User experience design requires you to employ both right and left-brain thinking. You have to have the technical chops while keeping the user front and center (think: “I’m a people person!”). For UX instructor Minakshi Mukherjee, being able to leverage both those hard and soft skills is what drew her to this fascinating field.
“After I completed my undergraduate studies in computer science,” Mukherjee recalls, “I was on the lookout for a field of work that combined technology and social sciences. That led me to the graduate program at UC Berkeley's iSchool, where I specialized in human computer interaction (HCI) and usability. Starting with my on-campus projects, internships and so on, I have always worked in the UX field for the past 10+ years in corporate life.”
To further refine her skills, she completed our Professional Program in Graphic Design, making contacts with instructors and the program director, all of whom encouraged her to help others enter the UX design field. And now, she's leading the charge with our new Professional Program in User Experience Design; specifically, to the Introduction to UX Design course.
What made you choose the UX field?
I strongly believe technology exists for the betterment of humanity, and it is nowhere as critical as at the intersection of humans and systems. Magic happens when these two converge through a well-designed interface. This intersection fascinates me.
Tell me about your current position?
I am a principal UX designer on McAfee's Consumer Experience Design team. I drive design direction (strategy and innovation), as well as lead and work hands-on with design teams in delivering end-to-end experiences for mobile, digital commerce, monetization and information architecture.
After working as a designer for several years, I felt the need to hone my graphic design skills and joined the two-year Professional Program in Graphic Design. I had great experiences throughout the program, interacting with fellow students and faculty. From an industry perspective, there is high demand but a scarcity of trained user-experience designers. I felt that UX design skills would be a great complement to all the graphic design students and help create hybrid designers. I shared my thoughts with Ivan Trujillo, the program director, and earlier this year I was invited to teach. I am delighted to be able to help create the next generation of UX designers.
Teaching has been amazing. The classes are small enough to foster engagement, but there is a multitude of viewpoints from students who come from different backgrounds.
You're bringing real-world UX scenarios to the classroom. What are the three biggest issues facing UX designers?
User experience is evolving continuously.
- Every new innovation, every new way of doing something brings a change in human mental models. At the same time, some fundamentals of humans nature remain the same. Keeping pace with this change, while remaining grounded in UX fundamentals, is a challenge that many of us face day to day.
- UX designers need to be in the know of all cutting-edge technological developments to implement them into great design for that ultimate “WOW!” experience for users.
- UX design professionals generally need to work with design team members, stakeholders and cross-functional teams that could include product managers, engineers, visual designers and content writers on an everyday basis. To work with such a vast range of people with multiple skills, a UX designer needs soft skills and some hard skills to work collaboratively and effectively with the teams.
What is the biggest upcoming challenge for UX designers?
There is a big disruption in UX around the corner—screenless user experience. Most of us have grown up in this field designing for screen-based interaction, but that will change with AI and voice interfaces.
What skills are most important for a budding UX designer to acquire?
It's an important question, and something that I spend time on in my class. A good UX designer needs a mix of curiosity, passion and empathy. To delight a user, you not only need a good understanding of the process, but the passion to explore and innovate.
What suggestions would you have for someone entering the field?
This is a great field for people with a passion to improve human lives by enriching each interaction that people have with the real world. Learning in UX is a lifelong process. You have to start with the basics and then keep an open mind, looking for ways to learn and improve.
Minakshi Mukherjee, M.S., is a user experience design leader with a strong background in consumer-facing digital media. She is currently a principal experience designer at McAfee/Intel Security and was a key member of design teams at PayPal and Walmart Global eCommerce. Mukherjee has a multifaceted background in human computer interaction (HCI), usability, graphic design and computer science, all of them contributing to a holistic view of user experience. She is committed to evangelizing user-centered design and introducing people to the power of beautiful, intuitive and transformative user experiences.