We sat down with Abby Goodrum, Director of Education at UXPA International to learn how she got started in UX, her advice for people starting out in the field and what song makes her get up and dance!
How did you get started in the field of UX?
After completing my Masters degree in Library and Information Science at the University of Texas, I went to work in the CNN library in Atlanta. While there I became fascinated with the challenges of creating metadata to access video segments – including specific images contained within videos.
As a result of my experiences at CNN, I undertook doctoral studies in Information Science with a focus on Human-Computer Interaction and Information Retrieval. For many years, my research focussed on designing better search engines, interfaces and information systems for multimedia retrieval based on understanding how people search for and navigate non-textual information (e.g. images, videos, music, sounds). For many years I’ve collaborated with researchers and developers whose educational backgrounds and training spanned a diverse range of disciplines and practices including psychology, sociology, graphic design, media production, computer science, engineering, library science, and business among others. About 10 years ago, I began hearing about and meeting individuals with UX in their job title and I wanted to know more.
So, about six years ago, I undertook a research project to better understand the educational backgrounds of UX Designers and the educational requirements posted in job ads for UX Designers, UI and Interaction Designers, UX Researchers, and Information Architects. I interviewed over 200 UX, UX educators and UX employers. The more I learned about the field and its people, the more convinced I became that my university should be offering degrees and certificates in this area. I used the data that I collected from my research project to develop the UX Design degree program at Wilfrid Laurier University. Since then, we’ve also launched a 6-course minor in UX that can be taken by students in any degree program. And we are just about to launch a suite of 8 micro-credentials in Service Design available to non-students.
What would you tell someone who is considering entering this field?
Seek some training/education!
Seriously, there are so many avenues for enhancing your skills in UX and the tools available are constantly evolving. We must all make time to keep our knowledge fresh. Luckily, this has never been easier to do — there are conference workshops and webinars, online courses, certification programs and even full degrees available now.
Network, network, network
Get out there and meet other professionals in the field. UXPA is a great place to connect with UX professionals in your town and around the world. Don’t just attend events – get involved. There are always opportunities to volunteer and this will help you to connect with people quickly and break through any shyness you might have.
Favorite project that comes to mind?
Do you mean my own projects? Its funny, I never really enjoy projects when I’m working on them – but I almost always love them when I’m done! I guess when a project is in progress, I’m too focussed on what I’m doing to be able to step back and enjoy the project as it emerges. But afterward, I’m usually pretty chuffed with myself and my team. A good example of this was the Network of Centres of Excellence in Graphics, Animation and New Media (NCE GRANDE) that I helped to build and direct. Although funding for this project has ceased, it produced innovative new technologies that are still going strong and I’m proud to say that I had a hand in that.
What is one fact people may not know about you?
I took a year off from grad school to work and sail on two boats. The first boat was a replica of the Golden Hinde that is now on permanent display at St. Mary Overie Dock in London. I joined the boat in Texas and worked aboard as a cook until disembarking in St. Augustine, Florida.
The second boat that I lived and sailed aboard was a traditional Turkish Gulet that offered tourist charters around the Aegean and Mediterranean.
I still love being on boats and try to take sailing vacations whenever I can.
What song will make you get up and dance?
It’s My Life by Bon Jovi