Alumni spotlight: Maureen Hanratty
Maureen Hanratty, MSI ‘09
User Experience Designer, Mozilla
San Francisco, California
Adding experience while at UMSI
Like many students, Maureen participated in one of UMSI’s student organizations. She not only gained valuable knowledge and skills outside of the classroom, but she also formed connections with other professionals in the field.
“As a student, I was a board member of SOCHI (the Student Organization for Computer-Human Interaction) planning design jams and other events for students in the HCI specialization," she says. "I learned how to effectively organize events and lead people, skills I used in coordinating the User Experience Book Club for San Francisco. I also became connected to people and organizations outside of UMSI, such as Mozilla, which have helped me build a network in the wider user experience community.”
Building her portfolio at UMSI
Most employers are interested in hiring students who excel both in and outside the classroom. During her time at UMSI, Maureen worked on practical projects that improved her HCI knowledge and skills. When she interviewed for jobs after she graduated from UMSI, Maureen used those experiences to impress her employers.
“In honing my skills as a designer, the most valuable project I worked on as a student was a research project called ktalk," she explains. "It was a small online support community I designed and built for young adults with kidney disease. Leading an end-to-end project from research and design to building the live site on Drupal tested all the skills I had learned at UMSI. In interviews with employers it was extremely advantageous to be able to show a solo project for which I could take credit for all aspects of the design.”
Prior to working for Mozilla, Maureen was an interaction designer for Autodesk in
San Francisco, CA. She has also worked as an interaction designer at Yahoo! At Mozilla, she is a user experience designer for Firefox Marketplace.
“You’ve got to learn the skills of your trade, be it sketching, wireframing, or prototyping. It’s hard to get much experience with these on student projects, so you’re going to have to work hard outside of your courses to learn and polish these skills.”
Maureen also explains that interpersonal and communication skills are crucial in her line of work. “These skills are important for any job, of course, but as a designer it is particularly important as you will have to collaborate and negotiate with both business and engineering. If you cannot play nice with others and fail to effectively communicate your vision you will have a tough time. Designing is the easy part. The hard part is selling your vision and getting your design implemented.”