User Experience Recruiting needs an improved UX

Can’t believe it’s already the sixth week of my second-to-last semester in grad school.

I’ve been keeping very busy with the various projects I’m working on. I’m especially excited about the Android CDC App since it’s getting a lot of demand. I’ll be moving forward with beta testing and then a full-scale Google Play release.

Additionally, the job search has begun! It’s been very discouraging so far but not for the reason you may think. I have been fortunate to have pretty good success interviewing so far. It’s taken a lot of practice giving an elevator pitch, presenting my portfolio, and tailoring the content and layout of said portfolio and resume. I’ve practiced in front of friends, recorded audio and video, and watched these recordings to see what aspects of my presentation can be improved. I’ve thought about the visual, spoken, and written components of all of these ways in which we must present ourselves not just during an interview, but in the real world when we present to clients. Without effective communication, hard work and research’s impact may be lost. What better time to get even better at presenting ideas and projects than during a job search?

I am looking for UX Research and Design positions and am surprised at the current methods companies use to recruit candidates. Impersonal career fairs that consist of hour lines that culminate with a short “Apply online” command, recruiters who come to a school “only looking for one kind of major”, and ugly and repetitive online applications that candidates fill out when looking for positions are all too common.

I have often been asked during interviews to discuss apps or websites that have been well designed or poorly designed. What does it say about companies’ values when their software is generally well designed but the way in which they attract talent to build this awesome software is shoddy?

You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.

-Johann Wolfgang van Goeth

If a company treats its applicants poorly, something is clearly off since these prospective employees are the ones who ensure the success of the future of that company. If this is how companies treat such valuable assets, how do they treat others who do not have such an important role for a company?

No one or thing is perfect. There is always room for growth of an individual’s potential, a true testament to the wonders of man’s ingenuity. UX Recruiting, you can do better than this.


“Come Together”: accepted into Startup Semester!

Last year a new startup movement called Startup Exchange began in Georgia Tech that has grown rapidly since.

Each Fall semester they host the Startup Semester, an intense program that gets a team ready to take their product to market. Tons of teams applied (I think close to 40-50) and the top 10 were picked. Teams ranged from 1-4 people and included undergrads, master’s, and PhD students. My team just found out that we made the cut!

Read more about our app here

Next Thursday we’ll be meeting with a bunch of potential mentors who have a ton of industry experience and will help our team maximize their potential. One curveball the coordinators just threw at us is that the format will be “speed dating”. Each team will briefly pitch to each mentor and get to know them better. At the end of a few minutes the teams will rotate and talk to the next mentor. At the end of the event, mentors will vote on the 3 teams they liked the most. The 5 teams with the most votes will make the 2nd and final cut for the Startup Semester program, so here’s hoping we do a good job presenting our prototype and business model and that the mentors like them 🙂

I also finally have a much more complete portfolio ( I still need to finish creating a post for my master’s project work and for the wearable knee brace project. Hopefully this weekend I will have some time for that



Thoughts on Project Management

I’ve always considered myself to be an organized person. Project management is appealing to me because it requires an organization of people, ideas, places, and events. Grad school has been very enjoyable for various reasons, but the ability to gain even more experience with managing teams has been great.

As I mentioned on a previous post, I am currently:

  • continuing development of an Android app in hopes of getting start-up funding
  • working with the CDC/Georgia WIC to develop technology for developmental information distribution
  • working on an app with the experimental television lab to make television viewing more social
  • writing music for a video game set in the Ellis Island period of the U.S.
  • writing my own music
  • taking a class on information visualization
  • potentially entering the CHI Student Design Challenge
  • applying to full-time jobs
  • visiting my girlfriend once a month, which requires planning for ideal ticket prices and also planning when to do extra amounts of work since those visits don’t allow much time for schoolwork

Some general thoughts on what helps me keep track of all these things:

  • Software. Part of the reason why I switched from my iPhone to an HTC One is because of the seamless integration between Gmail, Google Tasks, and Google Calendar. 
  • Effective task list management. I list things in order of importance and have a daily tasks list for goals each day and week, as well as a monthly tasks list for more long-term assignments.
  • Planning each day with purpose. Right before going to sleep, I think of what I need to get done the next day and adjust my to-do list as needed. After I wake up, I shower and drink coffee and eat breakfast. During that time, I literally envision what it is I need to get done and estimate how long it will take me to get those things done. The reason why I do this the day of is to take into account how I am feeling that day. Some days are excellent and I know I’m gonna be super productive from the beginning. Other days I might feel sick or more out of it, meaning that I know I’m probably gonna lose 1-2 hours of productivity. Happens to all of us, but by adjusting expectations, I can decide how to allocate my time. For example, if one day I need to prepare for a meeting at 1 pm and work on homework due in two days, I would spend more time preparing for the meeting if I felt drowsy and put the homework off since I know I’m gonna need every minute due to lowered productivity. 
  • Envisioning each project with purpose. It’s hard enough to get your own act together, but it’s especially important to plan a trajectory for each team you work on. You need to get to know your teammates inside and out. What makes them motivated? How can you help them? How can they help you? In summary, you need to know how long it’s going to take for them to do a task given their skill set and personality. It’s your job to make sure they have the resources and will power to commit to something they can do and make good on that promise.

What makes a good UX researcher portfolio? Part 2: Presentation (Home Page)

In my first post about building a portfolio, I focused on the actual creation of a website for displaying your work. Having just finished redoing my own portfolio, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about some of the design choices I made.
To recap my last post, there are three essential components to creating portfolio content:
  1. Organization of the content
  2. Visual presentation of the content
  3. Textual presentation of the content

There are three qualities or features that each one of these should present

  1. Clarity
  2. Conciseness
  3. Context

As an example, I decided to change my home page from a “featured work” slider to the “about me” page for several reason. From my interviews for internships, I found that recruiters and designers do not benefit from sliders. Static sliders require extra clicking effort (why not just display all of the images next to each other?), and dynamic sliders are tricky because different people read at different speeds. It’s hard to time just how long a slide should be shown before advancing.

The main reason why I used the dynamic slider was to showcase my work. I also liked that it was something I had not usually come across in viewing other students’ portfolios. Most of these other portfolios looked similar, especially the landing page: a grid of small boxes with somewhat visually appealing images but no context of what the project is. I’ve already discussed why this design fails for a landing page.

In reflecting upon why a recruiter visits a portfolio in the first place, I realized that they are looking to hire the right talent. Part of that talent evaluation involves reviewing projects, but in the end, they want to learn more about the applicant and his or her design process. Changing the landing page to the “About Me” made my portfolio instantly more personable while highlighting my strengths as a researcher and my passions in and out of work.

Additionally, while I like my name, it is the Spanish equivalent of “John Smith”. There’s a David Muñoz doctor, musician, actor, DJ, teacher, soccer player, you name it. currently costs over $500 to name based on demand. Given these constraints, I need to make sure off the bat that a recruiter knows he/she is at the right page. I added my picture (same one as LinkedIn for consistency) and have my logo on every page as well.