Gif: A hand, needle, thread and scissors move up and down.

A golden thread

How UX, UR, HCD and other acronyms have been a constant throughout my career journey

Sam Villis
2 min readNov 24, 2023


I’ve always struggled to effectively tell the story of my career, it’s something that causes me a lot of heartache because, when you have a #SquigglyCareer it can be confusing to explain and for others to understand what holds everything together.

It’s also easy, if you have a brain like mine which likes to turn on you and tell you how useless you are, that you can start to see yourself as a jack of all trades master of none.

So I started to map out my user research, user experience, service design and other relevant experience as part of a bit of a skills deep dive I’m currently trying to do. This meant going back, taking stock of the work I did, reminding myself of examples of work and thinking about my experience.

Image, a timeline which shows skill developed over time. These are categorised as ‘early experience’, ‘expanding experience’ and ‘embedding experience’ to the right hand side is a section called Values, Principles and Motivations.

Some of the benefits of this excercise:

  1. Confidence

I’ve found going back over this and being really honest while taking stock I’ve been able to grow my confidence that I have a lot of experience

2. Communication

Through experimenting with more visual ways of telling the story of my career I’ve managed to find a better way to describe my experience to people who may look at my job titles and not understand how this maps across to User Research or Service Design roles.

I’ve also developed a visual ‘one-pager’ that I can easily share with colleagues, new organisations or others to help them understand my approaches.

3. Value definition

Seeing things in this way helped me to develop and iterate some of my key values and principles. I have no doubt that these will change over time, but seeing my experience and feeling my principles in this excercise has enabled me to connect them in a way I haven’t been able to before.

4. The foundation

I now have a model that I can use and overlay with other skills that I have, maybe around project management / agile, or leadership to continue to tell my story.

With thanks to Tash Willcocks and Cate McLaurin and others who have helped me in recent weeks to take stock and order my thoughts.



Sam Villis

Service design and organisational change. Previously at: Social Finance, Local Digital Collaboration at DLUHC, GDS, Cabinet Office, M&CSaatchi.