UX and Me

Hello! I’m Ann, and I recently began an immersive User Experience Design program with General Assembly. Throughout this process, each person in our class will be documenting the evolution of our design thinking on Medium. But for my first post, I’ll use this valuable real estate to introduce myself, what brought me to UX, and what my goals are for after the course.

Hello! Would you like to sign a petition?

I come to UX by way of community organizing. After a health scare my freshman year at the University of Southern California, I was eager to channel my frustration and pent-up energy into something more tangible than papers and problem sets. Making cold calls and asking strangers on the street to sign petitions would have previously sent me running, but the immediacy found in community outreach was a great match for my restless desire to do something.

My something became “getting people to do things” (in the name of social change). Outreach, sales, whatever you call it — I loved it. Putting plans for law school on indefinite hold, I decided to pursue this work further. After graduation, I took community organizing roles with a financial empowerment nonprofit and a LA mayoral campaign. When I decided to move to DC, I joined a clean energy nonprofit as an outreach coordinator.

Change happens when people change. Right? Right. To me, there was no work worth doing more than directly changing people’s minds and behavior. My role convincing local nonprofit executives, small business owners, and faith leaders to switch to clean energy fit neatly into this line of reasoning.

The problem was, I was having the same conversation over and over. The people I talked to, their priorities and concerns, and even the clean energy market changed frequently, but what I had to offer them didn’t change. As a salesperson/outreach, my functional role was to continue pushing what my organization had to offer. While I often made changes to our business processes to make program participation easier, I wanted to go deeper and get to the root cause of what drove successful programs and products.

In UX, I’m finding work that continues to be relational and empathy-driven, but also involves an element of discovery. Here’s my new something: uncovering insights and then making something useful out of them. But, wait! What about winning hearts and minds, and converting them to some great cause?

I’m coming to find that good design isn’t just a luxury, so I can save 3.6 seconds when I open a can of beans with my well-designed can opener. Good design can increase access and equity, and make difficult circumstances easier.

After this program, I’m hoping to find work in areas like healthcare, banking, and government. Users in these spaces face industry-specific terminology, inscrutable (and lengthy) paperwork, and harsh consequences for not working the system the right way. As their advocate, I’m aiming to help these users save time, money, and their sanity. How’s that for work worth doing?