UX designer excels in new role

February 05, 2021

profile on Susan Aboelela

Dating back to her childhood, Susan Aboelela, MS ICM '19, loved to draw and paint and knew she wanted to pursue a career that involved design. During her undergraduate program, Aboelela studied industrial design and took courses in user research and understanding empathy.

As part of her studies, Aboelela worked to help create a fitness app to conduct user research. The human factor of the design process resonated with her, and it was this hands-on experience that solidified her decision to enter the field of UX Design.

She dove into the MS in Interactive Media and Communications online at Quinnipiac while working full time. All of Aboelela’s experiences have been a platform for her to learn and build her skill set. Throughout her program, she brought what she learned from the classroom to her workplace.

While she was a patient care coordinator at Memorial Sloan Kettering in Manhattan, she took the opportunity to improve workflows there, a valuable skill she learned in the ICM program. Aboelela’s love for user design is evident in her successful completion of the program, when she was presented with the Faculty Award for Academic Excellence upon graduating.

Soon after graduation, Aboelela was hired by IBM to work as a UX designer and within three months’ time, she was the sole designer on her first project. Her hard work and talent were recognized, and IBM presented her with the Rock Star Award where she was one of ten people in the Americas (North, Central, South America) who received it that quarter.

If that wasn’t enough to celebrate, Aboelela earned an early promotion to Senior UX/UI Designer, typically a two-year minimum promotion track which she earned six months earlier than usual.

Her plans do not stop there, though. She will take full advantage of the career track in front of her. Aboelela is looking forward to learning as much as she can and is grateful to be in the position of helping her clients achieve their goals.

Q & A

Can you describe what a UX Designer does?

A UX Designer puts user needs and goals first. They work with a human-centered approach to solve problems through user research, design-thinking methods and user testing. These methodologies result in innovative, intuitive and simple experiences for users.

A UX Designer may wear many hats throughout the design process; they conduct research to gain an understanding of a user or customer’s current experience of a particular process, service or product.

UX Designers also conduct design thinking workshops to form user personas and empathy maps to understand who their users are and what they’re feeling and thinking. They also create and work through the designs of a particular experience or product by drawing out user flows and then transforming those into low-fidelity sketches or wireframes.

This process is an iterative and agile one, where a designer will continuously make changes based on user testing and feedback. UX Design practices may also intersect with User Interface (UI) design, with visual design work involving design systems and styles.

Was there one course that you particularly liked?

It’s hard to only choose one course, but I’d like to highlight the Visual Design course since it was one of the first courses I took when I started the ICM program. Not only was it really enjoyable, but it created a foundation for mastering key principles around organizing complex information through typography, hierarchy, grids, color and more.

I especially loved that the course had group critique sessions where our work was reviewed, and we had the opportunity to learn from one another. What I learned in this first course helped me develop skills I used in all the courses that followed, as well as to this day in my daily work.

How were you supported during the program?

There is an incredible support system within the program; professors are there to help and answer any questions you have. I also felt very supported and fortunate for the mentorship provided to help lead my studies into a full-time UX job upon graduation. 

This program considers what your career goals are from the beginning and helps you build on that throughout your studies.

In your current position, what class do you feel has helped you the most?

The ICM program was incredibly comprehensive and taught me fundamental skills that I use every day in my work, from Visual Design, Principles of User Experience Design, Ideation, Prototyping and Testing to Web Technologies. The Ideation, Prototyping and Testing course sticks out in particular because I was able to be hands-on with learning and applying the UX Design process, from information architecture and user flows to wireframes and high-fidelity designs.

We also had the opportunity to prototype and test our designs with users. The course also provided us with the professional tools and applications that are used in the industry, which provides you to be ready with the proper technical skills.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about becoming a UX Designer?

If you are thinking about becoming a UX Designer, you are probably really interested in the human aspect of it, creating solutions and evoking delight for others. Being a UX Designer and solving problems can be incredibly rewarding and fun. As it is an ever-growing field, the learning never stops which is very exciting.

The greatest key to being a UX Designer is to be a good listener and to empathize with your users. Once you join your passion for design with your gained skills, methods, and UX knowledge, the possibilities are endless.

Quinnipiac’s online MS in Interactive Media and Communications prepares you to be a leader in visual design and storytelling. The flexible structure allows you to customize your degree to coincide with your career goals. Find out more about the MS in Interactive Media and Communications program.

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