Mar 5, 2009
I should really get into the habit of blogging about events right after they happen. But I suppose it’s better late than never. :)
A few weeks ago, I officially accepted the IBM User-Centered Design Specialist offer as my 16-month internship for the Professional Experience Year (PEY) program offered at the University of Toronto. I spent a lot of time thinking about the position, and I also spoke to a lot people to get some advice as to which offer I should take. I had a few offers to choose from (luckily): a few IBM positions (1 of which was this UX position; others were generally software development related positions), and other offers from various other companies and organizations. The two offers that I was mainly deciding between were this UX position at IBM, and a software developer position at Intelliware.
This was a big decision to make, and there were so many aspects to take into consideration. For example, I was thinking about the position (and whether or not I would like to pursue in that direction upon graduation), travelling (will I have to spend approximately another 3 hours on the TTC every day?), the people I will be working with, the projects that I may potentially work on…etc. But I finally decided to take the UX position at IBM.
I’ve always wanted a position that would allow me to work and interact with many others. I know there’s this stereotype about coders working full time in their basements (a stereotype in which our whole team of DCS ambassadors are currently trying to disprove to high-school students), but we also have to have people to work with the clients and define what they really want to be designed. As software developers, one of our main goals is to develop something that will make life easier for others, in one way or another. However, our software has to be usable to the users to begin with (in my opinion at least).
During the interview for this UX position, I specifically remember how the interviewers mentioned that one of the main skills that I will develop as an intern will be negotiation skills. Their main role is to work with clients, figure out what needs to be done, let them know whether or not something is doable (this is where the software development experience/knowledge kicks in), and negotiate with the clients as to what really can/has to be done. I spoke to a few friends about this, they certainly didn’t feel very attracted to it, but I personally thought it’s pretty interesting! The team will also do usability testing, and I luckily got to see some of their equipment on my tour of the Toronto Lab. :)
One of my main concerns regarding this position is that I’m afraid I wouldn’t get exposed to coding as much as I’d like to. Throughout the PEY application process, I’ve really only thought about software development positions because I really want to improve and learn more about software development. But after taking the Design of Interactive Computational Media course, I started to really like HCI as well. But as one of the professors I spoke to mentioned, there’s no one position that will allow me to learn everything. So as a developer, I probably won’t learn much about user experience design. Similarly, as an HCI specialist, I most likely won’t get to learn much about code development (since this falls under the responsibility of the software developers).
Internship opportunities in user-experience design seem to be really rare, and I’m sure I’ll be learning lots as an intern (since work experience is always an eye-opener for students). I’m definitely very excited right now about user-centered design at IBM. Only 2 more months before I start working!