‘Humans of Tech’ invites UX professionals from Microsoft, Google and Amazon

Stand of the shoulder of UX giants at the University of Washington

Anh Thu Nguyen
Jan 27, 2019 · 6 min read

There is nothing more valuable than learning from those who come before us. This January, Dubstech hosted its first ever ‘Humans of Tech’ series — the ‘UX Design Talk’ — featuring UX professionals from Seattle’s booming tech industry. It only took days for students to fill up the registration list that was only limited to 70 seats. Many had to huddle in corners to hear speakers share life-changing lessons about their journey, knowledge and learning-points.

This week’s talk features Karolina Miekinsa, a Senior UX Designer from Microsoft; Leroy Tellez, Senior UX Designer at Amazon; Yuriy Zaremba, a Senior UX Designer at Amazon and Russ Wilson, Director of UX Cloud at Google.

UX Design in Mixed Reality

Courtesy of Microsoft

The first talk was delivered by Karolina Miekinsa who spoke about her experience with UX in Mixed Reality (MR) and how Microsoft is investing in MR to create an eco-system that is improving our livelihood.

For many students, MR is a new field to indulge since there aren’t many case studies, wireframes, or online examples to kickstart their ideas. Miekinsa gave us her top tips on how to research and build devices with MR.

“Hearing their talk already got me thinking about my next project.” One of the attendants praised the Microsoft designer.

Like many UX starting points, Miekinsa recommends students to understand the users’ pain-points and define a goal. According to her presentation, the obvious drawbacks of using MR are the lack of market availability, lack of comfort and zero social acceptance. How many people do you see walking around in big MR goggles?

Taking lessons from the constraints, Miekinsa defines the goal as a “heads up, hands free” experience, quoted by the team at Microsoft. For UX Designers, this is about creating an interface that operates in our field vision.

5 things college never taught me, but probably should have

Leroy Tellez told a story about his nomadic transition from Design school to Amazon. His journey was full of backs and forths where he recounted leaving school to pursue his passion and then returning to school to finish his degree. Tellez also moved professions from illustrating in multimedia to UX Design.

Photo by Dubstech

Tellez’s journey made him realize 5 important life-lessons:

  • Be patient — UX Design is a craftsmanship and could only be improved through patience and practice.
  • Add value to people’s life in the product that you design — Many emerging UX Designers are sometimes too concerned about their ability to be ‘pixel-perfect’ that they forget their purpose of being a UX Designer: to improve people’s experiences with design. He told us a story where he had to launch a system right at the last minute. Although he didn’t have time to pay attention to the UI, the UX itself was amazing. He received a lot of positive comments from customers who said they can finally achieve their goal.
  • Speak up — It is no secret that UX Designers have to work in teams with a hard-headed manager. When the leader is focused on the ‘I’ instead of ‘we’, the role of a UX Designer sometimes gets shadowed by their ego. In these situations, Tellez recommends to ‘speak up’ because that’s the only way to get work’s worth of credit.
  • Use writing as your secret weapon — It’s not just storytelling that’s taking the heat in the UX world. UX Designers also need to have the ability to explain their technology and transform business goals into strategies. “This [Writing] could only make your design and concept a lot stronger.”
  • Don’t get too comfortable — “If you’re at a job where you don’t feel challenged then you are just going to waste your time.” Your design has to move forward and is more than just a quick job to complete.

Leveraging design to paint a vision

Photo by Dubstech

The third talk features Yuriy Zaremba, a UX Amazonian who transitioned from advertising to product design. Zaremba’s motivates students to always “leverage design to paint a vision.” For those who have experience in the workforce, always ask yourself:

For young designers, it is always easy to fall into the trap of squeezing projects into your portfolio. This may lead to the detriment of the actual project instead of stirring your design to the organization’s overall success. Even though it may be very tempting to make everything “nice and shiny,” you are actually achieving the “littlest instead of the larger” corporate objectives. “What are you doing to move the organization in the right direction?”

When your leaders can’t see pass next year, you should start evangelizing on the vision that you and the team see fit. Your vision shouldn’t detract you from seeing the mission statement of the company, but instead should be carefully planned. Successful plans get customers and colleagues excited about what you are building. Here’s how:

  • Include others in the process. Share ownership
  • Consider customer pain points in the current journey
  • Ask for a long-term feature roadmap. If there isn’t one, make one
  • Consider parallel teams or projects — how might they effect your product
  • Do the exploration simultaneously while you’re doing sprint-to-sprint work
  • The vision should be living and evolve over time
  • Use it as a tool, prepare it when the opportunity arises

The single most important thing that you need to succeed in UX!

Photo by Dubstech

Russ Wilson from Google opened his speech asking students: “What is the one thing you need to succeed in UX?” The audience gasped at the limited options of just the ‘One thing.’

“Pretend to know what you’re talking about” was one of the answers but it was unfortunately not on Wilson’s mind.

To answer the question, Wilson first introduced the most significant problem with UX Designers in the tech industry:

Product launches are majorly governed by software developers and executives (with SDE background) who tend to overlook the role of UX Designers. However, working in a team without a UX Designer is unavoidable because the role of user experience is crucial in connecting users and products. In many cases, designers have to work with colleagues who are the living equivalent of ‘Spoford’ — a fictional grim-face, easy-tempered villain who wrecks people’s happiness.

To overcome the Spoford of workplace, Wilson recommends students to posses 3 key skills: have grit, have empathy and have the ability to sell — the last is actually the the one secret skill! Even if you’re working in the industry, it is not just about competing companies vs companies, but also employees vs employees. You cannot get what you want without persuasion, especially in a system where you have to with multiple team-players who are all trying to make their voices heard at the table.

Var City UW

Empowering the University of Washington’s Computer Science, Informatics and Human-Centered Design community

Anh Thu Nguyen

Written by

Contributing writer at The Daily of UW | Former Microsoft intern | Views are my mom’s

Var City UW

Empowering the University of Washington’s Computer Science, Informatics and Human-Centered Design community

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