. It’s never been easier with frameworks, libraries and so many proven patterns for web and mobile.

However, we’re not so good at a couple of things:

  • Articulating an experience vision, aligning it with the business’s product vision, and also subtly influencing the product vision through user research dissemination.
  • Keeping up the slow, steady, often frustrating work of organizational change and alignment around user needs.

So what’s the fix? We need to:

  • Learn how to develop implementable strategic vision and tactical action plans that align with the business.
  • Internalize the fact that at least half of our job is to be change agents, and act accordingly.

In other words, we need to develop our organizational influence skills (soft skills).

This presentation will explore this disconnect between what UXers think they need to learn, and what hiring managers and their organizations actually need them to do. It will also provide guidance for how practitioners can level up their soft skills and how managers can guide their contributors to improve in these areas.

Paul Sherman has worked in user experience since the days of dial-up. He is the founder of ShermanUX, a user experience research and design consultancy. He has conducted user research, usability testing and UX design for mobile, web and desktop in many domains including accounting; banking; e-commerce; financial planning and portfolio management; healthcare; mobile gaming; mobile device hardware and software; network, server and cloud application security; tax preparation; and travel, among others. He also creates and teaches graduate courses in user experience research and design at Kent State University, where is he an Assistant Professor.

During the 2000s he was Senior Director of User-Centered Design at Sage Software in Atlanta, Georgia, where he led efforts to redesign the UI and workflow for Peachtree Accounting and several other business management desktop and web-based products. He was also a User-Centered Design Manager at Intuit. In the 1990s he was a Member of Technical Staff at Lucent Technologies. Paul received his Ph.D. in 1997 from the University of Texas at Austin.

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