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.”

First Uh-oh

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.

Second Uh-oh

The interview went for over an hour. A long time.

You know what we didn’t talk about?

My role.

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.

Third Uh-oh

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?”

Them: “Nothing.”

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.

Fourth Uh-oh

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.

Me: “Ok.”

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.