For this edition of FFS, we're delighted to be joined by UXer and Sputnik Education founder Ruth Vakrat.
If you're new to FFS, otherwise known as Futureheads Five Stories, this is a regular interview series where we speak to people who have interesting stories to tell.
And we couldn’t resist the acronym.
What’s the story of your career so far?
I started as an animator in the games industry and transitioned into UX about 10 years ago. It happened after I started reading about UX, and witnessed how well the methods worked in solving real development and product problems. The more I learned about UX the more infatuated I became. I have been learning more with each project I delivered and got to travel around the globe for user research and work on projects for clients like Microsoft, Barclays, Jaguar Land Rover, UK Government and more.
What advice would you give to yourself when you were just starting out?
Stop being so nervous all the time! Just enjoy it. I used to approach every UX project like it might be the last thing I'll ever do so I should do it perfectly. This approach as you can imagine is not very healthy and leaves little room for fun so I would say to myself just relax and enjoy it!
What do you love most about what you do?
UX is a unique profession - it's about discovery and about continuously building solutions that make people lives better. The process of discovery and improvement is such a positive spiral upwards. What more can you ask for? You are always improving. You dive-in very deep to understand the business and your users, the way they think and work, what their goals and needs are, and then you design a solution that answers those needs. It is hugely satisfying, and I honestly believe that if you are practising both the Discovery (research) and the Design, it creates terrific balance and turns UX into one of the best professions on earth.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
Don't be afraid to be curious.
UX is built on questions. Ask the project leads, the clients, the users, the team members. The more you know, the better your work will be. Ask in a structured way (during research) and ask spontaneously.
And if you think that people might perceive your question as obvious or stupid then know this: if you want to ask it, it's not obvious, and it's not stupid because you are not stupid (and generally I believe that there are no stupid people, but that's a different story).
So here is my most important lesson - ask more questions.
What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge in our industry over the next twelve months?
I think UX is facing a big identity challenge currently. And I believe its crucial time for our profession. UX in its essence was created to help build amazing, user-centred, informed products that are viable and profitable. To achieve that UX designer should be able to go out and strategically engage with companies, stakeholders, roadmaps and users. To have a solid continuous plan for this. Only then UX really lives up to the purpose it was created for. Business leaders and CEOs should see us as their most trusted advisors when it comes to users needs and future vision. But it won't happen until UX Designers build the skills and the confidence to do those things. If that doesn't happen we are in danger of UX slowly turning into wireframe-printing, UI-polishing profession and we will lose the credibility we have as this amazing secret sauce to every product's success.
A little bit more about Ruth
My name is Ruth, and I am a UXer and the founder of Sputnik, a school for Advanced Tech skills that train through Project Based Learning (PBL) method. In Sputnik, we believe that to build new skills we should learn by DOING. We are aligning projects from real companies for our students and support them with coaching and mentoring through the project. We have short coaching programmes for UX professionals that want to pick up a specific skill or build their confidence in working with stakeholders. And we have a year-long programme for those who want to start in UX during which we build the student from the ground-up.
The main benefit of our programme is that students complete real-life projects during the training that they can add to their CVs and portfolios or start applying the skills immediately in their workplace.
Want to take part in our FFS series? Say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org.