Profile Picture Peace Corps Picture Monster Drawing Picture

here there be monsters

As a young girl I was forever drawing monsters. My method was the same every time: I would start with the eyes, then the nose and mouth, before moving outwards to the rest of the face. I was obsessed with the intricate details of the monsters’ faces—discovering that the smallest difference in spacing or the size of a particular feature could have a drastic effect on the overall composition. My friends and family looked at my creations with disgust, but I loved the pure creativity of constructing something wholly new from a white sheet of paper.

a world away

As the years passed I drew less and less, the result of the increased demand on my time by my college classes and my own belief that drawing was not a part of any viable career choice. At 22 I found myself serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in a rural village in Benin. My task was to collaborate with local leaders and organizations to promote public health education in the area. The next two years were full of hard work, setbacks, and eventually a boys’ gender sensitivity camp and a women’s group of peer educators in public health. But what I discovered during this time was that I absolutely loved the early phases of each project—gathering information, conducting research, creating a plan to solve a specific problem. I cherished the surprises that came out of these stages, the ideas and perspectives that I hadn’t even considered. This was when I got to have real conversations with people about the problems they faced and the ideas they had for solving them, they were moments I treasured.

in the classroom

Back home in the States I was inspired by my time in the Peace Corps to become an educator. Five years in the classroom, four different subjects, and every single grade level later my love for people and creative problem solving has only deepened. Working with kids has taught me to think on my feet and to make sure the meaning of my words are crystal clear. Yet, while teaching has certainly been rewarding, I began to think wistfully of my carefree days drawing monsters. I yearned for a career that would combine my passion for people, research, and creativity. That’s when my software engineer husband said, “What about UX?”

a new journey

I had never heard of User Experience Design before that moment but the more I researched it the more interested I became. I read books, blogs, and took a brief MOOC course—I was hooked. Ready to start a new journey, I enrolled in Bloc’s UX Designer Apprenticeship program and have learned the fundamentals of design and frontend coding under the weekly mentorship of an experienced designer. During this program I tapped into the visual design instincts of a girl drawing monsters, the joy of discovery and research felt by a young woman navigating a new culture, and the flexibility and patience of a public school teacher. My past lives and experiences have shaped who I am today and continue to help me create human-centered designs grounded in strong research.

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