I am at the moment in Seattle for a few days doing interviews for our NSF project. The project is mainly focused on how professionals understand and use methods and tools. The study I am doing at the moment is aimed at the examination of professional competence and especially on what professionals do to stay competent over time. So far I have done four interviews with highly skilled and experienced UX professionals. They all have impressive experience and competence. It is fascinating with professionals at this level, they are confident, they know that they are competent, and they can explain why. They also know how the industry works and what it takes to stay ahead and to survive in this competitive environment.
In my interviews, these professionals reveal their way of thinking about competence and what they do to stay competent in a rapidly developing field. Not staying ahead of the field, not knowing what is going on, not engaging with colleagues and networks to constantly learn, mean that you will not be the one who will be asked to lead the next project or to work on new creative initiatives. It is a competitive world where a large part of the professional competence is about understanding the corporate environment than knowing the correct tool or method.
The thoughtfulness of these professionals, something they reveal have developed over time, and their insights on what it means to be competent is something that every young professional in the field need to know. I hope that over time I will be able to write brief reports on this ongoing research. I am quite sure that the results will be highly valuable for professionals interested in developing their career. But I also think that the findings are extremely valuable for any employer who is interested in creating a culture where each professional can grow to become the best they can in a way that fits their individual personality and competence.
The interviews will continue. If you are interested in this topic, let me know, either as a professional (maybe to let me interview you) or as an employer who wants to learn more about how highly skilled professionals really think about themselves and their professional environment.