Women in ICT - Iza Grasselli
URBANAGE project recognises its responsibility in raising awareness of women working in ICT and wishes to help encourage young women into rewarding ICT-related careers. As part of its commitment URBANAGE wishes to share the experiences of the women involved in our project.
Job title: User Experience Researcher
My name is Iza Grasselli and I am a User Experience Researcher at Imec – SMIT. I did my Bachelor’s degree in Computer and Information Science and subsequently obtained a Master’s degree in Human Computer and Interaction Design. Following my education I gained experience in a creative healthcare digital agency, where I applied my skills to inform design solutions and evaluate their effectiveness through prototyping. Presently I am employed as a User Experience Researcher within a research group, where I am actively involved in European-wide initiatives aimed at developing inclusive, accessible, and age-friendly urban environments and mobility solutions.
Overview of the job:
The field of User Experience (UX), in a digital world, deals with everything connected to how people interact with a digital product or service. This includes assessing if the product works, if it brings value to the user, and if it is easy and pleasant to use.
UX ties to STEM because it is a problem-solving approach that combines knowledge from Engineering, Technology and Social Sciences. Crafting a good user experience has multiple stages. It usually starts with User research, which includes defining the target audience and their needs. After that, we try to satisfy those needs by providing novel solutions which are then tested with the users. User experience research and design is an iterative process because the products need to be constantly improved and adapted to match the changing needs of the users and technology
What inspired you:
I enrolled in Computer and Information Science as I had a diverse set of interests and recognized that technology plays a crucial role in various industries. During my studies, I discovered the gap between user needs and available technology, particularly the complex user experience of many great technologies. At the same time, I found myself frustrated with the cumbersome technical gadgets I had to use daily. This led me to further explore the intersection of technology and user experience and ultimately pursue a Master's degree in Human-Computer Interaction and Design. Through this program, I was able to acquire the skills to shape technology solutions that are intuitive and enjoyable for users, rather than a source of frustration.
Typical working day:
A typical working day of a User Experience Researcher can vary depending on the specific role and the stage of the product development process, but it generally includes some combination of the following activities:
Planning and conducting user research: This may include recruiting participants, conducting interviews, usability testing, or surveys, and analyzing the data collected.
Synthesizing research findings: This may include creating user personas, journey maps, and other artifacts to help the team understand the needs and goals of users.
Communicating research findings: This may include creating presentations, reports, or other materials to share findings with the design and development team, as well as with stakeholders and other teams within the organization.
Collaborating with the design team: This may include working with designers to create and iterate on prototypes, conducting user testing, and providing feedback on design decisions.
Keeping up-to-date with industry trends: This may include reading articles, attending conferences and workshops, and staying informed about the latest research and design methods.
Participating in meetings and team discussions: This may include meetings with developers, stakeholders, and other teams within the project or organization to share findings, discuss design decisions, and plan future research activities.
Study and career path:
My study path included a bachelor’s in Computer and Information Science and a masters in Human-Computer Interaction and Design. This combination of skills is highly relevant for a career in UX research as it allows me to understand both the technical and human aspects of the products I am working on. A valuable part of my study program was a 6-month internship. This was a great way to transition into the “working world” and get insight into the processes within a company. It allowed me to learn what kind of career path I would like to pursue afterward. If I were to start over again, I would put even more focus on gaining hands-on experience through internships and real-world projects.
UX professionals come from diverse backgrounds, and there is no clear path that one should follow. Some colleagues come from computer science or engineering backgrounds, while others may have studied psychology, sociology, or another field related to human behavior. Some may have a formal education in HCI or user experience, while others may have learned through on-the-job training or self-study.
Problem-solving: To identify user needs and pain points, and then design and iterate on solutions to improve the overall user experience of a product or service.
Analytical thinking: The ability to analyze research data, identify patterns, and make recommendations based on findings. UX researchers use this skill to draw insights from research data to inform the design of products and services.
Communication: The ability to effectively communicate research findings and recommendations to stakeholders clearly and concisely. UX researchers use this skill to present research data and insights to design teams, product managers, and other stakeholders to inform design decisions.
Empathy: The ability to understand and relate to the perspectives and experiences of users. UX researchers use this skill to put themselves in the users' shoes to understand their needs and frustrations.
Creativity: The ability to generate new ideas and think outside the box. UX researchers use this skill to come up with innovative solutions to user problems.
Technology literacy: Familiarity with design and prototyping tools, such as Sketch, Figma, and InVision, as well as experience with data analysis tools, such as Excel and R. UX Researchers use these skills to conduct research, develop and test solutions, and analyze data.
Computer Science and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) skills can be applied in almost any industry as most businesses use technology for internal or external operations. Some examples of job roles include Software development, User experience design, Product and Service design, Game development, Human-robot interaction, Research ...
In general, the technology field is constantly growing and evolving, and new opportunities are constantly emerging.
Finding and recruiting participants who fit the target demographic for a study can be difficult and time-consuming.
Managing expectations and ensuring buy-in from stakeholders can be challenging, especially when research findings conflict with pre-existing assumptions or goals.
Balancing the use of quantitative and qualitative research methods to ensure a comprehensive understanding of user needs and behaviors can be challenging.
Your advice to students:
Reach out to mentors, companies, and people whose careers you admire or would like to follow, they can give you advice, guidance, and support. Take part in projects, conferences, and events that relate to your field of interest as early as possible. The world and technology are evolving fast, and this is one of the best ways to stay in touch with the current trends and see where the opportunities lie.
Your advice to teachers and parents:
Support them by providing literature and other resources, and by encouraging them to take action. Let them know that the most important thing is to try, and that each failure is an opportunity to learn.
They offer courses on UX design (from beginner to advanced). What I like about this website is that it offers resources such as articles, and UX-related literature.
Book: The design of everyday things by Don Norman https://www.nngroup.com/books/design-everyday-things-revised/
It is considered “a bible” for (UX) designers or anyone who is involved in the process of designing products.
It is a collection of the best articles, resources, books, tools, and discussions covering every aspect of the UX and design process.
This interview was also published on STE(A)M IT portal.