This is another report from Blok expert which is a series of weekly guest lectures done by experts from the fields of technology, learning, information, data, entrepreneurship, the web and related. It’s held by the Department of information and library science at Masaryk University.
For the last lecture of this semester, Berka from the company Kentico was invited. Their business is in developing web content management system. Berka started there as a first UX hire with a goal to build a whole team dedicated to user experience. Now he is a CXO – customer experience officer. And his lecture was sort of supposed to be about his story, about ‘UX out there’ (meaning in a commercial setting, in a company) and compared to the academic setting. But a slight change of plans happened.
Berka realized he doesn’t really want to talk about user experience today. But about life. Life out there. About what should we expect after leaving our university. What should we be prepared for. He poses a question: “Why are you here today?” and waits for reactions. The wait takes long, nervously long before few students utter some answers. He continues with saying that we shouldn’t waste our time if we don’t know why we’re there. That we should leave.
Introductory slides appear. With “What is out there?” in the title. 1. Colorful world – which in this context means you’ll work with people much older than you and later much younger than you compared to the monoculture at a university. 2. We have money but no time. 3. We’re pragmatic. 4. It’s about results. 5. Brownian motion.
Another pause. “Here’s the format for today: you’ll be directors – you ask, i try to answer.”
Q: Can you tell us about some differences between the commercial and academic setting?
The latter is a lot about grants. Paperwork and waiting. On the other hand if I take a startup or agile development, there’s no paperwork and waiting. You create a minimum viable product and just go forward. The two settings are incompatible. We for instance don’t have holidays.
Q: What other projects do you work on?
Catering. I like to cook. And my specialty is cooking with wild plants.
Q: Can you tell us about implementing UX in a company?
One of the most important things is support from above, from the bosses. If they aren’t convinced, it will be a struggle. Another thing is: when you waltz in and start preaching what’s right, people won’t take it. The process at Kentico started with few user testing sessions. And it turned out some people aren’t getting it – they are not able to finish given model tasks. One of the essentials is to build an excellent team. The best ones are mixed, guys and ladies together. They work the most efficiently.
Q: How did you evaluate the impact of UX?
We don’t have the financial results yet. We validate wireframes with our customers at our conference and collect lots of feedback.
Q: How is your lifelong learning going?
I always get excited about something. I mentioned the wild plants cooking. For instance the customer experience. It differs from the user experience. I bought some books to get into it and took notes about what I’d like to focus on at Kentico. I went to a customer journey mapping workshop. Frequently I go to conferences. Not really for the talks but for the networking with others.
Q: What skill you gained in the academic setting do you find valuable in the commercial setting?
One of my teachers taught me to say hello to our cleaning lady 🙂 Well, I learned to learn. I learned to work seriously.
Q: Could you tell us more about team chemistry?
From the beginning I always look for my successor. I like the principles of freedom at work movement. I try to be a partner not a boss. I don’t punish my team members for doing something wrong – they know it themselves. I support their independence, we just have a one-to-one meeting every week. With no rigid agenda, just some points to discuss in an informal way.
Q: What do you do when a team member is not doing a good job?
It’s necessary to find out what the problem is, to find the cause. I offer personal coaching in these situations.
Q: Is it hard to get into your team for university students?
I like to have a wide variety of people there. Including students and fresh graduates. During the job interview, you need to show what have you done, what have you created. University credits don’t mean much.
Q: What qualities should good UX designer have?
I don’t know about anything universal everyone should have, it’s a very broad field. It depends on what you want to focus on – wireframing, user testing, design research, … But I think empathy might be the common one. And right fit for the team and the company.
Q: How big is your team?
We’ve got 6 people. But I think everybody in the company should be a UX designer. Developers should have a sense of what it’s about. It’s said that 10% of the budget should be dedicated to UX, which means for every ten people, there should be one UX person. At least during the development phase.
Q: What state is czech UX in?
How many of you have you heard about UX for the first time today? (Almost no one is showing his or her hand.) You see? People now know what it is. It’s quite a boom actually. Companies started to look for UX designers in large.
Q: Can you imagine doing UX for a sweet shop?
Absolutely. Mr Pohlreich did that for restaurants. Even though it wasn’t called UX of course. (My bachelor thesis was actually about terminology of user experience design and related areas.)
Q: Can you give us an example of UX in libraries?
For instance the software which is used there. You can create personas for a library. Accessibility issues.
Time is up!