Meet Carmen Bocanegra, a first-generation, Peruvian-American Senior UX Designer. In this interview, Carmen talks about her journey, explains why UX is so much more about the people than it is about the technology, how using twitter helped her career, and why working in UX can mean so many different things.
Tell Us About Your Career Path?
I was a really curious kid. I asked a lot of questions. I had a love of science because my parents were both in the medical profession. I grew up thinking I was going to do the same. So, that was my north star for a long time until I eventually realized that it wasn’t the right path for me.
In college, I got really interested in so many different things and so I started exploring different paths. It eventually led me to be a part of a digital production department at a local advertising agency. I had a friend who said, “Hey, this company is growing, and you don’t really need any experience.” I said, “sure, let’s try that.” I got into digital production and learned about this thing called human-centred design. I decided this was what I wanted for the rest of my career. I wanted to use the left and right side of my brain. Science was very left-brain focused. But I also wanted to develop that creative side as well and that’s what drew me to UX.
If somebody says “Hey, I’m in UX”, they could actually be referring to 20 different jobs. There’s flexibility with UX that I really appreciate. And that’s sort of me in a nutshell!
Has Your Perception Of The UX Industry Changed Over The Years, Or Has It Remained The Same?
Absolutely, it’s changed! As an industry there are some things that a lot of people could say, “oh, I recognize that as a thing a UX person would do”, but there is also so much that is unseen.
As I’ve matured I’ve discovered that it’s so much more about the people than about the technology. The technology is important, but my curiosity and wanting to know how people work, how they think, what’s important to them, what prevents them from doing the thing they want or need to do; that’s a huge part.
So, How Would You Describe Your Day-To-Day In Your Current Role At The Moment?
It’s a lot of facilitation. That’s the surprising thing. I work at a company that was started primarily as an engineering company. Engineers are a big part of our team. But we also have product managers and other designers who have complementary skill sets. So it’s communication. What information are we learning today? What are we trying to do with it, what’s our goal?
What Advice Would You Give To Somebody Who Might Have Been In Your Position 5-10 Years Ago?
I’ve had a lot of calls recently from people who are switching to UX as a second career, and I think the way they’re approaching it is just like someone in UX would approach it. They’re interviewing people, they’re gathering information, they’re asking tough questions, they’re asking themselves tough questions. So what I’ve tried to do is give them the mindset that would be helpful; which is knowing that you could be doing a different job every day depending on the kind of role you take and the kind of company you work for.
Are you looking for a particular kind of work? Are you trying to beef up your design interaction chops? Is this next role going to give you experience or are you looking to understand how research helps develop a product strategy? Some companies have pure UX research roles some pure product strategy roles, and others roll that all up into a UX designer.
So know what you’re trying to do.
I’m very much a generalist because I started from really understanding technically how everything is built and now I’m in the product strategy and the research realm.
I like having the full picture, understanding things end-to-end. It’s important to be introspective and know what it is that you love.
I’d say do some discovery on your own, talk to people at different companies, and don’t be afraid to say, “Hey, I’d love to talk to someone in x role because I want to get their perspective”.
Everyone I’ve met in the UX community is happy to have a conversation. I’ve had coaching sessions because I met somebody through Twitter. I also got my job because I saw it posted on Twitter from somebody that I admired. So get your feelers out there and do your research just like you would at your job.
Wow, So Social Media Has Actually Had Quite A Big Impact, In Terms Of Your Career?
Yeah! Twitter can be controversial but it’s still used a lot by the design community. I think that it has been a great point of information for me. So I always give a list of folks on Twitter for people to start following if they don’t use it currently. If it’s not your thing, that’s fine, it’s just something that’s helped me.
Do You Have Anything To Add About The UX Industry?
One thing I haven’t found a solution for yet is fostering awareness of all the job paths and opportunities out there. Having parents who didn’t grow up in the US, I just wasn’t aware of all of job opportunities/paths. So, I’ve been thinking about how to help younger people in their career search. How can I help them understand the career paths that are available because it’s not like there’s a UX vocational class in high schools?
I didn’t get a degree in human-centred design. I don’t think you have to, that’s been my advice to a lot of people who are doing UX as a career.
How do we get all this information to people? How do you elevate it to populations that don’t have that exposure? I don’t have a solution yet. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about…
Originally written for http://www.peopleofcolorintech.com