"Our business etiquette is teamwork"In this interview with our UX/UI Lead Anja you learn, among other things,
- how she collaborates on building software at Exporo
- what she has learned in the last 12 years in the tech design industry and
- what kind of work-related recommendations she has for her daughter.
Who are you and what do you do at Exporo?
I’m Anja and as of recently the UX / UI lead at Exporo. Together with our product designer, we manage the frontend design for our Exporo and Propvest digital products. I focus on the UX research, comprising of user interviews, usability testing and AB testing in the discovery phase, and then go through various rounds of wireframing and prototyping and creation of user flows with reviews from our product owners.
As a User Experience design lead, what sparked your interest in working in the technology industry?
I was always interested in Design but more so in my private life initially. I worked as an interior decorator. I studied Organisational Psychology so never expected to go from Project management to working as a UX designer but I was given the opportunity in 2010 by a friend who moved back from the UK after having worked as a Lead UX designer at Mercedes for many years, who then opened the first UX agency in South Africa. I initially joined as a Project manager but my friend discovered quickly that I had a feel for Gestalt thinking and seeing a solution holistically versus only seeing one screen, one flow. She started mentoring me and I went on a course offered by Flow UK in Cape Town and that is where my passion kicked off. It comes naturally to me to keep the specific clients’ mental model top of mind after years of UX research, and user centricity is key in any product as we know.
What do you like best about your work at Exporo?
Primarily I like the teams I work with, the great team spirit and collaboration, and also the level of innovation that everyone strives for. We don’t deliver without doing research (as far as possible) and I have had the opportunity to set up UX research panels, meaning I work with clients first hand that give me their raw, unbiased feedback which any growing product needs.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve learned during your time at Exporo?
I come from a South African and Australian banking background where any feedback is carried out overly politely and in hindsight time is often wasted with this business etiquette. At first, the frankness between team members came as a surprise but I am appreciating it more and more.
In your experience, does being a woman in your job pose any additional challenges?
I am grateful that I have never had any bad experiences being a woman in my field.
Great! How do you balance work and life as a mother?
This one is a little challenging, especially as a single mother in a foreign country where I am still finding my feet, and making close friends. However Exporo and the flexibility and understanding in our work environment allows me to balance it far better than I have experienced in rigid environments. Of course, it is a two way street, with the flexibility of being able to fetch my daughter when I need to, walk my dogs, and so forth, I make sure that I deliver quality work.
The industry as a whole lacks some representation of women in product development for example. But in roles like design and customer research that % is higher. How do you feel about this based on your own experience?
The majority of UX designers I have been working with have been women and the majority of developers have been men in the past, and I am happy to see that women are now making their way into the development world. This is also my goal for the year, to kick off on a coding language as I feel it would complement my UX background. I have always worked on Lean UX, low fidelity wires or even sketches and Lean UX gives any great product designer what they need to create the UI and screen interactions. So my curiosity is steering me towards learning how to code. I did an HTML5 course years ago but also having chatted to Susanne, my developer colleague, I would like to make this happen.
In your opinion, has the industry changed since you started?
Yes, building software is forever changing and I think if you’re not up to lots of change and learning, this should not be your field of choice. I am amazed at what we did 12 years ago in our Visio wireframes and prototype testing to all the facets of UX that have grown more important but unfortunately not always able to cover all basis of what UX has to offer due to time constraints.
What advice would you give to women entering tech?
I have said to my daughter, learn how to code, it’s the way of the digital world. I know people that push back against this thought and speak of the world before these tech eras, especially for children and mobile devices and wish it had never happened but the fact is, it is our world and it will be so more and more as time goes by, and therefore would advise any women to get into tech if they feel they would be passionate about it.
There’s a lot about bias. What are your thoughts on this?
I know there is old school thinking out there, I’ve only ever experienced a little of it in some traditional corporate environments but I’ve never allowed it to affect me negatively and when it comes my way, I work through it and do my best to not take it personally. The value of UX is quickly understood and I think it makes it easier to integrate into more traditional working environments. I feel for women that deal with this bias in their day-to-day working world but in our day and age, Women in Tech being taboo is becoming a thing of the past.