Where's the best place for UX people to work in NYC?
August 2, 2011 6:37 AM   Subscribe

Where's the best place for UX/UI/IA/ID people to work in New York City? I'm an interaction designer/user experience person at an agency in NYC looking for something new. Khoi Vinh's essay, The End of Client Services, has me thinking that it's time to step away from agency life.

I'm sick of:
- insane schedules and scopes of work that exist in a fairytale wonderland
- high staff turnover, coupled with rounds of massive layoffs earlier this year, where I lost 3 fellow UX designers on a 5 person team (60%). My manager is typically traveling between multiple offices and it's getting a little lonely.
- client-side legal stakeholders who don't understand the web (and don't care that they don't understand the web, plus the agency representatives are not "allowed" to talk during their reviews of work)
- the "launch the site and forget it" mentality -- meaning there is little to no chance of testing and iterating on designs due to budget constraints
- being permanently short-staffed, on purpose, to be considered "more efficient" when the workload is light
- being asked to do random tasks because we are short-staffed, like help QA the site and log issues, write business rules, write copy and proofread, help someone find a PSD buried on the server, etc. (we have people that DO these tasks)
- being given crappy tools like Lotus Notes, an old version of Jira, a old PC laptop that can't handle more than one browser being open at the same time, Visio
- very little work/life balance, such that leaving at 5pm feels like sneaking out of the office

Special snowflake details:
- I'm good at making user flows, site maps, user personas, wireframes, functionality specifications, test scripts. I've written user research discussion guides and moderated user research in the past but not in the past 2 years.
- My Photoshop skills are rather rusty, so positions calling for that don't seem to be a good fit & I wouldn't have a portfolio of recent work to show.
- Same goes for my coding skills, and I think a position where I'm programming all of the time would not be a good fit either.
- I have 7 years of UX experience, and 5 year at a my current digital marketing agency. I'm seeing a lot of job postings out there that seem too junior or too senior for me.
- I make in the low six figures a year and would like something comparable.
- On paper, working 50-60 hours doesn't look too bad, but "can you please wireframe as fast as you possibly can" takes a toll after a few years. I'd like my life back, please.

So where's the best place for UX/UI/IA/ID people to work in New York City where projects are managed properly and there is work/life balance?

Google? Startups? Finance? Go in-house somewhere? Go freelance?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Consider switching to speech UI. Starting salaries are in the 60s, and with your experience I imagine you'd be pretty attractive to companies like Nuance. They have an opening in Seattle right now and Sunnyvale, CA, but I know they have an office in NYC and plenty of remote employees. Even if there's nothing for you at the moment it doesn't hurt to send them your resume.
posted by Dragonness at 6:49 AM on August 2, 2011

where projects are managed properly and there is work/life balance?

I am not sure I have ever worked anywhere where this is the case, agency or otherwise, especially for $100K+, especially for a non-people-manager (you don't mention whether you have experience managing people). I will tell you that if you consider going to a non-agency organization (online retail, Web-based business services, some sort of Web-based B2B provider) you may get to experience a slower pace -- sometimes glacially slow. However, in my experience, it is the same kind of hurry-up-and-wait, just with longer cycles.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:09 AM on August 2, 2011

I work in finance (I'm in Baltimore but work with colleagues in the same company in the NYC area) as an IA. The days of me acting as a consultant/expert IA/UX on a larger team where we're all specialists at something are over, and now I do very little IA/UX work at all. My company may not be faring as well as some others, but better than most, and I've no reason to believe finance is a mecca for designers who don't want to be asked to do non-specialist work like QAing and documentation and image management. Once we have enough money to do very much, we'll have to outsource it all because we're so low on staff.

Call me jaded, sure. I've survived almost 3 years of rolling layoffs, so I feel justified. But it seems to me that you're longing for an ideal work environment that can exist only if you create it yourself in the form of a startup or a freelance consulting business. But like Vinh said, do the latter only if you're prepared to do things the client's way--not your way.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:46 AM on August 2, 2011

Have you considered government work?

It has its own set of issues, but it sounds like you might actually thrive in that kind of environment. Things move much more slowly.
posted by schmod at 10:04 AM on August 2, 2011

You could always go work out your angst for a year or two working for a big brand on the client side. It could be good therapy.

I traded in working for a WPP-sized agency for a 50 man outfit. I really enjoy the change in culture, work process, ownership of solution and so forth that comes with working for a smaller and more fleet organization. Also, it's hard for assholes to hide when you only have 50 people to carry the load.

Your UX skills are probably easily translatable to process engineering and design management. Have you thought about moving over to the strategy side of the practice?
posted by cior at 11:10 AM on August 2, 2011

Also, feel free to get in touch 1-1 if you want advice about coming out to San Francisco.
posted by cior at 11:13 AM on August 2, 2011

I see you're anonymous. If you would care to MeFi Mail me, I can give you some advice that I can't really post in a public forum.
posted by zvs at 2:39 PM on August 2, 2011

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