Userability #13 – Renaissance Man

Brian Christiansen

August 28th, 2009


This week: how many hats can one UX practitioner actually wear? How do you market a wide range of skills in the job market?
Duration: 14m | 23 MB 
Recorded: July, 2009 Brian Christiansen, UIE Podcast Producer 
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This week we have our longest, and certainly one of our most interesting episodes to date. Jared and Robert met Joshua Muskovitz on the IxDA discussion list when Josh posted an innocent-enough question to the list: what do you call someone who sits squarely on the fence between interaction design and implementation? How do I market myself while job hunting when I have been in the industry so long that I have a really broad range of skills?

Josh certainly does claim a wide range of skills, from interaction design and usability to front-end development, back-end programming, and business development. That brought up the question an employer might also have when reading his resume… “Is this guy for real? Can he really do all of this stuff well?”

As with most debates that Jared and Robert delve into, this one got messy, fast. But it also became very interesting. I knew I had to find Josh and invite him on Userability. I’m glad I did, as it made for a great podcast. Tune in to hear the debate, and if you have an opening for a man like Josh, won’t you let him know?

Have a serious UX question? Send it in and Jared Spool and Robert Hoekman, Jr. will answer it with a healthy dose of levity. Please send your deep, vexing questions to us at We’d love to feature you on the show!

We want to hear your take on this debate. Can someone do all the things that Josh can, really well? Can he fit into a corporate structure, or does he need to find a small operation who can really put all his tools to work? Get the debate started again in the comments

3 Responses to “Userability #13 – Renaissance Man”

  1. Monk Says:

    I’ve found that in this economy, and working for small to mid sized company, the more I bring to the table with my skillset the more valuable I become to that company.

    When working for PowderKeg, a small production company, I was hired as a Maya modeler. From there I used my audio and voice background to create scratch tracks and then final 5.1 surround mixes. With Maya, my skills moved on from modeling to texture artist and lighting. My IT skills were also used to construct the render farm.

    Working with other companies such as and now Bard College, I’m finding that with the reduction in the workforce, the more of a Renaissance man I am, the better chance I had in landing the gig. I won’t be pigeon holed in some sort of cubefarm.

  2. Anirudh Says:

    Wearing multiple hats successfully is a gift. As a next step, one should be able to tie-up these skills into a broader umbrella; and create unique value. After a point, effort of nurturing these skills/talents individually has diminishing returns. Real value may lie in growing up to that broader area towards which most of these skills are pointing. That may be the natural progression.

    IMHO, once you broaden your perspective and take a look back at those individual skills; it would reveal a clearer picture. You might realize that some of the skills were just a ladder that had to lead you to this point. In other words, think of these multiple talents as foundation support for the next level. e.g. moving from Designer/Developer to Managerial/Enterpreuner role.

    This perspective does not hold if you wish to specialize in those skills further. Then you may have to make some tough choices (choose one skill over other) or keep on juggling all together (tough act!).

    Here is a related post for those moving from UX to Business role.

  3. Benjamin Ho Says:

    After listening to the podcast, I’d like to add a perspective:


    It’s absolutely in how you go about marketing yourself and then also asking yourself what you want in a company and what you want to be doing in that company. Whether it’s large or small, your goal sounds like all you need to do is find a place to fit-in. That may mean that you may have to be *flexible* while presenting yourself to a position. I wouldn’t think about pigeon-holes so much as whether the position is right for you in a company you would love to be a part of.

    But of course, if you’re steadfast in wanting a position where you’d be appreciated in all aspects of your experience and wanting to do it *all*, there are positions out there, though it may take you longer to find them.

    So really, it’s up to you how you want to go about doing this and there may be trade-offs along the way.

    I do hope you get your ideal position whatever that may be.


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