Interview With Darren Hood – Director of Education

How did you originally get involved with UXPA? 

The first thing I think about is membership. I was a member when it was the Usability Professionals Association. So I go way back. I don’t remember exactly, but I believe I was a member dating back to the early 2000s.

How have you personally benefited from or contributed to the Michigan UXPA community?

I used to attend the meetings. They were scheduled monthly. I would attend any time I could, when my schedule didn’t prohibit me from doing so. I would always be a fly on the wall to give ideas whenever I could. I was also part of (if I remember correctly) the UXPA Michigan serving as a core group that was trying to hold the Midwest UX conference in Michigan.

Why did you choose to run for UXPA International when you have so much on your plate with 14 different roles already?

It’s funny… I wasn’t going to. Someone posted that there was an election coming up and they were calling for people to run for office or in calling for nominations, someone posted to LinkedIn and it said, Darren, this is you. And that was it. It was like they were saying, please run. And I looked at the office, I looked at what the responsibilities call for knowing that I was already doing a lot of what the It’s funny… I wasn’t going to. Someone posted that there was an election coming up and they were calling for people to run for office and for nominations. Someone posted the info to LinkedIn and said, “Darren, this is you.” It was like they were saying, “Please run.” I looked at the office. I looked at what the responsibilities called for. Knowing that I was already doing a lot of what the role called for (I was just doing it on my own), I thought that it might be a good idea for me to do it in an official capacity with the support of the UXPA, especially since it was already my passion. I got into UX through the world of education and instructional design. Part of the reason that I’m serving as an adjunct professor now is because I had always wanted to marry my passion for education with my passion for UX. These things became the driving force behind the why. 

Could you speak a little bit on your background in education and how you think it’ll contribute to your success in this role?

I can actually come at it from two different angles. I have been training people since 1983 in corporate environments. My history goes that far back. So that’s one angle. The other angle is that my background from an educational standpoint is that I have five instructional design-related certifications. I’m a certified instructional designer, a certified training manager, and a certified master trainer. In addition to that, I also have a grad certificate in educational technology from Michigan State University (Go Green!!!). I’m also getting my Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Northcentral University. I am three courses away from starting my dissertation as we speak. Additionally, I’m an adjunct professor at Kent State University. I teach in the Masters of UX program. I teach UX-related courses for Lawrence Tech in Southfield, Michigan. I am in the process of taking on an adjunct professor role at Michigan State University, where I’m helping to design content and courses for the CX Master’s program. I’m in talks to become a professor at Syracuse University in a forthcoming master’s of HCI program. I’ve also been in talks for becoming an adjunct at yet another university (name withheld). These things help illustrate and demonstrate my passion for education. 

Some people ask if you have 14 things that you’re doing, why would you want to do anything else? And then other people say, how do you do all the things that you do? Some people ask. Some people watch. Some not only watch and see me doing all the things that I do and recognize that I’m excelling at all of them. As a result, there are some that don’t ask me why. They just ask me how I do it all. They want to hear how in the world I’m able to pull it off. Some people are smart alecks about it and some people are genuinely asking. It’s all about organization. When you’re organized, you can get a lot of things done. And so I’m able to teach at two universities now, work a full-time job and run workshops from time to time at Grand Circus in downtown Detroit because I’m organized and because I’m structured. From an educational perspective, I know the importance of sound pedagogy and know how to operate from an educational perspective to deliver a sound learning experience. Some engage in education, but don’t know anything about pedagogy. These folks think that anyone can teach, but this reminds me of how I was always trained to understand that a subject matter expert is actually the wrong person to teach a course or lead a learning experience. The only way I’m able to do it is because I understand the science behind education, as well as the science and the other elements associated with UX. Therefore, I can properly marry them. But when somebody doesn’t really know, and they’re a subject matter expert, they dive into it. People buy into it. But you have to know the scientific aspects behind education in order to really drive a proper learning experience. Just throwing that in. 😉

You mentioned the responsibilities of the Director of Education role and how they aligned with you, could you expand on what some of those responsibilities are?

Some of the responsibilities for the UXPA role include defining relevant educational content for the UXPA community. That’s something I already do, I’ll just do it for UXPA now. I’ll be responsible for identifying and contacting webinar and course presenters and instructors. This basically involves coordinating learning experiences, securing the talent, and arranging the right people in the right place at the right time. That’s something I do for my podcast. I’ve helped organize other conferences in the past and tentatively planning my own conference in October of this year. So, I’m familiar and comfortable with such things as scheduling meetings with potential instructors to discuss content, coordinating scheduling of webinars and courses with presenters, and leading a webinar and course updates on the website. As I reviewed the various responsibilities, I continued successfully “checking off the boxes.” When it comes to coordinating course finances with the board and director of finance, that’s something I have a long with based on my history of business acumen. Surveying webinar and course attendees and identifying opportunities for improvement of the initiatives are responsibilities I’ve always performed as an instructor and something I’ve done from a research standpoint. So that’s piece of cake coordinating video captioning and making recordings available for members. These are just some of the responsibilities, but as I perused them all, I continued recognizing they are all things I already do, so I couldn’t come up with a reason not to pursue the office. 

Can you expand any more on what you hope to accomplish as Director of Education?

I’d like to stabilize educational goals and expectations throughout the discipline. I delivered a talk recently called “The Trouble with UX Education.” In viewing it from a hypothetical, it’s pretty broad in that a lot of people view education from the perspective of targeting the content, the topics, and the curriculum. They don’t target the overall strategy and the associated mental models of the learners. Ironic, isn’t it — UX people overlooking mental models?  

One thing I shared during that talk focused on our learning paths as children. When we were kids, we all of us did the same exact thing. Whether you’re homeschooled going to private school, public school, it didn’t matter. When we first go to school, starting with preschool, it’s time to get ready for school and you get dressed, you go to school, and you get on a school bus or whatever it is, and we embark on our day. We repeat this process regularly. It’s not until high school, pretty much, that we start making decisions. It’s not really until we go to college that we start making full decisions regarding our direction and then even then it’s partial. We don’t make full decisions about the entire framework really until we get into grad studies. A lot of things are pretty much handed to us. Prior to all of this, most of our decisions are made for us. Why is this relevant? We’re used to somebody telling us where to go and what to do, you don’t know how to make the choices. We have what I call “baby bird syndrome.” We trust what others offer us. When deciding to head into UX and to embark on this journey, many don’t know how to make their own choices.  The problem is that the world of UX is chock full of misinformation. And a lot of times a person who comes up to the person with baby bird syndrome will drop something in that they’re later going to have to get flushed out by way of a cognitive enema. So, when I talk about some of what I want to do with education it’s to make education more reliable, educational paths more trustworthy, and to help people to understand and be better equipped because each individual is now in charge of making the related choices — choices we didn’t have to make when we were 5, 15, or even 25 years old in some instances.

Now that choice is ours, people are opting for the wrong things because they’re making choices without having the proper knowledge level, without having filters, and without having connections to real mentors. Consider, again, the baby bird. The baby bird comes in eyes wide shut and mouth wide open, trusting that whatever someone tells them is correct, reliable, and trustworthy. Knowing many are in this state, helping to foster and provide sound educational environments and experiences are critical and I feel the UXPA should be a reliable source and solution regarding this matter.

Do you feel that your election into the UXPA international board will benefit the Michigan UX community?

I would hope that it does. A lot of times for a lot of UX professionals today, the UXPA (and other professional associations and affiliations) are not on their radar. It’s sad, because a lot of educational resources are not really talking about the importance of professional associations, not when it comes to UX. In the PM world, they are. In the CX world, they are. In a lot of other disciplines, people talk about the importance of professional associations. Professional associations, for UXers, have practically dropped off the radar completely. I think that it’s important we continuously inform people about what professional associations are out here, what we should hope to get, what’s in it for each of us individually, and what benefits people should hope to gain and experience. So, I would love to get UXPA on people’s radar. I would hope to get the Michigan UXPA on people’s radar, but from a holistic perspective — always echoing the benefits. If we don’t do this, then we’re just repeating the “sins” of those who went before us. I’ve seen that a lot in my lifetime. Therefore, I realize I can’t just hold a position. I need to be an active occupier — a force, if you will. This is a great association and has always been a great association, but it has also been under-promoted. I want to change that.

What you think are some of the large benefits of being a part of this association?

I think the biggest benefits I’ve ever had over the years have been resources — tangible resources, such as an article, a blog post (or the equivalent of a blog post) that existed on a UXPA reference. The biggest thing that ever impacted me from the UPA/UXPA was an old illustration that looked like the game Chutes and Ladders. When we were kids, I think we all practically all played Chutes and Ladders. It looks like a giant ladder or pathway. It curved and swirled, just like Chutes and Ladders, and it identified different things that happen along the design journey. Whether it’s a good experience or a pitfall, they identified it, instead of giving us that toxic positivity approach to things and just talking about the blue-sky mindset. They talked about the challenges. They talked about the things that we needed to be aware of. That really impacted me. I used to have it on the wall in my house. I love that old illustration. There were some awesome articles that were posted from time to time.

Ironically, until I was about to take office, I never saw all of the old talks and recordings. I know is that good UX content has a long shelf life. I plan on doing some content strategy work in conjunction with my position. In other words, I’m going to systematically reshare some of this content, helping make sure people are aware of these old talks. People are so star-struck, they want to know about Jacob Nielsen, Don Norman, Susan Weinschenk, Alan Cooper, and Richard Saul, Wurman, but what about people such as Chauncey Wilson, Paul Sherman, Larry Marine, and Nathan Shedroff, people don’t always know these names, and they should. Truthfully, the discipline is still “a baby” and, therefore, needs to be managed. Its diapers need to be changed sometimes. And it’s been going, has been unintended too. And so part of my educational drive is to make sure people are aware of viable resources and (again) benefits. And no matter where one is in their career life cycle, they are in need of cultivation, maintenance, and growth, and always impact the discipline. There are a lot of people today who are getting into UX that don’t care about the discipline. This is detrimental  all of us. So, when we educate people about these things and about these people, then it gives a sense of accountability and responsibility. I think that it also helps people to take what they’re doing with UX a bit more seriously. You can’t just “break into the discipline,” as many like to say. You have to get into it and take ownership of the fact that what you do regarding this discipline is going to impact it for the better or for the worse. I want to encourage people to impact UX for the better. Education serves as such a vehicle.

Is there anything that we haven’t touched on that you’d like to share with the Michigan UXPA community? 

If I would say anything else because I just said so much, let’s just go onward and upward and let’s build, let’s forget about where we’ve been, let’s continue on an upward trajectory and get involved with the organization, let’s make sure that we’re supporting the discipline. Let’s make it a point to build all those around us who want to be built.

Interview with Ben Lauren – Director of Publications

How did you originally get involved with UXPA? 

When I first started at Michigan State in 2014, I was brought in as their first hire in a new major called Experience Architecture. And so I was told, “Hey, we’re trying to build this major. We’ve got some students who have already said that they’re interested in the major. And so, you know, it’s upstart, it’s brand new, it’s UX in the context of the humanities.” And I was like, oh, that’s cool. My Ph.D. is in technical communication and rhetoric and from Texas Tech University. And I had been doing UX, in the context of “tech com”, that’s what we call technical communication. So I’ve been doing UX in that context for a while via usability testing and document design and some research. But I didn’t fully know that, for instance, contextual inquiry was a UX method. At the time, I had a lot of dots left to connect. 

So I taught our first Introduction to Experience Architecture course that fall semester. The students came in and they were like, so what’s this, what is Experience Architecture? And I was thinking to myself, we have this new major, it’s not called user experience, it’s called this other thing. So I really sort of set out that semester to learn as much as I could about all the different organizations and groups that were involved in UX. And I already knew what they were in tech com and I had served as president of a local chapter of the Society of Technical Communication. And I lived in Florida and I thought, what’s the equivalent of STC in UX. And so I discovered UXPA and I discovered that they were having a conference and this was in San Diego, I think in 2015. So I went to the director of the XA program, Liza Potts, and I said I found out about this organization UXPA, and she said that UXPA is wonderful, it’s like the premier organization in UX, you should definitely engage and said we will support you in presenting and all the rest of that. And so I went to that conference and I presented a poster and I just kind of remember walking in and I don’t really know what to expect, but I met and talked with Jacob Nielsen about studying UX and the humanities alongside rhetoric. And I’ll never forget. He said to me, studying rhetoric and UX is a really good idea, so I gave him a flyer for our program, and I went to an Intuit presentation and I just remember walking out feeling really energized by the really cool and engaging work that was kind of at the fringes of my field. And I felt that I had found a home in that people weren’t doing this in the context of their office, and then it didn’t impact daily lives. The scale of it drew me in immediately like, wow. Watching Intuit talk about how they tried to transform the way their company thought about empathy from top to bottom was the most energizing thing I had seen because it was all sort of change management and I saw the potential of UX at a broad scale that I had never seen before. And I saw that at the first UXPA conference. 

So that’s kind of how I ended up getting involved and thinking to myself, wow, I really want to be more involved in UXPA. And then over the years, I just had more opportunities to engage. I got to write for the magazine and other stuff like that. I got to present at another conference with other colleagues, that was the Toronto conference, so I got to do that. And I wanted to stay more involved and then the pandemic hit. So that’s the long version. And I suppose it just literally started as me going, “What are the different organizations in UX?”. Then finding UXPA and saying, I think I want to present at a conference, actually getting in and getting the opportunity to present. Then just going to sessions and feeling energized and saying, I want to stay involved with this organization in some way. And so I’ve managed to, over the years of my career, engage with UXPA at different moments by writing magazine articles. I’ve always wanted to publish with the Journal of Usability Studies (JUS). That’s something I’ve never gotten the opportunity to do yet, but I’ve always thought I want to publish with JUS one day.

Why did you choose to run for this role in the UXPA International Board of Directors?

There’s a couple of reasons. The first is that it gave me an opportunity to work with UXPA in a capacity that I hadn’t been able to do yet. And I am at a stage of my career where doing so is expected of me. So working with international organizations in different capacities and serving is part of what my job entails as an associate professor, at least that’s how I see it, so the timing was right because I’m tenure.

Three years ago, approximately during the Toronto conference, I was talking with some board members about possibly running for different positions but the timing wasn’t right, because I wasn’t tenured yet. And so, as I thought about it more, I didn’t pursue it at that time because the timing just wasn’t right. So I had been thinking about this actually for a while but I didn’t know what the clock thought. I also didn’t know there was a Director of Publications. Having published in UXPA magazine and knowing about JUS since I was a grad student and reading articles and assigning articles to people in JUS I was always thinking to myself, wow, I really loved those publishing venues. And so, I didn’t know there was a Director of Publications until they advertised it, and I thought that’s a job I would want to do. That’s a job I feel compelled to do. 

You get to help shape conversations about UX. And that’s kind of where my work has been living. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff in trauma-informed design and institutional change in UX. And so I thought this would be a really good moment to bring in conversations about anti-racism, trauma-informed design, anti-racist peer review practices that people in my field have been taking up in thinking a lot about, accessibility and disability. And so those are just some of the things that I ran on because I feel passionate about them. And I feel that it’s a good moment for steering conversations into new directions. And I thought, well, maybe I can help to do some of that with existing editorial teams that are really good. Although now they’re looking for a new magazine editor I just saw too. So, you know, I’ll get an opportunity to help bring on a new magazine editor.

So the opportunity to shape those conversations, the timing of the moment, the organization itself, and how much it energized me as a young professional, and now as somebody who’s kind of approaching mid-career, how exciting I still find the work, it just was something I felt like I couldn’t pass up. Not to mention the people in the community have been really welcoming, and kind, and that’s one of the things that really drew me to UXPA. 

Sometimes you ask yourself questions about whether you belong in a space, and I’ve always felt that at UXPA, I’ve found like-minded professionals who are interested in getting better at what they do. And so that’s something that I felt really compelled by and felt, well, I can work in this space. I can be effective and I can do good work. And so I threw my hat in the ring to see what would happen if people would agree with me.

What are some of your specific responsibilities as Director of Publications?

So one of the things that I’ll be doing is we’re trying to get the Journal of Usability Studies into the Web of Science. And so there are some steps that have to be taken in order to do that, so that’s one of the big things that I’ll be working on frankly is trying to get the journal indexed. 

I’ll also be working on some special issue topics that I mentioned, and I’m still early on in it. So there’s lots that I have to learn. I also want to be careful that all the excitement that I bring isn’t about interrogating and saying bad things about the people who’ve been there. It’s not that at all. I think it’s just a continuation of the work. But I would love to find special issue editors or help people locate authors who might be doing work in particular areas that haven’t been published before. And so that’s something that I’m really interested in helping do, but then there are other things like helping them manage processes behind the scenes, editorial processes, and stepping in when people need help to get work done.

I also serve on the Board of Directors, which means that not only am I helping to think about the conversations that we have in the publications, but I also get to think about the organization as a whole and contribute to that discussion, including conferences and things like that. So there’s a lot of opportunities to have an impact and to participate in UXPA international as an organization. So that’s something I’m also excited about.

Did you want to expand any more on your platform or your goals as Director of Publications?

If I were gonna expand on the statement that I shared when running, I would say that three years is a fast period of time and I don’t aim to disrupt the good work that people have done, nor do I hope to upend all of their editorial processes. I hope to step in and be seamless in that. What I do hope to bring is that mindset of, we’re better off when we learn from each other. I think academics and academia, and industry often see themselves as these two separate entities. And I like to think of us all as people who work in UX but just work in different spaces. It’s like I consider myself a UX professional that just happens to work in an academic role and so it’s a more community-focused approach to thinking about UX and I hope that my influence over publications will create opportunities for more academic-industry collaboration where we’re trying to foster more across-silo collaborations as much as possible and I would say that that is my central mindset in approaching the work and in wanting to do the work well. So I walk in saying what can I learn and what can I share that will be helpful, and how can we make this a productive relationship and so that’s kind of the way that I’m thinking about it. But I do have an agenda in terms of special issue topics and things like and I do want to ask the community to think along those lines so that we can publish on it. I think that trauma-informed design is an emerging form of thinking about the work that we do in UX and it’s really important because we work with humans, many of them have experienced trauma, and sometimes our protocols for doing that work is not trauma-informed and it’s harmful to people, and maybe we don’t even know it. So those are things that I’m really interested in. 

Do you think that your election in this role will have an impact on the Michigan UX community? 

That’s a good question, I don’t know if I can even predict how. I guess I could say, briefly, when I came to MSU in 2014, the community largely seemed to be around the University of Michigan’s program in information, and it’s a great program and it’s created a lot of really amazing UX folks. That first year I also went and presented at, I think it was the very first Ignite UX Michigan. I met so many amazing people at that and now it’s an annual thing that all of the XA students go to which I think is really cool. What happened is that the first time I went it was me and one or two other MSU people and we all were like oh wow, there’s MSU people who care about UX. I remember thinking to myself there’s a real opportunity here for us and now over time, XA students are a regular feature there, and Michigan State has had a real sort of renaissance in terms of its UX footprint I would say. So I think if anything it’s really a cool moment because I’m a core faculty in XA and now here I am on the Board of Directors for UXPA and I really think that that speaks a lot about the MSU program and I’m hopeful that I can represent it well to people at UXPA because I think that the UXPA local chapter is an important part of the UX community here in Michigan. And I know Darren is serving and Darren works at MSU as well so it’s a good moment for MSU I think in terms of UX and I hope that it contributes positively as a result to the local community. 

Is there anything that we haven’t touched on that you’d like to share with the Michigan UXPA community? 

I’m really excited and I’m also open to hearing people’s ideas and thoughts so I want to be accessible to folks, so if people have ideas or thoughts or are interested in publishing, or they themselves are interested in getting involved in the publication’s or in UXPA to let me know so that I can help get them involved. I don’t want to be somebody who’s distant, we are still in a pandemic so even saying here’s my UXPA email address where people can reach out to me or find me on social media and talk to me. I’m really always interested in students writing stuff too, I don’t think it has to be limited to someone who has a degree, or an industry professional, I want to be very open to folks getting involved in and help to facilitate that and I will, so I just want to encourage people to engage me in those types of conversations too. 

Relaunching MiUXPA Survey

This past March we asked members for their feedback so that we can better serve the Michigan UX community. Our survey was answered by 65 members of the MiUXPA community, located all across the state (as seen below).

Professional UX Level pie chart. Student–9%, Aspiring UXer–5%, junior–5%, mid–22%, senior–25%, executive–13%, N/A–22%

Our Community

Our community is made up of professionals in many different UX roles with over 25% of respondents having two or more UX roles within their position and over 30% considering themselves to be UX generalists.

Our Location

Map of Michigan with location markers on the cities that MIUXPA members are

According to our respondents, the Michigan UXPA community includes individuals from all across Michigan’s Lower Penninsula. The east side of the state features some of the most common locations of our members, with over 30% of respondents located in Ann Arbor, and over 25% in the Metro Detroit area. Many of our community members are located in the Greater Lansing area and Grand Rapids as well.

Our Interests

We found that over 75% of our community is interested in seeing more stories surrounding UX in our newsletter, with a large interest in job postings and global events as well. These findings helped motivate our recent newsletter content, including our current series Michigan Women in UX and our featured job postings in each newsletter. 

Our Events

As far as future events, our respondents are interested in a variety of content with over 80% interested in having featured speakers, social events and participating in workshops and conferences. 

Projects for MSU XA Courses

Would you like to support and mentor undergraduate students in a UX-based Humanities program? Each semester many students in the Experience Architecture (XA) program at Michigan State University complete client-based projects as a part of their program.

Your organization (business, non-profit, government agency, etc.) can propose a project for a team of students to work on! This is a great opportunity to mentor and help students learn while receiving valuable insight and deliverables from emerging UX talent. 

Courses seeking clients:


XA 242 Intro to Experience Architecture

This intro course works to explain the field of XA to our students. It gives them a basic understanding of why our UX program is grounded in the Humanities while giving them modules that allow them to practice skills they would use in industry such as conducting small research projects, designing, building prototypes, testing, and presenting findings to clients.

Deliverables: students present their limited research along with informed prototypes and designs to clients.
Client Roles + Responsibilities 

The intro course has worked with the MSU Library to help them redesign their search landing page; the MSU Library Sparty Cafe web page and physical location; the MSU Rovi Gaming library web portal and game rooms in the library; the MSU Tech Store landing page and their physical store design and layout.

Expectations: clients will be available at the beginning to provide context for the project, answer questions about the project throughout the project’s timeline, be present at the final presentation, and offer feedback to students.

XA 333 Researching Experience Architecture
 
This course introduces students to the research methods a UX Researcher would use in their professional spaces. Students may have conducted some surface research in the intro course, but in this course students dive deeper into the ethical implications of methods such as diary studies,  surveys, interviews, card sorting, focus groups, field studies, and heuristic analysis.

Deliverables: students present their research findings to clients. There are no mock-ups or designs – only data from the research that was conducted.
Client Roles + Responsibilities 

This course has worked on the Michigan Avenue entire web site; the MSU Library main search page; the MSU Bug House website; 


Expectations: clients will be available at the beginning to provide context for the project, answer questions about the project throughout the project’s timeline, be present at the final presentation, and offer feedback to students.

Are you interested in submitting a project for students in the XA program? Contact Casey McArdle to connect with the program and learn more.

Michigan Women in UX: Stacie Sheldon Feature

How was your time at Michigan State University?

I loved being a student at Michigan State University. I grew up in a small town in Northern Michigan and it seemed like a big city to me. And it was a time of discovery for me as I think it is for many. My time there also coincided with an exciting time in Tech (1993-1998) where the tech bubble was growing and in the fall of 1995 I landed a work-study position with H-Net, Humanities and Social Sciences Online. It is there that I learned UNIX, HTML, Photoshop, Perl, and how to partner with and work with people to build technology solutions to solve problems and build online communities.

What was your inspiration for a BA in Literature?

First, I am a total bookworm. I have always had the ability to get lost in a book. I was well aware early on how powerful an impact a book could have on how I experienced and saw the world and thought of myself and how it could do the same for others. This was solidified for me in high school literature classes. Langston Hughes led the Harlem Renaissance from his unique perspective on a shared experience. He created that moment in the context of a certain place and time. To Kill a Mockingbird has lessons for every generation but it came from a moment in time in the history of this country. Hemingway can make us feel the sun shining on the Two-Hearted River. I could go on forever. That is what got me in the door.

How has a BA in Literature helped you with software development?

When you study literature you learn to study people – what motivates them, what is the context of where they live and when? How does that impact the choices they make? In drama, most of the greatest plays come down to one decision a character makes or one thing they do that is irrevocable – that changes everything. And let’s take another example: Mysteries. Mysteries are really small journeys from uncertainty to reassurance (when the puzzle is solved!). Software systems and their designs are similarly often a journey where you have to find all the pieces and how they fit best together. Literature builds on the skills required for this – including exercising the imagination to deal with the complexities of the workflow and process and the ability to understand people and where they are at, what their intent is, and what their goals are. It all comes down to curiosity and wonder.

You started your professional career as a developer – what was the transition like from your Literature studies to a developer career?

For me it was seamless because I had that work-study position at H-Net and was already working in excess of those program hours because I loved that work so much. I never liked coding though – I liked working with people to solve problems but jobs like that (UX jobs) were not really available at that moment in time. 

What sparked your interest in UX? What was the transition to UX like? Was there much of a transition in your professional career or was it already incorporated in your work?

In the late 1990s I was doing every aspect of software and website design. I knew I was drawn to the discovery and design phases of work the most though. In the year 2001 I ran my first usability test and loved it and my understanding of user experience evolved with what was happening in Tech at the time. It was very organic in that sense. I think in 2006 I finally managed to get a position where I could just do information architecture and UX design (lots of wireframing) and no longer had to code. I was so happy at that point but it turned out to be a long road ahead (and still is) with individuals and companies not understanding UX or not understanding how to support it or leverage it.

What was it like working for Global Team Blue (Team Detroit back when working with Keith Instone around the year 2013)?

That was long ago enough now to think of as the good old days at Team Detroit! Those were fun times where Ford was able to invest a lot in research and brand campaigns were sort of unlimited fun. I loved working with the Creative team there. And it was very fortunate for us to have Keith there working with our team as he has always been a source of industry excellence and an advocate for User Experience.

What is Slalom? What was your role there? 

Slalom is a modern consulting firm focused on creating experiences through strategy, technology, and business transformation. There are globally 8,500 employees in 39 markets. Their shared goal is to build a world in which everyone has the opportunity to love their work and life. We exist to help our clients reach for and realize their vision.

I work for Slalom Detroit in the Customer Strategy & Experience Design practice. My favorite thing about Slalom is it’s genuine commitment to values such as authenticity, justice, and equality.

How do you incorporate inclusive design into your work? 

There are a number of ways to incorporate inclusive design in your work, here are just a few ways of doing that:

  • Determine who has been excluded from your design process (including user research)
  • For your next design sprint or cycle strive to include this group that was previously excluded
  • Seek out research or design process participants with a diversity of perspectives/life experiences 
  • Be self-aware and wonder about your own unconscious biases and identify your assumptions
  • Embrace accessibility standards
  • Attend meetings on this topic as this conversation grows and evolves
  • Use your IA labeling and form design super power responsibly
  • Demand transparency in algorithms whenever and wherever you can

How has this experience writing the “From Scientific Racism to Inclusive Design” article impacted your work? 

It allowed me to gather my thoughts and think critically about many aspects of UX that I have encountered over the years. And I think it helps me with figuring out how to share, teach, and advocate for better research practice. For example, I frequently encounter companies and organizations that value quantitative data over qualitative data. Everyone wants everything to be data driven and “right” and they are positive that quantitative studies are the way to get there. But humans are more complex than that and a single research method will rarely if ever tell us everything about an experience. Mixed methods (and knowing which method best serves a specific context or problem) will always be most valuable. And I hope my article can illuminate how great harm can come from our desire to want to measure everything without considering the context and impact of our measures. 

What was it like to start a new job remotely during the pandemic? What techniques/tools have you used to overcome the issue of face-to-face interaction during a pandemic?

My last two jobs have both been remote positions so this was old hat for me. I haven’t worked in an office environment since 2017. I find that turning your camera on is the biggest factor for connecting. It doesn’t need to be on all the time – that is too exhausting. But it does help build trust and rapport to have it on most of the time. There is nothing worse than presenting your work or giving a talk to a screen of icons.

As for tools, I use Miro or MURAL a ton for sharing and capturing ideas, affinity diagramming and collaboration. They are easy to use and even enjoyable.

How has the UX remote work been like for you? 

For the most part, I am really happy with working remotely in UX. The pandemic has made tons of people more comfortable with video conferencing which is a helpful thing for user interviews. Tools like Maze and some of the testing platforms are evolving quickly as well as demand for remote research grows. Workshops take more patience but there are great white-boarding tools (Miro and MURAL again) out there and it is possible to make it work. Being able to travel and do an ethnographic study though is something I miss. For the different customer segments I’ve been working with over the last few years I know there would be value in going to the kinds of places they work but it is not worth the risk right now.

If you are comfortable with it, would you mind sharing more about your Native American roots? I would love to hear more about your experiences identifying as a Native American female in today’s day and age.

I am Ojibwe or also called Chippewa. The name we call ourselves though in our language is Anishinaabe. We are a Native American tribal nation made up of these three groups – Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi. Our confederacy, which is called the Three Fires Confederacy spans Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ontario, and even parts of Alberta. There are currently 12 federally recognized Anishinaabe tribes (sovereign nations) in the State of Michigan and our language, which we call Anishinaabemowin, is the first language of Michigan and these other areas. I grew up in northern Michigan, in Cheboygan.

I also grew up without getting to learn my heritage language. Until the Native American Languages Act was passed in 1990 we were prohibited from speaking and teaching our languages. And in my spare time now myself and a good friend run a website called Ojibwe.net that is about preserving and advocating for our language – it is essentially a cultural revitalization resource. I have also authored a bilingual (Anishinaabemowin and English) children’s book called Bebikaan-ezhiwebiziwinan Nimkii: The Adventures of Nimkii. A second edition is due out this summer! 

Every tribe in the United States is in a race now to save their language from extinction. We are in a place in time now where it is understood and accepted how much a culture lives within a language. Without a language, you don’t have a culture. And we also know that language and culture and well-being are connected. This has a big impact on how our youth are faring – so this work of preserving our language is very important to me. 

What was it like living in SE Michigan? Ever wanted to move West or East coast?

Here in Southeast Michigan I enjoy living in Ann Arbor. However,  I do miss the landscape and geography of northern Michigan and much of my family. My hometown of Cheboygan is near the Straits of Mackinac where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet and also has Burt and Mullet Lakes (the 4th and 5th largest lakes in the State). There is water everywhere and I miss that too. Sometimes I think I might like the mountains and sunshine of the American West but in many ways, Anishinaabe-land is my country as much as the United States is and I wouldn’t want to leave it. 🙂

Be sure to check out Stacie’s article From Scientific Racism to Inclusive Design.

This interview with Stacie Sheldon is a part of our Michigan Women in UX series. If you have a story you would like to share in our series, contact us at michiganuxpa@gmail.com.