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Communicating the value of UX research and design

"Alumni Snapshot: Shannon Elkins. Bachelor of Science in Information, 2020. User experience specialist, Boeing. UMSI."

Friday, 12/01/2023

As a user experience specialist at Boeing, Shannon Elkins leads user-centered design processes to improve any and all software tools that the company’s engineers use to perform their jobs. These tools involve every phase of an aircraft’s life cycle, including production, development and maintenance. 

A 2020 Bachelor of Science in Information graduate, Elkins doesn’t come from an engineering background. But UMSI courses like SI 310: Information Environments and Work and SI 422: Needs Assessment and Usability Evaluation equipped her with the communication skills to be a great user experience designer in any field — and to relay her value to employers. 

Part of Elkins’ role involves translating the importance of her team’s work to Boeing leadership and stakeholders. 

“One of the biggest challenges is educating people about UX in a way that they can connect with,” she says. “I explain the UX process to them with concrete examples. I like to bring up examples from Don Norman's 'The Design Of Everyday Things.'” 

Something else that resonates with many? Lost dollars. 

“Something might not look like a big problem, but if it takes an engineer a minute to do a process that should take them no more than 30 seconds, and you’ve got 1,000 engineers here, they're all wasting 30 seconds. That transfers into a lot of dollars very quickly. Sharing the financial side connects with people pretty quickly, too.” 

Elkins’ advice: UMSI students and graduates seeking to break into UX professionally shouldn’t be shy about what they can bring to an organization.  

“You’re in a value-adding position,” she says. 

Elkins shares the UMSI experiences that helped her become an effective communicator and led her where she is today in her Alumni Snapshot.