How do you learn and improve yourself as a UX designer? Are you a solo rider or do you enjoy some kind of mentorship? Do you like to make meaningful professional connections or do you prefer sitting in front of your computer in silence? In this article, I will cover what I consider important for my personal growth as a UX designer. I’ll stress why it is so important to surround yourself with people whom you can easily reach out to and consult with - plus how you can find them.
The Importance of Having a UX Designers Pack
How many fellow UX designers do you collaborate or exchange experiences with? I have an amazing team of dedicated and talented people, but none of them are UX designers. Thus, I get a lot of meaningful and valuable feedback, but I sometimes want to hear an opinion from a colleague who has most likely solved a similar problem in the past and could shorten my learning curve. It is also useful to talk to somebody who’s not heavily engaged with the project, as they could have a totally different perspective.
I met some quite amazing people when Darko decided to gather a group of designers and discuss the socially useful project idea. Now, I actually send short messages to Siniša and Strahinja when I need advice. I always get meaningful responses.
Bojan has been my mentor and also a “member” of quite an interesting pack of UX designers. He shared his experience on this topic.
Once or twice a week (at least), I work remotely from one of my "designer spas.” What's this all about?
First, there are those times when I simply need to sit down by myself, focus and create stuff. The last thing I need is someone interrupting me when I'm in the flow. In my designer spa, I am surrounded by fellow designers who understand this and respect each other's time and space. This is how I get productive.
Second, sometimes I get stuck trying to solve a problem. So I approach a familiar face whose reasoning I trust and ask him, "Nenad, I am having a hard time deciding on some colors, what do you think bro?" He's a designer as well, so he knows how to give feedback that is not a simple “like/dislike.” Also, Nenad is a specialist in certain areas, so he has a lot more experience than myself. It is a wise thing to ask his opinion and advice. This is how I get and give quality critique.
Third, when I am struggling to make something in Sketch, I ask Strahinja, and he says "Hey bro, did you know you can do it this way with this new plugin? It's much easier,” and I am instantly mind-blown. This is how I learn and teach.
Last, I pick up fellow designers and we go for coffee, lunch or beers. Then we cry on each other's shoulders about stuff that's bugging us. We share a lot of things in common, so we understand and comfort each other very well.
These are the essential ingredients of my growth as a designer and a person.
Why is it Hard to Meet up at a Meetup?
How many meetups and conferences have you visited so far? Sometimes I would like to hear more personal experiences, how fellow designers solve certain issues, which techniques they use, what would they recommend… I want to sit at the coffee table, hear the story and ask questions. We did it with Austin from HubSpot and Ryan from GoDaddy after the UX Belgrade Meetup and it was a precious experience.
During the Web Summit in November, I missed some lectures I really wanted to hear so I could meet designers whose work I’ve been following. We had coffee together, but I still feel I would bother them by asking for feedback or an opinion. We didn’t have time to establish a relationship.
How much do we actually know about approaching people and creating meaningful professional connections, especially if we have limited time in between lectures or after a meetup?
Having it All: Friends, Business Connections, Partners and Recommendations
During my student days, I was heavily involved in an international student organization called BEST (Board of European Students of Technology), where we organized large events, sometimes for even 300 participants. I started doing it for fun and because I was internationally oriented, but the best thing that came out of it were people with whom I established relationships. Some of them became my close friends, some become important professional connections and some became both. Not to mention that I got my first job because one of the members recommended me. My boss actually used to be a member of a partnering organization. At the time I didn’t even know what the word “networking” meant.
I understand there are people who’re not that fond of creating a bunch of relations, but even having a small group of close connections who are in the same sauce as you can be liberating and helpful. I hope you are wondering now how to find such a group.
One Week of Remote Work and Knowledge Sharing for UX Designers
I mentioned how important it was for me to create my personal group of potential professional advisors and how grateful I am for all the support I’m getting from them. Most of it happened unexpectedly and I understand how lucky I was. I know some great designers that make something awesome in the dark but don’t go out there, speak about it or to other people, while they have so much to share.
So I came up with an idea to create remote work for UX designers that would like to meet some cool people, while still working on their own stuff.
UX Designers Camp is the first multifunctional camp in Europe that provides remote work and education for User Experience Professionals. Four days are reserved for your daily work so that you don’t have to take time off, but in the evening hours we continue with knowledge sharing and networking. You choose when you want to participate. If you don’t want to make it intense, you can explore Belgrade, ride a bicycle or just enjoy the relaxing Danube riverside.
Some experienced UX designers are joining us for a few days to hold lectures and workshops, but it’s also possible for the participants to share their work and get feedback. After spending a week with a group of designers and getting to know them, it should become easier to practice your presentation skills with the familiar audience. Some of your new friends might even become your future colleagues or business partners.
Join us for an Unforgettable UX Community Event
I hope you found something useful for yourself and your professional growth in this long pile of thoughts. If you have a different approach, please share. If you have a similar viewpoint, let me know what you think about the whole camp idea and if it sounds like something you would participate in. I hope UX Designers Camp will be a great opportunity for some of us and create a base for future encounters and professional paths.