What kind of professional am I or do I aspire to be? How can I properly promote my skills? Is there a best way to present a portfolio? How can the portfolio evolve as the context changes? How can I professionally grow?

On the 10th of June 2021, intending to introduce the students of the Master in User Experience Psychology to UX in the working world, we had the opportunity to discuss with Sofia Scatena (Academic & Journalist) and Bob Falcone (Product Designer @Google ) how to introduce yourself as a professional in the field and the importance of authenticity in portfolios and interviews.

Afterwards, we explored how many diverse paths it is possible to pursuit having a background in UX, and how it influences your way of thinking and perception in work teams. Claudia Di Stefano (Manager @ IBM Garage), and Federica Falcini (Business Design Manager @ Accenture Interactive), both Experience Design Academy alumni, had the chance and opportunity to follow different paths thanks to their divergent thinking and UX expertise.

Below there are short extracts from their keynotes.

Watch the full stream of the event here

How can you transform the perception of you to people? — Sofia Scatena

Personal branding is a personal and subjective process aimed to promote our uniqueness

“Bearing in mind that people are not mass-produced objects characterised by the same replicable features, there is no person in this world identical to another. This is what makes you different, your strength.” Sofia Scatena

Unique means authentic, we should not cheat, nor overselling what we do or our skills. Instead, we should just try to illustrate ourselves. Each of us is unique and desirable thanks to unique characteristics. Human beings want to feel different and not to be recognised as the rest, it is in our nature, and our diversity is also our strength. We want to feel appreciated and recognised, legitimated in our qualities and skills. We want to feel special.

What is personal branding?

This practice lets people stand out from the rest, highlighting personal values and attitudes that make someone different, unique and relevant in their field; It’s the process that defines people, building a strong and recognizable image, conveying a mission, a value, a particular style of communication.

Personal branding aims to answer these questions:

What makes me noticeable? Where does my real value lay? What is my purpose? What are my strengths and weaknesses? Who is interested in my UVP (Unique Value Proposition)?

As we are unique characters, we are all brands, thus we need to design our personal brand and take care of how we are perceived. A brand is a promise of value; using ourselves to attract whoever shares our views, values and ideas. Someone that is interested in me regardless of my educational or professional achievements.

Demonstrating your real value and characteristics, your authenticity is what the recruiter should notice in your portfolio and interview. Hereafter best practices to introduce your genuine self to recruiters through portfolios.

Watch the full keynote

How to design a portfolio — Bob Falcone

The following illustrated process is a baseline to build a portfolio, not a checklist. Bear in mind that the portfolios need to be endlessly updated and moderated, depending on the job you are applying to.

Tips & Tricks to build an effective Design Portfolio

On Personal Brand:

  1. The tone of voice: 1st or 3rd, both of them works fine! The first-person tone of voice is more informal while instead 3rd is more formal but the really important bit is to be authentic.
  2. Show personality: by when the recruiter finishes reading the portfolio, they should get a sense of who you are and your personality.
  3. Show passion: tell a bit about yourself to make it personal, but just a little bit, do not exaggerate.
  4. Do not be afraid to show failures! Show the process and how you managed or how you would have liked to overcome the difficulties. It is still part of what you did, and certainly, it taught you something. What the recruiter wants to see is how you work, what is your process and overall how you come out of a bad project.
  5. Avoid clichés in your portfolio, make it yours.

How to present your process:

  1. Show your process: Do share how you approached a project from concept to solution. Avoid dropping a bunch of photos on the page without context and call it done.
  2. Storytelling: in a portfolio, the aim should be to make the viewer feel something! Be passionate about your journey. Describe your story, include all the needed parts a story usually have: a beginning ( hero banner or image, beauty shot, intro description, key final designs…) a middle part (that might be the description of your process, neatly curated mood boards, sketches, users flows design deliverables..), the End (that could be the findings, takeaways, final ‘beauty’ hero shot, quote, links to press, full process or prototype)
  3. Give credit & explain your role: be clear about what you did, and describe how you worked in a team.
  4. Include research findings for credibility: you are not designing by your assumptions, but your hypothesis is based on research and the user’s needs.
  5. Make an impact with numbers and statistics: include quantitative and qualitative research and use data and statistics to show the results.
  6. Remember to Embed your prototype, show don’t tell!
  7. Use a personal domain just to make it more professional, but keep in mind that pdf works just fine! You don't need to have it online.
A guideline on what and how to include in your portfolio

Recommendations on the User Experience of your portfolio

Think about your audience, design your portfolio as the recruiter is the user, think about the experience: think about the navigation and the structure, make it simple, clear and accessible.

  1. Don’t forget that you are not the audience! You are designing your portfolio to get a job, not just as a personal design exercise. Make sure that information is clear on your portfolio.
  2. To the recruiter's eye, you are good as the worst project in your portfolio. Be aware of what you should include and what you should leave apart. Quality over quantitative! 3 to 4 projects are enough to showcase your expertise.
  3. Demonstrate your flexibility in teamwork and projects.
  4. Include side projects! Share your passion and other abilities, but make sure it doesn't create noise in the portfolio.

Polish it! It’s all in the details

Currently, the best sites to build a portfolio (with no code skills)
  1. Don’t share the draft, but just the final result of the portfolio. Each section should be curated and precise.
  2. To make it more professional and always up to date, use as mockups the latest models of the phones or tech devices you are designing for.
  3. It is fine to use a template for your portfolio but make sure it is not too general or neutral, make your personality standing out.

Beyond the portfolio

What can you do to identify the right audience for you and job opportunities?

  1. Share it on LinkedIn! I know it is boring but that is where jobs are!
  2. Do your own research beforehand. What kind of job do you want? Modify your portfolio depending on the kind of job you are applying for. Change the nature, the aims based on what’s best to share for a specific position.

The advice is to use this list as a reference and not as something that must be included in your portfolio. However, the important thing remains to modify the projects according to the type of work you want to get.

The portfolio should always remain fluid, and change appearance depending on the ambitions and position for which you are applying for.

Watch the full keynote

Claudia Di Stefano — Flexibility and Divergent thinking is what companies are looking for, and what designers usually know how to practice

Claudia Di Stefano highlights how important it is to be able to move from one project to another in an agile way, changing prototypes, clients, users and technology. This kind of flexibility is at the base of User Experience Design, a practice that helped her in her career, improving her skills and approach to problem-solving.

“The strength of UX resides in the central position given to the human side of a project, how the user needs fit into the user capabilities of the product: think of the people’s behaviour behind everything, and how the technology is currently used or could be used.”

Hence, why is UX expertise crucial not only in UX jobs but also in any kind of career?

UX Designers know how to approach team workers with different kinds of expertise, such as computer scientists, graphics, analytics, marketers, but they always keep the user needs and focus of the project in mind. Divergent thinking and collaboration are at the base of a designer’s thinking and are essential in any job position.

Watch the full keynote

Federica Falcini — When to translate from one company to another, and how to include it into your portfolio

Federica Falcini is a Business designer moving to the Business Experience with the aim to solve human needs around a purpose. Federica’s career has changed a lot in the years, being moved by a feeling of curiosity that pushed her from one company to another.

Curiosity and passion are at the base of her work, this is why when she begins a job she usually wants to establish a very clear relationship with her boss, and make sure they share the same view.

When I evaluate a new job, I usually look for challenges. Curiosity and impact are what drives me. This is how I changed from different positions and achieved rich knowledge about a wide range of subjects. Suggestion: Share with your interviewer what is the reason why you moved from a company to another one, what you expect and why, and finally your vision about the theme you will be involved in. This is the key to my success.

Summing up

Before moving your career forward, whatever is your starting point, looks like the first important thing to do is to ask yourself the right questions:

What is the impact of UX on your career? How to integrate UX tools and skills into your job? Assess the reason for changes: what are the reasons why you moved from a company to another, what do you expect and why? What is your vision?

Watch the full keynote

These lectures were held during the opening day of the Master in User Experience Psychology by Politecnico di Milano & Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. Follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook to be updated about the upcoming UX Talks, that will be open to the public.

Curated by Alice Paracolli

A polytechnic centre of excellence dedicated to User Experience - by POLIdesign.