Why the UX industry need junior designers now more than ever
I'm back! Stronger, wiser and sharper. Been away from blogging for 8 months, this is my first blog post ever since and I would love to share my thoughts on what's happening in the world of UX.
For starters, let's start by addressing the elephant in the room, err, blog, whatever. Anyone who's been through the rigorous UX interview process as a junior / mid level would easily relate with this. It's something I like to call 'the experience gap', which results in the lack of UX design / research roles for junior designers and fresh graduates or lowers your chances of landing a generic UX designer role. Most jobs you see on job sites are targeted to senior / lead designers or expect you to have experience leading a team of designers or be the brainchild behind designing a successful product end-to-end, leaving entry-level designers high and dry of avenues to apply their skills in a professional environment.
Another instance of this problem is when you apply for a role that requires 3-5 years experience (mid-level), get interviewed but not selected as the company tells you they selected someone with more experience.
Recruiters and hiring managers can feel vindicated because UX thrives on experience. In fact, more experience equals better decision-making, more creativity and sharper leadership skills. And all this makes complete sense as UX is a field that's slowly yet incessantly gaining momentum with many companies yet to understand its importance and build dedicated UX teams with solid frameworks and design processes.
In my experience, a tech startup (up to 200 people) would have 1-2 Lead Designers for every product or a 1:8 designer-developer ratio. A mid to large size (up to 2000 people) company would have 3-5 Designers per team or a 1:5 designer-developer ratio. This also depends on the product, industry and the how much the company is willing to invest in design. I have also had companies tell me "Our developers do the design" which makes no sense.
However, companies also need to realize that there will always be a necessity to create better, customer focused products and then the need for creativity will follow. And that is where junior designers can play a part. Many of these designers I have come across, have graduated from the country's most prestigious universities' design schools and boast of a portfolio full of interesting projects spanning the IoT, voice-driven apps, AR/VR, robotics and cryptocurrency. The design schools ensure these students learn UCD and have a curriculum that helps nurture design-thinking. For all I know, they deserve at least a chance at the interview. They deserve an opportunity to understand what the industry expects of them and what they need to do to prepare themselves well for the next challenge.
Let's compare design roles to software development roles. A decade ago, software developers were in a similar situation. But to satiate the increasing demand, companies began hiring junior developers and filling the gaps. The continuous influx of development roles followed -Java, C++, Ruby, SQL, Full-Stack, so many of them and so did the number of dexterous developers filling these roles. These developers later went on to become professionals - solution architects, consultants and project managers who knew the stack like the back of their hand, were confident enough to take on any challenge and bold enough to make decisions and take calculated risks.
What companies need to realize is that the junior designers of today will become the UX leaders of tomorrow. With the advent of voice driven devices, fluid user interfaces and AI; the demand for good design, and better designers, will be higher than ever and we'll need new ideas, fresh opinions and young blood to adapt to change, transcend boundaries and transform technology.
Fret not junior designers, the design industry is crazier than ever, and it's just a matter of time till we see dedicated design teams with indigenous design frameworks and a solid team taxonomy in every company. Good luck!
P.S - I plan to amp up my blogging frequency and write one blog post per week. These posts will focus primarily on my experience and personal views on the design interview process, things they won't teach you in design school, how the design industry would need to adapt to the recent technological advances, why Google and Amazon are owning the UX market (specially voice) today and many more. Stay tuned for more.