B.S. Informatics, 2009
Why did you choose this major?
I originally chose to pursue computer science because it was clear to me that technology would continue to become an integral part of everyday life, and would therefore offer me many options when it came time to find a career. After attending an orientation session over the summer before my freshman year at UCI, I heard about the Informatics program and decided to major in it because I was interested in studying the interaction between people and computers, rather than just learning how to code. This social aspect of computing is what interested me the most about Informatics, and is what continues to drive my current career in user experience.
What has been your career path since graduating with your B.S.?
After graduation, I began working as a front-end web developer at a small web design agency. After a couple years, I slowly moved toward helping create wireframes of the websites we were designing and transitioned into a UX designer role. During this transition, I realized that UX is my real passion and I decided to pursue it exclusively. I am now a user experience specialist at the Nielsen Norman Group where we conduct independent usability research, teach full-day seminars based on that research, and consult for clients on a variety of digital projects.
What do you enjoy most about your current position?
I most enjoy teaching others about my findings from usability studies, and helping them determine how to improve the user experience of their websites and mobile apps. I also love the autonomy at my company: as long as I get my work done, and it continues to be of high quality, how and exactly when it happens is entirely up to me.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
My workdays vary widely. One day, I might be flying across the country to conduct a usability study for a client; another, I might be teaching a full-day course on usability and web design at a conference.
When I’m not traveling, I get to work from home. I typically am either writing an article for my company’s website about some aspect of user experience, preparing content to present at one of our conferences, or writing test plans and setting up a research study for a client (and then compiling all the findings from the study once it’s completed).
What was the best part of your experience at UCI?
Looking back, one of the best parts of my UCI experience was getting to know all of my classmates, and all the stressful yet fun times we had working on projects. To this day, many of us continue to keep in touch and have even worked together at various companies.
In what ways did your studies at UCI prepare you for your current career?
The focus in Informatics of ensuring you solve the right problem and my experience conducting research with various professors are things that directly help me every day in my current career. Rather than any particular topic of study being crucial, the Informatics program taught me how to think, and how to go about identifying issues existing between people and technology and finding solutions to those issues.
What would be your advice to incoming students who might want to follow a similar career path?
Find a professor whose work you’re interested in and ask how you can get involved conducting research. That hands-on experience of interviewing people, reviewing notes and data to derive findings, and presenting that information has proved to be invaluable for me.