A story for engineers hiring their first UX person

— 2 minute read

This is a metaphor I use a lot when talking with engineers, or ex-engineers, when they're hiring UX people — often their first UX people. So I suppose writing it down would be a good move so other people can use / criticise it :-)

Imagine I’m a technical CEO in a small company that’s gone a fair way with their product. It's got traction, but our testing practices are poor trending towards non-existent.

We’re not good at automated testing. We don’t have any automated integration tests. We don’t have a continual integration server, let alone anything close to continual delivery. We have this kinda-sorta check list that we run through and call it user acceptance testing — but we’re still shipping stuff with lots of defects.

Our product is being used and we’re moderately successful — but we know we have problems with quality. We know it's costing us sales, and retention, and reputation. Everybody agrees that we need to hire somebody to help fix this.

If I have the mindset that we’re basically okay with everything else — we just need a bit more "testing" then I’m going to be looking for a fairly junior person to add to the team to do "testing". And because of that I'm not going to be able to make many of the necessary structural changes to process, culture and people to make the product better in the long term. Or the short term for that matter.

If I really understand testing, and have worked in a company with a good testing culture before, then I know I’m going to need to hire a fairly senior person who is going to kick ass, take names, and help us make a cultural change in how we approach quality issues.

So what do I do?

Most engineering folk know the right answer to that question.

I've found this story useful in helping folk realise that the right hire for a product company facing lots of experience debt is not necessarily somebody who is really good at Sketch/Figma/whatever. At least that's not all they need to be good at. Because they're not facing a "we need more design" problem — it's a "we need a culture change" problem.

Hope you find it useful too.