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It’s the time of year for reviews and Christmas number ones. Except it isn’t because nothing is following a pattern anymore.

2020 felt a bit like the time I set off in my car following the sat nav, on what looked like a simple journey. I drove deeper into the countryside, starting to doubt if the route was correct. Country lanes got smaller until there was no room to turn a car around. I got a sinking feeling yet had to keep going. But where the hell was I?

I started the year teaching design and thinking my career was in a stable place. Relatively. I was doing well on improving my health and fitness. Also relatively. I recently conquered a…

…is more important now than ever before.

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Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

I came across a poster with tips on designing for users with anxiety a couple of years ago (see the full poster below and download here). It struck me as a useful reminder to include mental health in our thinking about accessibility.

Now, in the time of COVID-19, we are experiencing record levels of anxiety. This is coupled with increased Internet usage, especially of social networks.

In England we entered the second official lockdown last week. Like many, I felt a rising sense of dread about this new set of restrictions. My sleep was disrupted and I constantly worried about…

Design portfolios have long been a requirement but are they still relevant? And how can you make them work for you?

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Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

Portfolios are kind of a pain.

They are a common expectation in many design jobs, from architecture to UX and UI design. A collection of work examples, case studies and artefacts to show off our skills. Simple enough.

Yet most of us struggle to put them together and keep them updated. For a few reasons:

  • We’re busy with actual work
  • We‘re working on confidential or commercially sensitive projects that are difficult to share
  • We haven’t completed enough projects yet

There is huge (self-imposed?) pressure placed on designers to create portfolios that impress. In an industry where people care a lot…

Design bootcamps remain a controversial topic in our industry. What is behind their rapid growth and what value are they bringing?

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For the last 8 months, I’ve taught at a bootcamp for UX/UI Design at Flatiron School. I’ve also been a hiring manager of junior designers for years, so I’ve seen the impact bootcamps have from both sides.

What is a bootcamp?

A number of companies offer immersive training courses in tech jobs. They are known as bootcamps because they accelerate learning, taking students from beginner level to qualified for a job in weeks, rather than years.

Let’s examine why bootcamps exist.

Bootcamps fill gaps in traditional education to meet industry demand

Tech job opportunities are growing and tech changes all the time. Universities struggle to offer courses teaching the skills…

Stop waiting for the right time

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Photo by Victor Rodriguez on Unsplash

We’ve all got things we secretly want to do. You feel them stirring on that rainy Sunday afternoon or dull Monday lunchtime. They are the thoughts fleetingly but frequently on your mind. If only you were there instead of here.

Maybe you’d love to live by the sea, travel for a year or relocate to Japan. You want to write a book, start a company or a family, run a marathon, retrain as a chef and buy a boat. Maybe it’s all of these.

What do we do with all these hopes?

Sometimes we can’t even say them out loud. That’s how good we are at dismissing our…

What I learned from the glitches

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Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Starting out

Early jobs included working in a shoe shop, a factory and Pizza Hut for minimum wage. Not surprising then, that in my first job after uni earning money was the goal. I needed money, and job security so that money wouldn’t disappear.

Regular pay, a pension, values of hard work and humility.

That’s how everyone in my family worked. It was the done thing, especially for a graduate with vast student debts. I diligently applied for jobs in my final year and landed one just in time for graduation. It became my ticket to…

The uphill climb past entrenched bias makes many women just give up

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Photo: Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash

The data:

Only 33 of the companies in the Fortune 500 list have CEOs who are women.

The same applies to six of the companies in the FTSE 100.

Women don’t get to the top of companies very often, even in 2019.

We may have a better balance in the design industry than in the wider tech sector. Several teams I’ve worked on had a 50/50 ratio of male and female designers. But at senior levels, only 11% of design leaders are women. So we have the same old problem of not making it to the top. What’s happening?

My…

Because first impressions count

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Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash

New starters arrive at jobs full of hope and optimism.

Yet too often this enthusiasm dissolves in a sea of confusion and disappointment.

That’s because on-boarding is de-prioritised in the drama and effort of hiring. It is overlooked because new people don’t start very often or because they start so often. It is everyone’s and therefore no-one’s responsibility.

This is a mistake because on-boarding is a crucial step in retaining and developing your employees. Designing it well has multiple benefits.

Why is on-boarding important?

  • Organisations want new starters to contribute to the mission as soon as possible
  • New starters want to settle in, know…

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Photo by Verne Ho on Unsplash

Sometimes we all find ourselves in a customer service nightmare. You know the ones…

Where you go round and round but can’t find a solution. It defies logic. You phone different helplines, press buttons and hope each new person you speak to is the one who can help. You start to question everyone’s sanity, including your own. We’ve all been there.

My recent experience went like this. I am paying a fee for the maintenance of communal areas where I live (a service charge). I paid a bill for this which I received by post earlier in the year. All seemed well.

Then months later, out of the blue, I receive a letter from…

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Photo by Jane Palash on Unsplash

As we come to the end of the year, I’m doing a retrospective on my freelance business Creative Product Consulting. What worked well and what are my priorities to work on in 2019?

What worked?

  • I did! Probably the biggest fear of any freelancer is being out of work for too long. I was pleased to get stuck into my first project, a brand new challenge working for a startup. I’ve learned a lot and now feel confident advising others on this way of working.
  • The freedom to expand my horizons. I started with a view to working in UX and Product…

Jessica Richards

Product & UX Consultant. Founder of Creative Product Consulting. Feminist. World traveller. Empathy & cats.

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