Peter is the living proof that any passion can turn into a huge business success. He has managed to position himself in the crowded IT industry, as an expert in developing positive experience for big brand consumers. Now he is eagerly waiting for his book to be released, which aims to change the life of any service provider worldwide. Our dialogue revolved around his impressive work, his numerous accomplishments and his positive view upon Romania's future.
Name: Peter W. Szabo
Hometown: Targu Mures
Abroad since: 2014
Living in: London, UK
Current position & company: Senior Manager UX/UI, Amaya Inc.
TGR: Peter, you have dedicated your entire career to User Experience. How did this passion arise?
PS: I was always a huge geek and sci-fi fan. During my university years, I worked as a web designer. I was always interested in communication, psychology and software development. Initially, I just wanted to create sites, which are not just pretty, but also easy to use.
Please explain in brief for us neophytes what UX actually is.
The sum of your mental processes about a specific solution is what I call User Experience. Imagine buying a new washing machine. Your first thoughts might be around the old, broken machine, probably made by another company a decade ago. That line of thinking could lead to a website, where you go through the purchase journey, and finally the washing gets shipped to you, gets installed, and you get to learn the control. All this is user experience. At the moment, UX is still in its infancy as a science, so we focus mainly on making sure you end up buying the washing machine from our shop, not a competitor. Or we create a more user-centric smart washing machine, maybe with touchscreen. While doing that, we also change your behaviour patterns a tiny bit.
OK, so it is clear from the user's point of view, but the work behind creating UX seems massive. What is your personal input towards the development of this methodology?
I’m mostly known for the Kaizen-UX management methodology, which is a truly agile way to lead UX teams of any size, increase their performance and make the whole organization more user-centric. There are many agile methodologies for software development teams, like Scrum or Extreme Programming, but nowadays UX is not just a person in a team, but a whole team.
My other inputs are around communicating UX, especially mapping UX. Currently I’m working on a book titled User Experience Mapping. It will be published by Packt Publishing around May 2017. In this book, I will change your life. I will show you techniques which will help you to understand the users, gain strategic insights and improve communication within the team and with stakeholders. You can also learn about some UX map types I have developed.
Finally behaviour change is the third area, where I did many research, but I’m not ready yet to write a book about it. Maybe in 2017.
Could you share one of your success stories in implementing UX?
When I used to run my consultancy or as UX Director for WhatUsersDo in London, I got in touch with many big brands, like Cisco, Ryanair, Tesco, Virgin Atlantic, Marks & Spencer, O2, etc. I certainly hope, I helped them become a bit more user-centric by understanding their users better. UX is not something you can implement overnight, like “switching on the great UX machine”. With that said, we saved millions for those companies by helping them understand their users and redesigning the experience. For example, we achieved an increase in smartphone conversion rate by 38% (6% on desktop and 14% on tablet), while also decreasing the number of customer support calls by 23%. But the biggest achievement there was to bring in the real user to management meetings. Not physically of course, but videos of them struggling with the old design during lab and remote test. As soon as management understands the pain points of the customers, the rest is easy.
Tell me, Peter, why London? Is it maybe the most appropiate for UX development?
London has the highest number of UX experts and UX conferences. Globally, among all cities. This is really helpful for an emerging science, like UX. For example, I was speaking at 8 conferences in 2015, most of them in London. (Although I speak internationally from Manila to Warsaw, but most of the events happen in London.)
Moreover, central London is really stunning. I’m fortunate enough to live next to the London Eye, and I walk through Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus every morning to the Amaya offices. I love the city.
Is there anything disappointing, maybe something you've expected to be different?
Well, the rent is absurdly high… but no real disappointment so far. I expected the weather to be much worse. Contrary to the popular beliefs weather in London is quite enjoyable. Almost never freezing and the rain is not as common as people think.
Romania is greatly appreciated for its blooming IT sector. Do you feel your expertise can be embraced and further developed here?
I certainly hope so. Romania still has a huge untapped potential, but the presence of big corporations and emerging statups is a great sign. I think that in the next few decades most IT jobs will be done from home, and when that happens productivity and creativity skyrockets. Romania has very fast and cheap internet and favourable tax law to support this.
Do you see yourself moving back?
Definitely. If I could work from home while keeping my current job, I would not hesitate for a second. Unfortunately salaries are still very low compared to the UK. A long-term plan would be to create a UX consultancy and work for international clients from Romania.
How often do you travel to Romania?
Once a month. I usually spend three weeks in London and one in Targu Mures.
What do you mostly miss when you're away?
My family, my cats and my friends.
What changes do you see in the Romanian society?
People are getting more open-minded. Some western countries seemingly took steps backwards, towards far-right ideas, and the results of those can be devastating. Brexit is a striking example. Fortunately there is no Romanian equivalent of UKIP or Nigel Farage. There is no far-right party in the parliament. While religious zeal and prejudices are still a very powerful force, I think that they are getting weaker and weaker. Long story short, I’m very optimistic about where the Romanian society will evolve in a decade. I’m sure that many ground-breaking ideas will emerge from Romanian minds in the next few years. We need a society where those ideas can thrive.
Please tell me something particular about Romania that you would usually say to a foreign friend.
Romania is a beautiful country, worth visiting. Great food, great wine and amazing people. If they are into cars and driving I would suggest driving through Transfagarasan, or just show them the Top Gear video of it. If they are into IT, I would praise the IT industry and the education system, filling the industry with smart people. I believe that Romania is a country where anyone can find miracles.
What is your biggest dream?
I believe that in this century we will be able to digitalise human beings. This will be the key to both humankind's survival as a species and our exploration of the space. The digital society would have no famine, no plagues and no poverty. This would solve all major problems we face today. Digital humans would even defeat death. Sounds like a wild sci-fi idea? It is, but then again, smartphones were also a wild sci-fi idea a few decades ago.
Any final remarks regarding our home country?
Just a message to all Romanians: Don’t be silent about the next big thing. The app or hardware you will create will change the world. Do it now. Do it in Romania. Be bold and let your imagination flow.
Peter, thanks for sharing your thoughts! I have also browsed through your blog by the way, it really shows your dedication towards developing User Experiences. I feel any big corporation needs your services, and I hope you can get in touch with as many people as possible in your career!
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