Rachel and Hannah are recent Pratt SILS alumni (2015). They both have concentrations in User Experience, and also held leadership positions in the UX/IA group (Hannah was the President and Rachel was VP of Communications).
In our conversation, we talked about creativity and UX design in the workplace, and how to promote yourself to prospective employers.
What have you two been up to since graduation?
Rachel: I’m working as a content strategist. I just started a new job with a company called Real Art. Real Art is a creative agency that works on a variety of projects and digital experiences. By the time I graduated from Pratt, I was already working for a smaller agency called Madeo. Madeo is a digital studio startup.
Hannah: I just graduated after this summer, and currently work as a User Experience Designer at an agency called Unified Oncology, owned by Omnicom. This is my first job out of Pratt. Before, I worked as a UX library intern at Columbia. I’m glad I had that experience.
It’s fantastic that you were both able to line up a job in the UX field. Rachel, what is content strategy, exactly?
Rachel: Content strategy is an umbrella term that can mean a lot of different things. In our field (Information Science), it refers to strategizing about organization of content. This can include wireframing, site mapping, figuring out hierarchies, or user research. I’m a writer, so that’s why content strategy felt like the right fit for me. The term can also be applied to writing/brand identity. At Madeo, my role was more similar to the Information Science definition of the term. At Real Art, I focus on communication/promotion, and do copywriting.
How does usability play a role, if any, at work?
Hannah: Many of my colleagues are not sure what usability, or User Experience Design, means. Since the other UX designer at work is also the go-to tech guy, a lot of people assume that I am also a tech person. It’s a common misunderstanding.
What is your work environment like?
Hannah: There is one main UX person in our agency, and I am now the second person on the team. The agency is new, it branched out from another agency owned by Omnicom. It is interesting working in the pharmaceutical world because of all of the different controls placed upon the designs. Right now, our sole client is a company that created a new medication to treat cancer. We have only one client because they hired the entire agency – this is mostly because of confidentiality. We have a website for a Melanoma treatment, and we just launched a second site for the lung cancer indication for the same treatment. The sites that my agency design are geared towards health care professionals.
Everything we do has to go through both the client and the FDA, so approval can take a while. This comes with tradeoffs – I have more free time, and am not overly stressed at work. However, it is also frustrating to wait for approval. There are a lot of UX elements we just can’t change because of the restrictions in the medical industry.
Rachel: Madeo was small, and everyone was super busy – as is typical of startups. The job was fast-paced and came with a lot of responsibility. Real Art is a larger company with offices in 3 cities, so a challenge is collaborating across different cities and teams.
Did you feel prepared for your jobs coming from Pratt?
Hannah: Yes, for the most part.
One specific term that was new is the CTA, or “call to action.” We didn’t discuss this much in class, but it’s used all of the time at work. It basically refers to what you would like the user to do from an interface. i.e. Hit the “Purchase” button, or click “Sign Up.” It’s the goal of the interaction (from the designer’s perspective).
Anything else you would like to mention about the UX world, or tips for entering into this field?
Rachel: My advice is to create a clear narrative for potential employers depending on what you’re focus is. So in our case the emphasis should be on UX and not on the library aspect of our degree when pitching yourself. If you’re focusing on UX and want to be a UX Designer, say that you studied UX Design at Pratt. The process becomes much clearer once you define the role you want (like my decision to pursue content strategy). You can start searching for jobs using those keywords, and you can design your portfolio so that it all applies to that specific realm.
Also – networking events. Go to them! I find that people are generally very eager to help. Meetup.com is one site you can go to and find events. Hannah and I went to one together, actually. Contact people and make connections!
Thank you, Rachel and Hannah, for sharing your experiences.
*Disclaimer – this interview was paraphrased, and is therefore a rough approximation of our conversation. The ideas above do not represent verbatim opinions or expressions.