September 2, 2022

A UX Researcher’s Perspective: Work at a Design Agency and Grow Fast

Doing work I care about has always been important to me. The minute it occurred to me that I would be spending a significant portion of my life at a job, I made the executive decision to only work at places where I felt fulfilled. This conviction is why after one month at a company in Lagos, Nigeria, I found myself in a conversation with a friend letting her know that I was ready to quit and look for a different opportunity – 

  • “I just don’t feel challenged, I’m working wayyy below my skill level, and I don’t even like the work!” 
  • “so, what do you want to do?”
  • “I just want to do design work; I really want to do design research. I think that’s where I’ll thrive most.” 

Luckily, my friend has a fantastic network and pointed me in the right direction – in a matter of days, she had made an email introduction to Yann Le Beux – co-founder of YUX – and talked up my skills. Interestingly enough, YUX wasn’t looking for new hires at the time, and after three interviews and three months of uncertainty, I got the job; Junior User Experience (UX) researcher/ UX lead. I had absolutely no idea what it meant, but damn I was excited! I did not expect the six months of rapid growth, exciting projects, and wonderful connections.

In this article, I will share four important things I learned during my time at YUX:

  1. Confidence is a Practice: My first month at YUX set the tone for my time with the company – I was thrown into a complicated project with a huge client, and assigned as lead! I felt scared, excited, and challenged. I also had fantastic team members and a manager who supported me throughout the project. 
    Yann, co-founder of YUX and my manager was confident that we could deliver. Keep in mind this was a team of mostly young UX researchers / designers early in their careers. This type of confidence and trust did something wonderful for us. I witnessed collaboration and ownership. my team put their best foot forward even in moments where we should have given up. I would see this practiced in every project and outside of projects. Yann and Camille (co-founders) are adamant about trusting yourself and your abilities as a user researcher & designer. This taught me that whether I feel confident in the moment or not, putting myself out there and giving my best is all that matters.
  2. Empathy is good for Business: Arguably, the best part of working at YUX is the internal community and company culture. Before I gave my friend the go ahead to make the introduction, I spent a few hours looking through YUX’s website to learn more and I had seen a couple of articles about how employees' voices are prioritized. In my experience, one of the reasons why attrition rates at companies are high is because of the work culture. Employees are dissatisfied because their personhood isn’t considered; all upper management cares about is if they meet deadlines, but this is not the case at YUX, everything we do is a constant conversation and continuous collaboration. Someone is checking on you during each stage of the project, your manager wants to know what’s going on at home and how that might impact work so you're given room to accommodate that. Yes, being able to meet deadlines and business goals is very important but there is an understanding that you are way more than the job - you are a full person and there’s room made for that. I honestly think more company’s need to take this approach to work culture. Of course it isn’t perfect, I would hate to paint an utopian scenario, but the main point is they make the effort and you can see that.
    Fikayo and Elizabeth, chilling with YUX Co-Founder Yann and the rest of the Nigeria team in Lagos
  3. Advocacy in the workplace is vital:  I also learnt the power and importance of rooting for your colleagues and employees. Before YUX, I was used to competition in the workplace, people felt like there wasn’t room for everyone to grow/succeed and as a result they would either actively try to work against you or be indifferent to your growth. The company would typically only prioritize the growth of upper management staff and it became a game of us vs them. YUX completely flipped this over the head. My first week at YUX, I had 1-1 conversations with the managers where they asked me about my goals while working at the company, and how they could facilitate my ability to reach them. And they weren’t just saying this too, throughout my time, at every client engagement, at every team meeting, during subsequent 1-1 sessions, they were pushing me to be a leader, to put myself out there. A particular event comes to mind. We had to run a co-design workshop with a pretty big client and my manager asked myself and my colleague to design and lead the first segment of the session - icebreakers. Now this may seem like nothing to experienced folks but we were both panicking because of the type of client and the nature of the project especially as ice breakers set the tone for design workshops. But our manager trusted that we would come through and because he trusted us, we were able to deliver way beyond our expectations. The feedback we received afterwards was very impactful - he basically said be less afraid to do things, speak up, share your insights, communicate with the clients even when you’re nervous - this ties back to the first lesson I talked about which is “confidence is a practise”

  4. If you want to grow fast, work at a design agency! This is the best advice I can give anyone who is just starting out in their career. Working at an agency means you will be working on multiple projects - most of which will be unique - utilizing and building a broad range of skills, and working with very interesting and impressive clients which will look good on your CV. In a very short amount of time, you will go from never having heard of UX benchmarking to being a wiz at doing it. 

Working at YUX was truly a defining moment for me both in my career and personal life. I was able to experience first hand the joys of working in a company that has cracked the work culture code while simultaneously building my skills and making wonderful connections. 

A question I always have for company’s who do design work is “does design influence the work culture?” and the Answer for YUX is a resounding YES.

Editors' note: after an amazing impact at YUX, Fikayo has been accepted for a Master Degree on Design for Education at Georgetown University in the US. We are so proud of you and wish you all the best in your journey!