Women in IT: Portrait of Annabelle Buffard, UX/UI designer

The goal of “Women in Tech” — the portrait series nexten.io has launched — is to beckon and inspire women to join the IT sector. For our first testimonial, we asked Annabelle, UX/UI Designer at PwC Luxembourg, to share her story!

On the agenda: her passion for computing since childhood, atypical university experience, beginnings in the professional world, and difficulties she encountered… that covers it!

nexten.io: Annabelle, thank you for volunteering for the first portrait of our Women in Techseries. Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

Annabelle: Thanks, it’s a subject that’s near and dear to me and yet still not so widespread!

I’m a UX/UI Designer and Manager at PwC. I help clients on a day-to-day basis by integrating users into their various digital media and service offers. I don’t deal directly in code anymore since I’m now more involved in the reflection and strategy phases. I also have a lot of exchanges with the developers to ensure that the final solution requested by the clients and users can be developed.

nexten.io: What’s your academic background?

Annabelle: After I graduated from high school with a specialization in science, my father naturally advised me to go into computing for a good reason: I’ve been tinkering with PCs since I was 10 and was even in detention at school for tampering with computers so they’d no longer be accessible. You could say I was a hacker before my time — and yet I couldn’t imagine myself in this field. The cliché of a pirate in a hoodie made me feel cold, despite my addiction to manga and video games! So, I decided to study communication and journalism.

At the time, I was the only one with a MacBook; most of my classmates took paper notes in class. You can imagine I had a lot of friends! I decided to create a website where I would collect my lessons and share them with the rest of the class. My site was doing so well (even with the next graduating class!) that I learned to secure it afterwards.

After graduating in communications, I couldn’t find any job offers that were a match, and I ultimately decided to turn to IT! As I prefer front-end issues to back-end ones, so I chose to study computer graphics with a web specialization, which includes website and interface design. My father was tickled — he had always believed that computer science was for me!

Web usability is really what fascinates me the most: making the web accessible to everyone, and on all devices. I like to think about how to constantly improve this experience!

nexten.io: In high school, were you aware of IT jobs? How many women were involved back then?

Annabelle: In the first year, there were three of us in a class of 14. Last year, there were only four women in a class of 30. It’s probably tied to the fact that we simply don’t hear enough about IT jobs in high school. They tell us we have to be a math whiz, which tends to discourage. Well here I am — living proof you don’t have to have royal blood to work in IT! Learning code is like learning any new language, and it’s a shame to scare the most timid by talking about numbers right off the bat.

Today, the entire teaching staff and education system needs a facelift! Teachers aren’t sufficiently prepared for these new roles, and unfortunately, for students to be properly made aware, teachers should also be trained to accompany them.

In Luxembourg, things are moving: coding camp, workshops for children such as the Code Club, specializations in high schools… The Minister of Education taking the bull by the horns, but this is only the beginning.

nexten.io: Tough question, have you ever faced any form of discrimination (negative or positive) as a woman?

Annabelle: Several times, in fact! During my studies in computer graphics, I had to deal with an art teacher who made an inappropriate remark. When I couldn’t draw out the exercise, I mentioned it to the teacher, who then replied, “You don’t belong here at any rate. A woman’s place is at home. Computer science is a man’s area.” The school management reacted quickly and excused me from the rest of her classes.

For my first job, I got a remark from a colleague who was curious to know why I was dressed “like that”. “Like this” (referring to a sweatshirt and jeans). I replied, “If it’s fashion you’re interested in, you don’t belong here.”

nexten.io: What would you say to a woman who is afraid to make the leap?

Annabelle: Each experience will contribute to your development in new ways. You shouldn’t hesitate to be interested in new talents — to be curious and learn on the job. A few weeks or months of training seems insufficient before launching into a career in IT. In contrast, it provides a solid foundation for a better understanding of the field.

If you come from a completely different field, your background generally allows you to better understand the constraints and problems of the sectors you know well. Make those your strengths!

nexten.io: Are there any women in IT who inspire you?

Annabelle: Ada Lovelace, to name but one! A true precursor in the computer industry, she proves that women participate in progress in all sectors!

nexten.io: Can you tell us about your setup?

I have a classic 13-inch MacBook pro, to which I add a 22-inch screen. And then, of course, all the goodies that go with it and make you feel at home: stickers, pens, my favorite mug…

nexten.io: Do you listen to music while you work? Do you create a little playlist for us to keep the rhythm of our working day?

Annabelle: Team Spice Girl at its best: from the 80s to the 2000s! Are you ready? Find my playlist here!

The Cranberries, Woodkid, Madonna, Destiny’s Child, Kanye West,… Discover Annabelle’s playlist !

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