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Interview with UX Student: Shane Silver

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Shaina, or just Shane, is a UX designer here in Los Angeles. Below, she talks about her experience taking classes in UCLA Extension’s UX program.

  1. Tell us about how you got interested in UX, and why you chose UCLA Extension.

I guess in order to tell you how I got interested in UX I’ll have to start from the beginning. I graduated university with a degree in Journalism/Media Studies thinking I would become the next Barbara Walters. I was able to land a job as an obituary writer in San Diego and soon realized I was starving, literally. Sharing half a room with four other people in a two-bedroom apartment, barely able to afford rent and/or food was.. eye-opening. I taught myself how to code (thanks MySpace) and landed a gig as a back-end engineer (coding in PERL and Regular Expression). After about a year and a half I knew I wanted to transfer into Front-End Development. Being able to create websites and not stuck in Terminal’s Homebrew all day sounded like a dream come true. With a lot of late night studying and really pushing myself I was able to land my dream job at NBCUniversal/Fandango as a front-end developer. I worked there for around two-and-half years, and while I was there I was able to interact with our UX/UI Team. Immersing myself and asking millions of questions I knew UX/UI was really the career I wanted to shift into. I was fortunate enough to take UX 1: Introduction to UX Design with Thomas at UCLA Extension. While taking his course I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Easier said than done, no one wants to hire a front-end developer for a UX/UI position. I bit the bullet, took a pretty heft pay-cut, moved to the Bay Area and became a Product Designer. The year I spent up there gaining my UX knowledge and soaking up every single interaction, layout, design, feature, cat .gif was probably the hardest year I’ve endured in my life. I left the Bay Area and relocated back down to sunny So Cal and now work as a full-time UX/UI designer for a tech start-up company called Laurel & Wolf. Recently, my company sent me back to UCLA Extension to start training in native mobile app design which I took with the ever-talented, Julia. I have never been happier in my life and I really have UCLA Extension, Thomas, and Julia to thank.

  1. For someone who is new to UX, what should they know about getting started?

Think lazy. I read somewhere that the best designers are the laziest people (metaphorically, of course). And I couldn’t agree more. The best designs come from those who want to make a service/platform more intuitive, easy, and accessible for others to understand and use.

Also, do not take anything personal. When I first became a product designer I remember being told this nugget of information, not yet understanding, and my first client meeting I was ripped to shreds. I cried quite a bit when I first started out. But I picked myself up and immersed myself in the UX/UI world: signing up for daily newsletters, reading, going to meet-ups, collaborating with other designers from different industries, participating in UX challenges, and working with multiple client projects… you grow a thick skin. Clients/stakeholders aren’t here to coddle you with how “ok” your designs are. They’ve come to YOU because YOU ARE THE EXPERT. If your user flows don’t make sense or your layout doesn’t work responsively it’s not a ding to your ego it’s a challenge to your skills. And that’s the beauty of skills.. they’re ever evolving!

  1. What was your favorite UCLA Extension class and why?

All of them! The professors (I’ve had Thomas and Julia) are the most passionate individuals you’ll ever meet. They truly love what they do and further love sharing their knowledge. This is what makes the UX/UI Community amazing. Between their amazing personalities, Thomas’ vast knowledge and Julia’s understanding of the industry and users’ psychological process, this power-house team is an unstoppable force at the UCLA Extension! Both are so humble and genuine one can not help but to become just as excited as they are about learning User Experiences and User Interfaces!

  1. What would be your dream job?

No need to dream it when I’m living it! Is it really a “job” when you love what you do?

  1. What are you working on right now?

I had the honor of redesigning our homepage which we just launched with our new company rebrand a few weeks ago. I can not be more proud of our Product and Dev Team for being able to launch such a wonderful product together!

Check out her final project for her UX: Mobile class below!

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Introducing UX Online Instructor Alard Weisscher

We’re thrilled to welcome lauded user experience researcher and designer Alard Weisscher to the DCA team! Alard will be teaching User Experience Design (online) this fall. Get to know him and his course better:

What makes you passionate about design? What brought you to this field?

Computer technology is sheer magic to me. I believe that future people will look back at our present time as one with the most exciting technological advancements, a digital renaissance if you like. I feel privileged being part of and in a position to help shape that magic. I find the process of creating a relevant and pleasant digital experience by balancing user requirements with business goals and technical constraints extremely satisfying.

Tell us about an especially rewarding project you’ve worked on and why you enjoyed it so much.

While I was working at Vodafone, one of the largest mobile operators on our planet, I was part of a small but dedicated team that was dreaming of an open alternative for social networks. We were intrigued that social networks were walled gardens, and wondered why we could not use an approach similar to email that allows you to ‘share’ with anyone with a unique email address. In this project called OneSocialWeb, we created a working implementation to illustrate that it can be done technically whilst respecting performance, privacy and the browser and mobile experiences people are familiar with in the big social networks like Facebook and Google+. The point was not to develop a new social network but to trigger discussions on how social networks could eventually be opened up. It was simply amazing to work with state of the art technology and contribute, if only just a little bit, to the thinking of a social experience that touches the lives of millions of people worldwide.

Why is your course, User Experience Design (online), important for my design education?

Design today is a team sport that is becoming more and more popular. You will be playing alongside marketeers, strategists, customer care representatives, developers, other specialist designers and of course your users. It is essential to understand how the game is played and what tactics you have at your disposal to create winning experiences.

Do you have a sample assignment?

I treat my course as my own design assignment, using several techniques along the way to try and make sure the course fits my users (students) needs. I for instance use a Cultural Probe assignent in the first week, and ask my students to fill out a little booklet to explain about there expectations of the course. Eating your own dogfood is what they call this at startups, and no worries: it tastes great.

You are from the Netherlands. Will we earn extra credit if we support the Dutch football team?

We sure could use a little extra support. In the European Championships we did not even make it to the second round – quite a drop from being second in the World Cup of 2010. With a new coach lined up we are preparing for a comeback!

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