Interview with a UX Expert

This interview was a part of an assignment for class where I had to interview an UX Professional to gain insights into the work environment, UX process followed in the industry and what does the future hold for UX professionals. I’d like to thank Mr. Varun Gupta for the interview, who was very patient enough to answer all my questions.

Finding people to do an interview was a difficult task because everyone is tied up with their busy schedules but thankfully I found Mr. Varun Gupta, who works for a big financial firm in the UX field. I talked to him about my assignment and he agreed to do the interview.

Mr. Varun Gupta is currently working as the Vice President in the Technology division at this firm. Our interview happened over a cup of coffee and it was my first time taking someone’s interview and I was very excited. It started off with me asking Mr. Varun about his experience at this firm, to which he enthusiastically replied: “ I’ve been working with the firm for around 7 years with a total industry experience of 10 years.” It was very clear that he was enjoying his work here. I remember him telling me one day, that he absolutely loves coding and even after reaching this position, he keeps doing it. I truly feel the only way you would be satisfied with your work is when you love what you do. Then we moved on to the Mr. Varun’s typical day at the office, what were his routine activities and responsibilities. He replied, “ A typical day for me consists of working with the various developers in my team, take their inputs to design and architect the new features for our system.” He acts as a bridge between the UX and development team. So, it is must to have some good communication skills to connect with your colleagues and the customers.

Mr. Varun told me that he mostly works with technology, which brought me to my next question, what kind technologies/tools does he work with. This was the lengthiest conversation of the whole interview. Mr. Varun’s reply to this was “ I focus primarily on the UI design/development for my team. I specialize in the.NET and web technologies and hence a major part of my day goes with their respective IDE’s designing, architecting and coding the software.” It seems like a ‘jack of all trades’ role except that he is a master at all of these things. This really got me interested and I started asking him about the designing process that goes into the making of the software. He said “We have a dedicated team which has experts to provide guidance on the UX design. We engage them through the design phase of the product. During the design phase, we try to remain as technology agnostic as possible in order to focus on the User requirements and system interaction patterns rather than being limited by the Technology options. We interact with our users and try to understand their interaction patterns with the system. We study these patterns and prepare the wireframes which are validated with the users and once designs are finalized, it is put to code.”

While talking about assessing the needs of the user community and user research, I learned that most of the software he was involved in, were being built for their internal users, their managers and analysts. In my view, there was no specific process for user research and testing. There is a continuous feedback capture from the user community in terms of research. Also, they usually make personas and use cases for portraying the user and discuss it with the software’s potential user (people within the firm) and find out whether it matches all the requirements or not. Even after the software is rolled out, the tweaks and changes are always going on, it’s an iterating process. According to me, this is a huge advantage in terms of time and efficiency of the software because the user is always there to discuss and give feedback, unlike for client based software where even after performing loads of user tests, we aren’t sure whether the users will like the product or not. We moved on to wireframing and I asked which tool he was most comfortable with. To my surprise, he said pen and paper. He said, “pen and paper are the best possible tool available at your disposal, you keep scribbling on it and keep reiterating the designs.” Honestly, I was expecting some fancy tool name but sometimes the most easy­-to-­use low-cost tools could prove to be the most effective.

I further asked him about some of the most satisfying elements of his work, to which he replied “One of the most satisfying elements of my Job is to see our software help increase the productivity of the users. A well designed and well-received software is a reward in itself.” No job is without challenges and when asked about the challenges his organization faced, Mr. Gupta replied “Uplifting a software or changing its behavior can be challenging at times as the user community is used to interacting with the software in a particular manner. It is critical to get certain things right in the first instance to avoid that re­learning curve.” But, the work environment at the company is very collaborative and tackle challenges together. The product development team and the UX team works very close to each other and work on the designs together. It’s a very open and fun environment to work in.

We were moving towards the end of our interview, I asked Mr. Varun about his educational background and he told me that he has a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He doesn’t have any formal degree in user experience. But, all these years of experience working in this field is more valuable than any degree. He also gave his perspective on the current job market for UX professionals. He said “Great designs and enhanced UX has transformed the software industry, and people recognize the importance of the UX science. In my opinion, the current job market is really great for the UX professionals going forward.”

As a student, I am learning a very streamlined process involving user research, designing information architecture, user testing. But, this interview has certainly changed my perception of UX and how it is carried out in the real world. Though it would be varying from organization to organization and I have to be prepared to adjust to all the practices because “UX in the real world is always agile! ”. Ten years ago there was no notion of User Experience, it was all making grids and buttons and figuring out the rest. The software we use today has changed significantly. User Experience design has become an integral part of the software development these days. The success of an app highly depends on the ease of the use of the software. For any modern app, a great design is a prerequisite and no longer an afterthought. I believe, that UX study and design has a great role to play in improving the software world. UX is slowly becoming the key ingredient in the SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) which can decide the success of the product. So hopefully, this is a good thing for me.

To conclude, it felt good to be on the questioning side for the first time although I would say it’s still a long way for me to reach Mr. Varun’s position but I’ve got keep working and someday I might reach that level.