Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Interview Questions - Getting to Know Me

Interview questions for Desarae
I’d like to start off, by thanking you for taking the time to put this together. I was thrilled to have a fellow HCI student reach out to me online, but your genuine interest in our friendship and learning experience is refreshing. You are a wonderful person, Holly, and I’m glad to be getting to know you. I’m sure a decade from now we will look back on this interview with fun smiles.
  • Question: What is your learning toolkit? What kinds of tools / devices / apps / services do you use and for what purposes?

    • Personal, social
    • Professional, work
    • Fun, play


My learning tool kit is definitely different than my designers’ toolkit. I’ll discuss both so that you can enjoy some of my favorite tools, but I hope you also send me a list of your favorites. If I am not answering any of the following questions as expected, please feel free to follow up.

I used to be an iPhone user (until recently) and have A LOT more tools I could share there, if interested, but if I remember correctly- you are an Android user.


  • I love using Facebook to connect. It is probably one of my favorite applications. I use it to the fullest extent I know how. I am in many groups, admin many groups, and meet new and interesting people regularly. I like the HCI groups and swap pages especially. I also manage multiple local and national business pages for learning, design, non-profit, and business purposes.
  • Audible is in both my designer and learning toolkit. I probably self-fund a whole Audible team.
  • I have a few photo apps including Amazon photos, Google, and a Photo Vault.
  • Duolingo is my application of choice for language learning. I have a few others, but it is the best in my opinion. I am trying to learn multiple languages and it helps with most of them. Plus it is free. I’ve also written a couple of papers on it.
  • YouTube is another favorite and maybe these aren’t useful out of the box suggestions, since they are well known, but the way I use them is just as important. I manage my own YouTube Channel and am a YouTube Partner (meaning I have enough viewers and subscribers to make money and be offered sponsorships). Most of my videos are educational and tend to revolve around questions my friends and family ask me about technology. My youtube channel is I also follow multiple educational sources including Harvard, Carnegie Mellon (CMU), and a few tech casters. I also enjoy makeup tutorials, crafting, books, and silly life vlogs. You can find who I subscribe to on my channel.
  • I know I’ve already shared some of my Google Drive folders with you. Every semester I create a folder for each class, club, and volunteer work I’m doing. I also have freelance work organized on there, tutorials I’ve created for other people, and special folders for individuals I’ve been mentoring. At some point, you should take the time and sift through some of the training tutorials.
  • I enjoy the stock markets and foreign exchange (forex), as a pass-time hobby. I have a few apps I like for that. I also really like Cash.Me for paying people and getting paid or Google Wallet.
  • Amazon is a great resource for books, selling things, reading reviews and shopping without going anywhere.
  • Naked Wines… for nights when you just need USA made yummy wine, because you walked into a wall that morning and the pressures of adulting are hard. If you like wine, I’ll send you a code that will get you $100 free.
  • Etsy because I like arts and crafts. I love homemade or hand made items. So, I’ve frequently hired strangers to make me things, like a couple years ago someone made me a Katniss Everdeen cowl. It is gorgeous.
  • Kickstarter and Ted Talks for discovering things.
  • I love phone doodle apps. I draw a lot and it’s nice to have that on the go.
  • I have an extensive collection. It spans from design stuff to gadgets, pets, miniature animals, interior design, baby stuff, wedding stuff, clothing, fashion design, crafts, hair, and just about anything else I am interested in.
  • SoundAbout for fixing Samsung’s audio issues.
  • The Tizen website for learning about Samsung S2’s SDK. I want to make an app for my watch.
  • Google books is like my very own free library on the go. I also like doing academic paper searches -
  • - was required for an evaluation class. I haven’t used it a lot since, but it is an interesting way to discover academic writing. A lot like the academic version of Pinterest for papers and collaboration.
  • GTODs for tracking grant work and RFPs.

UX - User Experience

  • Indifferent: Proctor, PlanOut, Optimizely
  • Google Optimizer, Google Analytics, and Google Webmaster tools are great free resources.
  • I’m starting to learn more about R for Data Science
  • CrazyEgg
  • Turk
  • Mockingbird - free wire framing tool.

UI - User Interface

  • Eclipse - because I have to
  • GIT - even though they have strict rules
  • Code.pen great for learning and discovering exciting and ground breaking code ideas
  • Prepros for pre-processing
  • Coda for Mac
  • Photoshop - I hate gimp, it is not a valid replacement. I know we’ve never talked about that so that strong sentence is a little out of the blue, but I feel very strongly about that.
  • Visio
  • Not a Fan of: Axure and iRise (unnecessary and expensive). IE - just because. Drupal and Joomla as CMS. Sharepoint feels clunky and the navigation gives me heartburn. Outlook and Zimbra.
  • VPN - Citrix, RSA, Cisco - I’m indifferent but you asked about this
  • I used to be a big fan of Wordpress but I got sick of dealing with all of the security vulnerabilities. It is a content management system built on PHP (CMS).
  • I love Blogger. I have never, so far, had issues with security or malware. Great platform for content management (CMS) and blogging. I build most small sites on it now and love Google Domains.
  • Magento is a good ecommerce CMS.


  • is a go to for finding likeminded folks. I’m also a big fan of AIGA, MIMA, AdFed, AMA, Ignite, and Social Media Breakfast. I’ve been to a lot of conferences but one I’ve always wanted to attend is Google’s. Okay, two I also want to go to a Ted.
  • Slack - recent discovery and just started using it to stay in touch with various UX groups.

Offline Tools

  • I really like the A5 multi notebook. It is a small notebook with pockets, graphing pages, pages for storyboarding, and grids. Actually, I just love notebooks in general and good writing tools. The tools make all the difference and as an artist I have a large list for that too.


  • Wave is okay for accessibility testing, I dislike it but it doesn’t have a lot of competition.
  • Level AA
  • Web Aim
  • W3C Web Standards
  • Question: What percentage of your day do you spend on what devices, apps and services?


My day is rarely the same. I probably spend too much time trying to check email. It often feels like a waste of the day. I check my calendar frequently. I spend a lot of time on the phone at work but rarely for personal stuff. I check Facebook a lot. I use Google Docs for personal and business stuff. Depending on the progression of a project my work tools may vary.
  • Question: What is your most valuable tech and why?


I could probably make due in life without anything, but as far as work goes I need a computer with a good processor and graphics card. After that my job would be hard without internet, Adobe Suite, and Google Drive or Microsoft Office. If I didn’t have a dad I love talking to, who lives too far away, I probably wouldn’t need a phone. Then I would need a GPS, but I could do without most things. I would however, miss my audio books. They make my day go by when things are slow, dull, or just meh.
  • Question: What is the single most significant interface design issue you see today? Why is it a problem?


People don’t do any form of user testing. Accessibility is completely ignored. Basically the interface is often built with a few strong suggestions from a client, designed based off whatever is considered the thing to do in the moment, and the end-user remains an after-thought. There is a strong disconnect between backend development, user experience or the usability and psychology of the design, the planning processes, program management, and the creative team(s). Sometimes marketing leads the effort and just hires an over-priced shop with good branding but no clue about web standards, the user, new tech coming out, or how to build an overarching strategy.

On the other hand, a lot of designers, like me, sometimes fail at describing our role in a way that is palatable to management or really encompasses why we are important in the process, how our job affects the bottom line, and how a UX resource can and will improve things for the user, sales, engagement, and understanding pit falls/bottle necks early.

Accessibility is it’s own rant. But again, under pressure, a lot of designers are just really articulate geeks. Many of us still get a little flustered when asked questions out of context or without notice. I do my best, but know there have been many times when I have failed to describe the complex process, planning, or thought that goes into a design. It’s simple-ish in practice, if you see it happening I think what I do is fairly simple, but when described I know people’s eyes sometimes gloss over. I also have the problem of wanting to explain things at the 10 foot level vs. the 500 foot level and most people just want to roughly know how things work.

When I’m doing the work, to prevent overloading teams, I tend to break down the work into manageable chunks. 2-5 tasks that I can easily explain. I may completely ignore describing the overarching strategy or the why - because, in my experience, people usually either don’t care or just get more confused.

On the other hand, senior management wants to know what the high level strategy is- and in a little more detail than I will build you a website and test it. This is where I struggle. I often try to simply describe examples within the larger chunks of steps, but in truth, so far, this has not always been the best method for me. I end up describing too much detail and eyes bulge thinking tasks are more time consuming than they are or complex. They are not, but I think I just need to work on my presentation. I think all designers need to work on how we describe these tools, practices, and methodology to fellow staff and senior management. Without a team to collaborate, we are stuck in the water.
  • Question: What are some of your research interests?


Good question, I’ve thought a lot about my academic research interests a lot lately as I try to pick a major professor and topic. I guess every semester I have to pick smaller research subjects for various classes.
Outside of graduate school, this is slightly easier. I have lots of interests.

I’m interested in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, usability testing, predictive analytics, data science, validation, accessibility, user interface design, crafts, smart home technology, natural energy, business development, grant writing, yoga, ballet, barre, adventure racing, extreme sports, linguistics, French, sign language, marine biology, aviation technology, flight, wearable technology, biometrics, fine art… and a few other things.

In school, I think I’m most interested in getting an MBA, a data science certificate, a PhD in HCI.. and specifically studying… I’m not sure. I know roughly where I’d like to be, but that too could change.

A couple years ago, I found a few positions I thought looked interesting. One involved traveling to various countries and staying in embassies. Meeting with advisors and basically being a program manager to build the foundations of educational STEM, help the country evaluate where it is at.

I also found multiple positions leading research at research institutes or think tanks. Both situations would be similar but the money would come from different places. One such role involved leading 3,000 scientists (those zeros are correct). Determining where the future of tech would be and then trying to build it. Basically Q from 007, only real and slightly cooler. I applied for that role, even though I might not be ready, but I wanted to try.
  • Question: How do you like to learn? How does learning fit into your daily life?


Learning is a big part of my daily life. I read a lot. I probably go through approximately 5-30 books a month. I also write a blog about book reviews and am frequently sent free ones.

I’m a terrible test taker. I get test anxiety in a big way. I could know all the right answers and still fail. Ask me the same questions and it’s all of a sudden fine. I can’t explain it, but I know it’s true after years of schooling. I hate exams and do not feel they are an accurate measure of my abilities, knowledge, or education. I feel the same way about white boarding in an interview, it is unrealistic - under what ridiculous circumstance would I be expected to hand code without a computer? To what end?

Math without a calculator or computer is another sore subject for me. My dad and brother are math geniuses. I’ve frequently told my father, for over a decade, I can not imagine needing to do complex math in my head. If I am on a deserted island, I will have bigger problems and I will solve them. I know math is useful and even in those situations math could be used to calculate the stars alignment, wave interactions, wind, build things.. But honestly I would need to know a lot more information to do that anyway. Believe it or not, my creative brain can solve a lot of math-type problems using art, graphs, lines, and eye-balling stuff.

I am the kind of person who will remember your face, but forget a name. I try to always introduce myself and repeat names frequently for that reason.

I’m also pretty terrible at dates, what I ate yesterday, and details other people would memorize but I could draw or describe a room I’ve been in with a lot of detail. I could tell you, often but not always, what the license plate of the car in front and behind me are. I often know the number of people (roughly in a room), the number of seats to get to an exit on an airplane, and the hex color code for colors I use frequently or like. Oddly enough, I always have to look up my favorite color of blue. It’s a deep ocean teal often found in flowers. I also love the colors hot pink and silver but not together. In design I prefer black, gray, and a pop of blue.  Rgb (12,167,204)

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Senior UI/UX web designer at a large-scale IT contractor for defense, intelligence, and civilian government solutions. Adventurist and certified Yoga / Barre Instructor. Love aviation, books, and travel.Prefer long light hearted series in mystery, comedy, fantasy, and romance.

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