With this being an internal-facing project, the Customer is the team I lead. There was a gap in the career growth pathing for individual contributors at Southwest Airlines, and I wanted to build out options for the current and future team members that wanted to continue to practice their craft.
For Southwest Airlines to be able to recruit and retain top-teir talent, they needed to have clearly defined growth paths for their creatives. By aligning these career paths with established individual contributor roles — from entry-level to senior advisor roles — the business is able to buikd out growth plans for current talent, forecast for future roles, and recruit for the level of expertiese needed to ensure success across the company.
One of the challenges I am most proud to have helped solve at Southwest Airlines was building out clear career pathing for the UX Designers and Researchers. When I started leading the team, there were only four design focused roles available:
The existing structure was lacking in that it mapped the competencies to general buckets that included database engineers and email developers. By lumping all of these roles together, the expectations for success and growth wound up being overly generic and lacked any clear direction. The generic expectations and lack of more senior roles made it difficult for our existing team members to grow and made recuiting new talent extremely tricky.
One of the challenges with building out new roles and expectations is the Design industry lacks a single naming convention. UX Designers, Product Designers, HCI Specialists, and Experience Owners can all do the same thing depending on the naming that resonated with their organization. I audited job postings and job title trends across LinkedIn, Designer News, and Indeed in order to gain an understanding of what the level of expectation was across various career bands. I distilled that information down in to the following for both our researchers and designers: