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Andrew Stewart

Andrew Stewart

Akendi Alumnus

So you work in UX: What Do You DO?

Elevator Speech

Last night I went to the bank to renew my mortgage.  As part of the process I was asked what I do for a living… I gave a short answer, User Experience/ Human Factors practitioner, appropriate for the application form, only to be met with a fairly predictable, “What’s that ?”.

This experience got me thinking of just how many times I have been asked this question.  I have been working in the Human Factors/ User Experience field for 17 plus years.  This was proceeded by many years of schooling preparing me for my chosen career path.  During this time I have been asked countless times “what DO you do?”, to which I have provided many variations of answers, from too detailed, too brief, too specific, too general, only to be met with an awkward “oh” and a change of subject. It has taken me years of trial and error to refine my “Elevator Speech”; my 30 second clear, brief message, about what it is that I DO. My banter is now more succinct and compelling to the point where I get far more “tell me more” than awkward “ohs”, but still not perfect.

It’s Not Just Me

Think it’s only me that has struggled to develop an “elevator speech”? The Business Insider recently published a post titled “10 Jobs That Are Impossible to Explain to Your Parents”; their number 1 misunderstood profession by parents (at 74%)… User-Interface Designer.   They ask how you attempt to explain that you “help design the parts of a website or software application that people interact with”.

Under Cover Recruiter also published a similar post titled “LinkedIn Reveals the Top 10 Most Misunderstood Jobs by UK Parents”; their number 1 misunderstood profession by 86% of those surveyed… User-Interface Designer.

Bring “Your People to Work”

In Ontario, and several provinces in Canada, most of us working stiffs are familiar with “Take Our Kids to Work” day where, each fall, parents bring their children to work with them under the guises of providing career exploration; providing exposure to various professions and the workplace environment, with the hopes of providing some inspiration for future career path selection.  A worthy effort to say the least – but what about the rest of the misunderstanding population?

In reaction to the vast misunderstanding of professions identified in the work outlined above, LinkedIn launched an annual “Bring in Your Parents Day”, in hopes of bridging the gap and better enabling parents to give an “Elevator Speech” of what their kids DO.

Your 30 Seconds

As User Interface Designers and Researchers we can’t stand by and hope that other people will be able to explain what we DO better than we can. So it’s up to us… what’s your 30 seconds… what’s your clear, succinct description of “What You DO”?

What’s your Elevator Speech? We’d love to hear from you.

Andrew Stewart

Andrew Stewart

Akendi Alumnus


In the last week or two I’ve switched to “I design software.” So far it seems to work better than “I’m a UI/UX designer.” I don’t get asked “What’s that?” anymore. Usually that’s all my new friend wants to know. I still need a succinct elevator pitch for say, the new project manager that hasn’t heard of UX or usability. I think my sweet mom has given up on knowing what I do.

This is how I explained what I do to my Mum: “I am a User Experience (UX) Manager, which basically means I listen to what people want and need and then become the voice of those users when I design web sites and applications for them to use.” 🙂

It’s fun to ask friends to describe what I do. The best response I’ve heard is “make cockpits comfy”. Obviously my elevator speech needs some fine tuning 😉

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Akendi is a human experience design firm, leveraging equal parts experience research and creative design excellence. We provide strategic insights and analysis about customer and user behaviour and combine this knowledge with inspired design. The results enable organizations to improve effectiveness, engage users and provide remarkable customer experiences to their audiences.