Monday 8th April 2019
We caught up with Vee to find out a little bit more about her role as a user experience designer at OpenAthens, what she gets up to in her spare time and where she believes the industry might be heading…
Tell us a little about your role at OpenAthens
I am a user experience designer and a member of the product team. I work with the team to design the products and the experiences for customers interacting with OpenAthens’ services and expertise. I work across the business, not only with the development team but also with the support, technical solutions and marketing teams to try and understand what they can do to improve the experience for the information management communities.
What do you enjoy most about it?
User–centricity is a powerful problem–solving tool because, when designing around human needs and requirements, the results deliver delight which is what we aim for. Software, in particular, because of the way it’s designed and developed, can become removed from the people it’s designed for. The nature of it sometimes means there is very little consideration about the human experience with all the focus on the technology, the code and the features. For us, it’s so important to place our communities at the heart of the products and services we design and build. In this job I am able to do exactly that.
What do you like to do on your days off?
I am a proper geek, I love my technology and design, so I read and listen to podcasts about design in general, human behaviour and human-machine interaction. I have a sausage dog called Elvis and he is a constant source of enjoyment and entertainment. I like to travel and I ski. I have been skiing since I was little. I grew up in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, where the mountains are on the outskirts of the city. Now I love going skiing in Austria.
What’s your proudest achievement?
I had a previous career as a marketer for 12 years and one of the things I am really proud of is being able to reinvent myself as a UX designer from scratch. I was quite comfortable where I was but I thought, right, no, it’s not for me anymore so I challenged myself and accomplished what I wanted and I’m absolutely over the moon that I did.
What’s the best piece advice you’ve been given or could give?
One of the people that has really helped me move forward is my mum. She’d say, when I’m not feeling so confident in myself, ‘Oh Vee, just go out and give it a go. Don’t give yourself a poor mark, give people the chance to assess how good or bad you are.” What she means is that sometimes we can be our worst critics but that must not hold us back from doing the things that are important to us. Being brave and just doing it is not always easy but it’s worth it. The benefits of challenging and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone are huge.
Who inspires you?
Professionally, I look up to successful designers like Katie Dill who was VP of design for Airbnb. Katie is responsible for the most recent reincarnation of Airbnb from accommodation booking platform to the travel concierge that it is today. She now works for Lyft and I can’t wait to see the new experiences Katie and her team will design.
Other high achieving women that inspire me are Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo’s former CEO, Amal Clooney, international human rights lawyer, and Serena Williams, the most successful tennis player of all time.
What do you think the future of the industry looks like?
Tech is a really exciting space to be in at the moment and the future looks even brighter and more exciting. Today, the only thing limiting technology is our imaginations and that’s why it’s so important to design and build things that benefit not only the individual but also the community. It’s time we started to think seriously about how we can use tech for good. It’s time for the industry to step up and fulfil the potential it has to solve some of the biggest challenges out there. Using technology to improve healthcare, tackle global warming or reinvent politics is what the industry should do next.
From an information management perspective, the applications of artificial intelligence (AI) like text and image recognition and the use of machine learning to analyse the links between various data sets have the potential to change the traditional ways of working. The industry is extremely convoluted and complex with many different levels of interest and the exchange of large sums of money. In my view, the industry is really ripe for disruption which will challenge the current industry models. It’s likely to challenge the weakest part of the chain and that’s the libraries.
Librarians have been looking at the future of their role for the past 10 years with little change to the traditional model. They now need to take a long look at their purpose and goals and reinvent themselves or they risk becoming obsolete. Forcing libraries to think afresh about the value they bring to society can be a positive thing.
With data and information being fired at us from all corners, businesses and government compete for our attention and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to properly research things to check if the information we receive is legitimate or trustworthy. Curating and providing access to high–quality information has long been the main focus for libraries. However, that role has been challenged by the various content platforms and social media. This calls for a drastic reassessment of the role of the library and I would rather see the library becoming less about information and more about people than be in a world with no libraries.
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