Each month we introduce you to one of our Mentors and ask them a few questions about their career and thoughts on UX.
This month we talked to Lisa Marie-Ortega…
I own three UX businesses:
Keep It Usable (keepitusable.com) is a User Experience (UX) agency. We use psychology, research and behavioural science to design services and products that are highly successful. Much of our work is focussed on digital user experiences (websites, apps, software), working throughout the development process to design concepts, and build prototypes that we test with customers to guarantee success upon launch. We also conduct focussed projects to increase business KPIs through improvements to their digital platforms. We spend a lot of time uncovering how people think, feel and behave, then translating these insights into designs that resonate and persuade customers to act.
Home UX Lab (homeuxlab.com) is a Manchester based UX lab, designed to replicate the cosy and relaxing feel of the home, combining the benefits of ethnographic research with the scientific rigour of a lab.
I Need Users (ineedusers.com) is a participant recruitment company dedicated to UX research. My own frustrations with recruiters drove me to set this up. We have much quicker recruitment times that fit in better with quick, iterative tests that us UXers need to so. We also have extra screening processes to ensure a better fit and higher attendance rates. We very rarely get dropouts.
How did you start your career in UX?
I remember being very young, trying to program the video recorder and being totally perplexed as to how clever engineers could make something that’s so difficult to use. I studied sociology at A level and that enticed my interest in Psychology. So, when it came to University I chose to do a BSc in Computing and Psychology – at the time I was really interested in understanding what makes people addicted to computers and video games. When I graduated, back in the early 2000s, you needed a Masters to even get an interview for a usability job (UX didn’t exist back then). I did manage to get a couple of interviews but it became clear I needed the Masters. So I bit the bullet and funded myself (by working full time) through a Masters in Human Factors and Ergonomics. The plan worked and upon graduating, I was immediately offered a ux design job at Xerox and a usability/research role at Sony Ericsson. Of course I took the more sexy option of mobile phones over photocopiers! 🙂
What is a typical day for you?
There is no typical day when you run your own business or work in UX, but I’ll try my best to share what I typically do.
I walk to work in the morning, unless I’ve got meetings and need to drive, then the first thing I do is eat and drink coffee (I can’t do anything until I have a coffee!). I check my calendar, emails, social media and any notes I made at the end of the previous day so I know how to schedule my day. Mornings are busy and usually consist of team / client meetings, creating proposals and I might be hands-on, carrying out research or working with a designer to add some psychology and user insight into their work. For lunch, i like to get away from the computer and take a walk around Media City which is where we’re based. It’s beautiful and very calming as it’s by water – it’s a great way to re-set your mind and energy. The afternoon is usually equally as hectic with writing, negotiating, as well as doing project work. Sometimes this carries on until the early evening.
Then in the evening I might go to a yoga class or spend a little time reading. I usually read a Psychology related book (at the moment I’m reading Pre-suasion by Cialdini). I also spend a bit of time just before bed using the Calm app to meditate. I finish the night by falling asleep to one of their sleep stories.
What do you recommend to someone who wants to start a career in UX?
Be prepared to learn and work hard.
I still do both of these things. In our industry things change every year so you have to keep on top of technology trends, changes in consumer behaviour, the latest research findings, changes within terminology and methods (e.g. ‘jobs to be done’ is trending right now) and real user behaviour.
Be different and go above expectations.
It’s hardest at the start as you have no experience, so you have to think of ways to make yourself stand out. When I was a student I used to volunteer at lots of conferences and events so that I could gain experience, meet people and attend great conferences for free! When I look back now, I realise how good this must have looked on my CV. It shows that you’re willing to put in extra effort to help your industry and better yourself, in your spare time, expecting nothing in return. Employers love this!
What is the best advice you have received in your career?
My manager at Sony Ericsson taught me the ‘JFDI’ approach to life and work. JFDI stands for Just F*ckin Do It. Rather than procrastinating, doubting yourself, thinking too much about things, talking yourself out of doing something, you should just go ahead and do it! There is science behind how this approach works. It’s only when you try something new and step outside of your comfort zone that you will ever become comfortable doing something (your brain builds new connections). It’s a catch 22 and you need to take that initial leap of faith to get anywhere.
What is the future of UX for you?
I think the first thing we need to consider is whether UX will stay as it is or whether it will branch off. There’s a great deal of disagreement and misunderstanding of the term UX at the moment and such a diverse range of skill levels that something needs to change to make it easier for everyone to understand what UX is and the differences between practitioners. We have people from all kinds of backgrounds who have entered UX – some have done this through a simple change of their job title and little or no training. Then we have the other extreme of people who have Masters, PHDs and many years experience. They all come with their differing opinions of what UX is and the skill level required. It’s difficult for employers and buyers to know what they’re buying, it’s complicated for those new to UX to know where and how to begin learning… I’d love to see the UXPA introduce accreditation to help with this (hint hint guys!).
What’s your inspiration and motivation?
My inspiration for working in UX is that I want to make the world a better place. Years ago, experiences with technology were mostly awful! I made it my mission to help as many companies as possible to better the experiences that users have with their products and services.
I think it’s incredibly important to give back. In my spare time I volunteer at the RSPCA and Royal British Legion. I think being a mentor with the UXPA is incredibly important and I wish it was available when I was just starting out in UX.
I’m genuinely happy to help anyone. If you would like me to speak at your event / company, appear in your book / article, if you need career advice, want to interview me or need my help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.