Update 3/29/13: This blog was the basis for:

Summary: This is a request for you to join me on a UX adventure in the upcoming year. I’m ready for exciting people, places, projects and opportunities. I’m ready to give my time, whether paid or unpaid, to create adventure not only for us, but for others too. What is UX adventure? Read more to find out.

When I was 15 or so, I would go for very long bike rides through areas that I’d never traveled. It was long before the days of cell phones or GPS technology, and I liked the thrill of not knowing, of risk, of getting lost and then figuring out how to get back without simply retracing my steps and without a map. I always enjoyed that kind of thrill, not any overt or stereotypical thrill seeking activity, but rather one a bit more subtle. This is what drives me.

In business, this explains why I’ve always been drawn to consulting. There is certainly a risk of not having work, but there is also a thrill to getting out there, selling your skills, hoping for the best, and achieving. There is also the thrill of the work itself, and I’ve admittedly gravitated to work projects that were the most intriguing: those that put me in new situations where I could get lost or could fail, but for the most part do succeed with. I like ending up in new cities, in new places, with new people, where I am still doing something related to my career, to user experience, but where I have to shift my lens to gauge language usage, body language and emotions to adapt quickly and synch up with people I have just met. For me, all of this is a professional thrill, a professional adventure, and since my chosen field is user experience (UX), it’s a UX adventure.

But I discovered in the past four years that while UX adventure can and certainly does relate to work projects, it can also be related to unpaid experiences as well. Ostensibly, I can find ways to enhance the UX careers of others, to convey information, and to help the profession. But I will admit that I don’t do it out of a sense of altruism. I do it for the thrill of UX adventure and for the success of the adventure that follows.

While I have been involved in the Usability Professionals Association (now User Experience Professionals Association or UXPA) since 2006, I got a thrill from running the DC chapter since 2009, and I got a thrill from being on the international board in 2012. UXPA has been a UX adventure for me.

In addition to UXPA, I have spoken at conferences, and I’ve spoken at meetups. I’ve gotten to attend additional conferences for research too. UX adventure. I’ve gotten to be featured twice on the radio this year. UX adventure. I’ve coordinated meetups in 4 cities where I was traveling already for work, the most recent two of which actually became sponsored events. UX adventure. And just having the opportunity to meet with UX and web professionals in so many different contexts has been a UX adventure too. And the list goes on.

But even as I continue with UXPA International, my role as a leader for UXPA DC is ending next month. Some other work projects should also be coming to a close in 2012, and an adjunct faculty position that I’ve held for 8 years will also be coming to an end this summer. I look forward to more time to “play”, not simply to be filled with routine paid work. I want a subset of my work time to be UX adventure, whether paid or unpaid. And while I generally consider it inappropriate to explicitly sell UX services while on a UX adventure, connections are so critically important that just connecting with people can justify any UX adventure from a business development perspective.

I’ve also learned that professional time is not a zero sum game. When I’m doing what I love, I have more energy, and I’d even go so far as to say that I need less sleep. (Not sure exactly why, but it has been measurable). So in addition to successfully maintaining my consulting work, I expect to be able to pour lots of energy into UX adventure in 2013 as well.

How will my adventure of 2013 be defined? I’m not sure yet, but here are some general ideas.

  • Creating or helping to create events, workshops, seminars, meetups, or gatherings that can help promote or define UX
  • Creating or helping to create events described above with a goal to help professionals in their UX careers
  • Providing input on the creation of conferences and/or attending existing conferences to help do any of the above
  • Being a hub for networking between UX professionals
  • Providing training opportunities for those new to the field
  • Doing UX-oriented projects in interesting places, with interesting people, and in interesting situations
  • Creating synergies between UX and other types of professions
  • Promoting UX through the media: in print, electronically, and on radio or television

I certainly don’t want this to be an exhaustive list. Part of the adventure here is knowing that there are likely plenty of things that I have not yet thought of! If you have ideas and want to partner with me and have a UX adventure together, please let me know.

And beyond just working together, I challenge you to be brave, to be bold, to take a calculated risk, and to find your own professional adventure, with the consideration that it may be part of your paid work or it may be unpaid. Meet people. Meet lots of people because you never know which synergy will lead to a new adventure. Believe. Convince yourself that you are ready for that professional adventure so that you’ll get into the right mindset and be open to it when it does arrive. Good luck!