Friday, June 18, 2010

A little bit of background...

In my work life, I'm a UX PM for Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio.  To the real world--those of you NOT working in the design industry or at Microsoft--that means I design user interfaces for Microsoft's premiere database tool.

A lot of people give me funny looks when I tell them where I work.  And I get it... SQL Server (and Microsoft in general, I know,) is not exactly known for its fantastic UI.  In fact they've both got a history of some pretty crummy UI.  SSMS (the tool my team develops) is difficult to use, idiosyncratic, and has no real design standard other than using another team's crappy UI to justify your own.  And those are the more polite things I have to say.

I once went to a lecture from a man who was giving career advice based on his life and work experiences at SQL Server... he was the sort of person who commands a lot of respect around here.  Anyway, I doubt he thought there were any UI folks in the audience when he made the offhand comment that if you want to progress your career in deep technical thinking, SQL Server was the place to be, but that "if you want to progress a UI Design career, well, maybe you should work someplace else."

I disagree.  I think this is a great place to grow my UX career, because I have a unique opportunity to shine: I know that whatever I do, I'm going to make users happier than if I'd never been here at all.  And after several years, I know I'll be able to point to the legacy I've left behind, and have something to be proud of.  I'm part of the design revolution. 

I could go work for a team known for fantastic UI, and I know I'd learn a lot about how other people do it.  Maybe I'd learn to avoid many mistakes I've had to learn the hard way.  But at the end of the day, I couldn't point to the interface and say, "if it hadn't been for me, that wouldn't have been there."  Call me conceited, but that gets me up in the morning.  And the accountability keeps me honest, and working hard.

I started my current job early in 2008, when my boss decided to take a chance on an unknown person based only on my obvious passion for the subject.  At the time, I was working as a tester for another team.  I knew nothing about SQL Server.  I'd never designed anything a real user would see.  I had one (pathetic) design course under my belt.  And I was full of opinions.

I'm still full of opinions.  And I aim to make sure my boss never regrets his decision...

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