Background: i'm a designer (38yo) but the last 10 years i've been in managerial roles in creative agencies. Recently, a friend (software engineer, 25yo) and I have been working on a business (digital agency/software) on the side. I do the UX/UI - all self taught (I missed out on working as a digital designer). I feel confident in my understanding and application of UX/UI, but my knowledge of Sketch is quite basic (I get by).

I've just been made redundant so figured now is the time to try worm my way into a tech company as a project/account manager and learn more about the industry. I had little expectation my skillset/age could afford anything else in a tech company.

I sent my CV to 20 of the biggest tech companies in my city. I had some encouraging replies - great experience they could use, but no openings currently.

I got a coffee invite from one, who I met with. They explained to me they liked my experience as I was older, can be client-facing, can give creative direction, with a strong interest in UX and design research. They have a disconnect between their engineers and project managers, where UX is the casualty - there's no design/creative thinking happening, no designers at all - which is where they think I come in.

I was honest with them and reiterated my non tech background, and that they could hire someone with strong UX//UI experience very easily. The response to this was that they're more interested that I would bridge the client/engineers/project managers gap and they can hire a design team and build processes around me.

They've given me a mock brief to develop the UX/UI solution for, which I need to present to the CEO and others to progress further. I know I can do this, but my concern is, if I do get a job in this company, seemingly as a design manager/business analyst hybrid (their words) with a team of UX/UI designers, my lack of experience in this industry and UX/UI will quickly be found out by those under me, or that I will be so wildly unqualified that I will fail.

I have no perspective on this. I don't know if this is something that happens, or if I'm being given an incredible opportunity that I have no right to. Am I just going to be some inept manager that everyone hates? Or am I catastrophising?

  • There are projects which are lead by practicing engineers with a deep personal understanding of the key issues, but most of the time, managers do not have that, and rely on explanation from subordinates. How you deal with what you do not know will be as important as the details of what you do or do not know. That said, you have not really asked an answerable question - mostly you seem to be seeking opinion, which isn't really what SE sites are for. It could be argued that the fact that you are questioning your capability is a better perspective than some bring to such a role. – Chris Stratton Sep 11 '19 at 14:01
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  • You may have a bit of imposer-syndrome but at the end of the day, you've been honest about your experience and they still want you. It sounds like your perfectly qualified for the roll, especially as it's management/client facing, which a lot of tech companies struggle with. – Bee Sep 12 '19 at 14:18

They have explicitly stated that they are looking for someone with your skillset. Managers don't always need technical experience - and you have already asked for clarification of the role.

There's no guarantee that this will work out well, but there never is! Check out the glassdoor review for this company, and if you're comfortable with them - go for it!

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    managers don't always need technical experience - to take that even further, sometimes managers with technical experience get held back because they can't stop putting their (own) hands in everything. Managers need to be good at managing which doesn't inherently mean they need to be experts at the skills they are managing. That's what individual contributors are for. They need to be the experts. – dwizum Sep 11 '19 at 14:31

I was honest with them and reiterated my non tech background... they [can] hire someone with strong UX//UI experience very easily. [They said] they're more interested that I would bridge the client/engineers/project managers gap and they can hire a design team and build processes around me.

This is a valid thing to hire for.
Sounds like they want (they are hiring you for) your passion for UX/UI, your past experience, and your people skills.

[Am I] being given an incredible opportunity that I have no right to?

Sounds like an incredible opportunity.

"Right to"? That's the wrong way to think about it.

It is their decision not yours.
Knock it out of the park and enjoy your new career.

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I've had managers who understand the tech that I do, and those who don't. What they understand isn't as important as whether they understand what they understand. The fact that you understand that you don't know what they do, but you understand the importance of it, is a sign to me that you will be a good non-technical manager.

If I were interviewing a prospective manager who was able to demonstrate that he was comfortable learning about what I do, but who understood that I am the one who knows how to implement the tech, I'd certainly be thumbs up on him after the interview.

I have had managers who either think they know how to tell me how to do my job when they don't, and those who know nothing at all and obviously feel at a disadvantage so they focus on what they do know and pretend it is important. I once had a manager who decided that the most important part of my job was dusting the computers every night and tearing reports apart without leaving little exposed bits along the margins (this was back in the day when reports came off the mainframe in continuous sheets)

I don't know how extensive or current your knowledge is, but if it were me I'd brush up with a tutorial on what's "hot" in UI design (if you haven't already done so. tech changes so fast). It might impress the interviewers that you are not afraid to dig in and keep current. You don't have to know enough to actually do the work, just enough to be able to understand what your engineers are talking about on a higher level.

For example, if you come to the conclusion that the "hot technologies" for front-end design include React and Angular, you will be able to sit down with your engineers and ask "for this project, which would be better to use, and why?" It makes them feel that you understand and value their input, and it makes you better able to make decisions.

Be careful not to step over that boundary from understanding what a tech is useful for and thinking that you can make suggestions as to how to implement it; your job, as they said is to bridge the gap. You know what needs to be done. They know how to do it. Be familiar with the alternatives, figure out what the cost of each decision is, and you will be an asset to those both above and below you in the chain.

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You've made it very clear to them what your skills are, and what they are not.

They've responded by explicitly stating that the thing that you are is the thing that they're looking for.

That's basically the definition of "You're qualified for the position as described." If somehow it turns out once you arrive that the thing they want you for is not the thing they specifically told you you were qualified for, that's really, really not on you.

Most likely scenario: You got super-lucky, and stumbled into someone who wanted your exact skillset. It's an incredible opportunity that you are qualified for.

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