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5 Questions for Jeff Gothelf

  • Philippe Surber

One of the leading thinkers in the space of UX and agile is coming to this year’s edition of the Frontend Conference Zurich. We took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his latest book and the workshop he will facilitate on the 30 of August in Zurich.

FEC: Let's start with an easy one: What was the last book you read?

Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I can’t say enough about how important this book is. It’s amazingly well written but it’s not an easy read. It focuses on the author’s life, growing up African-American in America in modern times (the last 40 years). It really opened up my eyes.

FEC: In relation to UX, what is making you excited these days? It can be people doing something you like, innovative products, trends that you believe have a future, recent developments, etc.

There’s a whole new realm opening up on a few different fronts. While the challenges of designing for rectangles continues to march forward and is by no means diminished (have you seen some the apps out there today?) , the opportunities opening up in AI, IoT and perhaps, most interestingly, machine learning are truly exciting. The capabilities of the hardware and software that powers our digital experiences have evolved so much that they now allow a level of interaction we’ve never had before. How do we navigate these amazing capabilities while keeping privacy, accessibility and inclusion in mind? That excites me.

FEC: You help large enterprises respond to the changes new technologies bring. Who do you find is most receptive to your recommendations? And who do you have a hard time convincing? (Assuming there is a pattern)

In large companies everybody is speaking the lean/agile language these days. That doesn’t mean they understand what it means to truly adopt these methods and transform. I find that the closer the people I interact with are to their product, the more receptive they are to new, more continuous and customer-centric ways of working. This usually ends up being designers, engineers and product managers. The further away the person is from the product they are usually aware of modern software development techniques but don’t get what it means for them as a manager or leader. The toughest part convincing them of is changing their measures of success from business metrics (revenue, sales, NPS) and output (shipping feature) to customer-centric outcomes that tell us how successful our users are with our services.

FEC: You are hosting a workshop the day before the Frontend Conference. How much of the knowledge & skills from your new book "Sense & Respond" will you cover?

I’m excited to come to the Frontend Conference in Zurich in August and teach my workshop. The material in Sense & Respond is heavily woven into the workshop. It’s a hands-on and interactive mix of tactical work that comes from the Lean UX book and is then coupled with material on how to make it work in your organization (that’s the Sense & Respond stuff). We’ll cover product discovery, product ownership and management, combining design and engineering and focusing the work on customer-centric outcomes. It’s a lot of fun and we cover a ton of material.

FEC: What are you excited about doing in Zurich/Switzerland? Any foods you want to try? Sights you want to visit?

I’ve never been to Zurich! I’ve spent some time in other parts of Switzerland and if there’s an opportunity to get into a tub of fondue again, like my last visit, I’d be thrilled. :-)