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I've been a developer/engineer now for quite a long time. My career progressed well in the beginning but has reached somewhat of a plateau. I do find myself giving increasing input into overall design of the software and apps I develop. I enjoy the result of making something better for users and getting more positive feedback on an app/web app from them. Additionally I'm quite sure it is useful for a software engineer to have a better understanding of the user experience.

So I'm thinking about starting a good quality short course in interaction design / user experience. There are a few I've found that seem to have a good reputation but it's a reasonable cost and time commitment.

My question is what value would engaging in this kind of study add to my career?

I'm hoping it would allow me to 'lean in' to the design side of things a bit more in my job if I can be more persuasive and prove I have good ideas and skills in this area. And possibly lead to future employment in a more design oriented role (or one that it is at least 'officially' a component of).

However on the flip side I realise it may be seen as encroaching on experienced design and UX specialists job roles and I don't really want to start my career again from scratch if that's what's needed to have more involvement in this side of the industry.

Perhaps there are some people out there who have experience of moving towards a more design oriented role from software engineering - how did it work out? Are there opportunities for developers to become more involved in improving user experience or is this a dead end?

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  • I find that being able to throw together a nice UI without the input of a separate specialist is always useful. This makes for better demos and proof of concept iterations. And later on when you might not be working alongside a UI specialist you can make use of those skills more fully. Honestly it sounds like a good extra set of training that can be useful in multiple situations. Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 8:26
  • Yes I like the idea that if it helps me build more effective user interfaces and better understanding of user needs and how to satisfy them, that it would probably lead to a better outcome in my career eventually. I don't expect it's going to be a "quick win" where I can walk into a completely different job role straight away but it might help move in the right direction, and if nothing else improve on my effectiveness at my current job
    – ses
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 12:29
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    It never hurts to have a better handle on fields surrounding your field. If nothing else, it will help you to interact with designers and provide better feedback on their designs/come up with your own suggestions for improvements. Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 18:26

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This is borderline VTC territory - as it's about a specific choice.

I think though it's broad enough that we can answer to some degree:

Getting understanding in areas that are at different stages of a product pipeline to your own can help you to be better.

I'm reminded of the classic documentary 'Office Space' (I consider it a documentary and will fight anyone who disagrees) - where the two Bobs are set to fire a guy 'who takes the specs, from the customer, to the engineers'

The joke being he appears to do nothing (hence getting fired) but the underlying truth of it (and why it's a documentary) is that someone who knows how to speak Engineer to an Engineer (they don't speak english, they speak Acronym) and Customer Service to a Customer has value.

If conceptually, all you are aware of in your sphere of work is that there is a big bang from which work is generated and a black hole into which all your work is sucked - then you aren't as useful as the person who understands that clients have a problem, they need a solution and once the solution is deployed that they need support (taking it to the absolute extreme here, but you get the point) - and so even if you primarily remain a Software engineer - having an understanding of design or UX/UI principles means that when you need to interface with a UI/UX team - you can talk natively to them in their language, this eases the flow of information and makes you more valuable.

In addition, when you are making choices in your work, you can be thinking about these ideas and principles so that later down the track, there's less re-work because you've already considered it.

This can be applied to all manner of works - if you are a Builder, then doing a course in accounting can help. If you are Butcher, doing a course in animal husbandry can help. If you are a top international assassin, doing a course in couples therapy can help.

I wouldn't worry about being seen as encroaching - just see it as wanting to add a few more tools to your tool belt.

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  • Thanks I think this largely answers the question. I would still like to hear from anyone who has transitioned to more design oriented work, but the message I'm getting from your post is that regardless it will be helpful in my career. I think I'm going to go for it, who knows where my career might lead but like you say this is a good tool to have that can be applied in a lot of positions in the industry.
    – ses
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 12:26

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