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Figure out what to do; Specialist vs Managerial track

The titles are often just a vanity thing and they’re not what you should be focusing on


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Waris Hussain

3 years ago | 3 min read

When I was stating as a User Experience Designer, I came across an ocean of UX Job Titles. I was confused. There were -

UX Designer, Product Designer, Visual Designer, Digital Designer, Interaction Designer, UX researcher, Content strategist, UX Unicorn (Yep, I’m not kidding about this job title!)

And how do I level up if the demands of the role keep changing constantly?? 🤯

But here’s the thing…

The titles are often just a vanity thing and they’re not what you should be focusing on

What you should be focusing on and what helped me out was “Career Tracks”

This method of going through career “tracks” isn’t only for UX Designers but for anybody!
Regardless of the role and the industry, there are two career tracks that you can pursue

-The technical, or specialist track

-The managerial, or generalist track

Now let’s get down to the essence of each one of those and what they mean for your career…

The Specialist track

This is the path for UX designers who want to become experts in one particular domain. Maybe you want to be known for your killer Research skills, or your ability to create high-fidelity prototypes in a day…you get the gist.

The way you’d ace it on this track is by staying at the forefront of all the latest news, tools, and methodologies connected to your chosen area.

With the specialist track, you’ll spend most of your days doing hands-on design work. You’ll have to push the edge of your craft and constantly, tirelessly get better at it.

Pros

True specialists in the field are typically the people who have the most leverage later on in their career (the sought-after experts that companies are after). It’s also wayyyy easier to establish your personal brand and expertise if you’re only focussing on one area.

Cons

You’re consciously limiting the depth of your knowledge in other areas of UX Design. You can have a basic understanding of other areas but you’ll have a hard time jumping onto different areas in future

I got this idea from The Futur, to think of the Specialist track as going deep vs going wide.

Specialist track | The Futur
Specialist track | The Futur

And, The Managerial track as going wide vs going deep

Managerial track | The Futur
Managerial track | The Futur

The Managerial track

The management track means less hands-on, design work and execution, and more planning, strategy, communication, reporting, and managing people(obviously).

Many think of this as the fastest way to climb up the career ladder. But what we don’t see is that getting promoted to a managerial position might mean you’ll be doing less of what you’re good at (The Design work).

The way to excel on this career track is to become an all-rounder, a generalist, who’s equally good in any given UX field, and executing all managerial tasks.

If you love organizing systems, making sense of reporting, communicating with people, and strategizing rather than executing on designs, then this career track could be best-suited for you.

Pros

Being a manager is one of the easiest ways to showcase your career progression. You’ll become an all-rounder who can easily adapt to different teams. Plus, the challenges of this role is also quite exciting.

Cons

Jack of all trades but master of none’ might become your new tagline. Being a manager is a full-time job in itself and you’ll need to manage people with all different kinds of expertise, so your technical abilities are likely to suffer. You’ll have to do lots of non-design stuff.

Let’s talk about YOU

Now that you have a better understanding of the two broad career tracks, let’s start thinking about which is the right one for YOU!

Deciding on which track you want to pursue frees up the energy and the thinking capacity and allows you to really focus on the skills you need to develop for the respective track.

So, how do you make the call that will ultimately define the rest of your career? By reflecting, getting really clear about your own career goals, your personality, and personal preferences, and really figuring out what YOU want.

Here’s a little test that might help you make up your mind. Tick all the points that you wholeheartedly identify with:

Or, download this picture here

If you picked more points from the left-side, the specialist track would suit you more. If you identify with more points from the right side, you’d flourish on the managerial track.

Take some time for yourself and reflect on your career goals, and what makes you enjoy work.

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Waris Hussain


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