UX Research/Design Intern Spotlight

UX Designer/Researcher

We sat down (virtually) with Surabhi, our newest team member, and first-ever User Experience Research/Design Intern, for a fun Q + A after her week at Key Medium.

1. Where do you go to school and what are you studying?

I am studying for my M.S. in User Experience and Interaction Design at Thomas Jefferson University, in East Falls, PA.

2. Why did you choose that major?

As a person with many stories to tell, I also love hearing the stories of people. I express myself best with illustrations and dance, but design is where I really use my experiences to make a difference. I believe purpose, empathy, and simplicity are the three main keys to good design, and that as designers our job is to use a human-centric approach to give solutions to the problems faced by individuals in their everyday lives. This major gives me the opportunity to further explore the theory and practice of research and design, which ultimately I’ll use to help in the betterment of society.  

3. What’s been your favorite college course so far?

I’ve enjoyed studying most of the courses but my favorite was ‘Accessibility in Interaction Design’. This course opened my eyes and provided a whole new perspective on design. It gave me an opportunity to understand the concepts of inclusive/universal design in the field of UI/UX and beyond, and made me more observant and aware of my surroundings. 

4. Do you have any secret talents?

I’m a trained classical dancer. When I was in 1st Standard, I started learning Bharatanatyam (Bharatanatyam is a major form of Indian classical dance that originated in the state of Tamil Nadu hundreds of years ago). The other forms of dance which I enjoy performing are folk and “Bollywood Dance”.

5. What’s your dream job?

My dream job would be to work on projects which involve problem solving and designing interactive digital products, and one which has a lot of collaboration with talented people. Also, I would love to teach sketching and illustration to kids. Spending time with the young mind gives me immense happiness.

6. What would you like to learn during your internship?

Communication Skills

During my internship, I would like to improve my communication skills. I believe that to succeed in any career, it is important to know how to express oneself in all forms – email, face-to-face conversation, phone, etc. Due to globalization, and now COVID – 19, everything has become digital. Hence, my focus would be communication through email and virtual person-to-person conversations. 

While conducting UX research with clients, communication plays an important role. It helps to understand the viewpoint of the user, what the problem is, and what the user ultimately wants out of the conversation. It also helps build better professional relationships. Because it is very crucial to know how to interact with clients and co-workers in a concise and professional manner, during my internship I’ll work hard to improve my communication skills, which will allow me to share my ideas clearly. To check my progress, I will start by reviewing my emails with my supervisor and seeking feedback to better construct the content and grammar. 

This would be successful when I start receiving positive feedback from my supervisor and co-workers, as well as the clients. Doing so would help me not only in my professional development but also my personal development.

Design Thinking Skills

Design Thinking is the foundation of any project in the field of design. It is an important tool a designer can use to develop products, services, processes, and strategies, and helps in understanding the user’s problem through a human–centric approach. It lies between the intersection of desirability, feasibility, and viability. 

Key Medium also leverages the design thinking approach in their projects, which helps them better understand and empathize with their partner’s wants, needs, and ambitions, leading to the creation of better solutions. During my internship, I would like to focus on improving my design thinking skills and implementing them in projects to create sustainable products with big impact. Improved design thinking skills will also help me with imagination, creativity, and coming up with different ideas.

To continuously improve, I’ll keep a note to myself as to which phase of design thinking I’m at in each project. I will seek feedback from my supervisor on the evaluation of my design thinking skills on a regular basis, along with the progress of the projects.

Interpersonal skills

It is very important to improve interpersonal skills in the workplace. It helps to know the people whom you are working with and to communicate effectively with them; this helps create better professional relationships that can lead to future opportunities. In particular, I would like to improve my ability to listen to others.

Everyone in the workplace has experience in the industry and each one has something to offer which would ultimately help me become a better professional.  I will focus on listening, remembering, and implementing what my coworkers say; although it can be hard to take in all the information when someone is speaking, this focus will help me avoid missing any information that might land me in a difficult situation. Additionally, by staying focused and listening to the experiences and stories of coworkers, I hope to better understand the dos and don’ts in the workplace.

In the design world, there are lots of opinions and conflicts. I would like to learn how to find balance in such situations and come out more confident, such that in the future if I come across similar difficult situations (which I will), I will know how to handle it.

To meet this learning objective, I will discuss my goals with my supervisor and seek guidance  during our one-on-one meetings. I will also keep notes on client meetings and observe how others communicate, so that I can put my opinions confidently on the table when handling conflicting situations. 

Ability to take initiative

It is crucial to develop the ability to ‘take initiative’ in the workplace, as it showcases confidence and the ability to tackle and complete a project with little or no instruction. If you are able to take initiative, new projects will be assigned in the future and more responsibilities will be given, adding value in the workplace.

During my internship, I would like to learn more about taking initiative by communicating with my  co–workers and supervisor. I would like to know more about each person’s design processes, from the start to the end of a project. I want to understand what challenges they came across, how they tackled them, how time was managed, and what next steps were taken to help better their process.

I plan to accomplish this by prioritizing my projects, completing them according to the deadlines, organizing my documents/files, continually learning how to be efficient, and most importantly by asking relevant questions. 

I’ll seek feedback about the progress of this skill from my supervisor on a regular basis and ask as to how I would be able to improve.

Design Strategy skills

It is very important to develop design strategy skills, as it helps with the ability to empathize while also keeping the business needs in mind. It helps to understand the context from the users, stakeholders and the environment point of view. It helps to make design decisions. 

To understand how to penetrate the market, how the company should be differentiated, how the launch of the product fits the market, etc., one should know about design strategy skills. I plan to develop this skill by taking note of who is involved in the collaboration process and how design decisions are made. This will give insights on which steps in the process or method can be skipped. The more projects I do, the more methods I try, and the more ways of working I experiment with, the more skillful I’ll be in reflecting in action. 

During my internship, I’ll seek guidance from my supervisor by asking about the design strategy behind the projects (non-profit, private, government, etc.) and ask how I can improve my design decisions.

7. How has your first week’s experience in working with the Key Medium Team and our clients been?

It was fun, went very fast, was filled with lots of information, and I got to learn a lot within a week. The Key Medium team has been extremely helpful and patient. I look forward to working and collaborating on further projects and advancing my skills. The meeting with the clients helped me understand different personalities and perspectives. It gave me an opportunity to understand how to conduct interviews, what relevant questions to ask and how to be flexible and adaptable to different situations. The take away from the first week is to communicate, be concise in meetings, and ask for feedback early.

Ali Jaffar: Web Developer, Designer, Brand Strategist and Optimization Expert in Philadelphia

Ali Jaffar has been building dazzling websites and creating amazing online experiences for over a decade. His mastery of the latest innovations in web development results in world-class website experiences set apart by show-stopping style and seamless functionality. A Google Mobile Sites and Google Analytics qualified individual and award-winning web development guru, Ali lends his talents to build and bolster digital experiences for a wide array of clients, with a keen focus on web design for nonprofit organizations. When Ali’s not helping his clients grow or providing pro bono services via his Coding For Causes program, you can find him doing yoga, walking his dog, exploring beautiful open spaces, and enjoying a nice bike ride around Philly.