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Get Interviewed

Episode 17: The “Librarian”

Learn how Lakisha White found her calling in User Experience Design & Research among the books 📚

Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

“Remember when you dreamed of being where you are now? Follow your dreams.” ~Anonymous

✨ About Lakisha White

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
Tell me a little bit about yourself:

Hi! I’m a Librarian and UX Researcher located in Virginia. I work at Capital One where I focus on data and ethics as a Design Researcher for the Privacy team. Prior to this role I worked 11 years at a public library system, holding a variety of roles from Library Page (the staff that organizes and shelves the materials) to Innovation and UX Coordinator.

My hobbies include writing, walking, singing, and traveling. Outside of work, much of my time is dedicated to raising my 14 year old cockatiel. He has quite the personality and loves attention. I am half Jamaican and I love food from the Caribbean culture. I consider myself a lifelong learner, which to my benefit led me to discover the UX field. While pursuing my graduate degree I was introduced to UX. From there, I evangelized to anyone who would listen; so-much-so, I landed a meeting with the Director of Libraries and Information Services, where I pitched and influenced the creation of the first UX role in public libraries in Hampton Roads, VA.

💡 Philosophy

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
You have an interesting background having been a librarian. Given that, what would you say is unique about your personal philosophy towards UX?

Lakisha White

As a librarian, I focus on providing equitable access to resources and amplifying the voices of the underserved within communities. I bring this philosophy with me now as I focus on UX research because of the importance of designing for the individuals who are unheard or not considered during service or product development and design.

Working at a public library, you see first hand the community members who are left behind in designs. The individual who is directed to fill out a job application online, but has no computer experience to do so. The individual who is asked to remember their username and password during the creation of a personal account, but is experiencing life with dementia and has difficulty with memory loss. And in many cases, these individuals are using the library because we are a resource available for them to help them create a workaround to this non inclusive system of design. Libraries transform the non inclusive to become inclusive; but it’s not easy and there’s still more work to be done. It can be sad to see our patrons being left behind in the design of what has become everyday things and functions. That is why I am dedicated to this field of designing better experiences to improve the quality of life.

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
How does that help motivate you to think forward and inspire others?

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Lakisha White

Four words — ‘keep sharing their story’. The journey and experiences of library patrons motivated me to continue to evangelize to stakeholders and the community. Libraries are seen as a safe haven. And safe havens represent spaces where individuals could be who they are, where they are in life. That statement felt contradicted because many of the products we offered were not meeting our patrons where they were in life. They were meeting our patrons where the designers perceived they were in life; but as someone who has worked on the frontline as a public servant for over a decade, I saw first hand how the voice of our patrons needed to be amplified to share their stories and experiences of what they needed according to their lifestyle.

🎯 Process

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
What does your UX process usually look like?

Lakisha White

Generally I use the design thinking and double diamond framework to identify problems and propose solutions. These two frameworks help me to understand and define the problem, and then explore and build the solution(s).

👩‍💻 Projects

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
What kind of projects have you been working on recently?

Lakisha White

Well speaking to my most recent role at Capital One, I have been working on projects revolving around privacy, data, and ethics. My work consists of designing experiences for the good of banking. Most recently I have been working with my team to enhance features and tools that ease the friction a user has when interacting with data.

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
How is your background playing a pivotal role in the success of these projects?

Lakisha White

At my role prior to coming to Capital One, I was the team lead for data analytics (I was a team of one UXer tasked to lead data, research, and strategy initiatives). In that role, one of my focuses was to understand the journey of data and its lifecycle, and to understand how the collection of data impacted, if any, our patrons. I have been able to use that experience and apply it to my current role as I begin to understand the mental models of consumers in the financial space.

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
What is the most interesting or exciting project you’ve worked on?

Lakisha White

I’ve only been at Capital One for one week, so I haven’t had the opportunity to fully focus on projects yet. However, from my previous role as Innovation and UX Coordinator at Newport News Public Library, the most interesting project I worked on was one where we provided Wi-Fi access at various locations in the city to address the digital divide. This service was launched in the summer of 2019, where patrons could checkout mobile hotspots, however due to the branches closing because of the pandemic, we had to be creative and pivot the program to continue to provide a way for community members to have access to information and resources.

👋 People

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
What are some common misconceptions you’ve noticed people have towards either librarians, UX, and/or both?

Lakisha White

Well, for one, the traditional mental model of librarians are always saying, “shhh” when people are talking. That’s so far from what librarians do and how libraries operate. We encourage engagement and interaction with the resources provided in libraries. In our youth and family areas, you will find learning centers that are filled with activities to promote literacy while having fun. We expect our youth and their families to laugh, be expressive, and make sounds as they engage with these learning tools. Second, the architecture of libraries are changing. More and more you will find individuals using libraries as a space or hub for meeting and connecting with others. Very rarely will you find a library that does not have separate rooms and spaces to meet the interactive and engaging needs of the community. This may be a meeting room with VR/AR technology, a study room with interactive whiteboards, or even a digital media lab with creative software.

The needs of our evolving community is one of the reasons why I began to incorporate UX practices into our work. It is important to focus on how might libraries also evolve to align with the needs of the community.

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
Given your background, is there anything that stands out in how you may see the evolution of UX progressing over the next decade?

Photo by NEW DATA SERVICES on Unsplash

Lakisha White

I see UX evolving in the future to becoming a critical part of everyday businesses and spaces. For example, libraries, grocery stores, retail stores, and other small businesses. As we as a people continue to live in a world where we are able to be our own gatekeepers in terms of accessing what we want when we want, I believe this will inspire everyday businesses to focus on the entire experience journey of their customer. Understanding the jobs-to-be-done or primary need of a customer, and executing that through a product or service, is going to set businesses and entities apart.

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
What advice would you give to someone starting a career in the field of UX?

Lakisha White

If having a career in UX is your dream, then keep going and do not give up on your dreams! For the most part I found that starting my career in UX was not easy. I had to get many people on board and take them along for the ride to show them how UX is beneficial, and how I am the person to help incorporate it and bring about positive change as a result. And even though I created my own role, this applies to the individual who is interviewing for a UX role at an organization. You have to take people along for the ride as you share about yourself and your skills.

An area that I’ve found to be the most beneficial as I pursued a career in UX, was to remain as authentic as I could. That being said, it’s not easy, especially for a career changer as myself. It was during the times of focusing on me, that I was able to then allow myself to let go of the insecurities and negative thoughts. I was able to truly tune into my authentic self. Those were the times where I had the most exponential growth. And I say to anyone starting a career in UX, make sure you have your tools and resources to help you stay grounded and to help you always remember who you are.

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
What drives you the most about your career?

Lakisha White

I desire to see more diversity and representation of people who identify as BIPOC. On this journey, I have been to numerous workshops and even more networking events. I’ve found that representation of people, who for example look like me — a black female, was hard to find. I think that contributed to a lot of the feelings of isolation I felt as I was on this journey. I didn’t have a mentor, I was a career changer, and I was geographically located in an area where UX jobs were not being offered. That drove me. It drove me to create my own role. It drove me to begin to share my voice and experiences on platforms that will be able to reach others like me to share, you are not alone — I see you, I hear you, I am you. I wanted others to know that we can do this. You know, I have a banner on my LinkedIn page that reads, “Remember when you dreamed of being where you are now? Follow your dreams.” This banner serves as a constant reminder to me of where I came from and where I am going. It isn’t about how many times you fall. It’s about the strength and determination within you as you get back up and face the world again. I commend those who have endured challenges, and no matter the degree of adversity, they get back up. They motivate me. They are the inspiration for why I do what I do.

👏 Thank you for reading!

Lakisha White I am so honored that you reached out to tell your story! What an incredible journey you’ve been on to get to where you are today. It honestly makes me so proud to be in this field when I hear amazing stories like yours! That transition you’ve made is really going to inspire others… Wow! I have a feeling you’re going to do some amazing things in this world. The design community is so lucky to have you so please keep on shaping it, and remaining authentic. You’re outstanding! 🎉

This interview with Lakisha White is part of a blog series by Joe Pascavage ✍🏼 called “Get Interviewed”. If you would like to learn more about this initiative you can read about it here.

Do you want to share your story?

Send me a DM or tweet @joepascavage letting me know that you would like to “Get Interviewed”, and I’ll take it from there.

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This is a platform for both practitioners and leaders alike in the fields of design, research, content, tech, development, and product. With your consent your story will be published, and mutually shared across social media. 📬 Email to participate: info@joep.design

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Joe Pascavage ✍🏼

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼

Design Manager at thinkcompany.com & Founder of getinterviewed.blog. Find me @joepascavage or at joep.design

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