Interview by Allison Grinberg-Funes
Hi Sarah! What are you working on these days?
I am an independent user experience (UX) designer in NYC. UX means a lot of things to a lot of people these days. I specifically focus on the experience design side of things — that includes: conducting product, market, and user research; creating prototypes; and designing products (through user flows and wireframes). I don’t do much visual or interface design anymore. However, I d have a background in visual design which helps me create beautiful wireframes and prototypes.
My clients are about a 50/50 split between companies that are just launching a new product and companies already in market. I help new companies research, validate, and design the first version of their product. For companies already in marketing, I help them understand their users, design new features, and prioritize their roadmap. My clients are in a variety of industries. But I’d love to start focusing in the health care space. There is too much friction in health care. When people are sick, they shouldn’t spend time trying to navigate a poorly designed system.
I’ve been in the industry for 14 years. During that time I’ve done a lot of writing and teaching including co-creating General Assembly’s first 12-week UX Intensive back in 2012.
Education in the UX space is a passion of mine today I truly believe that UX is not the responsibility of one person. So many people in an organization influence the experience that someone has with a product. The experience is the sum of all the touchpoints someone has with the product and brand. Because of this, I am really focused on helping people learn to think like a designer.
That’s one of the reasons I created my UX newsletter, The UX Notebook. It is a weekly newsletter that has curated articles, questions, and activities for your team, case studies, research, and more. People seem to really love it and that’s what keeps me doing it each week (We’re up to issue 143 so far!). I also continue to teach and am currently focusing on a UX research coursethat I’m re-launching with new curriculum and content this fall.
If you weren’t doing this, what else could you see yourself doing?
Ha! Well according to a letter I wrote to myself when I was 10, I would be a ski patroller! My mum recently sent me a copy of it and I had a good laugh! I’ve always been a problem solver and I love making things with my hands, so I could see myself being an architect or industrial designer. I was actually accepted into a Neuroscience program in Canada where I’m from, but I turned it down. I think the problem solving aspect of medicine really resonated with me. I’m really creative but also can be very technical and analytical. Sometimes I think I’d make a good psychologist or psychiatrist, but at this point I don’t see myself going back to school for that long of a time! I’d also love to host a show of some sort — maybe travel because just being dropped in a new city and find my way around and hunting for the hidden gems.
What would you advise your younger self?
Confidence. It’s a tough lesson to learn. No matter how much other people believe in you. If you don’t believe in yourself then the little voice inside your head is going to drown out the chorus of positive voices from the outside. You can seem like a public success to others. You can come across as confident. You can have presence. You can take risks. You can speak with authority. But, a lack of confidence will result in your feeling like internally you’re a mess — you’ll waste energy and time, deal with imposter syndrome, and constantly debate yourself as to whether or not you’re good enough. The big problem here is that when it comes time to take a risk — you won’t take it because you won’t believe you’re worth it. And if you add up all the little risks you don’t take over a career, a lifetime, you’ll probably end up not having the impact and influence that you could have.