We chatted with Rana Mansour, learning how she started in UX, where she sees the industry heading and her advice for budding UX Designers. Take a read…
As part of our Meet the Team series, we chatted with our UX and research lead, Rana Mansour, to hear all about how her career has developed over the last decade.
She gave us insights on her journey to becoming a core member of our crew – including the most challenging project she ever took on (and totally aced).
Ever wondered about starting your own journey into UX and research? Then take a few minutes to read the thoughts of our very own experienced lead, here at Digital of Things.
Rana came to us in October 2022 to be our UX and research lead. Her passion for research, learning, and understanding makes her a hugely talented addition to the team.
With a background in Art, having achieved a BA in Media Design from the German University in Cairo, Rana went on to teach children from Grade nine onwards, full-time for a year.
Rana’s professor at the German University in Cairo was extremely interested in building interactive art installations using the Arduino platform and this piqued Rana’s own curiosity. In fact, she credits this as the time when her own passion for creating interactive installations began.
It was also whilst she was studying for her BA that Rana found she loved aspects of coding – and that developed into a real affection for discovering how people learned to interact with objects. After her BA she went on to study for her Master's degree in Interaction Design at the Domus Academy in Milan.
She describes a fascinating project she worked on here, which involved creating a maze of lights in a specially built Dark Room which users activated with torches to guide their way around.
Although she would’ve loved a full-time job working on these sorts of ideas, at that particular time it wasn’t to be. So after a great year studying interaction design in Italy she headed back to Dubai to consider her options and decide her next career move.
Down to the power of fate, Rana tells us that she was referred to an agency while reaching out to find a job in multiple places that dealt with UX designers. From this, she managed to get a three-day trial and actually stayed there for a further three months as an intern.
Those three months turned into six years of truly valuable job experience, where she ended up managing a small team of UX designers and researchers.
Now at Digital of Things, Rana’s new job is multi-faceted, to say the least, and she says she relishes the fact she’s got a lot of different roles to play.
Her main focus is to make sure that all the UX projects are heading in the right direction and are on time, coordinating with team members (and clients, of course) so everyone’s happy and that the quality of work delivered is first-rate.
She has got a real drive to ensure everyone she works with is thriving and motivated. Rana feels this is vitally important after having spent time in other jobs not learning or growing in ways she would’ve wanted. By leading her team, Rana encourages them to feel positive about what they’re doing and where they’re headed with their projects.
We put Rana on the spot about the biggest changes in the industry, and some of the challenges she’s faced during the last few years.
The one thing she’s becoming more heartened about in terms of change, is the fact that there’s a better understanding of the need for a greater level of research on UX projects – and that it takes time to do this properly.
Rana firmly believes that research is a critical part of the UX journey, and that in the long run, it actually helps projects stay on track and avoid a lot of rework. Over the last seven years, she has seen more people take this on board and feels that it’s changing her role for the better – especially in the overall client experience when they come to her for help and advice on projects.
Rana is thoughtful about this, as it involves a subject area (at the time) that she felt she knew little about: finance and developing a trading platform. But she points out: “I love a good challenge!”.
Taking it on meant Rana learned about an industry she had zero experience in, but it also qualifies her belief in the need to take time to research projects properly. Asking the right questions to the right people in order to get to the heart of the project was essential.
“I really spent a lot of time researching, understanding and asking people who trade. How do you trade – what happens?”
This enabled her to gain the knowledge to make the right decisions to design the correct solution and come up with a viable platform that traders would be happy to use.
We asked Rana what advice she’d give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in UX and research. She points out that although she has a background in art, that’s not essential to succeed in the industry. Rather, it's the desire to problem solve and be a forward thinker.
If you’re the sort of person that, when looking at a site, or app wonders how you could improve it, or make the user experience better then this might be the kind of role for you to consider.
Rana tells us that qualifications are good, but it’s also super important to get valuable work experience – like getting an internship, as she did. Learning while you work is a great way of gaining instant knowledge and skills – so is looking at case studies to see how UX designers have tackled similar issues in the past.
Ultimately in a role like this, where technology is evolving faster than ever, communication with your team is key.
“If there's someone that has any knowledge in the team, we communicate with one another to share it”. This is what keeps everyone as up-to-date as they can be in an ever-changing digital world.
Here here, Rana.
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