Having just recently celebrated my 4-month anniversary with Adaptive Path, I’ve found myself in a state of reflection on my experience as a “newbie” here. While everyone I work with has been great, the work has been compelling, and I am enjoying every moment, I recognized that I was not reaching my full potential as a practitioner and offering what I was hoping I could deliver.
Was it nerves? Was it because I was in a new environment? Or was it because I am one of the younger (at 24) and less experienced practitioners here and I was feeling under-qualified? Or am I just being ridiculous and no one even notices? A word of warning, working with brilliant people can definitely cause moments of self-doubt.
[Rae's new little one, holding a Sharpie. Future designer? Photo by Rae Brune]
Trying to find the root of the cause made me wonder if maybe I am not alone in feeling this way. Maybe I’m not the only practitioner who is relatively fresh in her career, or who just transitioned from in-house to consulting wondering where she fits and the value she brings to this new world of UX. I promise this post is not an exploration into my own personal insecurities, but rather a conversation starter about the age gap between young practitioners who were “schooled in UX” and the more experienced practitioners who found their way into UX in a less direct way.
Being a young practitioner, having worked only in-house before Adaptive Path, and having been “schooled in UX,” I wonder how different my (and others like me) perspective really is from the practitioners who have worked in the design industry five or ten+ years longer than I have. Are we bringing anything new to the table? Are we approaching problems differently? Are we offering anything valuable because of our age, our (lack of) experience, and our education? Having grown up in a very different world—digital natives with devices attached to our heads since childhood, teens trying to “find ourselves” and deal with the awkwardness of puberty while the world experiences disruption after disruption (Y2K, 9/11, economic crises)—maybe we were “raised” to become UX designers.
Ok…maybe this is getting a little too “Brave New World.”
I think the important thing here, especially for those who cannot agree or relate to me, is that I recognize our naivety and understand humility is necessary for young practitioners to learn and succeed. I’m not trying to be an asshole. But as I’ve found myself grappling with the question of legitimacy, I’ve started to realize that we’re all relatively new at this. As young practitioners are trying to prove their worth within UX, UX is trying to prove its worth within the world—in organizations, new industries, etc. While the “experienced crowd” may have been in some sort of design discipline the past ten years and have amazing experience working with clients, when it comes to process and results, we are all still trying to figure out experience design (and even service design) and its measured impact on the world.
Maybe my “age” shouldn’t be my disadvantage, but actually my weapon. Are any of you having similar thoughts about this? Your age doesn’t really matter (even though that’s the topic of this post), but if you're older and have been at this awhile, have you had any thoughts or observations on young practitioners you work with? If you are new to UX, are you having similar questions or doubts?
I’m interested to see if this really is a common discussion or personal reflection in the design world. I’ve posted a survey here. If you have a moment, it’s only a few questions and your feedback will be very appreciated.