Last week Laura Hiard an interaction designer and user researcher Tom Walker visited Edge Hill University. Tom graduated from Edge Hill 2 years ago and was invited back to talk to some third year students who are currently studying web design and development.
Why did you do it?
Laura: I graduated 3 years ago and remember what it was like to be in my final year and how unprepared I was for the real world. Since then I’ve worked for a number of companies in varying roles and I’ve learned a lot. I felt like I’d be able to connect and hopefully offer something of use to them. I also saw it as a good opportunity to practice my public speaking skills with a slightly more forgiving audience.
Tom: For me it was a similar thing. I was on the same course as these students just a few years ago and it felt good to have an opportunity to try and curb some of the fears and worries that I had around that time.
What did you speak about?
Laura: Our brief was to speak to the students about anything we felt would be useful, but to discuss how we incorporate the user into our processes and decisions. With that in mind, once we spoke about doing the talk together, it became clear that it would be good to highlight within a specific example how user research and design work together.
We began by showing the difference between user experience design and service design, and the importance of starting with user needs to make something that’s not just usable, but useful too. Then, we discussed how to use these, along with hypotheses, to make design decisions.
Tom: We also took the opportunity to give the students some advice for their working lives, based on our own experiences. I think that part went down particularly well. We spoke about how to make the best of a bad working situation and how to keep learning and striving for their goals. Their tutor gave me some really positive feedback about that part.
What was the response like from the students?
Tom: The response was great. We got some really astute questions about our work process while we were there and a few students even reached out to us on Twitter afterwards to ask advice.
Laura: A few of them even set up Twitter accounts after we said how useful it can be for networking.
What did you learn?
Laura: I learned that there definitely seems to be value in going out and speaking to students. Talking about what a real working day is like in the careers that they’re striving for, and introducing them to new practices that they might not yet be familiar with. After some feedback about them wanting a little more detail about some of the topics we covered, we know what we’d change for next time. We heard that some of the students were later looking at the Co-op jobs site, so we must have made a fairly good impression.
For students that weren’t there, what advice do you have for them?
Tom: A couple of things. These are the points we touched on during the talk.
Immerse yourself and continue learning outside the classroom. Which is a lot easier than you might think. You can read and reading doesn’t have to be boring. You can do that on Twitter or read some Medium blogs or a few articles. Try to attend meet ups and get to know the community. And talk to each other. If you have read something, tell someone about it. Ask them about the things they have read or the meet ups they’ve attended. Then continue into your career.
Identify your own personal weaknesses. Studying for a degree is difficult and does take time but don’t give up. If you’re not good at something, try to understand why you might not be good at it and fix it. I struggled with code when I was a student. So I filmed myself talking through my code and then watched it back. It helped me cemented my learning and understand that it was some basics stuff that I didn’t quite get. Once I knew that, I knew what I needed to do to change it.
Thank you to the students and staff at Edge Hill University.