Season 3 Episode 10 "Beyond the Bootcamp" is now available. Listen now.
March 3, 2022

Cory Lebson on the mid-career crisis for UXers, pressure of having to make a difference and letting go of control

User researcher and author of the UX Careers Handbook, Cory Lebson, shares honest stories of his mid-career crisis and his tips on maintaining your wellbeing and sense of purpose.

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#007 - Many think UX is something new but it’s not. A lot of UXers have been working in the industry for decades now and starting to experience a mid-career crisis. In this episode, user researcher and author of the UX Careers Handbook, Cory Lebson, shares his honest stories of experiencing the mid-career crisis and how he handled it. We also talk about using biometrics to learn about your own emotions and better manage the external triggers that could affect you. Cory also shares his advice for letting go of the pressure of having to make a difference and separating your identity from your work.

In this episode:

  • Being in touch with your feelings with biometrics
  • Speaking up to clients honestly about what's causing you stress
  • Letting go of the pressure of having to make a difference
  • Knowing what’s under your control and what’s not
  • Finding your UX support community
  • Value of having patience in your career
  • The future of UX
  • Cory’s book ‘The UX Careers Handbook’


20% discount on Cory’s book “The UX Careers Handbook” - email Cory for a discount code at

Cory’s website

Cory’s courses on LinkedIn

Oura Ring


[00:00:00] Cory Lebson: I think looking back it's that believing that I have to make a difference and the way to make a difference is to have your product, whether it's research or design or whatever, used. No one wants to do something and feel like it's being thrown away. You don't want tokeep doing the same thing over and over and nobody ever listens to you or cares about your research and it certainly, I think it's true with design as well. and,but it's shifted mindset and to realising that shift in mindset where you have to seed control, you know, some things are in your control and some things aren't in your control. So stop focusing on things that aren't in your control and then for the things that are in your control, then you decide.

[00:00:34] Nirish Shakya: That's Cory Lebson. Cory is a user researcher and a past president of the UXPA International, which is the User Experience Professionals Association. And he's also the author of the UX Careers handbook. He also teaches several UX courses on LinkedIn. But after 25 years in UX, Cory went through a mid-career crisis where he questioned, whether he'd want to do the same thing for the next 25 years. In this episode, Cory shares his experience of managing the crisis by letting go of the need for control and of the pressure of having to make a difference with his work. We also talk about how Cory uses biometrics to be more aware of his emotions that he feels at work and addresses them proactively as a form of self-care. And Cory also shares his top tips for new UX is coming into the industry on how to grow a sustainable and meaningful career

[00:01:28] Shivaun: This is the Design Feeling Podcast with your host Nirish Shakya.

[00:01:37] Nirish: Hi, my name is Nirish Shakya and I'm a Designer, Educator, and the Host of my new podcast Design Feeling. This show is not about your designs. It's not about the shiny new tools or frameworks either. And it's also not about your customers. This show is about you, the human behind the human centred designer and how you can know yourself better so that you can be more creatively confident, and find more joy and meaning in what you do.

Are you ready? Let's jump in.

[00:02:18] Nirish Shakya: Cory, welcome to Design Feeling.

[00:02:20] Cory Lebson: Great. thanks for having me too.

[00:02:22] Nirish Shakya: Obviously you've been in the game in the UX game for quite a long time, like more than twenty-five years. can I call you a UX veteran?

[00:02:30] Cory Lebson: Yeah. I feel like I'm the second generation of of what we call UX, even though we didn't use that UX term way back. but that first generation, we're the ones who are retiring now. then there was second generation and then maybe there's even two more generations after that.

I think, yeah, I that's what I'd say. Me and my cohort of,mid to late forties kind of people,are the second generation of UX people of today who were doing.

[00:02:52] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. And you know how, like a lot of people think that UX is a relatively new industry, but you know, so many people have been doing UX for quite a long time. Um, so how did you get into UX?

[00:03:04] Cory Lebson: Um, So I went to college. I started college in the early nineties, um, and. You know, I mean, first of all, the term wasn't even used, you asked, but, but I said, look, you know what? I liked psychology. I majored in psychology, and I enjoyed it. And, I was in this, um, kind of honor seminar thing where they said, you need to pick up professor, who's doing something interesting and work in their lab.

And, um, Dr. Norman, at University of Maryland where I went, said. he said, I'm sure it comes to my lab. he was doing usability testing. And I said, wow, this stuff is amazing. And so this is where we, this was in 1992, I think. and I just, just That felt like this,kinship with it and these methods and the qualitative research and so on.

And then after I graduated, I started doing it because like, oh, I don't really want to do this UX page. There's no future in it. You know? I mean, I didn't call you. You always chewing factors. There's no future. There's not enough jobs. I can't do it. I need to go to grad school. So then I went to grad school, still doing it on the side because I needed some, some income.

so you told there weren't actually many jobs in UX back then.

[00:04:04] Cory Lebson: Well, certainly, in my area of research, Ithere were, and I certainly had work. but there, there weren't, there wasn't much like it wasn't, the pay wasn't quite what it was is today. Um, the number of jobs certainly wasn't what it was today. but anyway, things have certainly changed since then.

and, after going to grad school, I realized what I was doing all along, which is fine. So let me enjoy my grades. Degrees and just kept doing it, since then.

[00:04:27] Nirish Shakya: And what was it about, UX or research that really, gravitated you towards.Um, so what really resonated with me was the qualitative aspect. I mean, I've always loved research when I was a little kid. I got my little chemistry set and I set it up at home and I love my hard sciences and I do my experiments and research, whatever. I just never realized, well, actually, no in high school I had to do a.

[00:04:50] Cory Lebson: I had to do a project. and I was like, oh, it, it was like perception of background, color and emotion, I think was what I did. if you looked at pictures, I, me as a high schooler, I think, I didn't know what, what, what was what,but I, it was research. I loved the research.

and then it wasn't, I think at my framing until college, when I was like, oh, Th this is the kind of research that really resonates most with me. and then, once I found the right kind of research, right, qualitative research, I loved it. it was just so much fun and continues to be so much fun.

And, one thing that I've recently come across is your, article and some of your writing around the mid-career crisis. you've written something around that in terms of thin how maybe you are going through a mid career crisis, and I can see like a lot of,People like, from your generation of, UX design, probably, going through something similar as well.

what is a mid-career crisis? What does that look like? What does that feel like?

[00:05:42] Cory Lebson: Well, so it's very good question. and you basically, if we think of like a, a Christmas tree kind of look where the first generation there weren't that many of them, um, they're they kind of are largely retiring now, they're already, maybe sixties into 70, into like age 60 to 70 kind of range.

but they've got the second generation, so you've got a wider group of people still, not a crazy number. a lot of us, I think, perhaps know each other. it's a relatively small, relatively small cohort by what we have today. and for those of us here, in, in this generation and I can't say.

[00:06:12] Cory Lebson: I haven't had the opportunity to really delve into, a lot of people, a lot of peoples, or you hear, but the ones I have talked to do feel like they in the same place, a lot of them like, you know, I've been doing this thing for, for, since my twenties now I'm in my forties, maybe fifties, um, is this really what I want to do till the end?

And, and, for me,I. I, I think the crisis point, was really like 2018, 2019. And I was like, what do I want to do this too? I want to do this. Do I want to do this? Or should I be an employee? If an employee, you know, my, my work is what's going to be like, I'm not it isn't going to change significantly unless I grow and I don't really want to grow.

I like just using contractors as needed and calling it a day. My crisis, you know, was back then. It's do I want to keep doing this until I retire till I'm in my mid to late sixties, let's say, or not. And I struggled a lot with that. I, you know, I looked at it and talk to people about working full-time for them. and then COVID hit and that kind of cleared the air. was like, you know what? Perfectly good. Worked very well on COVID, it's all good. and I feel less of a crisis today. Um, really no crisis actually today. Um, but that I, I felt so much more like two to three years ago.

[00:07:22] Nirish Shakya: And what were you worried about? What was your biggest fear?

[00:07:24] Cory Lebson: They get bored. you know

[00:07:26] Nirish Shakya: Do you get

[00:07:26] Cory Lebson: that I get bored. Yeah. II be, if I was doing the same thing and I look, when I talk about research, I love my research. I love my clients. I mean, I, my number one criteria for clients is they're nice, you know, it's like I get to work. I know a lot of nice people, a lot of wonderful people, um, very shallow relationships, but a lot of them, and I love it.

it's so much fun, but, but then the other hand, like, you know, if I'm then, well, then I was 45 now I'm 48. Um, but it was like, well, 45, you know, I'm talking to another 20 to 25 years to really do this, you know, kind of really keep doing the same thing. Um, there's only so much mixing up. I can do.

[00:08:01] Cory Lebson: Yeah. I certainly, I enjoy my, my, my other UX adventures. but other new ones, or am I just repeating the same ones, yeah.

[00:08:09] Nirish Shakya: And what are the different, options available to you, that you can pick from?

[00:08:14] Cory Lebson: For, for work or for the UX adventurous part.

[00:08:17] Nirish Shakya: So let's say, you know, to get out of the third, the crisis, the mid-career crisis that you, yourself, and many other people might be going through at the moment. what options do you have.

[00:08:26] Cory Lebson: I mean, so if you look at the, kind of the UX career, umbrella, perhaps there's two stratifications. One is that great divide between working in house and working, and working as a consultant. Um, number two is that divide between being a principal, UXer in my case, principal researcher, where you are really in charge of a project and do all the work versus being a manager of others and your. Really doing the work anymore. So, the path I was kind of exploring, I mean, so when I left, when I left, um, the employee world I'm working for company, it was actually my one year working in house. And I was, uh, a manager of UX professionals. I did a little bit of the research. but largely I was kind of on that management tracks, it was back in 2008.

I'm certainly doing management of contractors, management of your client, staff management of certainly projects like in that principal level. but do I want to do more management and less practitioner? and it kind of reach a conclusion?

No, it's fine. It's fine. It's just as fine to keep doing research too, and they'd be happy out their way. so being happy the way you would, if you know, one day in the future, something comes along and it's a great management position, or it's a great principal position working in-house for a company versus being a consultant. Anything is fair game,but my thinking now is yeah, just good way to it.

[00:09:42] Nirish Shakya: And would you even consider doing something else besides the UX?

[00:09:47] Cory Lebson: I mean, anything is possible. You know, I love, I love training, I love, the speaking parts. I love the, helping others in their careers. I've never found a way to even. make that even a large part of my business. it exists as a small part of my business, but by and large, my, my bread and butter, my,the bulk of what I do to make money is research projects, qualitative research projects. and that model is where I keep finding work. if. Eventually got work, where they're like, we want you to. And when I was in my early twenties, I got this gig where they're like fly around the United States and teach seminars on this new thing called the Internet. and how people can use it.

And particularly science teachers, you know, if something ever happened like that again, and they said, can you fly around for you? can you go, you fly in the United States, fly around the world and teach people it's possible. It's possible. I've gotten lots of offers to like teaching university settings.

as adjunct faculty, for example, Yeah, but then that doesn't work with me and consultant and, I just got a call next week. I could end up, flying somewhere for a one day project. and if I was teaching, then that creates all sorts of.

[00:10:58] Nirish Shakya: You gotta be at like the same place at the same

[00:10:59] Cory Lebson: Yeah, exactly. now it's more remote, but still we've used a lot of physical presence, presumably again, after COVID.

so I've only been like a guest lecturer at best at the university. Although again, I love the teaching. It just isn't so compatible sometimes, with the kind of heavy duty kind of, consulting projects that I do.

[00:11:15] Nirish Shakya: Hmm. And, we've also created a LinkedIn course. I think one of the one I saw was around Empathy in UX design, which is a topic that's really close to my heart and also close to, this particular podcast as well. and especially the topics that I'm interested in is. Empathizing with yourself.

Uh, and I think you do mention some of that in your course as well. How can I, how can designers empathize with your own personal self? and I've personally found it really difficult throughout my UX career to do that because I've been so busy on empathizing with my users and clients and stakeholders that I actually forgot that there was a human agent besides empathize with, which was inside of me.

How w how do you, how have you done this in your career in terms of empathizing with your own needs as a designer, as a researcher?

[00:11:57] Cory Lebson: Well, basically it's really knowing yourself and being in touch with your feelings, which you, I. You on a Myers-Briggs test, for example, like the,feeling part, is very high for me, I'm constantly feeling, just feeling emotion. I'm aware of that.

which I think makes me a, perhaps a good researcher, but it also, it can be hard, it can be painful, it can be difficult. Um, and recognizing that,I, I.

[00:12:18] Nirish Shakya: So what makes it difficult?

[00:12:21] Cory Lebson: 'cause it hurts. Um, you know, it messes with you. So,so for example, I had a difficult client recently. they were,no, do this, do it this way, do it this way. And it stress me.

Um, so I, I wear an Oura ring, and I watch my HRV, my heart rate, variability index, um, Go down. and why did that happen now at heart? Uh, HRV is a sign of stress.

So the HRV is a factor is a measure of, I think interesting things in your heart rate, essentially, the changes, I'm not quite sure of the nuance of it.

but it's a measure of stress. so I realized that dealing with a difficult client, that wasn't so nice. in some ways, actually lowered my, my,HRV and wasn't good. Wasn't good. you know, and, And then I go, okay, now I need to deal with this. And can I say at a client, look, we need to decide before we do the research. What you want because midstream and research, once you're, if you're changing it up every 10 seconds, which is what it felt like. it messes with the research, but it also messes with, you know, my my ability to,be a calm and, relaxed researcher. but it was actually those outside interactions that I was feeling was messing with my work and I knew that by measuring my biometric.

really fascinating. I've actually never heard of a research or UX or using, bioinformatics to, measure their, how they feeling their feelings. how did you even think of.

[00:13:39] Cory Lebson: um, tool. So we got, I got away. I've got, I'm not wearing it right now, but I've got you in my apple watch. I've been, I have some level of biometrics. they've been tracking for a long time. but,but there was actually at the beginning of COVID when I was like, you know what, I need to better understand my stress points.

And at that point, the truth is it was as much your personal, his work, um, when society was like totally shutting down in,in early to mid 2020. and I got this in the latter part of 2020, where. Um, you, I was like, I want better biometric tracking. I want to better understand, what's going on so that I can understand the impact.

So I can understand particularly around the motion. Uh, you know, I wanna understand myself even better. and in ways that sometimes it's hard to be objective,and Biomet and the data is much more objective in some ways. yeah. And can help me, at work it could help me, It could help me with exercise and I'm very into personal exercise.

but sometimes it says, oh, you've done too much. you need to lay off a little bit,you need to take a day off, because that's physical stress to your body. so it helps the towards the COVID world where you need to do anything you can to stay in balance.

[00:14:39] Nirish Shakya: And then how do you map the data with the emotion?

[00:14:43] Cory Lebson: Um, so I check it every morning when I wake up. Um, and then I kind of think back to,what was the prior day, uh, you know, even If I have a drink late at night,it might I'll see like a rockiness in the sleep, something like that. Um, where, or like wake up very quickly after, but I'll see that.

And I'm like, you know what? That, that's not good. I shouldn't have a drink. Wait at night, it's not a good idea. and. And, uh, but it's really kind of a look at the data and reflect on the prior day, reflect personal, reflect on what I did for work and see if I see the patterns, either relationship, and form those patterns. You can tag actually in the data. Like you can actually add your own tags. I don't do that as much. It's more of a day by day thing, that I do more so than tagging each instance, frumpy client tag. Now I've got to do that.

[00:15:30] Nirish Shakya: And, um, so once you let's say recognized a pattern,off, what's triggering some of the stress and,the, the cause of it. how do you then I guess, gather the courage to speak about it. Let's say with your client, you, you, you know, went and spoke with your client in terms of we know what was happening.

Um, I'm assuming that must have been scary would, would have been very scary for me to go up to the client and say, Hey, my stress levels of getting

[00:15:52] Cory Lebson: Yeah. Iso for the first decade of my career, I actually did. I think I spoke to clients too much. I would say the UI I'd be frustrated if, for example, I did like a whole research project and the client would be like, thank you, actually, we're going to go in a different direction. Um, like, like they wouldn't even look at the research. They'd be like, oh, you know what? We commissioned this research. It's great. But, honestly when I not use it, you know, or things like that, and I said,but your new direction, you should, you should look at the source. You should understand why it might be a problem. In the later years there was, you know what, I just want to have fun doing the research and I want to add value certainly. And I want to make a difference in the world, certainly. but my career is going to be about having fun, doing what I'm doing. And that actually was very freeing, uh feeling like, now I could just enjoy what I'm doing and not worry too much. so I have very few, very few kinds of experiences where, I feel like something's not solvable. but when it isn't, and I said, I sent you the client. I said, look,and I w what the situation really was there was.

the client that hired me sad you're this is what we want. But then additional stakeholders that kind of came into the picture after it was like,no, this is what we want. And so in a way, they're kind of disagreeing with themselves, but I was caught in the middle. so I said to the client, um, I did one research study and they're planning for multiple research studies. And I said to the client look,I don't think I can be a good researcher when I'm noticing all this, Yes, fighting between you two, between like different stakeholders. Like you can't agree on what I'm doing. I can't do it. so I said, you really, what I think is, you know, I have no stake in the game.

I'm hired for this one project I'll deliver on this one project. there was some controversy about what I'm supposed to be doing,but I did it. a, this controversy was playing out. But next time, I think I should fade into the back. I used the word fades in the background. Let me fade into the background, figuring out what you want from the research. Um, you don't even need to you, you know, kind where, you know, what I'm capable of doing. I think I can do everything you want, but you need to decide what you want once you decide what you want and there's no more fighting between you stakeholders, I'll come back and I'll do the research. And if you can't decide, and if you can't kind reach a conclusion and this arguing is gonna continue,I don't think I could do the research. I can't do the research when you're not, when I'm getting directions from five different places. Um, and I felt much better about that. You know, I felt much better saying I just can't do it. It's not about the money. It's about the enjoyment of the work, and about making a difference. And this is, this is what I could do, you know? Take it or leave it where you to take it is we agree on what we're going to do. So do it and leave it is, we can't agree on what you're going to do, so we'll keep arguing about it. Um, you know, behind, you know, just, and I'm just watching the traffic of back and forth. So, you know, so I felt better. I, I don't, I mean, I think just being a consultant for a long time, I'm very comfortable talking to clients and saying, look, here's the situation I say, you know, whether that's good or bad. I don't know whether I still, like I said, I think. The next decade was better than the first decade in terms of being a good consultant and just saying, what do you want me to do? but only to a point and I'm discovering,

[00:18:46] Nirish Shakya: And you mentioned before,if the client didn't implement your research findings and went their own way, how did that make you feel before you had this mind shift around? I want to do things more for fun. How did those, I guess in a response from the client make you feel?

[00:19:00] Cory Lebson: Well, the problem was my, my goal was I have to make a difference based on the research that I do. I need to, only take on research where I could feel like I'm making a difference. and then when I do the research, they have to use it. it has to be valuable to them in a way. So, which puts a lot pressure on, me as a researcher to make sure I'm making that difference. But,when all is said and done. Yeah, I'm an outside consultant, you know? so it, if I had the ring back then, my HRV might have gone down from the stress of, you're not using research.

it might be perfectly good, but it's not what you want. and then, when I reach that point of realization, um, I realized I just feel better about myself when I say. I'm just in it, it, to do something that I enjoy, I hope I make a difference. Uh, rarely do I really do. I say no to projects just because I'm making a difference now, you know, I say, if someone wants something that's totally obscure or really doesn't make a difference in the world, but it's interesting. I'll say, sure, why not? Yeah. for the fun and hopefully I have a bunch of projects in there that do feel like they're making a difference, but not all of them do. And that's totally fine.

[00:20:08] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. And how did you have this revelation from thinking about, oh, I got to make a difference and I've got to make sure they do what I, suggest to, I'll try it. I'll give it my best shot. I'm going to have fun, but I can't, change

[00:20:20] Cory Lebson: Yeah.

[00:20:21] Nirish Shakya: How'd you have that revelation from one mindset, another one.

I think it's just career maturity,eventually, and I think it's it, when I started working, and I'm in my early twenties,into my thirties, I just, I just, I felt very this is the right way. Um, you know, gradually as I got older, um, it kind of realized that,it doesn't matter whether I think it's the right way. It's really up to the company, the companies, the clients let them do what they want, and, yeah, but it really took that level of, I think career maturity. I'm not saying I'm a perfectly mature, career. Excellent, whatever. because certainly, like I said, even, recently I've gotten stressed about, a work situation.


[00:20:56] Nirish Shakya: What do you think is the cause of that stress? Why are we so stressed about when a client doesn't do what we ask.

[00:21:01] Cory Lebson: Well, so I think looking back it's that believing that I have to make a difference and the way to make a difference is to have your product, whether it's research or design or whatever, used. No one wants to do something and feel like it's being thrown away. You don't want tokeep doing the same thing over and over and nobody ever listens to you or cares about your research and it certainly, I think it's true with design as well. and,but it's shifted mindset and to realising that shift in mindset where you have to seed control, you know, some things are in your control and some things aren't in your control. So stop focusing on things that aren't in your control and then for the things that are in your control, then you decide. So for,in this current situation I was describing, I said, I basically, I knew my control was either accept a project or not.

And so I said, here's the criteria. If I accept another project, you need to figure out your disagreements. because that's what I can control rather than a situation where I felt out of control, where, they said, do this and midstream, no change, do this new. Mid-stream no change to this new change, do this, that wasn't in my control, but now I am taking control of that situation.

[00:22:03] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. And obviously in research in one of the things that we have to deal with is people's opinions, right? And a lot of times you go in with your research findings, your data, but they may still make decision based on their opinion. how do you deal with that?

[00:22:20] Cory Lebson: I mean now, now it's much better. So I've certainly had situations where, I've done research with stakeholders are all into it. Then the high level stakeholder comes, who wasn't involved in. The research looks at the research, oh, it's really good to know this, but by the way, where we are, where we have to do this thing, because

[00:22:37] Nirish Shakya: the classic case.

[00:22:38] Cory Lebson: I like this color, or I like this. I know when I used, the best one I heard once. Ithis is a while back, but I heard is,is that. I don't browse information. I only use search. So for our new website, let's not have any navigation. We're just going to have search. And I was like, oh, okay. do you think your users might, well, it doesn't matter because search is just the way everyone searches. Okay. Maybe half the population, just like you, the other half will want to go and click through and maybe you have their good sense of information and so on. so I say now, as a consultant, I just say it very gently. It's like we, you know, I think other people might this as if we put their shirts off and user's shoes say very gently.

And if the stakeholder says, this is what we're doing, Okay, that's fine. You know that's no problem. Um, you know what, why don't we, after you, you make your first implementation, maybe after you do a wireframe, maybe we should do a little research just make sure that this is right. Sound, you know, I under, I totally understand where you're coming from. Maybe we should just check it out with some research and stakeholder will say yes or no. It's okay. It's all good.

[00:23:45] Nirish Shakya: So is it about caring less?

[00:23:47] Cory Lebson: It's about, it's about accepting the things you can't change. I think that's really what it's about, was I find that I always care. Like I always, I care too much. I'll feel sad if, if someone ever says,I understand this, but I think that,that your research, didn't answer, the right question, you know, I had a question like, oh, well, I would feel bad about that. I mean, it doesn't that's very rare that it actually happens,but occasionally they're like, you didn't answer the right question. this was my question. it says the big stakeholder,it, and I don't want. Yeah. II think that's always there. So what you want to feel good, you want to feel,comfortable. and by and large, I do. I'm looking at that. That's why I'm very happy with my research that I do. so yeah.

[00:24:24] Nirish Shakya: Um, it's actually really comforting, hearing someone as senior as you to talking about, some of these vulnerabilities and emotional challenges that you've been through in your career. and I fell ins in a lot of my approach that I felt really alone being on the voice in the company in a sense. This is what the users are saying when no one else wants to listen to it and it can be a very lonely place to be in. what can you do if you're a designer or a researcher who's going through that right now?

[00:24:52] Cory Lebson: Find your cohort and your cohort, not at your company. That's what I would say. so I was super, super involved in UXPA first, the DC chapter in your Washington, DC, where I live. and, later, later, the UXP international and the idea that. UXers, can connect with other UXers who aren't at work, really can expand your horizons.

I, I was lamenting and I've limited in some of my recent posts on LinkedIn, that I can't, um, I get energy from being with people as an extrovert, but I also get energy from being alone. as a, as an introvert, the words ambivert, you're both introvert and extrovert and when I'm spending the entire day, doing, talking with clients on video, talking with participants on video,I find it's neither. I either have my, my, my tank is not full. My energy tank is not full, neither from being with people. Not really it's mediated and neither from being alone. So I'm never really alone either. I call it a trickle charge, you know, at best,it's like plugging your phone into a one amp USB port or something, but yeah. But it's connecting, it's making connections. Uh, you certainly, you can do that on a personal level. And I've done that, connect, I've connected much more with neighbors where just where I lived geographically than ever before in COVID. but also, you do spend a lot of time working.

[00:26:09] Cory Lebson: Um, so doing that on a work level too, is so important through meetups, whatever meet ups are there in person, once you can,build relationships. And then you get a feeling of being with others, being with others and talking about work at the same time. And even if you're a, a UXer of one, don't do it alone and don't do it alone. And by, by building community, by being part of community,and remote the second best for sure. but take advantage of those opportunities when you can.

[00:26:34] Nirish Shakya: That's really good advice there. Thanks, Corey.

Um, so you've written a book called the UX Careers Handbook. Uh, tell us about.

[00:26:40] Cory Lebson: Well, so like I mentioned my work and UXPA, that got me very, very interested in UX careers when I was a volunteer for UXPA, know, over a course of almost a decade. And so I wrote the first UX Careers Handbook back in 2000, it came out in 2016, because I felt like, there wasn't any kind of comprehensive manual of your careers.

but then, come, 20, 21, 20 20. Basically 2020, uh, the publisher floated the idea. They said, you know what? Careers changed quickly. Are there things you want to change? And the truth is there were a lot of things they wanted to change. Not related to the fact that careers changed quickly because some things did change, but a lot didn't.

after five years, I was like, you know what, this needs to be a little bit different. This needs to be more expanded and whatever. So I said, can I expand by, can I expand the book by this many words? And they said, okay. so I got with that permission, I got to add a bunch of stuff in addition to tweaking every chapter and, making adjustments saying, no, this doesn't make sense.

[00:27:30] Cory Lebson: Or I mentioned the tool that was no longer relevant or, you know, I missed out on, um, on, uh, I didn't say enough about career switchers, for example, um, got a new section about that. Didn't say enough about management of UX or mag, nor about that. UX, UX writing is a new concept. You've got to say more about that.

but also adjusting everything. So I'm glad the publisher, gave me that opportunity. I was very sorry that the second edition come out. and yeah,so very.

[00:27:53] Nirish Shakya: And what are you hoping to achieve with this?

[00:27:56] Cory Lebson: Um, I mean, basically I want the,I want to help people in their careers. hopefully, between this book on your UX careers and you mentioned the Empathy course, but I might treat this I think the most popular course ever linked to learning is the. Basically mini version of the book, interview it basically an Intro to UX careers course, which I think is like 120,000 viewers or 110,000 viewers or something like that.

anyway, it's between that and, the book, which, so even the first edition had,had a couple of thousand viewers or readers. but, but between those two sources. I want to give people the framework they need. It's about framework. if people read the book, they will have, I gotta to do X, Y, and Z. I mean, there's plenty of books on, on methods. and at high it's, UX Careers Handbook is only methods at a super high level. It's really focused on the framework. the framework, you as a person, the framework of kind of what careers can I have, um, what does it mean to be a manager?

[00:28:46] Cory Lebson: What does it w what was everything. Um, as like, over 300 pages of framework, to help people frame their careers and figure out what they want to do. at which time they can go read whatever methods, books, and watch whatever methods courses they want. but it's, yeah, Iagain, it's making a difference that's, what's about.

I've got a 20% discount code. the publisher Rutledge, CRC press relig, the URL's trend shows up differently in search sometimes. Anyway, on the publisher's website, I have a 20% off discount code. Uh, I believe it's global. Um, once you use the little country selector at the very top, I've got it.

I just can't go. Uh, give that discount code publicly, per my agreement with a publisher, I do have it. So if anyone contacts me and just says, what's the discount code, just, say the word and I will, I'll send it over. it should be good for all of 2022.

[00:29:31] Nirish Shakya: Great. So people just have to email you, asking for a

[00:29:34] Cory Lebson: right. or message me. Yeah.

[00:29:36] Nirish Shakya: Great. What's the, if you could just maybe tell.

so you know, it's However, I will say all you have to do is Google me and I'm splattered all over the results. Um, I'm the only me. So, so basically,messaging me through any channel, could be, you could email, could use LinkedIn, Text me on, the number that's, you'll find that kind instantly. it's all good. there's plenty of ways to message me and, it doesn't matter which way you use I'll, I'll see it, except Twitter, Twitter sometimes seems to hide the messages if I'm not connected with you, but.

[00:30:06] Nirish Shakya: We'll put all those details in the show notes as well, so that people can find them while you

[00:30:10] Cory Lebson: Yeah. Yeah. So basically, but, but whether email Corey Lipson took that calmer, LinkedIn, just send me a note and I'll send you that 20% discount code. It's only off retail price. sometimes the publisher randomly seems to discount it 20%, just at random intervals. So it won't go 20% beyond that. but if it's not, unless I check, it's not, that's the way to use it.

[00:30:30] Nirish Shakya: And,what's exciting you about, where UX or the industry itself is heading in the next. A few years or five to 10 years.

[00:30:37] Cory Lebson: Well, so UX is always changing, right? It's always, it's always evolving, not so much the methods we use me a little bit, but really it's the stimulus, it's the thing we're developing, in light of new technology and like, Social and cultural factors. So for example, what's the social cultural factor in COVID remote, it's all remote. Right. But, but the remote is kind of dreary in some ways. because there's treat mentionable human contact thing. Isn't going so well. I mean, it's not that it's bad. but it's not like being in person. So can we, can we really, you know, do the, the metaverse, is that going to happen?

And if it does, and I'm a little cynical right now, How long, maybe it will eventually,I've tried my, you know, Oculus to,VR goggles, uh, which is all pixely and not great. It doesn't feel like you're really there. and it's got to feel like you're really there. It's got to feel the AI has to be so strong, but AI also is evolving tremendously.

will AI be able to make us feel. Like we're in the, this metaverse,in the no snow crash kind of way, I think.

[00:31:37] Nirish Shakya: How do you think that's going to change our work? Like how do you even do research in the metaverse?

[00:31:40] Cory Lebson: Also, if we can replicate reality in terms of you, it doesn't have to replicate. Obviously we aim to replicate. Maybe we fail, but if we can create a reality, that feels really real. then we can perhaps even apply the same methods in a more efficient kind of way, or we'll evolve our methods. Um, you know, to, for design, um, for three-dimensional design, uh, what does design mean?

And I don't know yet. Um, and I mean, certainly there's research, in, in AR VR, um, the impact of machine learning, um, the impact of artificial intelligence and so on. I haven't been involved in that as much myself except where it's tangential to what I do, but there's research now, but it's still a niche. situation,and to be, to, whether come from a social, cultural, world, we say, we are more going to be more remote going in, be more hybrid kind of situation. if this is where we're going, this combination of AR VR, AI, um, machine and, uh, machine learning, um, UX is going to evolve to, um, it has to, I just don't know exactly how yet, but that seems like, things are gonna change. That's where at least right now, that seems where it's going to change.

[00:32:42] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. And what do you think people can do to prepare for those.

[00:32:46] Cory Lebson: Stay on top of technology. I, I say it's good to read, stay on top of UX by reading UX blogs, listening to UX podcasts like this one. Um, and others, um, watching, you know, LinkedIn learning, UX videos, you know, staying on top of what's current. that's certainly important. But it's also, there's another track for UX professionals. Would you stay on top of technology, consumer technology, and otherwise, um, you don't need to read the, like, where will we be in 10 years kind of situation, but where will it be in two or three years? and staying on top of that and you, I read a, a variety of,newsfeeds in my RSS reader,I'm old school perhaps like that, like I like my RSS feeds. but, but it's really staying on top of things. It's really staying on top of things beyond UX, because that's where you UX is going to head.

[00:33:26] Nirish Shakya: Great. Is there any, um, resource that's helped you in your career?

[00:33:31] Cory Lebson: Um, I feel like it's, there's not one, it's having a good library of books. I like physical books,over, over digital books whenever possible. yeah. It's you know, watching you good videos, watching, listening to a good podcast when appropriate,just staying on top of the news technology news, the UX news. I, it's not one source. you're really, and having started so long ago, any evolution I've had has not been through bootcamps or anything like that, it's been staying on top of what's happening. That's that? And talking with people, socializing your UX with your peers, through those meetups, we talked about earlier, that is key to a lot. you can really stay on top of everything just by talking with people. that's how you learn.

[00:34:13] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. So you got to just play the long game and have some patience.

[00:34:17] Cory Lebson: Yes, everything is about that. And don't be too impatient if you're new to your career saying, well, this has to happen immediately. It's all about being patient and waiting, setting up the stage for serendipity, but it's not serendipity, you know, it's not just kind of the good things happen. It's that you, you just pull all the information in you, you build your network, you,you, you find your happy place. You find your emotional center and then you sit back and, you know, wait for the good things to happen. I know that it's not actually just waiting for luck. It's, it's, the good, it's a good thing that you create.

[00:34:50] Nirish Shakya: Um, if there's one thing that he could change, in the UX industry or in research in general, what is that one thing that you would say.

[00:34:56] Cory Lebson: Well, so with research in general, sometimes I hear this like this feeling of we do research the way we've always done, it must be right. and there's any, sometimes you want to say, and I found, I want to say, but I don't always say to clients, is it. That's all good. That's all fine and good. But, but you know what you've been doing, what you've been doing for a long time, somewhere in this game of telephone, something got messed up and you're not, you know, there's nobody there with, a real research lens and I really wish that. that it would always be okay to say, let's change your research methods because you know, they're not, you know, they're not as rigorous perhaps as you think they are.

Um, it's almost, I can know. I just say, sure, I'll do your research. that's what you want. I get it. I'm not going to change things up. but then thinking to myself, I'm like, oh, I just wish I could, influence methods sometimes. In a more rigorous way than sometimes happens with UX research.

[00:35:48] Nirish Shakya: Um, and imagine that it's your last day on earth, Cory. And someone's coming up to you with a tiny piece of. And they've asked you to write down your last few words for the world, that we can then put up on a big billboard for everyone to see. What would you write on that tiny piece?

[00:36:05] Cory Lebson: Um, so if I'm. So this is his last day on earth, then gotta be thinking about what's next. So I would say something about I guess what's next, I would say,you know how I'm going to be watching over all you, so you better do a good job now, but, but maybe, the, maybe it's about saying, you know, just take it one day at a time. The be happy. think about the happiness. Think about your emotion. Think about your own empathy. because you're inevitably going to have a lot of that as UX professional. so think about it. I think about, what really matters, and enjoy your work, enjoy your life. Don't take work too seriously, and, uh, try and make a difference. however it is, but only to the level that that makes sense and that you're comfortable with and that your heart rate variability index stays up.

[00:36:56] Nirish Shakya: Make sure you get one of those rings that you have as well.

[00:36:58] Cory Lebson: Exactly right.

[00:37:00] Nirish Shakya: What is the one thing that you would ask yourself that he's still don't know that.

I think what the future holds,For you or for the world?

[00:37:06] Cory Lebson: For everything, what does the future hold and how's it going to impact my career and others' careers? when I think about, um, the impact of COVID, are we going back to the old normal, is that ever co are we ever going back?

Is there things I miss about that a lot? Um, but there's things that don't look in, like either, a client says, oh, you need to be onsite every day. no, I go, I need to be onsite two days, three days that we can be heads up, you know, talking to the meeting for in-person. Um, and is it going to be the old, normal, is it going to be the new normal, um, I certainly there's things about this COVID life that aren't so much fun either.

but there's somethings that are good too. Um, so how do we match that? and what the future holds from a kind of societal level is going to seriously impact our careers. and how that does, how that plays out. I'd love to, I'd love a crystal ball, you know, to know now, so.

[00:37:50] Nirish Shakya: Great. thank you so much for the Cory. I've definitely learned loads from just having a quick chat with you. we talked about how there's different generations of UX is, which, I personally had not really given much thought into because in a lot of time we think of. This is such a new thing. Right. But it's not, there's so many people who've been doing this for decades now. and we also talked about how, sometimes you can get bored in, in, in your career once, you've hit a certain stage, but then how do you then, pick up from that point onwards? in terms of, just prioritizing fun.

I think you mentioned, how do you have fun doing what you're doing, but not trying to change everything. Um, because you won't be able to change everything. And I think one of the beautiful things you mentioned was around recognizing what is under your control and what is. And focusing on the things that are under your control.

And I think that gives you so much, you know, peace and joy a, on a daily basis. Um, also the value of serendipity and having patience for your career, not trying to do everything and learn everything in a straight away, but it will come, it will take time, but just keep at it. And if you're feeding certain emotions then also the value of inner feeling, the emotions you're feeling, but also.

You're feeling, um, a certain negative emotion or word, maybe reach out to your community, uh, outside of your work, to, with other designers, and also the value of, reading books. watching videos and staying on top of what's happening with an industry but also just within technology, as a whole, seems to be, uh, a good thing for us to do so, thank you so much for that, Cory.

I hope you've enjoyed the conversation and being on Design Feeling, uh, and obviously please do check out Cory's new edition of his book, the UX careers handbook. And if you email him, he can sort you a 20% discount. And also please do check out to Cory's. LinkedIn Learning courses. He's got quite a few, there's some really good courses as well. and if you have any need for a freelance, user researcher, you know who to call, so please do get in touch with Cory for that as well. Um, so besides, the email, how else can people get into.

[00:39:44] Cory Lebson: Um, so they can certainly feel free to connect with me and follow me on LinkedIn, which is my primary social media. as well as. Um, which, which I actually, admittedly haven't used so much lately. and there's also a UX Careers Handbook,page on Facebook as well that you can feel free to follow and see occasional posts about, such things.

[00:40:02] Nirish Shakya: Great. thank you so much for joining us in the Design Feeling podcast today. It's been great having you and learning about your experience, your career and the wisdom that you've generated from that. So thank you so much for sharing that.

[00:40:13] Cory Lebson: Thank you. It was great. Great to be here.

[00:40:14] Nirish Shakya: Thank you so much for listening to my chat with Cory. If you're enjoying listening to the Design Feeling podcast, please do consider leaving an honest review on Apple Podcasts. It'll help people decide whether they'd want to press the play button or not. And if you have any suggestions, ideas, or guests that you'd like to have on the show, please email me at and like always please share the podcast with a Design Thinking friend who needs a bit of Design Feeling in their lives. See you next time.