So, tell us about your new program at Pace University. What will you be teaching?
Lis: We’re excited to teach Pace’s UX Capstone Project! The goal of the course is to allow students to work on a design challenge, which lets them apply the concepts and techniques acquired in their previous courses to create an original solution for a client. The course is a part of their Human-Centered Design graduate program.
Diana: We’re teaching what UX is like in the real world. Since this is the last class of the entire program, the goal is to prepare students to hit the ground running when they get a job as a UX professional. We designed the course to include solving problems for actual businesses, communicating with clients, persuasive storytelling, and interviewing guidance.
Hang on, aren’t you a CX company? Why are you teaching a UX course?
Lis: Both CX and UX share a common foundation of Human-Centered Design. These graduate students are in a Human-Centered Design program. Many CX practitioners first started working in UX, and Diana and I are no different. Teaching this course in UX allows us to shape our students’ perspectives in a way that increases their UX skills and gives them visibility into a possible career expansion into CX later on.
Diana: UX is a major subset of CX. In UX, we explore a person’s interaction with a product or service – either as a whole or in one of the components. In other words, UX focuses on the company’s core offering.
But the user isn’t always the customer, and the customer isn’t always the user. CX zooms out from the core offering to explore how a person experiences the business overall – the brand, the customer service, logistics, things like that. All this is to say that UX and CX are intertwined. There is no “good UX” without understanding the business and its various components that are ‘outside of the core’ offering, which is CX.
Aside from a body of knowledge, what do you hope to impart to your students?
Diana: In any endeavor, it’s natural to want to do everything by the book when you first start. You just don’t have the practical experience to know better, so you do the best you can. I hope we can show the students what it’s like to practice UX with real clients – and, more importantly, that failure is only a learning opportunity.
Lis: I’d add that we want to share what projects are really like. Our industry has a lot of theory and ideal scenario planning, but the real-world aspects are often overlooked. I hope to help students come up to speed on how projects function in the working world. This should help them adjust to post-school life more quickly and effectively.
What are you especially looking forward to about this experience?
Lis: I look forward to seeing what the students produce and how they use their skills to develop and test some original ideas! The potential to learn from them is especially high for this course.
Diana: I agree with Lis. UX is a collaborative discipline. As instructors, we’ll learn just as much from the students as they will from us. I look forward to having class discussions, answering students’ questions, and solving problems right along with them.
What challenges do students and new CX/UX pros face in the current business environment?
Diana: Students’ biggest challenge is adapting perfect theory into messy practice. Graduating students become new professionals armed with a “right” way of doing things, but they soon realize that budget, people, processes, etc. often get in the way of doing it “right.” So instead of doing it “right,” we do it “effectively.” Get it done within the current constraints, and don’t be afraid to break things (including perfect theory) to be effective.
Lis: And it’s important to realize that CX and UX pros have a different perspective than many of their counterparts. This means that we have to adapt our work and how we talk about that work to meet our counterparts where they are. It can take a lot of work to get the nuances right.
Thinking about where your students are now, what do you wish you knew at that stage in your professional lives?
Lis: I wish I had known that a partial solution could be okay. CX and UX solutions are often limited by resources and budgets, which can deflate us! But I now realize that something is always better than nothing. Moving the needle even a little bit can still have an impact.
Diana: Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions. Ever.
Often what you think is a “stupid” question is one that more senior professionals are afraid to ask. Or maybe they don’t think of asking it because they’ve been in their role for so long. If no one asks, that valuable piece of information is lost.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Diana: I hope we can guide students to think outside the box, whether it’s the “school theory” box or “this is how we’ve always done things” box. Progress is made by those who respect tradition but question where, how, and why things fit in the current context. It’s the kind of thinking that’s invaluable to prospective employees – and something I hope we can impart to the students.
Lis: It’s exciting that these relatively new programs and courses will adapt and evolve. We recognize we’re at the forefront of CX education – and that we’ll make many mistakes. But we’ll learn and grow along the way. That’s part of the fun of teaching; you learn just as much as you teach!