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How an SLP broke into User Experience (UX) in Tech

Short summary: Bethany Riebock felt burnt out as a medical SLP and rehab director. She attended a UX (user experience) bootcamp and landed a fulfilling and lucrative role in Silicon Valley as a User Experience Researcher (UXR). 

Ambition took Bethany far in her SLP career—she became a rehab director at a busy SNF, but stress outpaced pay.

Tons of red tape and clunky EMRs didn’t help. Healthcare software programs are designed with insurance companies in mind—not the clinicians who actually use them.

Why are EMRs and student data systems so frustrating?!

But stress led to an aha! moment…

“Years ago when I was sitting in front of my computer in a nursing home, I didn’t know that there was a technical term for what I was experiencing and problem-solving in that moment, until years later.

I hung up the phone and held my head in my hands as I chuckled to myself in moderate bewilderment.”

Her manager told her they would have to input billable hours by hand and fax it in a PDF— a pain in the ass to say the least!

This is what led her to study User Experience Research and Design, or UX for short. 

You can read Bethany’s full post on how she decided to transition to UX here.

What is UX?

UX is about making products and interfaces easier for people to use.

The reason iPhones sell more than Androids isn’t because they have better hardware or features; it’s because the design makes it easy and delightful to use. 

At its core, that’s what UX is about: being an anthropologist and liaison between technology and people. Rather than adapt people to the technology, it’s about humanizing tech.

There are two main tracts in UX: Research and Design. 

You can get into both, but research is a more natural transition from SLP. 

Great news: SLPs already have UX-related skills! 

We already know how to adapt materials for different learners. We start with baselines, and craft goals to make tech and curriculums accessible. Whether the interface is the spoken word or written— we understand how to observe, listen, and reach people where they are.

Other related skills:

  • We know how to translate assessments into recommendations. UX research is about assessing how people use a product, and making recommendations to make it better. 
  • We know how to advocate for people. Admin goals can interfere with human goals. In the SLP world, we have to make our clinical case to caregivers, parents. The business world is similar: UX researchers have to advocate for the end user of the product, sometimes at the expense of short-term profits. 
  • Empathy and communication skills. Technology can’t be designed in a vacuum. UX researchers employ empathy to really see how people interact with software or products. Then, they communicate those findings to the design team. SLPs are naturals at this. 

Read: How being an SLP prepared me for a career in UX Research.

Long story short, UX is an in-demand tech role that requires empathy, creativity, and communication. 

Not to mention, you can make more than double what you make as an SLP without getting another degree.

If this sounds attractive, you’re not alone. Other SLPs have entered the field. 

Some are using their expertise to help make medical and educational interfaces more accessible to people with disabilities at companies like Microsoft. 

Bethany’s worked her way up in the UX world. She’s worked for major companies like Google and Capital one, helping them leverage human-centered insights. 

I’ll post a full resource list for how to get started in UX soon. For now, check out Bethany’s article:

A Rough Guide: How I transitioned from SLP to UXR.

Thanks to Bethany for blazing a path for other SLP transitioners, and writing about her journey along the way. 

Does UX sound like an interesting career path? If you’re interested in using empathy and research to make technology more user-friendly, UX could be a great fit. 

If you found value in this article, please feel free to share it with other clinicians through social media and email. And subscribe to the newsletter for more in-depth career change tips.

P.S./Fun fact: Bethany is the original founder of the SLP Transitions/out-of-scope careers Facebook group. Thanks for all you do, Bethany!

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2 Comments

    1. Hi Cindy, I believe she started with a low-cost course on Coursera. https://www.coursera.org/specializations/michiganux.

      But the main thing that matters is not just theory, but building a portfolio of projects, and networking.

      So the main bootcamp she took (which cost about 15K full-time for a year I believe) was called Tradecraft. https://www.tradecraft.com/. Unfortunately, I think they’re no longer in operation.

      I’ve done a lot of research on good programs though, which I’ll post in an article soon— so stay tuned for that!

      Thanks.

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