B.S. Informatics, 2009
Why did you choose this major?
I started as undecided, but decided to switch to Informatics after sitting in on one of the software engineering courses. I actually doubted my interest in the major and picked up a second “back-up” major just in case. It wasn’t until I explored some of the upper division informatics courses in my second year that I knew informatics was right for me. I’d say it was definitely Informatics 161 with Bill Tomlinson that really solidified my interest. I dropped my back-up major shortly after that.
What has been your career path since graduating with your B.S.?
User Experience, specifically User Research and Interaction Design.
I really wanted to dive deeper into HCI and those pertinent career paths. I also wanted to get out of California since I had been there my whole life. I decided to get a Masters in HCI at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. I did my time in the cold, and came straight back to California.
I interviewed with Google, Saatchi & Saatchi, a huge advertising firm, and a small, local software company called Mirth. In 2010, I joined the team at Mirth as their core UI designer and front-end developer. Since then, I’ve grown into a more user research oriented position and now help guide many user centered design projects within the company.
What do you enjoy most about your current position?
I love the challenges of understanding and empathizing with users, communicating that data, and turning that knowledge into meaningful experiences. I love working with others and the collaboration that happens in our UX team. I’ve loved building our team and finding like-minded individuals who are taking on these giant tasks. And I love being able to wear shorts and flip-flops in the office. Seriously, that’s huge.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
It really depends where we are in “the process.” Some days I’m in doctors’ offices watching them work.
Other days I’m transcribing audio or analyzing research days. Our team will meet after each visit and tell stories about what happened, building a collective knowledge to work off. We have inspiration days and design days and user testing days as well. It’s really quite varied!
What was the best part of your experience at UCI?
UCI really helped teach me how to learn and helped me understand what my interests were. I love making things, but I’m not a devout coder. UCI led me to HCI which led me to User Experience. I really loved the intimate environment of the senior design project. It was great getting to know everyone so well and watch our weekly presentations turn into rambunctious self-mockery (Sorry Ziv!). Those sort of relationships also came from my time living in the dorms freshman year … a bit overwhelming, intensely chaotic, but an extremely valuable and essential part of any university experience. I met so many people in the dorms, most with whom I didn’t share a major, and still hang out with them nearly 10 years later.
In what way(s) did your studies at UCI prepare you for your career to date?
I didn’t love every class I took at UCI. I didn’t love every professor I had or every assignment I had to complete. But every class I took helped prepare me for experiences I’d have in the real world. My studies exposed me to all sorts of topics, areas of study, and research. Again, my time at UCI helped teach me how to learn more and reach out to find even more experiences for myself. I learned what I liked and what I didn’t like. By the time I graduated, I had a solid idea of what I wanted to do with my career. It’s been 5 years and I haven’t looked back.
What would be your advice to incoming students who might want to follow a similar career path?
Take your time. Find what you love doing. Meet the friends that will last a lifetime. Informatics was perfect for me because the expanded curriculum really let me explore a myriad of topics. The small classes helped build relationships and connections.
If you’re interested in User Research and User Experience, follow through with the HCI courses. I’d also recommend some interdisciplinary work with the arts department, the cog-sci dept, and potentially sociology. If there’s one thing I wish I had learned while at UCI, it would have been sketching. Sketches are incredibly powerful tools of communication, and incredibly useful when designing or creating conceptual models.