Woman in tech
I’ve been with intive for almost 2 years now. I work as a Principal User Experience Designer. Tech has never interested me as such. I was neither tempted to go into it, nor felt in any way excluded from it. However, what’s always triggered my attention in one way or another is the influence tech has on people’s behavior and the society as a whole. I’ve always been fascinated by how forums, online social networks, comments - in fact, all content created by users - tell stories of their creators, mirror what their lives are about, reflect their values, disclose their fears, phobias and biases. If the term netnography had been around back then, I would have certainly called myself a hobbyist netnographer.
I’ve never seen my field as ‘technology’ – it’s about human psychology, perception, mental models, empathy and facilitation of group work processes. I’m a digital native, even though I didn’t have a PC or a mobile until I was 15. I use all the digital tools in a way that feels natural, so I don’t consider my role as a “tech” role. Does using an electric kettle make the chef a “tech person”?
UX Design in Poland is a field with a 50/50 gender ratio. Personally, I feel frustrated when gender is mentioned in any professional context. My personal litmus test for gender equality in a workplace is when I forget about gender altogether. In my working environment equality is a fact – gender is simply a non-issue. As professionals, we’re all just team members. Therefore, I can’t think of any challenges for me, as a woman, in my professional environment.
I’ve never felt I have to prove myself at work just because I’m a woman. I mean, every professional needs to prove they are a good fit for the position they are hired for. If you’re young and ambitious, it’s only natural to seek validation from senior professionals. It gives you a sense of direction and helps you grow. And again, I would not link it to any industry in particular, or to gender.
When someone asks me about quotas as a solution to closing the gender gap in an industry, it makes me squirm. As a woman and a professional, I feel anxious when equality is measured by quantitative indicators. I do not think quotas should be a consideration in recruiting for key positions, inviting conference speakers or selecting people for certain roles. As a person, I would immediately start to question my success: am I selected because I’m good at what I do, or just because I’m a woman?
Having said that, I need to point out there is a systemic problem which needs to be addressed. The general lack of women in tech has a lot to do with school education and social conditioning. People are lazy, that’s our nature. When we’re to make a choice, we usually go with what we know best. So, for the girls at school the designated default field is the humanities, and for the boys – science and computer programming. That’s our culture. These easy choices are then repeated further on in life and stay with (some) people until they die. Another thing: culturally embedded ambitions. Men are more likely to engage in competition, whereas women are expected to value close relationships. A career, a path to leadership, is a matter of making some significant and often difficult choices. Possibly, in our culture it’s a little bit trickier for us women, as we need to face some socially enforced stereotypes. However, it may be just as tricky for those men who’d like to focus on family life instead of chasing money.
A perspective on things is more often influenced by personality and upbringing than by gender. However, some scientists suggest that women tend to stay in the explorative mode longer and do not jump to solutions as quickly as men tend to do. I think it’s something that could help us when we work as researchers and design process facilitators.
Gender diversity makes teams work more effectively – that’s my only observation.
Before any interaction takes place, humans create expectations in their minds, either consciously or subconsciously. During an interaction we get to live through the actual experience. If the reality of it exceeds our expectations, then we have a good, memorable experience. When our expectations are not met, we perceive the experience as bad.
Let’s get one thing straight: you cannot design an experience. As an emotional and sensory reaction that happens in our mind, an experience is not something you can create. What you can do comes down to designing some elements of reality that make this experience possible.
There is plenty of discussion and misunderstanding around UX, as it covers many different specializations and is in fact an umbrella term. In business reality, the designer’s role is to support the growth of clients’ businesses. Designers are able to make people click, read, explore, spend time, memorize, open an app, react to notification, laugh or get frustrated. But products and services are not built by designers themselves – they’re made by teams. The digital artifacts (apps, websites, online services) are always the effect of a collaborative effort.
I like to observe how people interact, how they perceive different problems. I find it really inspiring to learn how I can change their perspective on things.
I read, mountain bike and dive. Also, when I’m not working, you’ll find me strolling somewhere with my head up and a pair of binoculars. Birdwatching has become my most recent hobby.
I love it that in my line of work there’s no script to follow. I love the investigation and experimentation. The whole design research is a wonderful adventure. I guess the best part is supporting people in thinking differently and reaching this ‘aha moment’ with a client. It’s just thrilling.
There’s an ethical component to what I do, no doubt. The question I should be asking myself every day is: will I make a good ancestor? The responsibility is huge. In my work as a designer I deal with peoples’ weaknesses. I know I have the power to manipulate them. So, it’s a matter of using this power in the right and conscious way.
The future is impossible to predict. Is there anything that worries me? One of the worst things I’ve recently heard of is the social engineering experiment in China. The Social Credit System, basically a form of mass surveillance powered by big data analysis, is an outrageous and terrifying concept.