#Recruiters requesting #UX #portfolio #breach #IPR

Recruiters requesting a UX portfolio can cause a breach of Intellectual Property Rights

So I posted this as an update on LinkedIn I got some great responses from people who read their contracts and got a whole load of really negative responses from people who did not understand the statement so I will try again here. I make no legal determination as part of this post, I am simply reporting an actual event.

The Background

First off this is from several actual experiences, years ago in one instance where a recruiter was found to be in Breach of Contract as the Contractor they supplied held on to client work (not in the public domain) and digitally published it as a portfolio breaching the Intellectual Property Rights of the Recruiters end Client. My involvement was discovering the content, explaining the context to legal teams and later hearing about the results.

The recruiter settled out of court, they were sued for $610,000,000, they paid $9,000,000 on the Government Contract, I don’t know what happened to the contractor, their portfolio was shut down in 10 minutes by the server company (a very well known one) after they were contacted, they also supplied a list of every IP that had visited the site.

This is About UX not UI

Second this is about UX not UI if you don’t know the difference here is post explaining it The User Interface (UI) is not the User Experience (UX).

So what is in a UX portfolio?

Method Statements
Research Raw Data
Research Analysis and First Findings
Market Research
UX Research
Business Research
UX Requirements Specification
Key Interaction Models (also known as Eco-systems)
User Logic Models
Demographics and Personas
UX Innovations based upon Insights from the Data, for Interaction Behaviour, Market Targeting/Capture, New Products or Services
Proposed Human Centered Business Models
UX Recruiting Protocol
UX Concept Testing Methods
UX Concept Testing Analysis
Project Concepts
Interaction Design
Interaction Design Testing

If you understand what UX is then the statement below seems quite reasonable.

The customer experience becomes the intellectual copyright of the client company, showing how it works to anyone opens up an unlimited financial risk to anyone who sees it. Hiding the client name is less important than exposing details of the customer experience that has been created.

One caveat to the above statement, clients cannot own the moral rights unless stipulated in the B2B recruiter contract and the contractor sub-contract, they remain as a veto for the contractor. Also the methods and IP of the contractor don’t become property of the client or the recruiter unless the contractor agrees and is paid for them (a separate contract, from their service contract, with another and more substantial fee).

If a recruiter requires the viewing of confidential information in their role adverts, they are liable as a participant in the contract breach.

Jophy covers it really well here in his update, in the corporate area information security is critical in UX projects disks are required to be wiped after projects and are subject to random checks by security. Having a copy of a project that has been completed for a client or that you leave is considered to be a form of theft.

Jophy Joy UX Information Security
Jophy Joy UX Information Security

When recruiters ask for portfolio’s it would be better that they stipulated personal projects only. Or that they change their contracts to allow contractors to show the work they produce as part of their portfolio.

In turn the contract between the clients and the recruiters will need to be changed as that is the point at which a breach is determined to have taken place from a client perspective.

Todd Zaki Warfel said portfolios aren’t the problem.

I recently interviewed a few MA grad candidates. One of the best portfolio reviews came from someone who’s showed 2-3 personal projects. We use the review sessions to dig into process and the candidates thinking and doing. Having them use examples they are intimately familiar with is a good way to gain insight.

And that kind of exposes the problem, the recruitment industry has built up with a reliance portfolio’s when experienced recruiters prefer to understand the candidates skill, than look at a portfolio of things the candidate may or may not have created.

I’m only providing this information to help people, if you don’t want to know, then fine. Please don’t respond with self righteous explanations of why your practices are safe, just enjoy your view of the sand.

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How to #Hire a #Director of #User #Experience

Like my last post How to Hire a Head of User Experience this post is not intended to supersede the experience of a really good HR or employment agency person but to bring clarity around the differences in the roles.

A Director of User Experience is not really the next level on the business ladder for a Head of UX or a lead user experience or senior user experience person.

The reason is that it’s a business role with little or no actual practical activity in the UX domain. A Director of UX is someone with an extra level of expertise related to management, finance and corporate control. Not for the faint hearted, or someone with their own start-up looking to add a title, they simply won’t last, because they don’t know how to deliver. Nor in fact is it for an MBA because they just don’t get UX, they tend to think it’s an IT or design thing and that is the sort of incomplete view that makes UX fail to deliver.

If Director of UX is not about UX what is it about?

A Director of UX is a public speaker, advocate, able to compromise to see the business succeed, set the standards, deal with the flack and drive the business into a higher level of intimacy with their customers. A lot of these things are unpalatable for a fervent practitioner, but are daily life for a Director.

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How to Hire a Head of User Experience

Head of anything is evocative of responsibility, power and knowledge, but what does Head of User Experience (UX) really mean and how do you know if your getting one?

User experience in its value and effectiveness is geographical and sector based, that is to say it means different things to different people by country, by business and by route to the role (in-house HR or agency service). With this many variants how can anyone be sure that they have hired a Head of User Experience?

One of my colleagues in a recent contract described User Experience as turning the turd (poo) into a piece of glitter covered turd. If this is the expectation it’s not really surprising if the wrong people get senior roles, then the incompetent lead.

What I want to show is some basic indicators about hiring a Head of User Experience;

Please don’t be offended if it’s what you do for a living (recruitment or employment agent), glean what you can and discard anything you don’t need. 🙂

Who, What, When, Where, Why.

Who do they know and how do they deal with them?

They must know users; understand user drivers and perspective for every project just as they must know the client stakeholders and leaders with the environment that they are working in. The level of knowledge will vary, as much of the information is second hand from Lead and Senior designers or researchers. But the Head of UX will have both their own knowledgebase and be able to elicit extra business and strategic information not visible to other ux practitioners.

Can they let their team work or do they micro-manage? It’s really important when working with a new (to the Head of UX) team that the teams strengths are encouraged and supported. UX is one of those skill sets where diversity of experience is critical in evolving multiple parallel project solutions within a team of peers. Giving the team rights over the group output is critical to maintain quality and to challenge narrow thinking. How they manage, mentor and train people is key to the future of the team? How will they deal with internal applicants for the job they have just got? Conflict is a given in any location where people are, what are their stratagies for conflict? Watch out for people with an ‘I problem’ if it’s all about them they cannot see other people. Get references from colleagues as well as employers, you can find them as connections on Linkedin.

What do they do for a living, how do they describe themselves, their ux work and their colleagues?

How do they describe what they do for a living, a couple of years ago recruitment agencies where told by someone that ux people only focus on the user and that should be their response when ask who they focus their efforts on. Wrong, ux is a service that is based on creating a meeting point between people, organisations/businesses > providers and products/services > content. Any Head of User Experience who does not know this is not a Head of User Experience, it’s a business. It’s a great business that gives an audience access to the content they are looking for, makes it easy to interact with and enables communication with the content provider, but it’s still a business. Watch out for divas they upset clients and stakeholders alike a Head of UX is a savvy business person and knows which things to fight for and which things to mitigate as a risk.

Do they have a process? Can they describe the process and where it came from, how it has evolved through their experiences and which projects made the most change or option routes for it.

When did they acquire their skills?

People involved in user experience who have the kind of experience to be a Head of User Experience come from diverse backgrounds. A colleague of mine started in the US DoD (in the 1980’s) designing graphic manuals for troop training and another NATO information systems. Find out what else they have done and how they evaluate their experiences, because their experience underwrites their other skills and gives them a breadth of understanding about various sectors that may not be on their CV’s. For instance I have had lots of experience setting up business banking accounts, some really lousy (maybe for another post), some grossly inefficient (some excuses of epic proportions) and others utterly fabulous. Ask them to describe an experience, evaluate it and provide a solution to any problem they have encountered. For people like us it’s easy, for example I’ve had a fix for the supermarket self checkout bottleneck for years, it’s obvious.

User Experience in its current form is a fairly recent naming when I meet practitioners with experience before 2005 described as user experience, I know there is something wrong depending on where in the world they say they got their experience.

Where and with whom do they associate?

Confirming the professional level of a person is now quite easy with Linkedin, connect with them and have a look at their connections, if they don’t know any senior people outside of ux they are not senior themselves. It’s a cultural thing we tend to mix with people at or above our own level when thinking professionally, occasionally people come on the radar where they a worth following to see where their career goes. Yes, Linkedin again, if you don’t use it, you won’t know what your missing.

Why do they think they fit?

Based upon their research, they should know enough about the role, the people, the ethos and the clients or stakeholders to be able to pitch a reason why they fit in.

Don’t ask a Head of User Experience;

Don’t ask for a portfolio asks for a presentation. Presentation ability is required when working the board of directors, client stakeholders and when conducting pitches with new business or internal advocacy. Look for the narrative, a really good ux presentation has a story that it’s telling ‘What is UX?’, ‘How can UX help my business?’, ‘Project name UX concepts’, ‘Project name user stories’ etc. Also look for substance over style, the presentation must be meaningful and hint at critical thinking and creative talent, really flashy presentations make me concerned when they lack any real information, interpretation of data or concepts that have a provable pathway from researched insights.

Finally get references

I mean get real references, as if your job depended upon it, because it and your future reputation do. User Experience is still a small field, when someone with little or no experience gets a Head of User Experience role the first question we all ask is what was the agency that did this? When I am really unsure of an applicant (due diligence is critical in client services) I use a private detective, just give them the CV and ask for verification.


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