How to become a more valuable UX professional: 3 factors to increase your worth

Krispian Emert


If you’ve reached the intermediate stage of your career in UX, you have encountered a few frustrations. You may feel like your ideas don't have influence or that you don't have control over the direction of a project. You may be finding UX research to be a tough sell. You may be asking yourself: “How can I better effect change within my organization?”

I’ve learned over the years that one way to have more influence and better effect change is to increase your value as a UX professional.

Let’s define what I mean by valuable UX professional. There are three factors I’ve found that can help to increase your worth:

  1. Become a more versatile practitioner;
  2. Become a better influencer;
  3. Increase the worth of our discipline overall.

Becoming a more versatile practitioner

Versatility comes with learning a broad range of techniques and expanding your toolset. I often tell my information architecture students that to get an edge in the workforce: “The more arrows in your quiver, the more you’ll stand out from the other candidates.”

To become a more versatile practitioner, shift your thinking towards always learning. That means taking advantage of any and all learning opportunities that come your way, because the more versatile practitioner you become, the more opportunities will open up to you. Always learning doesn’t need to be expensive. You can take advantage of free (or low cost) options such as:

Online courses

There are a variety of free massive open online course (MOOCs) A MOOC is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access online. You can access free MOOCs from Harvard, MIT, Stanford and other top universities. My favourite MOOC is Coursera.

There are also low cost subscription services like Pluralsight or Skillshare that allow you to access 100s of courses for one monthly fee. In fact, I have made a course on this very topic — becoming a more valuable UX professional for Pluralsight. You can check out my course on their website

Books, blogs and websites

As a resource, these are pretty evident. Everyone has their favorites; here are a few books I highly recommend:


  • The Elements of User Experience by Jesse James Garrett
  • Undercover User Experience Design by Cennydd Bowles and James Box


  • Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner's Guide to User Research by Elizabeth Goodman, Mike Kuniavsky, Andrea Moed

Interaction design

  • About Face: The Essentials of User Interaction Design by Alan Cooper

Information architecture

  • Information Architecture: For the Web and Beyond by Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville


  • Content Everywhere: Strategy and Structure for Future-Ready Content by Sara Wachter-Boettcher and Eva Lotta Lamm
  • Meetups and professional organizations: In addition to providing valuable learning opportunities, going to events is great for networking and getting known within the community
  • Conferences: I highly recommend attending as many conferences as possible. While some ticket prices are not exactly low cost, they are worth the investment. If you live in a city where the conference is held, you can volunteer for a low cost option. For example, I volunteered at the 2017 UX Strategy conference in Boulder, USA, and will be attending the 2018 IA Summit in Chicago as a volunteer too.

Becoming a better influencer

A common complaint that I hear from many UX designers is that they do not have as much influence over product direction as they anticipated. I also hear complaints that other teams within the organization, especially stakeholders, do not understand fundamentals about UX — such as the difference between UX and UI.

Such misunderstandings are not a reason to complain. Instead, look at them as an opportunity to teach! This is a chance to position yourself as an expert in your field. Remember that other teams have their own area of expertise that may not include UX. Stakeholders, especially those from an MBA or marketing background, sometimes misconstrue UX activities with marketing activities. In my own experience, the greatest gains towards having more influence came about because I made a concerted and consistent effort to educate others about what UX is and how it is practiced.

Sometimes, when I give this advice, I hear, “But I gave a lunch and learn once and it didn’t do anything.” The key is to keep at it. My first couple of lunch and learns were sparsely attended. In fact, I think I saw a few tumbleweeds blow through the room. But I persisted and kept on holding my lunch and learns, and attendance slowly increased to the point where stakeholders started attending and I started getting better reception when I pitched incorporating research into projects. Another opportunity for education is to put a few “refresher” slides at the beginning of any presentation you make within the organization. For example, every one of my UX research insights presentations begins with a 2 minute refresher of “what is UX research and why it is beneficial.”

In addition to lunch and learns and giving refreshers before your presentations, another opportunity for educating others and becoming a better influencer is to involve colleagues and stakeholders in your work. Rather than you trying to be the sole repository of research data, strive towards building a shared understanding of insights. This can have many benefits, including gaining allies and approval for future research. For example, I bring along one different member of the project team with me on field studies and ethnos. When we get together to discuss findings, people who have taken part of the research are much more invested and involved in the discussions. Another idea is to invite people from other teams to be notetakers. Involving disparate team members will also increase your facilitation abilities, which is an important soft skill in UX.

Increasing the worth of our discipline overall

Once you have worked on increasing your value as a professional and have built up experience in educating, facilitating and involving others in your work, you might want to start to think about giving back.  

I have been trying to improve the discipline of UX in my own small way through:

  1. Mentoring
  2. Teaching
  3. Speaking

I will relate my own experience on how I initially got into mentoring, teaching and speaking and perhaps this will give you inspiration on how you might do the same.

Before I became a mentor and then a teacher, I first became a speaker in the subject of UX. I did this by repeatedly submitting proposals to my local user experience organization. My first few talk proposals were rejected, but eventually I got the chance to share a case study about a mobile research project that I led. I conducted this first talk with two of my other team members, which made the experience easier. The talk was well received, and this gave me the courage to submit more proposals, many of which were rejected, but a few led to more talks. I have now given over a dozen talks in 4 different countries and look forward to giving more in the future.

I got into mentoring through a local design school that features a well-respected interaction design program. This school hosted a graduate showcase that I attended, where I learned that they were looking for industry professionals to mentor students’ grad projects. I applied and was able to mentor for 2 years. I found that I really enjoyed mentoring, and this resulted in the students providing positive feedback about me to the school administrators. When an opportunity to teach information architecture came up I was offered the job and have been teaching for nearly 4 years. They say the best way to learn is to teach, so I think that putting together lesson plans and answering students’ questions has made me a better professional.

Hopefully my experiences may inspire you to think about how you may increase the worth of our discipline overall.

In summary, the three factors I’ve found that can help to increase your worth as a UX professional are:

  1. Become a more versatile practitioner;
  2. Become a better influencer;
  3. Increase the worth of our discipline overall.

I hope these factors will enable you to have more influence and better effect change within your organization and to ultimately increase your value as a UX professional.

If you’ve got any tips of your own, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Krispian Emert
  • Krispian Emert
  • Krispian has over 10 years experience working in UX. She has worked all over the world: for startups, agencies, and companies like Microsoft, The NFL, ING, etc. Currently, she is lead UX Researcher at TELUS, one of Canada's largest telcos. Krispian teaches Information Architecture and Design Thinking at VFS; speaks about UX at conferences and universities, and is involved in the local/global UX community. Outside of work, Krispian plays bass for local cover bands.

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