Hey Sandy, care to share a little bit about yourself?
Hi, I’m Sandy. I’m an Interaction Designer at Google, and a UX career coach. I live with my partner in Berkeley, California but am originally from New York. We have a 6 year old Corgi named Cookie. I love nature, gardening, and cooking. Lately I’ve been experimenting harvesting and drying my own herbs, like rosemary and lavender!
Can you tell us what you do as an Interaction Designer in your company for those who are unfamiliar?
As an Interaction Designer on Google’s Cloud AI team, it’s my job to create useful, intuitive, and delightful product experiences. Most of my time is spent collaborating: with UX Researchers to gain a deep understanding of user’s goals and needs, Product Managers to address business goals, and Engineers to understand technical constraints. To convey these experiences, I create user flows, wireframes, mockups, prototypes, and all things in between. Working in the AI space has really challenged me to break down extremely complicated tasks and present them to users as easily digestible concepts.
How did you decide to pursue your specific career?
Growing up, I was part computer nerd, part art kid. I had always dreamed of becoming an artist or working on computer games. I was super lucky to get a part time job in high school at a local classical records company, and started using InDesign to lay out booklet inserts and album covers. I went to art school, specialized in traditional graphic design, and did web design using HTML/CSS on the side for any clients I could find (whew, did I make some terrible websites. But it was the 2000’s). I knew I didn't want to become a programmer, because coding was terribly frustrating 😅
What made you interested in your field?
When I first heard people starting to call the field User Experience Design after undergrad, it called out to me as the perfect way to combine my interests in technology, design, and psychology. When I got out of school, I got odd jobs designing “graphics” and “UI”, but realized I wanted to be involved earlier on in the process and understand WHY we were creating something, not just be brought in at the end to clean things up.
Any advice on how to stand out and get hired for those starting off?
Do as many real world projects (as opposed to staged, classroom projects) as you can to build up your portfolio. Be careful about doing too much “free work”, but pro-bono/volunteer work can be mutually beneficial if you’re supporting a cause you care about while building your portfolio. Focus on solving real user problems (hackathons are happening virtually now, this can be a good way to get accelerated experience collaborating with a team & with engineers). If you are transitioning from another industry, I bet you have a lot of skills that are already applicable! Do your best to highlight those skills in your portfolio and resume.
3 Character traits that would make someone excel in your field
🤝 Collaborative, 🗣 Communicative, 📚 Life long learner
Best advice you've received/heard?
I’m still trying to implement this advice in my own career, but… know your worth! You bring your own unique and valuable skills to a team. I’ve experienced a lot of imposter syndrome as a woman in tech. It can be hard to make sure you’re getting fairly compensated and promoted. Most importantly, if you’re not in a psychologically safe work environment, reach out for help and make a change.
Any last thoughts, advice, or recommendations for someone who wants to become an Interaction Designer?
There’s no one “correct” path to arrive in UX! UX is a huge spectrum and contains a little something for everyone. As you start to learn more, take note of: Which parts are you most excited about? Which parts are not as interesting? Where does that overlap with the skills you already have? This can help you find where to specialize. Talk to people with various roles within the field, to get a sense of what their day to day is like. You're already getting a good start by checking out all these stories on Spill the Beans... thanks for reading this interview! :)