I had a discussion today with a colleague about the traits that make a great IA. Here’s the list I came up with:
1. You are personable
You’re friendly, outgoing, willing to talk with and connect with others. You are someone people like to work with (and if you’re lucky) someone a few even aspire to be like. You’re approachable, can hold a conversation, convince others of your ideas and communicate your thoughts.
2. You are aware
You keep up with what’s going on in the IA/UX space. You blog/twitter or LinkedIn to connect with others and spend your days (in between work and life) finding like-minded souls, places to share ideas and opportunities to learn more.
3. You have used a wide range of tools and approaches
Ideally you’ve dabbled in a number of tools to collect, analyze and communicate your information architecture solutions. Might be Visio, Omnigraffle, pen and paper or MS Office. Either way you’ve played, tested, tried and continue to evaluate new tools and approaches.
4. You have the ability to frame problems
You have a unique ability to understand and frame problems. You think like Albert Einstein who once said: “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.”
5. You have the ability to solve problems
Being an IA is really one big problem solving job. Our toolkit is a compendium of found, made up and often used techniques and approaches to solving problems. You have an ability to pull from a wide-range of techniques, tools and even common sense to solve problems. You don’t get mired in problems, you move through them.
6. You use your common sense
You have lots of common sense and trust your instincts. You have an ability to take the even the most complex of problems and simplify it. You’re able to see the big picture, don’t get lost in the weeds and can pick up and jump into ambiguous situations finding your way through it even as you go.
7. You have empathy
You can empathize with your end-user and produce great work. You are considerate of the users needs, scenarios, challenges and frustrations. You’ve done your homework before the work begins. You visit the site you are working on or use the product you are redeveloping. You talk about “users” with names like “Sally” or “Frank” and wonder aloud about how you can make their lives better, easier, faster, and/or less frustrating. You’re like Avinash Kaushik’s definition of a great web analyst “…great analysts have a customer centric view that makes their mind a lot more amiable to think like customers, all 1,000 segments of them…and their personas and challenges”.
Any others worth adding?