On this episode of the NTP Podcast we interview Ellen Bennett, UX & Design Recruiter at NTP & RTP. We discuss her role within the company and trends she has noticed in the design and UX scene as well as recommendations for those wanting to start a career in this space. Hope you enjoy the interview!
Here you can source all the things we have talked about in the podcast whether that be books, events, meet-up groups and what’s new in the newcastle tech scene.
Can you give us a quick overview of who you are and what you do at NTP?
What was your journey to date and how did you get into UX & Design recruitment?
Can you tell us about the changes you have experienced working in this space over the past few years?
From Covid to now, what are you currently seeing in the market?
Are designers willing to move at the moment?
Are you seeing any companies having success bringing in junior developers?
What trends are you seeing for designers at the moment?
James: In today’s episode we’ve got Ellen bennett, welcome ellen.
Ellen: Thank you.
James: For those of our audience that don’t know who you are can you give us a bit of an overview of you know your role here?
Ellen: Well i am Ellen I specialize in ux and product and yeah after being overseas for the last few years and working in the space in europe i’m back home yeah nice welcome back to newcastle product and ux.
James: You’ve got a bit of experience working in the uk in that space can give us a bit of an overview of you know your journey today how you got into that what you love about that space?
Ellen: Yeah so i did uni here in newcastle and did a visual communications design degree and i’ve always just been really into everything design everything art and then as most people do i went and did a gaff year just kind of fell into recruiting because i wanted something that was going to be you know just flexible i can come in and out of and travel while i was over there but in doing that just kind of fell in love with it because not only do i love design but i’m also really nosy so i just love like asking people lots of questions about their work and what they did and yeah i just kind of fell in love with it and have been doing it ever since.
James: How do you think the design the design market has changed over the last two three years that you’ve been recruiting in this space?
Ellen: Just the way that tech is heading it’s so much broader now than what it was but also so much more specialised so that’s what i’ve been seeing anyway is you can really take on so many different projects now where kind of design was the afterthought where now it’s really one of the main players in any kind of design or tech project which is super exciting.
James: Yeah cool so i feel like ux uh was an afterthought design was an afterthought for technology companies in five plus years ago um can you give some insights into how you’ve seen that role of ux changing in a technology team?
Ellen: Yeah so I feel like the the user-centric or human-centric design has been just so much more of a talking point when you know stakeholders or clients are actually thinking about making products now where yeah back in the day it was just kind of tacked on afterwards so I’m finding that now especially during the pandemic stakeholders and clients and everyone involved really needed to listen to their users and how do you get that by ux research by listening to ux designers who have a vested interest in making sure that the users are listened to so going from then to now it’s completely changed it’s really exciting time to be involved in the space especially back here in newcastle and in australia because it’s um only just starting to take off but we have all of the resources and all of the learnings from some other industries that have been doing it for years.
James: It’s super exciting have you seen any significant differences between the uk market and the australian market when it comes to ux product design?
Ellen: So the differences I’ve seen between the uk and Australia is obviously Europe and the uk market is a lot bigger so in that you have people who are very specialised in what they do and sometimes do get pigeonholed which some people like but i really am loving hearing everyone’s experience here in the australian market because everyone’s so much more generalist and are interested in so many other things and can kind of really be quite flexible with what they get into next so that’s really great because no one is really you know getting stuck in one specific niche they can just take on anything.
James: So how do you think the ux spaces change I feel like five when ux first came about is very design heavy and now we’re talking you mentioned researchers and when we’re more in that product design uh you know i guess realm is where we’re currently at how do you think that’s evolved?
Ellen: Yeah I think ux has changed a lot in the last few years because it’s kind of moved from like that design heavy space to merging data and design and putting them together and how that can um be utilized by any kind of business so it’s really exciting that people are starting to catch on and they are a really really valuable asset for any company any business.
James: For those that are out there who might be going through university or school at the moment and want to get into the ux and product design space is there any advice that you give?
Ellen: Yeah they there’s so many great resources like podcasts I actually I did a linkedin post recently on all the podcasts that you should listen to if you’re interested in the space there’s a lot of advice out there for people who are wanting to make their portfolio a little bit more ux-centric i would say reach out to your local community and see if there’s any small businesses that need a new website or need any any help that you can kind of just jump on to straight away and utilize your community so linkedin’s a great option there’s so many people who are like posting really great information out there and just have a look at other people’s portfolios and see what they’re doing um and yeah that would be my the good starting point portfolio is a really interesting point in the design space in the ux space i feel like portfolios used to be you know very much important our portfolio is still important for uh ux professionals in growing their career i’d say portfolios are still very important it’s usually the first thing that i want to look at in saying that i think the expectation of them has changed over the last few years so back in the day you would see lots of like mock-ups of finished products and finished you know wireframes and prototypes it’s kind of changed now into more of like a case study situation so ideally i love to tell people three to four projects on your portfolio would be great but i want to know exactly what you did who was in your team what decisions did you make why did you make them how did you make them like really give us some context so that um we can know what you did and your thought process behind it because it’s all well and good to see a finished product but how did you get there that’s what we want to know.
James: You’ve worked in the product space for a couple of three years now and you’ve seen some trends change over that time what are you most excited about moving forward?
Ellen: Yeah i guess moving forward for ux and product i think i’m most excited for just seeing that increased emphasis on human centric design and seeing the importance of data not only in design but just across all product teams and any team in the business i feel like it’s getting more and more important to listen to your users and invest in that research and make sure that they are the focal point for any product so yeah that’s what i’m most excited for how have you seen the role of a product designer evolve uh especially when it comes to that communication element. Yeah i think it that product designer role has definitely changed a lot mostly because back in the day it might just be siloed in that design space where now you really do have to cross-collaborate with so many other different different teams different team members and that communication skill is you know pivotal so you might be you know working with users doing research interviews you really do have to have that social um social aspect to the job or you could be working with like you know product managers all the way up to working with stakeholders and clients so it’s really about having that communication skill.
James: Yeah do you think that’s a skill that can be learned or do you think that’s something that’s innate within people?
Ellen: Probably a bit of both it’s like one of those like soft skills but i think if you know if you’re familiar enough with the product and you know your job well enough you can do it.
James: Yeah cool covers obviously affected uh roles across technology ux included have you seen any significant changes with how your ux or apoc design roles changed with that move to remote?
Ellen: Yeah I mean that communication skill is really in demand now not only do you have to be able to communicate your ideas thoroughly but if you are communicating across your team or perhaps to clients or doing ux research it’s just kind of changed not the job but how you do it so yeah having that agility and that communication skill i feel like is really really a priority at the moment there’s a changing market uh from covert to now what do you see in the market from a designer’s perspective what are designers looking for when considering new roles.
James: Yeah I think designers are very aware that they are getting more and more in demand and because of that they are probably wanting to focus their uh skills on something that like is like a social feel good role i’m hearing a lot of tech for good thrown around and designers are just looking for something that they know can they can sink their teeth into and have a really positive impact on their users because you know these users are using their products every day sometimes so it’s it’s they know how much of an opportunity it is to reach as many users as possible so are you seeing a growing trend towards more permanent roles or contract roles in the design space of people coming in to work on a project and then moving on what’s the current landscape in there?
Ellen: Yeah I’d say right now the trend is definitely more on the permanent side of things um i think that has a lot to do with um you know businesses are getting lots of investment after covid which is super exciting so they are able to really invest long term into their design teams and also i think people are designers are really wanting to be involved with things long term now they are wanting stability after the last few years and are wanting to stay in their jobs for a long period of time that’s the trend that i’ve been seeing um which i think long term for design as a whole is going to be really great because people are going to be investing long term into these businesses.
James: Yeah and are you seeing a lot of movement in the market at the moment um obviously there’s a lot of companies investing in these roles are designers willing to move at the moment?
Ellen: Yeah um there is a lot of movement so yeah kind of like catch 22. the businesses who are willing to invest in those designers are going above and beyond to get that great talent so there’s a lot of competition be that with like finance financial compensation or also just with you know the perks of the job so seeing obviously lots of remote work going or remote first um hybrid options or a lot of um places right now which is great is offering to like pay their people to come and visit once a quarter to hq which is awesome so everyone can still get that you know one-to-one you know communication with their teams but you know they still have that remote first option and i think designers know that this is happening and with the market being as it is i don’t think it’s going to be going anywhere um it’s just a really competitive time so it’s exciting.
James: Hiring senior level talent seems really difficult at the moment are you seeing any companies having success with bringing in junior designers and growing them within?
Ellen: Yeah I think growing internally is probably the best way to get great talent is if you hire someone at the beginning and especially like in the scale-up startup space if you’re able to find someone amazing in that junior in that junior range and train them in all of your processes you can come out in a few years with an amazing senior designer that knows your product inside out i think that’s like one of the best things that any any company can be doing right now but in saying that if you are after someone senior i feel like speed is utmost importance right now you have to jump on people super quickly.
James: And that number one thing for designers at the moment is feel good factor yeah?
Ellen: The number one thing that i’m seeing for designers is that tech for good factor tech for good is you know products and businesses that are going to have a great social impact so we’re seeing a lot in the tech health space edtech is a big one as well like educational products and just things that are going to be having a you know positive impact on the users lives that are going to help them day to day.