“I believe that one of the qualities every good UX consultant should have and offer is the ability to communicate their ideas in front of any type or size of audience,” says Armando Breton, drawing parallels between his role at Transpire and a recent stint as Academy Xi‘s newest instructor.
“I always wanted to give teaching a chance but my fear of public speaking was like a little monster living in the back of my head, which held me back from doing it,” he explains. “But as part of my personal goals at Transpire, I chose to overcome this fear by approaching Academy Xi and throwing myself into this beautiful journey called teaching.”
Despite this apprehension, Armando comes from an educational background – his mother a retired preschool teacher, his father a former architect lecturer. So, did teaching come naturally to Armando, and how did his experience as a UX consultant help?
Did you have any reservations about agreeing to teach?
The fear of not providing a good quality class exists from the moment you say yes to teaching and doesn’t stop until you start speaking to your students for the first time. That’s when the fear starts to vanish.
Another concern at the very beginning of the course was knowing how I would balance my time – having a part-time job at Academy Xi, a full-time job at Transpire and my personal life.
What is the best/worst part about being a teacher?
The best thing about being a teacher is your students – every single day there’s something new that you can learn from them and I’m not the only one in the classroom being taught a lesson. It’s a win-win opportunity for both them and myself.
Teaching also refreshes your memory and helps you remain up-to-date. For example when preparing my classes, I revalidate things I learnt both at uni and the world of work.
I’ve discovered how to teach as well. For context, at Academy Xi you take over material the former instructor left for you. This material doesn’t always align to the way you’ve learnt things or the message you want to convey to students, which creates the need to find ways of creating content and activities that better benefits your students.
As for the worst thing about being a teacher, when classes come to an end and you need to say goodbye to your students.
How is being a teacher different from being a UX consultant?
They’re not that different and share a lot of things in common:
– You need to prepare and rehearse when presenting in front of an audience, whether it be students or customers.
– You need to know the content you are teaching, and be able to answer most questions directed at you, in order to build and maintain credibility.
– You need to be a great observer and an active listener. In a room full of students or customers, each person will have different opinions, perspectives or ways of saying things. It’s your responsibility to learn how to address and manage their specific needs.
– Everyone in the room needs to understand what you’re talking about. As a teacher and a consultant you must make sure that the audience is following you. Keep the conversation away from technical jargon and terminologies so that all parties can grasp the core things you want to communicate.
– And finally, in my opinion the majority of classes, especially at a beginner’s level, should solve doubts and bring clarity rather than create more questions.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learnt from the experience?
Teaching can be very time consuming, and because this was my first experience, I worked so many extra hours to offer a good quality class, which resulted in long nights and bags under my eyes.
But seeing your students apply what they learnt about adopting evidence-based solutions for real-world problems during their final presentations was extremely rewarding.
Escaping your comfort zone can be daunting at first, but being able to overcome these fears is one of the most satisfactory feelings in the world.
Public speaking is like any other skill and requires practice. But for the next course or talk I give, I’ll definitely be more confident.
What advice would you give people wanting to pursue a career in UX design?
– Get involved – Attend UX meetups, connect with those who inspire you or influence your work, interact with the community and engage with conversations on social media.
– Practice until it hurts – You won’t be a UX master from day one. Start small by redesigning a product or service you feel needs improvement. Talk to potential users of that product to validate your assumptions. If they’re not correct, be humble and leave your ego at the door. Reiterate until it makes sense.
– Build empathy – UX is about putting users at the centre of our designs. We are responsible for giving them a voice and letting them shape our design decisions.