Really good article. A corollary to you “empathy for stakeholders” and “user research” points is to make sure people with disabilities are included in design considerations. That’s 18 % of the US now. Empathy should include understanding how blind people would use a screen reader to navigate the UI being designed. Don’t use color palates that some people can’t see. Focus groups should always include people with disabilities. I would hire the designer with practical Universal Design or WCAG training, experience or certifications over someone with a graduate degree any day of the week.