User Experience (UX) has become one of the most important elements of today’s software development industry. Experts predict that around 50% of today’s applications will be re-written in the next five years because of past UX oversights. If this comes to pass, there needs to be an abundant pool of UX experts from which to draw from.
While fairly prominent in Silicon Valley, the market for digital design, user experience engineers, and user interface talent is still fairly small in Mexico, so we spoke to David Sandoval, Creative Delivery Manager at iTexico, to get the inside scoop on the lay the land for UX in Mexico’s IT ecosystem.
Mexico IT: How did you personally climb through the ranks to become Creative Delivery Manager at iTexico, and how does the role relate to UX?
Sandoval: I studied Information Technologies as a major while working as a graphic designer in advertising, which went on for 6-7 years. I then went to Australia to do a masters in marketing management, then came back to Mexico and started a couple of start-ups in health and content distribution, which unfortunately both failed. Even so, I learned a lot from that, such as how to anticipate for user needs, how to build sustainable business models, and how to build products. When I joined iTexico, I started running different departments such as marketing, training, and design. As the company grew I focuses more on product design and user experience, and now I run that team. This path has helped me move the ecosystem towards UX knowledge.
Mexico IT: What is the situation for UX talent in Mexico right now?
Sandoval: UX as a concept is still being understood among the existing companies in Mexico. In the U.S., the concept of having an existing strategy for UX is already established and is second nature, but in Mexico it still has to be pushed in some conversations on a business level. However, it is trickling down to some of the schools from the rest of the ecosystem these days.
In the last 3-4 years, the conversation about why UX is a key differentiator for success has become more common. This includes why it is a smart strategy and why it will provide greater odds of success as a start-up. This start-up culture and techie environment has been slowly adapting to and adopting the term UX, so traditional graphic designers are now moving towards digital.
If you really want to solve a problem, you have to empathize with the user
Mexico IT: How is user experience viewed within iTexico and what is your main role?
Sandoval: For companies like iTexico, we are trying to build products that need a high level of understanding of the human values behind them, such as the expectations of users. Designers are the most sensitive to that sort of thing due to their education background, but they are not as in-depth on psychology, business practices, information architecture, and other verticals of knowledge that are required for exemplary UX design.
This has created a gap that we are trying to fill with training, conferences, and community events. We are supporting different communities in the ecosystem, especially one called Hackers/Founders, which I collaborate with on the side. Here I lead a community called Hackers/Founders Design, which used to be called UX. The main goal of this is to educate some of the audience—mostly designers, entrepreneurs, and programmers—on what UX is and what is represents from a business perspective, as well as how to think as a user in every touch point with a product or service.
Mexico IT: How is Mexican talent responding to that kind of information?
Sandoval: The design ecosystem is really excited about the possibilities of UX design because traditionally companies have not placed much value on the importance of design. But with the importance of great UX and UI now being communicated, they are eager to learn the new required skills.
The first interaction in understanding the concepts of UX design is hit or miss; some people get it and some people don’t.
The first interaction in understanding the concepts of UX design is hit or miss; some people get it and some people don’t. We had to hold events explaining what UX was and the goal we had as a community for them to get a grasp on the basics. Here we would talk about specific topics such as mental models, content creation, interaction design, or what you can do in general to add to an experience. The main friction point is building the understanding that UX is not something you can control, but is something that happens when you think about the needs of the user.
Mexico IT: Is iTexico working with educational institutes in Guadalajara to instill the importance of UX into students’ minds at an earlier stage?
Sandoval: We have a close relationship with Universidad de Guadalajara, which is the second-largest in the country. We held different seminars, workshops and courses there focused on UX and other development technologies. The idea is to create the right content for students before school material is updated to accommodate it, because that takes a long time. This way we can fill the gaps and provide accurate, current content on UX and product design that helps students implement them early to gain an upper-hand in the job market upon graduation.
Mexico IT: As you mentioned, UX requires psychological skills, but also artistic skills and business savviness, but how difficult is it to find that combination in Mexico’s talent pool?
Sandoval: It’s difficult in any region. The Mexican talent pool is still in the first stages of maturity, so there is less volume of great talent, but that will increase as more companies move into the ecosystem. The big challenge is moving the classic graphic design mindset from print design and editorial, over toward digital, which has a lot more demand from enterprises looking for these profiles.
From an education perspective, Mexico’s IT ecosystem needs to respond fast and push new talent into learning these new skills. Overall, every great tech ecosystem has is facing the same challenge when hunting for perfect UX talent.
Mexico IT: What is the one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring UX designer in Mexico?
Sandoval: I would say, don’t be afraid of putting yourself in other people’s shoes in order to understand their needs and their pain points and how to fix them, because if you really want to solve a problem, you have to empathize with the user.
What importance is your company placing on UX? Does UX pique your interest as an aspiring designer? Let us know in the comments below.