As professionals, we always need to be learning. The times have passed that we can just coast through our careers.
I recently attended an Interaction Course presented by CooperU in Los Angeles. They are often offering classes only at their facility in San Francisco. So I was excited to attend this workshop and to learn to new skills.
What did I like the most?
Getting some time off of work
Engaging in new activities
Jump starting the brain and creative processes
Meeting new people
What did I dislike the most?
It only lasting 3 days. I could have learned more.
Some exercises seemed too “on the surface” and I would have liked to have the chance to dig deeper or try the exercise again on a different topic for more practice.
It seemed very “Cooper” focused and I am not sure there would be time to apply some of these tactics in the real-world agile environment.
What surprised me the most?
How quickly the time would fly by in the breakout session.
People were other disciplines besides UX design.
Lunch was not provided as part of the admission fee. (It would have been a good opportunity to have break out sessions on other topics.
How exhausted mentally I was by the end of the third day. I guess I was really giving my brain a workout.
When riding home one evening in the back of an Uber car, I took advantage of a situation. Sure, I could have sit back quietly and enjoyed the ride in silence. The driver did not have the radio on, so it could have been a peaceful ride.
Instead, I decide to make the ride a bit more interesting. Don’t worry, I was not going to engage in anything illegal. I decided to engage the driver in a conversation. Gasp! Talk to a stranger in Los Angeles? What? Who does that??? Well, I do.
You see, I am a gal from the Midwest. People from that part of the world are not afraid to engage in a conversation. In fact, this art form was eloquently taught to me by my father. I can recall on several instances the following circumstance: I am in a long line for an amusement park ride. My dad is waiting for me outside the ride on a bench until I am finished. By the time I get back from the ride, my dad has had a long chat with the person sitting next to him on that bench. I didn’t even notice the person when I started to get on the ride.
So what was happening here? My dad was a very smart man, and knew that having a conversation would help pass the waiting time. He didn’t want to read a book because he liked to people watch. These were the days before smart phones. So he wold strike up a chat with a complete stranger.
Not only did a conversation like this pass the time, he also learned something. And that is what I am trying to promote here. Instead of looking down and checking your smart phone, strike up a conversation with a stranger. What was so magical about the conversations my dad would have with strangers is what he learned about the other person. He would say things like, “That guy lived just a couple of blocks down from where I grew up in New York. And our parents when to the same social hall for dances and parties.” Or he would say, “The lady I sent next to on my flight is the inventor of body glitter.”
What do you do to learn more? Just start a conversation. I know this is not easy for some people. Striking up a conversation with a complete stranger can be terrifying. But if you want to be a UX designer, you have to break out of your shell and learn how to be comfortable in a conversation with others. It’s ok, the (probably) won’t bite.
Start the conversation small, maybe make a comment about the weather or the current surroundings.
Or ask a generic question about something you “seem like” you need assistance with like the time the the store is closing or do they if know….
Maybe you can make a comment out the phone they are looking at. Ask, “Oh is that the new iPhone? Do you like it?” People love to talk about their gadgets.
Gage the person’s reaction, if they give you a short answer, they might not want to chat. See how negative they seem.
If they ask you a question back, it’s a good sign they might want to have a conversation.
If a person is reading a book or has earphones on, this is a sign they might not want to talk to you. But if they are just gazing at their phone, they are probably just killing time.
Don’t get too personal. But it’s ok to ask what they do for a living and what they do in that type of job.
Just remember that people love talking about themselves, and the point of this exercise is to learn, so let the person do a majority of the talking.
Be brave, learn to read others and be safe.
But most importantly have fun and embrace the opportunity to learn from every experience.
Jennifer Blatz explores the world of UX through words and imagery