These Are the People in Your Neighborhood

These Are the People in Your Neighborhood

There are a lot of people in business. Knowing who they are and how to work with them is important to your success as a ux professional.


When I was a child, I loved watching Sesame Street. One part of the show I remember seeing was when one of the human cast members would stand alongside a few of the muppets, who were dressed in outfits as any one of a number of professions. Through the song, they explained that these were all people you might encounter in your life, and as I reflect back on those parts of the episodes today, I love how those vignettes were used to humanize those professions. What a great way to introduce empathy to kids indirectly. “You might see these folks, and here’s what they do. You should be aware of them.” Pretty cool stuff.

The Rest of UX and “The People in Your Neighborhood”

The premise of this whole blog is to offer another view of UX work – a view that takes into consideration all the other things we do in this profession that aren’t covered in school, certifications, or boot camps. Generally speaking, most of what’s covered in those learning forums are the actual work of UX – literally how to produce the work. Topics range from how to conduct research, to how to use specific design software, how to observe users for usability testing, and how to evaluate accessibility. Depending on how broad the scope is, you may also cover design topics like grids, color theory, layout, and the like. There is a lot more to ux work than those topics, but the point I’m making is that the primary goal of most ux training is to teach you how to do ux work – production work.

After all that training, and after you work through building a portfolio, getting through interviews, and successfully landing that gig as a ux professional, you will find yourself in a business on your first day. Through my years of building ux organizations inside large companies, there is one thing I see very often – a new ux person shows up and knows how to produce work, but their understanding of the Business is limited. This doesn’t always happen, but I have seen it a lot. So, here we are breaking down the business, and discovering along the way as many of the ways ux professionals interact with the Business as possible. This post is the beginning of that, and I’m going to walk you through some of the types of people you will encounter as you onboard into a new business, and move along your career path – the “people in your neighborhood”, if you will.

There Are So Many Roles to Know in Business

Your experience in business will certainly be different from mine, and I’m going to miss some roles as I go through this post. I’m ok with that. I don’t claim to know everything, and I certainly don’t know your experience. However, I think the roles I’ll discuss here will be a pretty fair representation of the types of people you’ll encounter in your business neighborhood. So, let’s get started.

The roles I’ll discuss here are generally aligned to a few parts of most businesses: technology, business, marketing, as well as matrixed roles. However, businesses are as varied as people, so where you work, things might be different. Also, depending on the type of business you are in, some of these roles might not even apply. This is intended to be a broad brush. Also, these roles are not listed in any implied hierarchical order.

Some Key Technology Roles You Might Encounter

IT Leadership

Typical responsibilities:

  • IT Leadership is generally concerned with the overall performance of production of technology resources. IT leadership is also responsible for managing technology budgets regarding software and technology infrastructure, as well as allocating human, physical, or software resources to achieve technology-aligned business goals.

How you might work with or encounter IT Leadership:

  • Depending on the level of your role and the size of your company, the way you work with IT leadership may vary However, you may be asked to engage with IT leadership to coordinate development support for the experience you are working on. You may also be asked to work with IT leadership to seek evaluation of software needed for you to do your job. Other ways you might engage with IT leadership are when you need to coordinate with development resources when testing experiences you work on. Generally speaking, IT leadership is the stop you make when you need to work with the humans who are charged with manifesting your experience vision.


Typical Responsibilities:

  • Developers are typically the people who write, test, and deploy code. Often for something you can see, such as a website, mobile app, or another type of internally or externally-facing application. They also write, test, and deploy code for back-end services which support front-end experiences. This can also include database creation and management as well as API development to connect services.

How you might work with or encounter Developers:

  • Depending on the way your business is structured, you may or may not work directly with developers. However, regardless of whether or not you are working with them directly, your work is likely to impact them – particularly if you are responsible for designs. When you are responsible for designs, one of the most important ways you can successfully work with developers is to consider them when creating your designs, and ensuring that your hand-offs are well documented. Well-crafted documentation is a precious benefit to developers, and helps to avoid costly misunderstanding and revision.

Project Management

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Project managers are focused on managing the productivity of development teams and resources. The goal of project management is to deliver committed project work within scope, on time, and within the budget constraints defined. They work directly with development resources and IT leadership to ensure project work is scoped effectively, and delivered as committed.

How you might work with or encounter Project Management:

  • Depending on where you are oriented within the business, you may or may not have a project manager assigned to your team. Typically, when you are aligned closer to technology delivery, you will have greater exposure to a project manager. Nevertheless, it is likely that whatever projects you are working on will be managed according to requirements and scope, and in an increasingly agile-focused landscape, the likelihood that you will interact with project managers is pretty high. Working with a project manager means being able to properly estimate how much effort is required for you to do your work. It also means following through on your commitments and ensuring you are a good team-member in terms of your dependencies.

Data & Analytics

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Data & analytics teams are typically responsible for collecting, organizing, and analyzing data to help the business make better decisions. They use tools like computer programs and statistical models to turn data into useful insights, which they then share with other departments to help them make decisions. Their goal is to help the business operate more efficiently and effectively from a data-driven standpoint.

How you might work with or encounter Data & Analytics:

  • Working with data and analytics teams means understanding what to ask for in terms of the data you need. These stakeholders are also responsible for delivering insights. That means that they need to be able to tell stories around the data they collect. Data is only as good as how it is communicated, and there are many gifted data analysts who can crunch numbers and create charts, but the truly exceptional ones are able to clearly explain what those numbers mean for the business. Learning how to ask the right questions of your D&A partners will help you make better data-driven decisions.

Security Compliance

Typical Responsibilities:

  • IT-aligned security & compliance teams are typically responsible for making sure that the business’s information and data are kept safe from cyber-attacks and other threats. They use software and other tools to protect against unauthorized access, and they monitor the business’s systems for signs of potential threats. They also make sure that the business is following all relevant laws and regulations related to data protection and privacy. They also typically define the rules around which software and software services are permitted to access the systems owned and operated by the business.

How you might work with or encounter Security Compliance:

  • Security and compliance teams are there to protect the company. Often, they are serving as the “tip of the spear” when it comes to protecting company or customer data. Working with security and compliance teams can be frustrating, because they tend to be very adherent to rules and guidelines, but this is a virtue. Without teams dedicated to strict rules and protection mechanisms, grave consequences can happen. One of the best ways to work with security and compliance teams is to engage them as early as you can when you might need to coordinate with them. The earlier you can begin working with them, the easier it will be for you to achieve your security objective on time. One of the quickest ways to derail project success is to engage security as an afterthought. It is extremely unlikely that they will expedite your work or take shortcuts – their training and experience has taught them that those are the ingredients for a recipe of disaster. 

Some Key Business Roles You Might Encounter:

Business Leadership

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Business leadership is typically responsible for making important decisions that shape the direction of the business. They set goals and strategies, and make plans to achieve them. They also oversee the work of other employees and departments, and make sure that everyone is working together effectively to achieve the company’s goals.

How you might work with or encounter Business Leadership:

  • Depending on the size of the company you are working in, there could be many different styles of business leadership. However, you are very likely to encounter these individuals in meetings or places where people are discussing how the business operates. As a ux professional, one of the best ways you can deliver value to business leadership is with sound decisions that are backed by data, and which drive the business forward. Having defensible designs, for instance, is a great way to be prepared to engage with business leadership. These individuals will ask you hard questions about your decisions, because they are accountable for business results. Your ability to communicate rationally about your work will make these interactions successful.


Typical Responsibilities:

  • The finance department is typically responsible for managing the company’s money. They keep track of how much money is coming in and going out, and make sure that the company has enough funds to pay for everything it needs. They also create financial reports and help other departments make financial decisions to ensure that the business is operating efficiently and effectively.

How you might work with or encounter Finance:

  • When you need to buy something, finance is who you need. Working with your finance team usually means making a business case for the thing you want to purchase, and in order for a procurement team to execute a contract or issue a purchase order, they will usually need to have the money approved from finance. To work successfully with your finance partners, make sure you have good business justification for the tool, service, or software, or vendor you believe you need, and be prepared to compare your desired solution against already approved products and services, or against other competing products. Your finance team is going to want to know that the money they approve is going to improve the business, and not just be a drain on the bottom line.

Human Resources

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Human resources is typically responsible for managing the company’s employees. They help to recruit, hire, and train new employees, and make sure that everyone is working together effectively. They also handle employee benefits and payroll, and ensure that the company is following all relevant employment laws and regulations.

How you might work with or encounter Human Resources:

  • There are two times you are certain to engage with your human resources department – when you are onboarding into the company, and when you are offboarding from the company. However, your human resources partners are there for much more. You will interact with them when you are participating in training, and when you are participating in company-sponsored activities. They are also there to handle any issues that may arise during your employment.


Typical Responsibilities:

  • The procurement department in your business is typically responsible for purchasing goods and services needed by the business. They work to find the best quality items at the best prices, and negotiate contracts with suppliers. They also make sure that the business has everything it needs to operate smoothly, from office supplies to equipment and raw materials.

How you might work with or encounter Procurement:

  • The procurement team is tightly connected with the finance team. You will interact with them whenever you need to buy access to a service, product, or purchase services from a vendor. They are there to ensure that contracts meet the needs of the business, and treat the business favorably. They are also very process-driven. Interacting with procurement usually means you have vetted whatever product, service or vendor you are trying to work with, but they will usually step in to lift the burden of negotiation from you, so that the business gets favorable terms. Be prepared to step aside and let these professionals do their job, and you will have a lot of success with them.

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Typically responsible for making sure that the company is following all relevant laws and regulations. They work to identify and assess legal risks, and develop policies and procedures to mitigate them. They also provide guidance and training to employees to ensure that everyone is aware of the laws and regulations that apply to their work.

How you might work with or encounter Legal Compliance:

  • Working with legal compliance teams may be frustrating at times. These are the people who know the law, and they are there to mitigate risk for the business. Working with them means trusting in their legal opinion. However, it is important to know that a legal opinion is not a design opinion. When you have a data-backed design decision, make sure your legal partner knows that information up-front. Remember, these are lawyers. Some of them have even been litigators. They are trained to argue – not out of spite, but out of a need for inspection. So, work with that tool to be successful, take a socratic approach when trying to achieve your objective, and ask questions instead of making definitive statements. Remember, just because you are right, doesn’t mean your choice will win the day, and sometimes being right isn’t enough – you also need to be able to convince.

Some Key Marketing Roles You Might Encounter:

Marketing Leadership

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Marketing leadership is typically responsible for promoting the company’s products or services to potential customers. They are responsible for leading the people who create advertising campaigns, develop brand strategies, and conduct market research to understand customer needs and preferences. They are also responsible for the teams who work to build relationships with customers and increase sales, helping the business to grow and succeed. They typically manage marketing budgets and are responsible for using their budgets efficiently to drive company growth.

How you might work with or encounter Marketing Leadership:

  • More often than not, ux is aligned under a marketing department in some way. That means that interacting with marketing leadership could very likely be you interacting with your direct manager. One of the best ways you can work with your manager is to ask clarifying questions, deliver consistent work, and remain focused on helping the business succeed. At the end of the day, if you are aligned under a marketing leader, they are going to be focused on a lot of similar goals as the business leaders mentioned above. That means that, even if these individuals understand the “creative” side of your work, they are still focused on business results. Being a consistent contributor is one of the best ways to ensure your working relationship is mutually beneficial.

Brand Management

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Brand managers in a large company are typically responsible for managing the company’s brand and ensuring that it is recognized and trusted by customers. They create strategies for promoting the brand and building brand awareness, and develop marketing campaigns that align with the brand’s image and values. They also monitor customer feedback and work to improve the brand’s reputation and perception among customers.

How you might work with or encounter Brand Management:

  • You are especially likely to engage brand managers if you are doing work that needs to adhere to brand standards. Brand managers are focused on the perception of the brand, and that means they will want you to be consistent in your delivery, and to adhere to the standards they have developed. There is a lot of work that goes into creating a coherent brand strategy, so you should trust these partners in this regard.


Typical Responsibilities:

  • The design team in your business is typically responsible for creating visual designs that represent the company’s brand and products. They use their artistic and technical skills to create designs for websites, products, and packaging, among other things. They also work with other departments to ensure that their designs meet the company’s objectives and effectively communicate the desired message to customers. Additionally, these are the individuals who are responsible for adhering to brand guidelines.

How you might work with or encounter Design:

  • Depending on your role, this may or may not actually be you. It is very common for ux to be divorced from actual “refined design” or “high-fidelity” designs. This is not always the case, but it is more common than it used to be. In this case, it will be your charge to ensure that the ux decisions you have established are once again defensible and well-documented. Just as developers need clear instructions to execute your vision, so too do designers. The clearer your documentation is, the better they can deliver on your direction. Help them to help you by being clear and rational.

Product Management

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Product management is typically responsible for managing the development and success of the company’s products. They work with various teams, such as marketing and design, to create a product strategy and ensure that it aligns with the company’s goals. They also conduct market research to identify customer needs and preferences, develop the strategies to introduce new products to market, and use this information to guide product development efforts.

How you might work with or encounter Product Management:

  • As a UX professional, you will often work closely with product managers. The product manager’s main responsibility is to oversee the development and launch of a product. They will collaborate with you to ensure that the product meets the user’s needs and is designed with an exceptional user experience. The product manager will rely on your expertise to help them make decisions about the product’s design, usability, and functionality. Together, you will work to create a product that is not only visually appealing but also easy to use and meets the needs of the target audience.

Some Key Matrixed Roles You Might Encounter:

External Vendors

Typical Responsibilities:

  • External vendors serve as a means to scale the efforts of the business. Sometimes these vendors are engaged to provide specific areas of expertise, and they can also provide specific services which are not available to the business internally, such as software required to conduct business. Additionally, these vendors can also be engaged because they are able to provide ready-made teams who can be activated quickly to achieve specific business goals or objectives.

How you might work with or encounter External Vendors:

  • There is no shortage of ways you can work with external vendors, and the way you interact with them will often depend on the nature of the vendor’s relationship with the company. Regardless of the relationship, though, the most important thing to consider when interacting with external vendors is that, if the relationship is already in place, they have been hired to perform a specific purpose, and they deserve the respect needed to do so successfully. One of the quickest ways to derail a relationship with an external vendor is to treat them poorly. If they are entrenched in your company as a needed service provider, that could even mean greater costs in the future, as they will likely factor in the cost of pain in dealing with you or your team in the future. 

Internal Contractors

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Internal contractors are typically individuals who have been hired through a third-party vendor who specializes in recruiting and hiring for specific talent and skill-sets. These individuals generally function as an integrated part of the company, and more often than not often they are indistinguishable from regular employees apart from who pays them, how they manage time off, and whether or not they will work for a limited time on a project or for a longer duration, depending on business and legal requirements.

How you might work with or encounter Internal Contractors:

  • You will likely interact with or encounter many contractors during your time as a ux professional. These individuals have been sought out to provide a service for the company that the company is unable to or unwilling to perform through a direct-hire. These individuals, while different in some ways from direct-hires, should be treated no different from any other employee you encounter. Often, contractors will eventually convert into full-time employees, and may even be on your team. As you would any other person in your business, treat these individuals with the dignity, courtesy, and respect you would extend to anyone else, and you will be in good shape.

Closing Thoughts

There are many roles you will come across in your work as a ux professional, and it’s important to know how to work with them. As we continue in this journey of discovery through “The Rest of UX”, we will take a closer look at some of the roles we looked at today. We’ll also look at some of the competencies you can add to your own tool-kit in order to grow your knowledge and vocabulary so that you can have even more meaningful conversations with the people who fill these roles.

It’s important to remember that all of the people you work with in business are exactly that – people. They all come with their own interests, needs, and idiosyncrasies – that’s what makes them special. As ux professionals, we often tout our ability to deploy empathy. Remember, ux extends beyond the actual work, and the “ux of you” is just as important. So, remember the humanity of the people in these roles, and I look forward to sharing more with you about these types of roles as we charge forward with “The Rest of UX.”