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UPA 2011


UPA Certification - Our A Pilot Program Launches in 2011

Ronnie Battista

Ronnie is the Director of Certification, UPA International.

It's been an exciting first year in my role as Director of Certification for UPA-I! This article briefly outlines what we've done, what we've learned, where we plan to go, and how you can help.

Where we've been:

In 2010 there were three core steps we have pursued to get Certification moving:

1 - Certification criteria (The How) - The key criteria for Certification (e.g. tenure, education level, examination, etc.) has been outlined. This will still need to be refined later this year and next, but the working draft has Board approval. In quick summary, we seek a UPA Certification that will not be "Certification for life;" continuing education and renewal of Certification will be required.

2 - Certifying body (The Who) - As you probably know, there are other forms of 'certification' schemes in the market, offered by both independent third parties and private companies. Most of these are training, not meeting even loose definitions of Certification, but are marketed as such. Due diligence was conducted on existing Certification schemes in this UX space. To that end, the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics (BCPE) currently offers the only NOCA/ICE Certified CUXP program.

In the spring and summer of 2010 the UPA entered into discussions with the BCPE about the possibility of working together on a Certification program similar to (or in combination with) their existing CUXP Certification program. In fact, some UPA members (e.g. Susan Dray, UPA Board Director of Publications) were the first to get their CUXP Certification.

Ultimately, though both sides worked in good faith to make this happen, we were unable to align on a few key items, notably the education degree requirements - many of our members do not have an advanced degree in a relative field. Therefore, the UPA Board voted to pursue our own Certification program.

3 - Content creation (The What) - Last is the actual materials that will be the foundation of Certification. There is a wealth of existing material from previous efforts, and schemes currently in development or in use globally that will inform UPA Certification. To best ensure representation of a broad range of content, I am pursuing what I'm calling the "3 pillars" upon which the UPA International Certification will be built.

  1. The UPA Body of Knowledge
  2. Existing Regional Certification plans/schemes - e.g. Germany, Russia, Japan
  3. Universities - e.g. UC Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, Clemson, Rutgers

By incorporating the UPA Body of Knowledge alongside current regional schemes as well as universities around the world that seed the next generation of practitioners, our program will benefit from a diverse and truly global foundation.

This will be the first phase of certification level/content from which we will seek to define the base set of knowledge that can be applied globally. Once we have this, we will then look to areas of specialization (e.g. Accessibility) as well as more advanced practitioner schemes that will provide additional ways in which to define your expertise and experience.

Of course, in addition to these sources we will be looking to solicit those industry leaders who have paved the way for us, to advise and oversee this program. I look forward to what I hope will be a list of willing, collaborative experts to come together to collectively shape this base Certification effort. I certainly do not count myself among these pioneers, so my role in this is simply to make sure it happens as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Where we are going:

The Board of UPA International firmly believes that our role as a global organization of professionals in this space, coupled with the maturity of this industry, demands that we take the responsibility to provide a framework to those working for the businesses we serve. This isn't uncharted territory; other global professional associations have done this already - the Project Managers in PMI (Project Management Institute) created the PMP (Project Management Professional), and Business Analysts from the IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) created the CBAP (Certified Business Analysis Professional).

That said, though PM's and BA's are also unregulated service industries, a key takeaway from this first year was the realization that the costs and logistics of doing a global launch is simply not feasible for a volunteer organization with a population less than 100K. Therefore we have taken two significant steps that I'm pleased to announce.

First, we decided to practice what we preach and learn from others. I have been working with Henning Brau (UPA Regional Director of Europe), who is also involved with the German Certification effort, to capture insights on their process. The German UPA Chapter has made great strides in bringing Certification to its members, and has graciously allowed us to leverage this German effort as a "pilot program" of sorts. I look forward to learning a lot along the way that we can leverage as we work towards a global version sometime in the future.

Second, I'm delighted to be joined in this effort by Robert Skrobe, UPA-I Director of Professional Development, and Carol Smith, UPA-I Director of Training. Robert, Carol and I are working in concert to ensure that our respective areas of responsibility align as it relates to the Certification Program. Robert will take a key role in moving the core certification criteria effort forward, ensuring the professional development value in Certification. Carol, a long-standing member of the BoK effort, will help align the content with the training needs of our members. We've just had our first meeting in early March and are looking forward to working together. But we're always looking for friends... so ....

... How You can Help

As you might expect, this will be a significant effort to push through. As a volunteer organization, we have little hope of achieving a program within a reasonable timeframe without dedicated (i.e. paid) resources committed to this initiative. To that end, we are currently discussing how best to finance this effort amidst the many other UPA expenses. To those members that are part of global companies that might be interested in bringing UPA Certification to their employees, I am hoping there might be a few out there who might consider underwriting this effort.

I really need to hear from you if:

  • You are part of a current regional certification scheme
  • You are part of a university teaching UX/HCI degrees
  • You provide vendor training (Note: The UPA cannot offer any training that is exclusive - vendors/3rd parties will be necessary in our program to ensure no conflict of interest)

Our members have come to this field from widely divergent academic and professional origins. And though it has been difficult for some to fathom how such a varied field can ever be accurately defined, we believe that what unites us in this space far outweighs the nuances. And who better than our collective global UPA members to define these paths for those new to the field who currently rely on a patchwork of options to better themselves.

I attended the User Experience Russia conference last October. Silvia Zimmerman (UPA President) and I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel around Certification. The audience questions and discussion confirmed the universal concerns and aspirations around Certification. Our Russian colleagues have already embarked on a Certification program, and they are keen to incorporate their efforts into this UPA initiative. We welcome their contributions.

If you are interested in participating in this effort in any way, I'd love to hear from you. I am especially interested in hearing from as many countries as possible, universities around the world, and anyone who feels they can commit at least a few hours a month in support of this effort. Please consider attending the UPA 2011 Workshop - UPA Global Certification - From Pilot to "Pillars" to Practice.

You can reach me at rbattista@misicompany.com.

Take it easy and make it easy,
Ronnie Battista


Usability Professionals' Association
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