Interview with Nyah Bell

An Out Of Office Hours Newcomer

As an aspiring UX designer who had the opportunity to speak with two experienced designers through Out of Office Hours, I wanted to share the perspective of fellow newcomers like myself. Through some research, I found Nyah and here is what I learned about her.

What’s your name, where are you from and what are you majoring in?

My name is Nyah Bell and I’m from Detroit, MI but I’ve spent the past 8 years in Texas. Right now, I’m in Bloomington, IN studying human-computer interaction design.

Tell me the story of how you came to choose human-computer interaction design?

I originally wanted to get my undergraduate degree in human-computer interaction(HCI) but wasn’t sure about the future job prospects, so I went through a Computer Science program instead. After graduating, I went through the process of applying to various HCI masters programs, but ended up working instead. HCI has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but hadn’t been able to until now. In general, what drew me was the possibly of being able to create technological things (which is also why I went into Computer Science).

Why Indiana University of Bloomington?

I applied to four schools total but IU was the only school where I felt compelled to attend. My many questions to admissions were always patiently answered in a short period of time. Other schools directed me to handbooks, brochures and to speak with other designated students. IU actually felt like a welcoming place and after being here for a little over a semester now — it’s truly welcoming.

What has your experience been like so far studying there?

Hard but this has been the best stress ever. The material is not the hard part — it’s the inner transformation and development. The only way to see yourself grow is to admit your faults to yourself and others. You have to accept that it’s okay to have those faults, and accept the faults of others. Teamwork here has meant more than getting a project done — at some point you are challenged, and it’s all about how you and your team treat each other when challenges happen. I’ve grown a lot by encountering and overcoming conflicts and facing the uncomfortable. I would say that the best part of the program is that I am rarely comfortable.

What challenges do you face as a student at your current university or past universities?

Past universities (I went to two different universities during my undergrad) have felt daunting. Computer Science isn’t an easy program to begin with, but it’s even harder when it feels like you have zero help — your professors, other students are of no help. That was the worst part about my undergrad experience. You learn to toss every rock and pebble and look through every crevice on your own because people (even administration) do not really offer a helping hand without you asking. The problem is going from high school to college is always a first experience, you don’t know what it is you don’t know — so you can’t ask for help if you don’t know what to ask for.

What are your career goals post graduation?

Become an awesome Product Designer or User Experience Designer. Ideally, I will find a company where the culture is warm but busy. And work on various products and projects — not just push pixels.

What makes you an ideal candidate for this type of work?

The level of reflection I do when looking at myself, the kind of person I am and my actions. I am really self-aware and I proactively try to improve myself. I think being that way helps in HCI because technology in general is always changing and you have to be able to adapt. I also think that it’s important to be able to look at yourself deeply, and translate that to looking at others’ words and actions more deeply. It’s like being able to empathize a step further where you don’t just see where someone’s coming from, but the factors surrounding where they’re coming from.

What kind of support or mentoring have you received since deciding to steer you career in this direction?

I just started looking for a mentor so up until this point, if there were things I felt I needed advice on or guidance with — I just talked to a 2nd year student or someone in my cohort. I’ve learned that it’s okay to just talk to people — even if you don’t get answers to all your questions, everyone has something valuable to say.

How did you find out about Out of Office hours?

I believe someone in my cohort posted it on Slack and I clicked the link and liked the concept. That was around the time that I started to consider looking for a mentor.

Who from Out of Office hours did you speak with and how was that conversation helpful?

I spoke with Aaina Sharma and what was most helpful was that she had a graphic design background and worked in Product Design. Something I struggle with is visual communication. I figured the best way to do better is to talk to professionals and experts about what they do and figure out what they know, how they learned it, and read what they read. She is also interested in psychology and that’s something that I’m interested in too. Being able to get book recommendations is something I really liked.

If you could ask your OOO volunteer mentor one more question what would you ask?

I would probably ask if she’d look at my portfolio.

Any advice for newcomers out there considering speaking to a volunteer through Out of Office Hours?

Ask a lot of questions — especially questions which will help you address worries or doubts about skills you think you need, or even just asking them ‘what are some skills you think are helpful to have’. Being able to talk to someone and hear their journey from where they started to where they’re at is something infinitely helpful.

Is there anything else you would like for people to know? Something they would not think to ask that says a lot about who you are and why you choose to do what you do?

It might be shocking but I don’t actually engage in a lot of technological consumption. I like to see what people are capable of doing when there’s no technology.


If you would like to learn more about Nyah check out her portfolio at nyahbell.com or reach out and connect with her on LinkedIn.