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Located in a busy corner of Newcastle’s cosmopolitan heart, just a short hop from Hunter Street, is eCoach HQ. This thriving little tech company has one goal: to help educators create engaging, interactive online learning solutions.

Freshly-recruited Head of User Experience (UX), Matt Spier, is in charge of ensuring they deliver the perfect product. A keen problem solver and music lover, Matt manages a wide variety of UX issues in his quest for interface magic.

Whether you’ve got an interest in climbing a similar career ladder, or just love finding out more about our local professionals, read on. Matt, it’s over to you.

Tell us about your current role

As head of UX at eCoach, I’m responsible for UX strategy, UX research/testing and UI (user interface) Design. As eCoach is a small company in a growth phase, it’s necessary for me to cover a lot of ground yet still be able to move quickly.

Talk us through your career climb

After graduating from the UON with a degree in Industrial Design in 2008, I got a job as a Junior Exhibition Designer in Sydney working for clients such as Sony, Target & Pfizer.

In 2011, I moved into graphic and web design, working for a lighting company in Newcastle. I joined my previous company, Compassion Australia, in 2012, where I was promoted to Lead UX Designer.

Describe a typical working day

I always start the day by writing an analog, aka pen and paper, checklist of tasks to complete as it feels more tangible and immediate. These tasks are actionable chunks taken from our weekly ‘sprint’, or pre-agreed to-do list. I’ll then grab a coffee and get stuck in.

Depending on the priority that week, I could be doing anything from UX research interviews with customers or sales staff to getting into the pixels on a UI design.

I work using the ‘pomodoro’ method. This means head down for 25 minutes followed by a five minute break in which I’ll usually grab the guitar or take a quick walk.

What’s the best part of your job?

I love understanding problems, digging into the ‘why’ of either qualitative (interviews, surveys) or quantitative (data, analytics) research. It’s satisfying when you solve a real problem for someone and great knowing that you’ve made their day a little easier or helped them achieve a goal.

How do you relax after a busy week?

Play music, read and spend time with my daughter and wife.

How would you describe your work ethic?

 I’m outcomes-driven. I want to see the best results possible for the time invested. I’d also say I’m detail-orientated, quality-focused and anchored by strategy.

Email, phone or face-to-face?

Always face-to-face if possible, particularly for the type of work I do. Body language, mannerisms, tone and expression tell you more than email or phone conversations ever can.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

I’ll admit, sometimes it’s difficult to get out of bed, particularly if you’re at the end of a design phase doing a build/UI spec. It’s all about learning and problem solving for me. If I feel I’ve learnt something new throughout the course of the day, then that’s a day well spent.

What’s your top Newcastle haunt?

 It was probably The Edwards before it burnt down – RIP. When I worked in my previous role at Compassion in Mayfield, it was probably SidePocket. I’d go there at least once a day. It has the best coffee and the owners and staff are legends. Estabar is great, too.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Working as a lead product designer with a couple of solid digital products under my belt. I’d like to split my time between consulting/freelancing on product design and UX and producing/composing music.

Design and music are two of my great loves. They coexist so well together and have so many transferable insights. I find that as I get better at problem solving and design, my music improves and vice-versa.

Which business leaders inspire you?

Des Traynor, Co-Founder of Intercom. I love his work on the ‘jobs to be done’ product development methodology. It’s been really helpful to me and has challenged the way I think about product design, problem definition and most importantly, empathy.

What quote do you live by?

In design: ‘Everything should be as simple as it can be, but not simpler’ – Albert Einstein
In life: ‘Let all that you do be done in love.’ – 1 Corinthians 16:14

What are the key skills you need in your industry?

Empathy, curiosity, creativity, pragmatism and communication.

Which three books would you recommend to aspiring UX talent?

  • Don’t make me think (revisited) – Steve Krug
  • Jobs To Be Done – eBook by Intercom (Des Traynor and friends)
  • Lean UX – Jeff Gothelf & Josh Seden

So it seems having a measured, outcome-driven work ethic and a love for creative problem solving might just be the key to UX success. By breaking down tasks and taking regular breaks, Matt’s not only delivering for eCoach, he’s teaching us all a thing or two.

If you’re interested in working in the UX space, call GWG for a chat today.

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