UX Hybrid

The pros and cons of UX hybrid roles

UX Hybrid

I recently read this article about “UX Mega roles,” which confirmed the trends I’m seeing in the User Experience (UX) job market right now. Increasingly, companies are looking to hire one person to do all things UX – design, research, writing, etc. as opposed to one person dedicated to each area.

Now, part of the reason for wanting a UX jack-of-all-trades, so to speak, is that it’s a difficult hiring market for this skillset. In many cities, the demand outweighs the supply. And trying to find a UX pro who can do it all – I refer to them as a hybrid UXer – makes the talent pool even smaller.

But another motivation for companies and hiring managers is to get the most bang for their hiring buck. Whenever there’s a year infused with political unrest – or post-recession (or during a pandemic) – you see companies do this more often.

They’re afraid of hiring an entire team only to have to turn around and whittle it down to just one person anyway. But Americans are notorious for riding on the coattails of fear. And we’re seeing that knee-jerk reaction again now.

I get it. I do. Doing more with less is always on the minds of any company leader. But that doesn’t make it any easier for a UXer who’s asked to wear multiple hats or make it any more rational for a company’s business that demands an entire team.

The situation is what it is, so we all just have to make some adjustments. So, I’d like to offer some advice for UX candidates and UX hiring managers to help navigate through these turbulent times.

But first, a little history

Why has UX become so important? In my opinion, it’s because 2020 was a spotlight on everything that’s wrong or broken within products for many different businesses.

A great example is the banking industry. During lockdown due to a raging virus, the last thing you want to do is go into a brick-and-mortar bank location to manage your money. But when you go to do your banking online, it’s a frustrating experience. The user interface is not up to par with what you expected, and it’s not accessible to every user. In the recent past, companies would make do with their website and/or app by putting a metaphorical band-aid on a broken leg instead of truly finding out what their users want.

And there’s been no reason to really deal with it because we’ve been ok with what’s not ok for a long time. That is, until the pandemic hit – then everything changed.

Advice for UX candidates

First, congratulations on choosing a dynamic career that’s not going away anytime soon! Your skills are needed in many different industries – tech, healthcare, banking, education, retail, etc. – meaning you have great job prospects, even in a tough market.

If you’re okay with accepting a UX job that’s more of a hybrid role, you may want to look at smaller companies as this is a more common occurrence. This is also a great opportunity to test out the different areas of UX to find out which one you like best. Not every job is right for every UXer. And being in a role where you get to do it all is a great way to figure out where you belong. I wrote more extensively on this subject in a recent blog, “UX jobs and dating…are they really that different?” Go check it out!

Not sure you have the skills necessary to be a hybrid UXer? There are tons of resources out there to help you gain the experience you need including:

  • Google’s certification programs
  • A UX Bootcamp – here are 16 of the best ones
  • Interaction-Design.org has tons of courses for all things UX from beginner to advanced
  • ADPlist.org is a mentoring platform great for junior UX professionals early in their careers, but if you’re a tenured UXer, you can also become a mentor and pay it forward!
  • LinkedIn Learning has more than 1,700 UX-related courses

As I said before, UX is needed in almost any industry. But, in my estimate, the innovation with healthcare is going to be huge, so it may be an industry you want to investigate as a job seeker. I see a big boom in innovation coming about halfway through this year, so be on the lookout.

If you’re thinking you want to stick with one UX segment, just make sure you have foundational knowledge of the end-to-end process. No matter what role you play, when something breaks, no matter where in the process, you have to know how to speak the language and walk through all of it.

Advice for hiring managers

Employing a UXer in a hybrid role seems like the ideal situation for any company. However, finding one is incredibly difficult. Trust me, I’ve tried. And if you’re hiring for a Fortune 500 company, most likely, the hybrid UXers you come across are going to have startup experience only and it might not be the right fit for you…or them.

If you are going to go the hybrid route, you may want to look for someone with 0-6 years of experience. More experienced UXers tend to want to stick with the area of UX they have chosen and worked in for many years. In my experience, junior UX pros are more likely to be willing to experiment with a hybrid role.

When searching for a UX hybrid candidate though, think about the project they will be working on. Sometimes, with certain projects, the work for one person is overwhelming. The only thing you’re going to accomplish is UXer burnout and then be forced to start the hiring process from scratch. Plus, for example, UX designers should not be testing their own designs. It could lead to a disastrous failure, like this.

Keep in mind, building a UX team can bring profit to your company in the long run. Larger companies are seeing the value in splitting up UX into multiple positions. To keep up with your competition, you might need to do the same. I’ve been seeing a surge in UX writer and UX researcher positions because they’re starting to be viewed as invaluable assets worth the investment. In fact, according to UX experts, spending just $1 on UX results in a return between $2 and $100.

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If you hit a roadblock with your pipeline, you could try alternative approaches. For example, I’ve found that it’s common for psychologists to go into UX research. So, thinking outside of the UX box may be beneficial to your hiring efforts. Plus, there are always experts like me to help. Contact us if you need assistance finding UX pros or if you’re looking for a UX gig.

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