Equity Through UX Design

Community Impact scholarship winner, full-time certificate student Garima Sikdar designs true user experience

“I have always been empathetic with a curious mind, always striving to learn more,” says Garima Sikdar.

“My passion for design stems from the challenge of balancing conformity and creativity. The ability to bridge the gap between the technology and people by making the technology more human makes user-experience design a unique career path. It gives me the chance to do meaningful work that makes the world a better place.”

And Garima is doing that with every step of her graphic and user-experience (UX) design career.

Why UX Design

In the summer of 2016, while Garima was completing her master’s degree in retail design at National Institute of Design (NID) in Bangalore, India, she volunteered at Saksham Trust, a Delhi-based nonprofit that empowers people who have various disabilities. There, she got a feel for user experience in physical design.

“At Saksham, I developed adaptive furniture for infants with motor challenges and multiple disabilities,” she says. “The goal was to enhance the children’s experience of sitting on a chair and carrying out daily-life activities independently. We identified precise needs by interacting with the kids and observing use of a regular chair available to them. Eventually, we built low-tech adaptive chairs that were immediately put to use in preschools.

“Later on, I worked with a startup that was developing geometry tools for students who were blind. I led visual design, which was key in reaching out to parents, teachers and institutions across languages and cultures.”

These experiences reinforced Garima’s passion for UX design in accessibility products.

“It was an enriching experience to work with kids with special needs and to create something that helped make their daily lives a little better. I am proud to have created something that is actively solving a user’s everyday problem.”

Growing UX Design as a Career

The following year, Garima began a 6-month design internship at SAP Labs, India, where she supported different aspects of user-experience design for an analytics tool.

Garima also signed on as a freelance designer at Perkins School in India, working on a major public outreach project for children with multiple disabilities. She recently completed more than 70 unique illustrations and other visual content that the school will incorporate into its various print and digital media offerings.

“Visual design plays an important role in user-experience design goals,” Garima says of that experience. “It engages users by drawing their eyes to important sections, prioritizing tasks on a page and even increasing brand trust by using visual cues. The primary goal of product design is to make interfaces usable—the user’s eyes should be drawn to the correct piece of information. To make their work more effective and impactful, my visual design skills were used to enhance the overall experience for the user and make it easier to understand with the help of illustrations and graphic work.”

Garima gained additional industry experience as a product designer for Paytm Money, conceptualizing and developing web and mobile-app user experiences for the company’s FinTech product.

“After working as a full-time UX professional in a leading FinTech company in India, I felt there was a need to fill gaps in my design knowledge in order to gain expertise in the field,” she tells me.

“After searching through a variety of education and training opportunities, I eventually chose the UC Berkeley Global Full-Time Certificate in UX/UI Design for its rigor and flexibility. It also has provided me the opportunity to network with other professionals and leaders both in academia and industry. I am glad to be a part of the program and looking forward to being a leading professional in the future.”

Making the Best of a Remote User Experience

Despite completing most of the full-time UX-UI Design certificate online, Garima says that it was a great learning experience.

“The instructors come from the industry and bring in relevant experience and up-to-date knowledge. I see the instructors working hard to bring the in-class experience to the online world,” she commends.

“Initially, I feared how the online experience would be, especially because our coursework has significant group work and interaction with fellow students. However, things have been pretty smooth interacting and working with other students and the instructors.”

While the projects still require interpersonal and communication skills, activities such as interviewing potential users, prototyping physical or digital wireframes, and retesting these prototypes with the users are being done via Zoom or other digital tools.
 

“I am employing my education at UC Berkeley Global to not just go beyond my skill sets, but also to innovate beyond the state of the art.”

Garima looks forward to continuing to learn in the program. Even with her professional user-experience job roles, she found going back to the basics exciting at Berkeley Global.

“From the spring semester, Introduction to UX Design and Information Architecture (IA) and Content Strategy were the most exciting to me,” she recalls. “They helped me clarify my fundamentals in user-experience design.

“In the former, I learned the life cycle of a UX project from start to finish and all the aspects of user-experience design, including design principles, user research, wireframing, interaction design, prototyping and user testing.

“In the latter, I developed the skills to incorporate the right content in the information architecture of a product in order to bring out the most meaningful solution to the user. I found new tools and methods that helped me to test prototypes and conduct user research.

“These courses eventually helped me secure a summer internship at Propane. There, I conducted generative user research, and created content maps, wireframes, interactive prototypes and usability tests.”

Garima also recognizes the importance of having skills in HTML and CSS. “I am excited to take Web Design With HTML5 and CSS3. While coding is an essential skill for everyone, it is especially so for a designer. I want to understand and appreciate the process and challenge of executing designs. It helps me bring my own work to life and also be able to work more closely with developers.”

Merging Past and Present for the Future

Garima and her husband share a passion for a more equitable world for those with disabilities—and good design is key to making that happen.

Using their common belief that “good design, in its breadth from the fine arts to complex technologies, holds the promise of a better world for everyone,” they are working together on a smartphone-based technology project to enable math and science education for blind students.

Garima’s husband is developing the software; Garima is leading the UX/UI design for a touchscreen-based interface.

“I am employing my education at UC Berkeley Global to not just go beyond my skill sets, but also to innovate beyond the state of the art. The project is helping me hone my research and design skills and further what I am learning in the UX/UI full-time professional certificate.

“For example, courses such as User Research for UX and Design Thinking and UX Strategy helped me dive deep into evaluative and generative user research. I enrolled in User-Interface (UI) Design and Diagramming and Prototyping for UX for fall 2020 semester.”

Bettering Herself to Better Help Others

In addition to receiving a world-class education, Garima is also excited to have received one of our Community Impact scholarships.

“I am proud and exhilarated,” she enthuses.

“More than just helping me financially, it has also provided me great motivation. I realize the significance of the work I do as a designer and the impact it has on lives in big and small ways. It certainly is a matter of pride to be recognized by a prominent institution like Berkeley Global. With this scholarship, I look forward to attending each class with more eagerness and pursuing my career as a user-experience designer.”