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