How I Discovered My Value in User Experience Design

Everyone wants a career they love. For me, I’ve always wanted a career that allowed me to be creative, thoughtful, impactful, passionate, and analytical. In elementary school, I remember telling my teacher I wanted to be a writer. At some point, I wanted to own my own publishing company so that I could help other writers tell their own stories. As a young wallflower type growing up, I valued being an observer getting to watch people behave, how they walked, how they talked. Reflecting about what made these people who they were. Asking myself, “How do our experiences shape us?” I was absolutely enthralled with asking questions about why we do the things we do and turning to my little corner to craft my own characters who shared their own motivations and experiences. I’ve always loved telling stories.

But it’s not just the stories that matter, it’s what you do with them and how they came to be.

It’s like the old saying, “It’s not about what happens, it’s about how.” I carry that with me. How do we live our journeys? What carries us to this point? How can we use this information to push us to something we desire in the future? These are constant questions I ask myself as I am always trying to understand my own personal story.

During an aggressive graduate school hunt, I discovered something called a User Experience Researcher on the list of careers from my current graduate school program. I thought, hmm, this sounds interesting. When I realized that maybe I really was a psychologist, writer, and really good listener all at once and that there was perhaps a career where it was okay to be all of those things, I knew that UX was right for me. The more I read, the more I could see my interests and passions aligning. I decided I would go to graduate school because I felt I had found a place where I didn’t have to be just one kind of person. I could be me in the variety of interests, experiences, and aspirations that shape who I am.

I have been really adamant about sharing my findings about the field of UX with others because as someone who has always considered herself to be non-technical, I understand now how much our access to representation shapes our ideas about who we are and what’s possible for us. I’m especially an advocate for African Americans interested in tech (even those who think they may not be) because I feel there is room for everyone. For the social scientist, the creative writer, the entrepreneur and so much more. I’m an advocate for people who dream to become someone they may not see in their immediate surroundings.

I’m advocate for helping others dream of new possibilities of themselves. To me, this is what people need most. Hope. Faith. Support. Compassion.

User Experience is not just about designing for apps and websites. It’s about considering the needs of the people who are using these products. I’ve always viewed myself as both a “soft” person and very entrepreneurial, analytical. User Experience has become a pathway I can see myself connecting the dots between these parts of myself. It’s an interdisciplinary field that caters to people’s uniqueness allowing individuals to illustrate their strengths without having cookie cutter backgrounds and experiences. Because the users we serve are unique themselves, the field needs a well diverse set of people working together to make our rising technological society more accessible and human centered. Currently, I am researching how the values of African American women shape how they choose to major in computing with the hopes of creating more programs to increase their participation and tackle the lack of diversity in the tech industry.