March 23, 2015
I wouldn’t say that I’m driven by money, but I know that it’s a factor. A necessary evil. Something we must have in order to live a comfortable life.
So when I was offered a role that was paying me $30k more than what I was currently earning, I couldn’t say no.
How could I? I challenge all of you to take a long hard look at yourselves, and weigh it up. Especially because of the story I’m about to tell you.
As any employment opportunity starts, a recruiter called me. He told me he had the best match for me, it suited all of my skills.
Me: “Sweet, which skills?”
Recruiter: “Uh… all of them? The UX-y stuff, and the code and stuff.”
Me: “Hmm… what company?”
Recruiter: “Oh this awesome start up – Smishschmet.com.”
Now, there are a couple of things wrong with that conversation (no I’m not talking about the domain name) – mostly the “all your skills” and the “ux-y stuff”. In hindsight – make sure your recruiter knows what he is talking about. I mean this. I think, when it came down to it, he was just looking at his next bonus.
It’s unusual to find a recruiter who actually knows what UX is.
I went for the interview.
I knew straight away that guy was an asshole. I just KNEW he was. Maybe it’s because I studied psychology for 6 years, but there was something in his tone and in his eyes that I was unsure of.
In the interview we discussed the industry. Smishschmet Industry is one I have been working in for a while, so I knew a lot about the systems, how to market, what works for customers, what doesn’t, how to be appealing. You name it! I knew it. It’s also my favourite industry. But, a lot of what I discussed is not necessarily something I have hands on experience with. I can be on the sidelines over-looking it, but never one to get my hands dirty in everything.
I mean, I get them as dirty as possible, but there’s only so many hours in the day.
The interview went for over an hour. A long time.
You know what we didn’t talk about?
Yep – got so carried away with industry talks that we never talked about what I expected from the role, and what he expected from me in the role. Nope, didn’t discuss it once.
Typical me though – he did get along with me. (Not that I’m bragging, but ask anyone, I’m easy to get along with).
I got a call within a day or so, telling me that he wanted me. And was willing to pay above and beyond to get me.
Everyone wants to feel wanted, right? It’s kind of a nice feeling. Plus, he wasn’t the only one, another company had been trying to get me too. But I had decided that I wanted to stay in my Smishschmet Industry, right? It was a cool industry.
Back and forth with negotiations, and I accepted the role. I handed my notice in to my amazing boss for the last couple of years, a massive send off after my 4 week notice period, I started in my new company.
As start-up companies go (and I’ve worked for a few at this stage) it was decently set up. The latest iMac, with a thunderbolt screen. Any software I wanted, free Red Bull, free tea and coffee, nerf guns hanging around the place. It was pretty cool.
Red warning flags started waving manically when, on my first day, he asked me if I had ever done a marketing plan before.
I remember turning to him and saying very slowly:
Me: “No, I have never done a marketing plan. I’m a UX/Designer. Marketing plans don’t come into it for me.”
Him: “Ok, just thought I’d ask.”
I should have known then that he didn’t have a f%^&ing clue about what I did. In fact, I probably did know then, but the dollar signs were flashing, and I made excuses.
I would say that the first 3 weeks went by without a hitch for me, personally. He loved the new look and feel I was bringing to the site. (Removing massive drop shadows, gradients and big bold text – replacing it with flat colours, softer fonts and barely noticeable drop shadows). But I did have a couple of issues.
The IT team consisted of me, and 2 other guys. The other 2 guys were lovely, but both had known one another for 10 years, and both were originally from a country in Europe. English wasn’t their first language, and they continued to speak in their native tongues around me.
Imagine the following:
Person 1: “skdjfhlskfd sdlkhflskjfh lskhflkshfd Eily lahfdlakhsdf lhaflakhfs”
Person 2: “iweuynsafd kiwyrenabf msfdjlre kejyfdmn Eily haha”
Me: “What are you guys talking about?”
Sweet. I feel awesome.
The other issue I had within those first three weeks was the bosses obvious hatred for one of the women in the call center. Now, I’m going to ask you to keep an open mind here, because I hate gender bias. But let me specify, she was the only woman in the call center during those first three weeks I was there.
I would like to also highlight I was the only other woman who worked full time in that office.
Aaaaanyway. He had a meeting with the call center. The office was open, no meeting rooms, no walls, so we could see/hear everything anyone was doing.
When I say he screamed at her, I mean he screamed at her.
Then, he fired her.
It was awful.
If you have ever read my previous posts, you’ll know that I have been badly abused in work before. And actually, I left a post out which discusses another time when I was severely emotionally abused in another work place, which I will also write one day.
So, this approach to management and whatnot, absolutely terrified me because of my previous experiences. When she was gone, he needed to find someone else to set his sights on. I was the easy target.
I remember clearly the day the shift changed towards me – he walked in late one day, and the first thing he barked at me when I greeted him was:
Him: “Have you done feature X on the Smishschmet site yet?”
Me: “I’m waiting on Person 1 to finish connecting the calls to the database, and then it’s ready to go.”
Him: “What about features Y, Z, A and B?”
Me: “All done, I emailed you a AWS testing link last week on for you to test and tell me if you want layout changes.”
Him: “Ok. Well I’ll need you to mock up an eDM, and marketing material for it, including a massive billboard for the train station.”
Me: “Ok, just let me know what we’re promoting and I’ll do it.”
I did anything that was design, marketing related, UI, UX, CSS, HTML, new features on the website, PHP frameworks, I learned GIT, everything… And looking back now, I can see there is no way I could have kept it up. It was just too much work for anyone to do. I had started on a high, and it was about to begin to crumble down.
Him: “I don’t like any of this. At all. I need you to re-do the whole thing.”
Me: “Ok.” Thinking: But I’m following the same template we have been using the whole time? Why doesn’t he like it now? I haven’t done anything different.
So I went back and changed it, showed him again.
Him: “No, I still don’t like it, change X, Y and Z”
Wash, rinse and repeat.
Him: “Send me the PSD, I’ll do it.”
Sends it back. Looks suspiciously like an eDM used to look before I started.
He wanted the control back. Now, as I said earlier, he put his sights on me. He searched for faults in me, in my work, in anything I was doing.
So after the above scenario where I stayed in work until 7pm at night trying to get that f%^&ing email done, I arrived in work the next day, feeling that low-gut stress from a mixture of a bad night sleep and dread.
I was right to have that feeling. When I arrived, he was sitting at his desk with Person 1, and asked me to sit with him. I knew what was coming.
The first question he asked me was: “What did you do at ScmoschSmiff?” (My previous employment) I knew it was about to get confronting.
He began to point out “inconsistencies” in my work. His inconsistencies were the following:
“That font looks bigger.” (It wasn’t, it was just that it had a heavier shadow behind it so the white text could stand out against the background)
“All the buttons on each marketing placement are different.” (He told me to change those buttons to colours that I would pick out from the image they sat on.
“I feel you haven’t achieved enough – all of the features you have done – X Y Z – haven’t gone live yet.” (A and B had ;)
— Ok this one I have to explain. As I said earlier, there were 3 of us in that IT team. Me, Person 1 (main dev guy) and Person 2 (sub dev guy). Person 2 had been working on two features the entire time I had been working there. That was it. While I had been slaving away at sending 13 emails in 5 weeks, 5 new features to the site, 1 competition, plus billboards, plus re-marketing content, plus tracking on Google Analytics. Yet, 3 of my 5 features were sitting in test because Person 2 hadn’t helped me (and yes, I had asked, MANY times). I just want to put that in context for you.
He was not aggressive towards me in any way. In fact, he was quite neutral, questioning, wanting to find one what he was missing that I could do, that he could encourage (because clearly I wasn’t a graphic designer. I had stated that numerous times).
So we gave it a week.
That night I actually called the recruiter who sent me there. I gave him a huge earful, massive.
I remember saying: “This was just a commission paycheck for you, but for me, this was my job, and this guy needed a Senior Graphic Designer”
And I also asked him: “Tell me what you think UX is.”
He couldn’t answer me. I just hung up.
I knew the week had gone ok but not great so the next Friday, he was sitting in the same place. This time, he was alone. The night before, I told myself what I was going to do if he was going to question me again.
Him: “You know Eily, I can normally tell what motivates and inspires me. I can’t work that out with you.”
Me: “Ok, let’s talk about what you’re expecting from me.”
We discussed it, and we worked out he needed a brand designer, a senior level graphic designer who could take the design of the site to better places. I asked him what he thought UX was.
“UX is whether or not I’m going to click that button.” He said, with a satisfied grin. “It’s all about the colours, and the fonts, and whether or not I feel like I’m going to click that button.”
“It’s not.” So I told him my house analogy. Basically, developers build the structure, designers make it look incredible, and UX is a mixture of the finer details (putting the handle in the right position on the door) and then observing how people use it.
Him: “I hired you too soon. I need someone like you in a year or so time.”
Me: “Yes you do.”
So we agreed to go our separate ways.
Now, for those of you who think I may have been sensitive, let me drill the numbers down for you.
14 people in the company.
2 people fired on the spot
2 people stormed out.
Me – walked away relatively unscathed.
I have since been contacted by a number of people who left since I did, who have told me of their horror stories. I learned so many lessons over that 7 weeks, and being attracted by the dollar signs was absolutely the main mistake I made.
My Three Lessons:
1. Quiz your recruiter – make them earn their commission
2. Ask everything you possibly can in an interview. You’re interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you
3. Leave every work place on a good note – if you can
And a sneaky number 4. Culture, culture, culture – it’s worth more than money.
December 12, 2012
I read this quote the other day and it really made me think:
“Teachers have become “fair game” for malicious comment online, and said that there is no reason why sites like Facebook should get legal immunity.”
Legal immunity? Legal immunity against what? What can they possibly be legally blamed for? Writing the code that has created the worlds largest online social network? (Oh MySpace where did you go?)
Can you really blame an entire social network for a single persons comment?
Surely not. Surely this is the mob mentality I was speaking about previously.
This sort of behaviour is akin to arresting Kim DotCom who set up Megaupload and that English guy who created tvlinks.co.uk. Ok, they facilitate other people doing something illegal – but don’t actually perform the illegal “acting”. Is it really fair to arrest them? All they want to do is make an example out of them. Guess what? It doesn’t work. I’m watching similar sites pop up every day performing the same function.
So those virtual pitch forks have now been turned on social networking sites like Facebook.
This is turning into yet another ugly SOPA-type episode again. In years to come people will forget what the first ammendmant even stood for. Surely posting your own comment, to your own friends and followers is no one elses business. Punishing an entire social networking giant for a single users comment is ridiculous. It’s like suing a car manufacturer for a second hand care salesman over-charging you.
It’s not their issue!
Facebook have procedures in place to deal with cyberbullying… and not only that, but for inappropriate imagery, inappropriate comments and a whole heap more. With 425 million active users – I wouldn’t expect anything less. With social networking all the content is user generated. You’re relying on the users to generate the content which brings other users to your site – Twitter, Tumblr to name just a few.
A Facebook spokeswoman said: “There is no place for cyber bullying on Facebook and we respond aggressively to reports of potential abuse.
“Reports involving harassment are prioritised, with most reviewed in 24 hours.”
So, basically, Facebook are doing their job. Good luck sueing them – they MONITOR this sort of thing.
Venting on social networks is simply today’s version of writing the angry note in class and slipping it to your best friend, but being caught by the teacher. Sorry ’bout it. Children will be children. Venting is part of life. Let’s be truthful here, most children don’t understand or respect what teachers do until later in their education. That’s called maturity.
You can rest assured that Facebook’s business model is not based around 11 year old kids making complaints about their teacher. Just guide them to http://www.ratemyteacher.com. (I really don’t promote that site – I think it’s terrible actually).
March 14, 2012
So, interesting thing happened the other day.
I’m an avid Gmail user, but BG (Before Gmail) I used to use Hotmail. I remember the days when Hotmail only allowed 2MB (yep, you young-ans, 2 MEGABYTES) of email storage. I was constantly deleting emails, never able to save anything, always had to delete everything!
Well, on occasion I do check my Hotmail email, purely because some things I haven’t switched over yet, and it’s always handy to check emails you’re designing in various different email providers to check the deviations and variations.
On this particular occasion I had 148 unread emails, now this is exceptionally more than normal, and looked something like this:
So, clearly what has happened is a fault in the unsubscribe system on YFU‘s website. What’s happening is when people are clicking “unsubscribe”, the email is being sent to the entire email list, instead of auto-unsubscribing them.
As a bit of background to being on this email list: I have previously requested to unsubscribe from them as I never requested to be on it, and have no desire to be as I’m not in a position to host someone. I assume I was an accidental sign up (I frequently get emails for someone else with a very similar email address) – but even still, I never had to confirm a request to being on the email list in the first place. Confirming a sign-up is part of the ACMA requirements.
This was the first email, and perhaps 2 or 3 similar followed in quick succession:
So, what happened next was nothing short of mob mentality:
To lots like this:
All in all, there were over 100 of these filling up my inbox (imagine if I only had 2MB still). I understood people’s frustration, it IS really annoying especially if your main email is being hit with all these irrelevant unsubscribe requests. I could only imagine this hitting my gmail, and my phone beeping and buzzing every 10 minutes, I’d probably send an angry email as well. Jump on the virtual bandwagon. Wave the virtual pitchforks. Throw the virtual rotten tomatoes.
You get the idea.
So, the company issued an apology out on the 7th March stating technical issues which they were looking into immediately. The strange thing is though, from 7th of March until the 11th of March, we were all continuing to receive each others “unsubscribe” request emails. This is a problem a standard HTML beginner could fix up. A webform is not rocket science.
Not having ever encountered this company before, aside from receiving irrelevant emails, they seem like a small company – and considering I received about 100 unsubscribe requests, I imagine that’s a large portion of their list base. Otherwise, there would have been a LOT more.
As a company, they obviously provide a good and needed service, and I would never doubt that. But each company today needs to protect and project their brand identity online – small technical glitches should be spotted immediately. When people actually request to be on a mailing list – they are entrusting you to not spam them, and provide them with relevant emails.
As with everything else in life, I’ve worked with small mailing lists and gargantuan mailing lists as well. Mailing lists for all companies can drive massive traffic and business to their website/company. Make sure you manage peoples data correctly, because aside from what happened being incredibly annoying, I also got over 100 different email addresses in my account. Privacy is an issue there too.
I’m sure you’re all dying to know whether I unsubscribed too? Well, as it happens, I didn’t want hundreds of random people receiving my email address, so I will happily wait until I’m assured the issue is fixed, and my request will slip in too.
Maybe when I’m at the point in life where I want to send a child away on an exchange program, or host one myself, I will actually request to be on the list.
Lesson of the month: manage your data like you would manage your best china; polish it on occasion, handle it with care, and make sure you keep it somewhere safe.
January 9, 2010
Is there actually a solid formula for this?
I really no longer think so. It’s not exactly hit and miss, but there is no exact forumla to say whether performing action ‘x’ will provide you ‘y’ amount of business.
I 100% support social media marketing – the audience and consumer of today is no longer a receptor – he is a selector. Unlike when advertising was mainly on TV and Radio – today online, you can chose what advertising you expose yourself to. I think marketeers were placing their bets on pop-up window advertising being effective and working. However, along with savvy computer users, came the ability to successfully filter out such minor annoyances.
Today, marketing and advertising is a different ball game altogether. Instead of having huge big budgets – people have to be clever and creative to be able to market and convert the customer.
Marketing throught social media is technically free. But in order to make it best effective – a company needs to hire someone who is specialised in the area. Habitat learned from that mistake. They hired an intern to control their twitter account and the intern ended up inserting irrelevant, but trending, hashtags after each tweet.
The intern was quietly let go.
That’s the issue that regularly arises with social media – a company hires someone who has a facebook and twitter account, thinking they know exactly what they are doing. But delivering a companies brand through social media is a lot different then using personal social media accounts.
I find Halfords twitter account to be particularly great – I tweeted once about what bad build my bike was – and Halfords replied, saying I should take it into my local store and they would fix it for me for free! That’s the kind of service that is now expected through social media channels.
Then you have brands, smaller brands, who try and gain new customers and business through social media. The key part here is relevance. I say this ALL the time – you want targetted traffic, high conversions? Be relevant. If you end up putting hashtags at the end of your tweets which have nothing to do with your product – you won’t gain targetted traffic and high conversions. Simple as. Same as adding random people on Facebook. They won’t know who you are, chances of them being interested in what you have to offer is slim too.
So – social marketing for any brand is highly important.
- Listen to your customers
- Reply to all comments – negative or not
- Have conversations
- Above all – relevance, relevance, relevance
July 23, 2009
I am a User Experience Designer.
So what is this supposed to mean? What does it encompass? What does it involve? These are questions I frequently get when telling people what I do.
I could have had an educated guess 4/5 months ago as to what this would involve, and I was mostly correct. Mostly.
Now, after 4/5 months in my role now as a user experience designer, I’m starting to comprehend everything that it involves.
My usability based academic background has involved various topics, such as user journeys, the UCD process, wireframes, storyboards etc etc. I don’t think in academia you will ever fully 100% understand in what way these things work in the real world, and why they are important and in what order.
I suppose that’s why I decided to forgo the unrelated job offers after my under-grad, and stuck around for something that was low-paid but extremely related to my degree. If I was going to make a career out of my life, I had to sacrifice the job that was quite well paid and easily accessible to me, to something that was 1 hour 30 minutes away from me, and paid less. Relevance was key to me when I eagerly walked out of college with my degree in my hand.
Thus began the UK job hunt.
Seems the UK was further ahead than Ireland for general web design practices and put actual money into making sure websites were usable, some companies hired in-house usability experts to ensure that their website was consistently usable. Some companies existed purely for selling their usability testing services, agencies hired usability experts to work on projects and to provide depth in respond-to-tender briefs.
A couple of flights later, I had secured a job role in Camberley, UK. The interview had gone well, I had ensured I understood all of what the role encompassed and within 6 weeks of me moving across the water, I started my first day. Really, I should have seen the warning signs when they gave me a title of “Design Engineer.” My inexperience showed as I was excited at being titled something which sounded so professional and important, when really it showed they had no idea what my skills were.
The next warning sign was obvious when they asked me to learn everything about Google AdWords in the two weeks before I was to start. Again, being inexperienced and eager, I did it.
When I started, it transpired I was head of all things Google! AdWords, AdSense and Analytics. For in-house, for clients, for the bosses friends. Nothing like the usability role I had been promised during my interview and conversations with the recruiter.
False advertising, but in this case, I couldn’t take it back to the shop to return it.
Instead, I knuckled down, inhaled anything AdWords related that came my way, determined to make the best out of my situation. The designs I did deal with were created using tables, not CSS or web standard XHTML. One website I worked on for 6 weeks, 1 week away from being published the plug was pulled. Three months went by; probation time. Having not put a foot wrong, and having learnt an amazing amount of information in a short time, I was convinced they didn’t have a bad word to say about me. Sitting downstairs in the bosses “Mobile Boardroom” (tatty old camper van), I was informed I had been late to start work too many times over the past three months, and consequently, would not pass my probation this time. My next probation meeting was in another three months time.
Upset, but determined to improve, I soildered on.
A friend in work informed me that in the three months I had been late three times. Two of which I had genuine excuses for. I had worked through my lunch on these days, and during the past three months I had stayed late many a time. In my mind, this is not something worth failing my probation for.
I could now see clearly that the end was indeed nigh, and I needed to look quickly if I was only guaranteed a position for three months. The operations manager began to take a particular disliking to me, being obtuse and argumentative, my reasoning was ignored and overlooked, my work was continuously sent back. There were times I would cry as soon as I got into my car when I left work. Being defensive without wanting to appear as though I was being defensive was hard work. Continuously being knocked back when I would put so much effort into my work, was soul destroying.
Hundreds of sneaky recruiter phone calls later, one seemed to come along that was right up my alley, only this alley was 70 miles away from me.