I used to work at a golf course that hosted a lot of shotgun start tournaments. Without fail, at every tournament, golfers would get lost on their way to their carts or to their starting hole. This would delay the tournament, frustrating guests and costing the course money.
“Could I put a sign up here?”, I asked one day, as a fifteen-year-old rookie, whose job description consisted mostly of cleaning golf carts, cleaning golf clubs, and cleaning golf shoes.
“What?” Asked my boss, an overworked golf pro.
“I’ve noticed that golfers are usually distracted before tournaments, so for today’s tournament, could I put a sign right here that shows them which direction to go?”
Luckily he was too busy to say no, so I went for it. There were still a few hiccups, but that tournament went noticeably smoother than most.
Over the next few summers, I went on to experiment with signs, instructions, barriers, and more, taking note of what worked and what didn’t. I really enjoyed working out these logistics and trying to get into guests’ heads. My boss appreciated it too!
That’s how I try to approach my life and career: always trying new things and moving towards what works.
Iterating My Way to Success
In university, I studied Chemical Engineering. I was actually pretty good at it, graduating with honors and picking up strong analytical, mathematical, and problem-solving skills. However, I enjoyed my programming courses much more than my chemistry courses or my summer job and internship. Don’t get me wrong, I still love chemistry and until recently gave regular chemistry presentations to youngsters, but software is my passion.
Quality Assurance Engineer
Luckily, after graduation, I was hired by CMG, an Oil and Gas Software Company. There, I spent two years as a QA Engineer gaining an eye for detail and a knack for breaking things. Also, I learned to communicate diplomatically, especially to the developers who I was assigning bugs to.
CMG then promoted me into C++ programming. I was on a team of two developers responsible for the back-end logic and the user interface of a new feature. I had to learn to debug some tough problems because we were adding on to a legacy application, with some parts of the code over a decade old.
User Experience Practitioner
I had no idea how to design my UI, so I learned as much as I could about User Experience. I read all of the classics: Cooper, Norman, Krug, and more. I took courses and attended meetups. Meanwhile, I performed competitive analysis, sketched ideas and wireframes, presented them to stakeholders, coordinated usability tests and user interviews, and involved as many coworkers as possible. It was just like the golf course, only I was moving around pixels and labels instead of signs and instructions.
As much as I loved CMG, life overseas was calling to me. In October 2015, my girlfriend and I packed up and moved from Calgary, Canada to London, UK. Steve Krug has compared Usability Testing to travel, calling them both a broadening experience. I couldn’t agree more.
My next adventure?
I’m now working on Financial Software for Wall Street Systems, but I love interesting side-projects. In addition to adding value with my C++ skills, I’m hoping to improve my self-taught UX techniques, work on web development, and possibly even learn about functional programming.
If you’d like to work with a developer who:
- is always learning,
- loves a challenge,
- loves users, and
- can organize a mean golf tournament
Please get in touch!