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What is a career in user experience really about?

Faculty Mark Hurst reflects on the new year, teaching a Research Methods course at SVA, and the question, “What is a career in user experience really about?”

You might call it “care,” or “integrity,” or any number of things. This “genuine human interest” goes by different names, and it’s certainly not exclusive to the fields of customer experience and interaction design. For example, have you heard of the teacher in Kentucky who teaches the same message? The New York Times recently profiled Jeffrey Wright, who gives an annual lecture to his high school physics students about the force that is “greater than energy… greater than entropy.” I invite you to watch the short documentary, Wright’s Law, to hear him explain it. This very important aspect of his career was born out of some particular challenges in his personal life. If I teach the master’s class again, I’d give my same message, perhaps adding an important fact of life, and work: namely, you are not defined by your career. Who you are, and what you are worth, are much greater than any professional accomplishment or failure, desire or pressure. In fact, if one can internalize this message, and see life through this lens, your career begins to take on a different shape. Paradoxically, as Mr. Wright shows, understanding that you are not defined by your career actually enables you to do better work. If you subscribe to this guiding philosophy, you’re more likely to care about the people involved in, and affected by, your work. And that means you’re more likely to work toward their long-term benefit. For example, UX practitioners who want to improve people’s lives will find it difficult to apply their skills to a product that harms or deceives customers. Unfortunately, this type of product is not uncommon.

What do you want to spend your career doing?

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