UX Academy Alumni Spotlight With Helena Rodemann Rios, Co-Founder of Moonai

While Helena was in UX Academy, she co-founded Moonai, a femtech startup that helps relieve, manage, and prevent menstrual pain.

Team Designlab
Team Designlab
May 25, 2021
Min Read

For Helena Rodemann Rios, making the switch to a career in UX design has been more of a gradual process rather than a definitive moment in time. She has always gravitated towards understanding how to make other people’s lives better—whether it be researching feminist theory in India, studying the first nation-wide study on street harassment in Spain, or founding equality commissions.

“My mission in life for over a decade now has been to make the world better for women, and I’ve learned that digital design and UX design is the way to achieve that at scale,” says Helena.

Before starting UX Academy (and until roughly mid-way through), Helena was working as a UX & Digital Engagement consultant for the social innovations tech lab of a large non-profit in the US. Her role touched upon different aspects of the digital product lifecycle—from user research, customer and product discovery, product strategy, and content strategy. She also worked on ideating, building, and testing MVPs that connected objectives to key metrics, as well as executing digital engagement and growth strategies.

“That period of my career was really pivotal. It was at this role that I really came to understand and practice user-centered design, specifically woman-centered design. I understood the importance of being problem-focused, developing deep user insight, being hypothesis-driven, and testing and validating assumptions constantly,” Helena says. 

This understanding—combined with a masters degree in violence against women, and over 10 years experience as a gender justice activist—shaped Helena’s overall design philosophy, which is rooted in feminist principles and processes.

Prior to UX Academy she also worked as a UX and content strategist within marketing and design agencies, with clients ranging from huge companies like HP and General Electric to smaller mom-and-pop stores, where she developed their UX writing and content strategy.

Her most recent path has taken her along product strategy and leadership. Since graduating from UX Academy she’s been consulting on UX and product strategy for other startups in Barcelona, with a focus on woman-centered and feminist UX.

Helena’s UX Academy Journey

Helena chose Designlab to advance her UX design skills “for many reasons! Mostly, I chose Designlab because of its mentorship offering and structure,” says Helena.

“When I work on developing a product, I’m fascinated by discerning who the people the product serves are, and I care deeply about whether the product improves their lives or not. I’ve constantly worked hard at honing my drive, clarity of thought, and tact when it comes to creating solutions that meet people where they are. 

When I signed up for UX Academy, I was looking for one-on-one guidance and support to help me improve upon these skills. I wanted access to unique, irreplaceable insight from someone with a different outlook to mine, who could push me in new ways and inspire me to explore new possibilities I hadn’t considered before,” says Helena.

“Without the support of my mentor and Group Crit sessions (shout out to Carmela and all my Group Crit peeps!) it would have been ten times more challenging. My mentor, specifically, constantly encouraged me to do better and set really high expectations, which was incredibly helpful.

My advice for anyone starting out or considering Designlab is to not go at it alone—make the most of the community that exists around the program. Not only because it’s harder and oftentimes demotivating, but because working in UX and digital design in the real world isn’t done alone nor in silos. It’s highly collaborative, so the more you can undertake that collaboration throughout your Designlab experience, the better prepared you’ll be for future roles,” Helena says.

Helena’s other advice for UX Academy students includes:

  • Find peers you can co-work with
  • Use the Slack community
  • Reach out to your Group Crit facilitators and ask questions
  • Trust the process

The Birth of Moonai

While Helena was in UX Academy, she co-founded Moonai, a femtech startup based in Barcelona that uses personalized sounds, pain-tracking insights, and cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques to help relieve, manage, and prevent menstrual pain.

Helena met her co-founder through a startup incubator program in Barcelona, where they went through an intense hackathon-style event. Her co-founder has a background and passion for business development and music tech, and as they got to know each other more closely they realized that they could combine their passions to innovate for social change.

Helena Rodemann-Rios 1

“On a more personal level, the two of us have been struggling with period pain for years. We know what it’s like to have pain that interferes with our life, and we know what it’s like to go to thedoctor and not be taken seriously. I think this understanding helps us empathize so much more with our users—we understand their pain, because we experience the same pain.

But we also both share a deep-seated truth: there is room for something better. We don’t have to ‘just put up’ with the pain. There is another way to experience menstrual cycles, and resources such as sounds can be powerful agents to witness that change,” says Helena.

Three key factors influence how they make product and design decisions at Moonai: user feedback, metrics, and intuition. Most of the design decisions are based on one of those three, perhaps more so on primary and secondary research—user, market, and competitive analysis. Decision-making also means developing user, data, and business knowledge, as well as developing deep industry knowledge.

Helena Rodemann-Rios 2

The most recent and exciting news at Moonai is that they’ve closed their first round of investment! 🎉

Currently the Moonai team consists of the two co-founders, Helena as Head of Product, and Laura as Head of Business & Operations. They also have an amazing team of UX designers (one of whom is a UX Academy student), an amazing team of advisors with neuroscientists, award-winning sound producers, marketing and communication directors, and women’s health experts.

Some of Moonai’s perks include a flexible schedule, an office a few minutes away from the Mediterranean sea, and beach volleyball on Fridays, just to name a few! They value and prioritize emotional and mental health above all else—so investing time and energy into things that help the team feel better is a must.

Helena lives by the mountains outside Barcelona, so she spends most of her free time hiking, meditating in nature and hanging out with her dog and husband by the river. She’s also a competitive swimmer, which means she trains with her team and coach practically every day.

Helena Rodemann-Rios 3

Specific to UX, Helena always tries to keep her mind and perception sharp by visiting museums, reading, writing, and talking about all things design. She reads up on current trends, debates and conversations, specifically with regards to inclusive and feminist design.

To hear more about Helena's journey through UX Academy and Moonai, watch our webinar together.

Connect with Helena on LinkedIn and check out her portfolio.

If you’re hoping to advance your UX design skills and grow your career like Helena, we encourage you to check out our UX Academy program.

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Launch a career in ux design with our top-rated program

Top Designers Use Data.

Gain confidence using product data to design better, justify design decisions, and win stakeholders. 6-week course for experienced UX designers.