Q&A: What exactly do you do as a user experience specialist?

On Elsevier’s Clinical Solutions team, Meghan Kelly works on the UX design for nursing education products

Meghan Kelly at WITS
User Experience Specialist Meghan Kelly sits with her Elsevier colleagues during a keynote presentation at the Women in Technology Summit in Philadelphia. To her left is Beth Dickerson, a software engineer based in Philadelphia, and Dr. Helena Deus, Director of Disruptive Technologies, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photo by Alison Bert)

As a User Experience Specialist for Elsevier’s Clinical Solutions team in Philadelphia, Meghan Kelly helps design new products for nursing education. Here, she talks about what her work entails.

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Tell us more about what you do as a UX specialist, starting with how you work with users.

As a UX specialist, my goal is to understand users and especially their needs and challenges, so I do a lot of interviews. Once I have an understanding of the user, I’ll create designs and test them, once again communicating with the user to make sure that the design makes sense to them and addresses their particular challenges. I’m also a part of a new product discovery squad, so I do a lot of facilitating conversations around ideas, designs and user needs with my teammates. There are lots of other smaller things I do, but those are the most important parts.

What training did you do to prepare for this position?

I had an unusual path to becoming a UX Designer: before this, I worked in K-12 and higher education. When I decided I wanted to become a UX Designer, I started attending local events and classes, creating a portfolio of projects, and learning from those who were already in the field. Once I arrived at Elsevier, I had more specific training from my manager about how our team uses Lean UX to tackle projects.

What convinced you to work at Elsevier?

As a new UX designer, the most important thing to me was to work in a supportive environment that allowed me to learn a lot. When I came in for my interview, I could tell that the people I’d be working with – especially my manager – would be understanding about me being new to UX and just great people in general. I also really loved that I’d be able to work on products that helped people, particularly because I was transitioning from a career working in schools and nonprofits.

In general, what options do UX specialists have for advancement? And what do you think your next career step will be?

UX has a whole career track at Elsevier. It goes from UX Specialist I to II and III, then Senior UX Designer, then UX Lead. Many people in the UX field have a specialty like information architecture or user research – I haven’t picked a focus just yet. For now, I really enjoying working on my particular project, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to be at Elsevier and learn from the growing Clinical Solutions UX team.

Does being a woman make a difference in terms of the work you are doing? Does it give you a unique perspective?

In my particular role, I do think that being a woman helps me relate more to the people that I interview, since about 90 percent of them are women. I think it’s possible that some women also feel more comfortable speaking to another woman, so I may get different insights than a male designer. In terms of perspective, I’m sure I see things differently than a male designer might, but I think a lot of that could be more from my background working in education, administration and event planning rather than my gender.

In the US, women hold about 25 percent of positions in computing occupations. Why do you think is the main reason men still outnumber women?

I think that sometimes technology is unconsciously perceived as something that is not “for women.” For me, I had never considered it as a career because I had no idea what it all entailed and I assumed it wouldn’t be interesting or allow me to be creative. More girls and women need to have the opportunity to learn about different types of careers in technology and to be able to see and speak to others in those careers.

It is going to take awhile for the ratio of women and men in computing positions to even out through a change in culture that would encourage more women to pursue technology-related degrees. If companies want to change their ratios sooner, they need to make a conscious, visible effort to create work environments that support women, as well as be willing to train women who are just starting out in their careers.

“We’re seeking tech talent!”

Meghan Kelly and her colleague Beth Dickerson were at Elsevier’s table at the Women in Tech Summit in Philadelphia. Their experience inspired this impromptu video.

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Written by

Alison Bert, DMA

Written by

Alison Bert, DMA

As Executive Editor of Strategic Communications at Elsevier, Dr. Alison Bert works with contributors around the world to publish daily stories for the global science and health communities. Previously, she was Editor-in-Chief of Elsevier Connect, which won the 2016 North American Excellence Award for Science & Education.

Alison joined Elsevier in 2007 from the world of journalism, where she was a business reporter and blogger for The Journal News, a Gannett daily newspaper in New York. In the previous century, she was a classical guitarist on the music faculty of Syracuse University. She received a doctorate in music from the University of Arizona, was Fulbright scholar in Spain, and studied in a master class with Andrés Segovia.


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