What I've learned from y'all (an open letter to everyone who’s come to me wanting to “Get Into UX”)

This is where I tell you that Intro to UX Design/Research — our the first online course from UX Night School! — is open for registration. We start July 10, and I’m so excited.

But first, I want to tell you all what I’ve learned from you. And how this has shaped what we’re doing at UX Night School.

You see, I’ve been in Portland for almost five years now, and I’ve reached a point where I’m somewhat visible in the community and approachable enough. People (kinda!) know what I do, and it seems like they trust me enough to send their friends, colleagues, kids, former bandmates, et cetera — my way when these folks say they want to “get into UX”.

And over the past five years I’ve had the pleasure of dozens of coffees, beers and walks (my fave- ask me to take a walk, and I’ll almost always say yes) with schoolteachers, programmers, economists, modern dancers, support engineers, recent college graduates. I’ve come to think of it as an invaluable form of user research. I’ve met some lovely folks, answered some questions with more questions, and learned a bit about what motivates us all to want to work on making technology work better for humans.

Here are three big themes I’ve noticed:

We’ve seen what’s not working, and we want to improve it — Almost all of us use technology in our jobs, and very few of us have much control over it. This was certainly the case for me when I decided to quit my job as a librarian to go back to grad school for Human-Computer Interaction. And it’s often the case for the support engineers, teachers, and other folks who come talk to me. They’ve been supporting systems and interfaces that are broken, building workarounds, and want to make things better.

We want to work better together — Friends who manage teams will also come to me, often after a few drinks, and tell me how hard it is to hire a good UX designer. “They’re all talk!”, they say, and I shudder in recognition. Or they’ll complain about the designers on their teams, who “don’t know the tech” and “throw things over the wall”. Engineers will complain about building features that no one wants, and working on products without much direction. ( I call this “the echo chamber”). It’s hard to have the confidence to build collaborative process, especially when you’ve never done it before yourself.

We want better jobs — Sure, people come to me after they’ve spent years doing activism, making art, playing in bands, or taking time to care for their families, and are intrigued by the idea of a “tech job” that pays them a livable wage. (Who wouldn’t be?!) I also talk to a lot of folks who are great at their jobs, make perfectly respectable salaries, and yet want something else. They want to make more meaningful work. They want to connect with other people, to actually solve problems, instead of creating more.

I too want these things, and I wanted to find a way to offer folks in my community more than just ideas over coffee or commiseration over beers. So last July, I registered the domain name uxnightschool.com and started working on what would become the Intro Series workshops here in Portland. And immediately, I got the question — “Will you have an online class?”

The answer is, finally: Yes!

Presale registration is open for Intro to UX Design/Research, an online iteration of our Portland workshop series. The course officially starts July 10, and as is the beauty of online learning, you can complete it at your own pace. There’s also an intentional focus on community, so that we can sync up, connect what we learn and do, building strength from each other.

I’m not a technological determinist, but I do think that we can use the power of technology to make a better world for us all. Even if you’re “not a designer” or “not a tech person”, we need your passion, dedication, and collaboration in order to make technology better for all of us.

I hope you’ll join us. I’m incredibly lucky to be on this journey with you.

(on behalf of the awesome UX Night School crew)