Taking the Leap: My First UX Meetup

Last Monday, I attended a panel held by the NYC Meetup group Ladies That UX and General Assembly (GA) called “Why Soft Skills Are Essential in UX”. This being my first UX Meetup, I walked in not knowing anyone and not knowing what to expect. Low and behold, I find an empty seat in the second row and notice that the environment is warm, relaxing and inviting. There are about 50 other UXers (both female and male, woohoo!) in the room, and I chat with my neighbor about her positive experience taking GA’s class on UX until the panel gets started.

UX Panel

Panelists from left to right: Jessica Greco, Rashida White, Shannon Copfer, Meaghan Nolan, and Melisa Chiem (the organizer of the Meetup)

Melisa Chiem, the organizer of the meetup who is leading the panel, starts asking a variety of questions, including:

  • How did you get into UX? 
  • What are some tactics with how you deal with a difficult person or situation?
  • What are some qualities of a good leader?

A few key points stuck out in my mind for each question.

How did you get into UX?

Jess mentions that one of her first jobs was working the front desk of a hospital before going to get her Masters where she built a robot for her final presentation. She realized that many of the users couldn’t figure out how to use it (though noted that when they did, it was fun to play with 🙂 ), and from then on, entered the world of helping users how to easily and painlessly learn and accomplish their goals with the program/interface/thing they want to use.

Meaghan said she has a background in Health Sciences but was always gravitating towards design. Not knowing how she could really get her foot in the door, she applied to a few job that looked interesting, but due to her dynamic yet widespread resume, it wasn’t going the way she wanted. She realized that the recruiter of one of the jobs she applied to looked at her LinkedIn account, but did not decide to contact her. Now this part is genius (how did I not think of this before): She sent a message to the recruiter asking her what gap she needed to fill in order to get the job! Low and behold, one thing led to the next, and she got an interview and finally a job within UX.

What are some tactics on how you deal with a difficult person or situation?

Rashida mentions that when she deals with a difficult situation, she remembers a passage from a book she read called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz:

The First Agreement: Be Impeccable with Your Word
The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally
The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions
The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best

She said it is important to understand that generally when people are criticizing or saying things in your direction, it is about the work and not you personally. It is important to remember that separation. This leads to the point that everyone agreed on: The lower your ego when dealing with your work, the better.

Another suggestion was to build trust with the person(s) that you are dealing with, so that there is a flow of empathy. Focus on the product and give your team the ability to make choices. Even if they decide not go to with the decisions you want, it is important to ask yourself if the matter is worth standing your ground or whether to let it pass.

What are some qualities of a good leader and how do you display leadership?

Shannon mentioned that a great way to display leadership is by approaching the different teams within your company and talk to them about what they know about the user. Since each team has a different point-of-view of what the user wants or needs, it is both a great way to get a holistic view of the user, as well as engaging teams within the UX process and therefore building buy-in.

Other points for being a good leader is having visibility and compassion, and clarity when setting expectations and goals. Ownership is a great quality, as well as the ability to ask the right questions to your leadership team (i.e. What are the business goals? What are your priorities? What can I help with?).

After the panel, I stuck around to chat with some of the other people who attended the panel, as well as talk to Shannon about her experience with another Meetup group called The UX Lab, where the Meetup goes and helps out a client over a couple workshops throughout the week with a UX problem they are facing (which I joined after I came home). She also recommended I read about the What If Method (slides below) as well as listen to a UX-research themed podcast called Dollars to Donuts by Steve Portigal.

This Meetup panel was a great first step to getting to know people within the NYC UX community, and I can’t wait for my next Meetup on Friday May 1 by the UX Lab (that I already signed up for) called Make stuff that works. It is a popup UX conference happening in the Billyburg (Williamsburg, Brooklyn), and looks amazing. Stay tuned!

About the Panelists

Jessica Greco

User Experience Lead at Amplify

Jessica Greco is a user experience designer specializing in user research and interaction design. She believes that UX is more than just a series of deliverables, it’s about a cohesive user-centered approach to problem solving through design.

She has recently joined educational technology company Amplify as a User Experience Lead. Previously at The Wall Street Journal, she worked on news curation and personalization products. Before that, she worked on web and mobile products for clients like Marketwatch, Grand Central Terminal, Gramercy Park Hotel, New York Road Runners, and Credit Suisse.

She first became aware of UX in grad school while studying physical computing—a creative way of exploring how people interact with technology.

In her free time, she enjoys cooking, organizing things, and hanging out with her cats. But not organizing her cats.

Find her on Twitter @grecasaurus

Rashida White 

Independent UX Designer-Researcher

Rashida White is a Brooklyn-based freelance user experience designer and researcher who is passionate about bridging the digital divide and empowering people through creative expression. She received her B.A. in Psychology and is a member of Psi Chi – The International Honor Society in Psychology. Her career in UX began in 2011, working with a small agency as a UX Researcher and Information Architect. During the spring of 2014, she joined Koplin and Propati Partners (K&P) as a UX Designer and the Director of Community Outreach & Partnerships. At K&P she mentors low income young adults (18-26 year olds), providing design & technology education and training to underserved communities by integrating real-world client work into K&P’s curriculum. Rashida also works independently with various organizations and small businesses such as Sarah Lawrence College, offering her design and technology expertise.

In addition to teaching at General Assembly, Rashida works with Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls and various non-profits teaching music and empowering youth through creative freedom and expression.

Rashida is a problem solver with an eclectic background in technology, psychology, management, education, marketing, design & music.

Meaghan Nolan

Experience Designer at Moment

When it comes to designing digital products, Meaghan is constantly looking for ways to integrate experimentation into the process. Her scientific background helps her bring a data-driven as well as creative approach to product strategy and design. As a designer at Moment, she has collaborated with clients like Bloomberg and JP Morgan to develop product strategy and design for both consumer and professional applications. Before joining the Moment team, Meaghan was a UX Consultant at wisdom + craft and Head of Human Experience at Superhuman Inc., both in New York City. When not at the office, she helps new designers and startups experience the design thinking process through a MeetUp called The UX Lab. She loves good food, good wine, and good coffee.

Find her on Twitter @meagnolan

Shannon Copfer

UX Designer at JW Player

Shannon has been thoroughly enjoying her past year as an energetic, collaborative, and very busy UX team-of-one at JW Player. Recent projects (in addition to kicking off a whole UX practice at the company!) have included designing a new dashboard, new analytics tools, a player-building tool, and instituting company-wide customer journey mapping, brand persona building, and more. Before that, Shannon spent 3 years as the design lead at Grandparents.com, where she first dipped her toes into UX after taking on the Customer Support emails and getting inspired by her users!

Formally trained in Graphic Design, Shannon has always been passionate about using effective design to solve problems, and effective communication to implement solutions. Since 2008, she has been injecting user-centered and emotional design philosophy into freelance projects ranging from book covers to logos and websites, and even environmental design.

Shannon is also a proud member & co-organizer for The UX Lab Meetup group.

Find her on Twitter @shannoncopfer


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