Our Speaker Spotlight sets the stage to get to know our speakers on a more personal level and connect them with our growing community. Read the mini-interview below!

A bit about Jessica

I graduated from Kennesaw State University with a Bachelor’s of Arts in English in 2015. After a few years in Marketing writing, I fell into UX…and fell in love with it. I’ve been working in UX content for more than six years now and I’ve gotten to help solve puzzles in some of the most complex industries, including insurance, banking/finance, and cybersecurity. I’ve also been expanding and constantly learning, recently taking more courses on accessibility, inclusivity, and internationalization, and I’ve even had the privilege of talking about these topics at conferences. It’s been a wild ride this past year, especially, and I am so honored that Two Beers Ideas reached out to ask me to participate in this panel. It was truly an amazing experience.

When I’m not working, I typically am hanging out with my husband and two goofy pups, playing video games or tabletop games (often RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons), knitting, crocheting, flying (I’m an aerialist), or learning some new random hobby or language.

How did you start out in your career?

Shortly after I graduated college, I got a job at a Search Engine Marketing company in Atlanta. After working there for a few years, I got laid off. So, I started applying to anything that said “content writer.” There was an ad for an “Associate Content Writer” for a company in Charlotte, but it didn’t explicitly say “UX” in it. Looking back, I can see it, but back then, I didn’t even know UX writing was a thing. So, I drove four hours for the interview and had a fantastic conversation with the hiring managers. Of course, then they asked me, “What do you know about UX?” Without missing a beat, I said, “Nothing, but I can learn.” Apparently, that convinced them along with my writing samples, so I got the job and absolutely fell in love with the craft.

What are the signs of success in your field?

When users know how to use the product. Fewer support tickets. More process completion. Better NPS scores. But these are also in concert with success in design and development, which is why it’s so important to foster excellent collaborative relationships with your designers, PMs, BAs, and developers.

What is the best and worst thing about your job role?

Best things: The blend of variety, creativity, and technicality. No two days of work are exactly the same, and I get to blend my creative skills with my technical and linguistic skills. I’d say I’m “balance-brained” since I definitely have creative and analytical tendencies, and UX content strategy/design exercises both sides of me. Also, getting to work with such incredibly smart people to solve problems and help people together.

Worst things: UX content is in the position that UX design was a few years ago. There is the misconception that UX content “just takes a few minutes” or that it’s “just cosmetic,” but that’s slowly changing. Still, there are often times where UX content isn’t accounted for in roadmaps and project timelines, but thankfully, there are many advocates on the UX design side that are working with us to change this.

What can you advise someone just starting out in your industry to be successful?

Create a portfolio, even if it’s just a few screens for a made-up application, and don’t be afraid to reach out for guidance. I’ve reached out to more experienced folks in the industry to help me learn and give me advice, and I’ve had people who wanted to get into UX content reach out to me. Most of us are very happy to share our knowledge, in my experience.

How do you switch off?

It’s tough for me to switch off at the end of the day, I’ll admit. But it helps to have a separate space to work. I have my office as a separate room in the house, and I have a separate work computer and personal computer. When I didn’t have enough space for an entirely different room, I got a cheap desk and put it in the corner away from my non-work spaces (my personal computer and my television, for example) and used that. Once work is done, I’m not allowed to go near my work computer or my work desk. I don’t take my work laptop into the bedroom or living room or anywhere else in the house. It helps to have that separation. If I’m having a particularly hard time switching off for the day, I’ll start up a particularly involved video game that totally occupies my brain for a bit, which helps me “reset,” so to speak.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t listen to anyone telling you that you’ll never get anywhere with an English degree. I spent a good amount of my college years in other majors that were considered “more practical.” I didn’t switch to English until my last year of college and finished the entire degree program in a year. Despite the workload, I loved it because I love writing, so I knew I was doing the right thing. I could’ve had a much more chill college experience if I’d just not listened to others and gone for English from the beginning. The truth is that everyone needs writers, and writing isn’t just books and journalism. Every product needs a manual. Every application needs text. To get the word out about a product or service, you need websites, articles, blog posts and so much more. Writing is more valuable than most people think, and I wish my younger self knew to trust herself more.

What is next for you?

More speaking engagements, I hope! I love sharing my knowledge. I’ve been doing conferences along with this panel, and I’ve even been a guest on a podcast. It’s been fun, and I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from people who learned something from me. I love that. I’m also working on a short book on writing in the real world, so to speak. The kind of writing you learn in school is very important—don’t get me wrong—but I feel like there’s a gap in teaching people how to write to communicate. I’d like to help close that gap a little.

If you could do anything now, what would you do? Why?

More of this!

What are your top 5 predictions in your industry for the next 5 years?

I think that UX content will become more and more understood as a priority as time goes on, but I foresee some challenges with the rise of AI. Some companies may try to do UX writing exclusively through AI, but AI is nowhere near that. I think those that will find the most success, though, are the ones who learn to use AI as a tool to help with their writing. Those who shun it completely will likely fall behind, and those who try to use it exclusively will likely find problems and have a lot of reworks. I also foresee a much bigger emphasis on accessibility and inclusivity. The EU passed a law that requires all products that want to operate in the EU to be accessible by 2024, for example. Deals will be made or lost based on how accessible or inaccessible a product is. The industry really needs to emphasize accessibility-first processes rather than trying to patch it and catch up.

Watch Jessica’s panel on the Role of Creativity in Digital Product Development here.

Thank you to all our wonderful speakers for taking part in our panel!