Pathways in UX: Crafting your career

Pathways in UX: Crafting your career

When you are taking your first steps (and not so first) in the UX world, there comes a time when you ask yourself: Do I want to project myself long-term as a UX Designer? Where do I see myself in a few years? And let me tell you that it is the healthiest thing you can do. When in doubt, my recommendation will always be to "question everything". That way, even if you end up choosing to stay in the same place you are, you will know that you decided it with conviction and confidence.

I have the remedy for this juncture. It is about two factors: information and self-knowledge. As the word says, self-knowledge is something that only you can do for yourself, but I can help you with the information. When we have all the cards on the table, and all the possible options in one place, we can make better decisions. Your task is to think about what of all this resonates with you. Shall we start?

UX Management

Not so many years ago, leadership was the only possible path for professional development. Although today things have changed, we still need and will continue to need people capable of leading, organising, and, above all, empowering others.

As a UX Manager, UX Leader, UX Director, Head of UX, your main tasks will be to translate the needs of the Business into actionable Product and UX team deliverables. You will be responsible for leading projects and teams and empowering their members to develop their careers. It is important and valuable that you have previously had a career as a UX Designer, but it is equally important that you have your soft skills worked to 100%: active listening, assertive communication, negotiation skills, flexibility, organisation, leadership, tolerance to frustration... and the list goes on.

It is worth saying that in these roles you are very likely to design little or nothing, as your focus will be much more strategic; so if you are passionate about the day-to-day tasks, this may not be your ideal path.

Seniority and Specialties

It may happen that you do not want to migrate from your role as a UXer and that is also very good. There are other ways to develop your career, such as choosing a specialty. We know that within the UX discipline, there are roles such as UX/UI Designers, Product Designers, UX Content Designers, UX Researchers, or UX Strategists. Are there more specialties within these? Yes, and over time more and more, but let's distinguish only those for practical purposes.

UX/UI Designer

It is a hybrid role between Experience Design and Interface Design. The larger the company, the more likely it is that these roles will be divided. If you are passionate about working in Figma, componentising elements, designing interactions, increasing the fidelity of your prototypes, and creating and maintaining the design system, this is your ideal path.

Bonus track: Often, people who choose this path evolve into Product Designers. This role combines the skills we already mentioned with generalist skills: Content, Research, Business, Services, etc. In addition, they usually work more closely with launches, new products, or innovative strategies rather than maintaining existing products.

UX Content Designer

They are the ones in charge of designing the experience through words. They focus on the usability of the product, the flows, and the simplicity from a content perspective. If you are passionate about writing, thinking about the right word at the right time, empathising with people and understanding their contexts, and creating communication strategies throughout the process, this is your ideal path.

UX Researcher

They are the ones in charge of the research. When there is a problem, when something unknown appears, when the Business wants to launch a new initiative when it is time to listen to the users, this role appears to save the world.

If you are passionate about talking to people, problematising situations, getting to the bottom of the problem, and finding common patterns, metrics, and numbers, this is your ideal path.

UX Strategist

The person responsible for designing the strategy that must serve both the Product and UX team and be aligned with the Business strategy. If you have a 360° view, if you are passionate about being the link between the business and user needs, and if you understand how all the areas and processes are articulated, this is your ideal path.

Within each of these roles, there are different levels of seniority or ways to contribute to the company. The most well-known is the "Senior" level, but there is also the "Principal", "Consultant", and other levels. This brings us to the next point.

UX Freelance

This path is always a possibility, you can do it parallel to your work in a company or you can decide to be 100% freelance. This means that you will work on your own and that you will have clients to find, contact, and retain. The best thing about it? You can manage your time, set your terms, and choose projects, teams, and work styles. The downside? The same: You can manage your time, set your terms, choose projects, teams, and work styles. It all depends on you.

If you are passionate about self-management, have a holistic view of your work, and are a highly organised person, this is your ideal path. Remember to keep your portfolio updated and your LinkedIn profile active and optimised.

UX Consulting

Taking this path requires combining all the skills we mentioned throughout the article and having a lot of experience. The profile of a UX Consultant should translate those skills into clear insights that allow them to empower projects, organizations, companies, and even individual UXers. You will design strategies, train people, give workshops for teams, conduct research, design prototypes, and deal with clients.

If you are passionate about the corporate world as much as the freelance world and have extensive experience working in this area, this path is ideal.

Your career is more about the journey than the destination

Beyond the goals and objectives you achieve, beyond the satisfaction of having fulfilled them, the most important thing is everything you do to get there. Our work occupies a huge part of our day, which translates into a huge part of our life, and what better way than to enjoy the ride in the meantime? If you choose your path today and want another one tomorrow, that's okay. Pivoting is okay. Nothing you can do is waste time if you can turn it into a learning experience. That's also a skill.