How can I learn from experienced UX professionals? UX Question #13

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Anson from Dickson, Tennessee, asks: how can I learn from experienced UX professionals?

I love that question. Thanks for asking, Anson. This is UX Question number 13 and I am Ben Judy.

How can I learn from experienced UX professionals? I’ve answered previous questions about the best way to learn about UX and where to find a good UX mentor.

But I like the way this question is phrased, how can I learn from some pros? It made me reflect on the ways I have learned from other, seasoned professionals throughout my career. What did I do, perhaps even unknowingly, that enabled me to learn from them? I came up with a few tips.

First, have deep conversations. UX pros love to talk about the intricacies of our work. We love to answer questions and dissect the problems inherent in our work. And the gnarlier and more tricky the problem, the better. So ask UX pros questions like, “what’s a big challenge you’ve faced recently in your work? What made that so challenging?” And dive into the deep end of the pool. You’re bound to learn something there.

Second, connect in community. Join Slack and Discord communities. Go to meetups and conferences and don’t just ‘attend.’ Ask questions. Engage people in conversation in the hallways, over lunch, over dinner. Seek out professional communities that foster great conversations among the participants. Find your tribe.

Third, learn from the failures and struggles of seasoned UX professionals. What did they screw up that they would do differently next time? What was harder than they expected it to be when they started a project in the past? These conversations will teach you more than their successes and what went well.

Fourth, have them show you their work. We don’t do this enough in our field. And yeah, there are issues of privacy and proprietary information that belongs to the company or the client, so it isn’t always possible for a designer to show their work. But seize every opportunity to put your eyes on real artifacts and processes and see how others actually do their day to day work.

Tip five, learn their shortcuts. Early career UX people think they need to do every step of the design process exactly as they were taught, but experienced pros know when to skip a step or do something in a hasty fashion, without affecting the overall outcome.

Finally, learn from how they learn. The best way to learn UX is with whatever method of learning works best for you, but to fully explore those options, ask others how they build their knowledge and do ongoing professional development.

Hey, if you want to learn from experienced UX pros, it all starts with asking a good question. Keep ‘em coming.

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