Mags Hanley is a career coach, mentor and trainer, based in Melbourne Australia. She has worked in UX for over 25 years in the US, UK and Australia. Her passion is to help UX professionals find into the roles that suits them best.

She works with primarily with senior practitioners moving into leadership, and senior women defining their role for the next phase of their lives. She has recently launched a new 8-week programme The Way Forward for senior women in digital.

You can connect with Mags on LinkedIn or read her latest blogs on her website.

What’s the story of your career so far?

I started in digital when it was called Multi-Media. I fell into the work, having trained as a librarian and graduated in a recession – no grad positions for me!

My first role was at Yellow Pages in Australia as a Cybrarian – so 1990s. As we were all making it up, I asked if I could look after the search engine, because I knew how people searched – and my career as an IA started.

I’ve lived and worked in the US and UK for 15 years, and have been back in Australia for 5 ½ years.

My career has been varied; an IA, project manager, product manager, Head of UX, Executive Producer, Consultant. The one I love the most is Career coach, Mentor and Trainer.

In the last year, I have developed a practice supporting senior practitioners move into leadership, and women in Design to thrive in their careers.


What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt over the course of your career?

Be authentic and true to yourself!

I love managing people and products, and seeing both grow, but I have struggled all of my career managing up. I’ve improved over time, working relationships with the mostly male leadership, but this has been my greatest weakness.

To move into the higher levels of digital management I felt I wasn’t myself; I had to be less emotional, female, and kind. I left my last job feeling disheartened, stressed and unconfident in my skills.

I saw Brené Brown speak a week after leaving that job, and did the Value assessment. I realised I was not living my values of authenticity and kindness. So any new opportunity must match my values.


How can organisations ensure they thrive, rather than simply survive, as they attempt to return to a ‘new’ normal over the next few months?

There are a number of realisations for organisations:

  1. The commute to the inner city office is wasted time – people love the extra time with their families.
  2. Knowledge workers can be productive working from home. I’ve had a number of bosses who have actively discouraged it, thinking we were skiving off.
  3. Child care and flexibility is important to keep women in the workforce. The burden of looking after children intensified as women worked from home.

To thrive, organisations should look at what worked well – with their staff – and leverage it.

They should:

  • Plan for the majority of staff to work from home
  • Reimagine work spaces as distributed hubs where people come in collaborate
  • Find the best online tools for collaboration
  • Provide support for their team’s mental health
  • Used the money saved from corporate office leases to include child care in their benefits packages


You’ve recently written a blog about the challenges faced by women in UX and in particular by those women who are well into their careers – can you tell us more about that, and how women can really exploit the opportunities available to them in the digital workplace?

Many of my peers have been 20-25 years in digital; we are now considering what’s next. How can we use our skills and experience in work that gives us joy?

Interface design is commoditised, creating pixel perfect prototypes; it’s not the space we want to play in.

We do deep thinking, breaking apart problems and putting together solutions. My friend Tom Coates describes it as finding the nugget of truth that the rest of the model hangs off.

I am introducing the concept of Elder for women in Design; someone brings a depth of experience and wisdom to a role.

Elders don’t have to be a Head or Director, they are Certain of their value and place; Grown and grounded in their skills and experience, and a Model by the way they behave, speak and write.

Once we know who and what we offer, we can then find those opportunities.


What’s going to be the biggest challenge in your particular industry over the next 12 months?

The biggest challenge for women in digital is learning how to blend all aspects of your life into the work you do. We need to find the right blend that gives us financial stability, life with our families, and joy in work.

With the ongoing instability of COVID pandemic changing the way we work, the next 12 months will be stressful. Women need to find their stable base for their lives, learning how to flex with working from home and the rest of life.

It’s not about being a superwoman, but finding what new normal feels like and working with it. We have moved from pandemic crisis mode into living with the pandemic; therefore we need change our lives in response to it.

Be Kaler Pilgrim


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