What was your educational and professional background before coming to SILS?
I had earned a BA a few years prior, and was relatively under-employed, working in paraprofessional jobs that were fairly rote and were not especially intellectually challenging. However, I spent much of my free time volunteering for a health care organization that provided free care to uninsured patients in Chicago, and found myself taking charge of their information services -- helping to organize medical records, provide reference services to the health care providers and patients, and so forth. This gave me the bug for providing information-management services to people.
How has your career progressed since you graduated SILS?
When I entered SILS, I had fully expected to join the ranks of academic librarians after graduation, but instead, I found my calling in UX while at SILS. After graduation, I spent several years as a project manager (which actually meant that I spent a lot of time doing information architecture and interaction-design work!) at a web development company. Since then, I have moved on to a role as a UX researcher at Nielsen Norman Group.
In your current employment, what are your job duties and responsibilities?
My job has two main types of responsibility: UX research and dissemination of my research findings via written articles and conference seminars about UX. The UX research part includes usability testing, eye-tracking studies, field studies, card sorts, longitudinal methods like diary studies, and creating survey instruments. Once I do the initial studies, then I get to do analysis of the data (both qualitative and quantitative) that emerges from those methods.
The conference speaking part of my job is a lot of fun -- I travel the world teaching evidence-based guidelines about how to build better digital products to designers and developers. I also administer our company's assessment system for certifications we offer to attendees of our seminars; I help my colleagues write fair but challenging standardized exams for their courses, and keep the system humming along.
What projects have gotten you most excited and/or what accomplishments have made you the proudest?
In the past year alone, I've been fortunate enough to have facilitated eye-tracking research, written and published a book-length report on B2B usability guidelines, and traveled to four continents to do UX research and share my findings with professionals in my discipline. The huge variety of work, coupled with the level of intellectual rigor and responsibility that I face every day is hugely exciting; I'm also very, very lucky to be able to work every day with incredible, accomplished experts in my field.
What were some of your best experiences at SILS??
I really appreciated the opportunities to get real-world experience at SILS, especially my time as one of the EPA library interns (I worked in the sister organization, NIEHS). I also really loved the huge variety of courses available to us -- from traditional library skills like cataloging to human computer interaction theory. I also still have some great, life-long friends that I met at SILS.
How did your time at SILS prepare you for the future?
SILS coursework gave me a great foundation of theory needed to think in an informed and critical way about how humans and information systems interact, and coupled that with useful professional skills via the many field study and intern opportunities.
Is there any other information you would like to share, or any advice you would like to offer current or future SILS students?
No matter which degree track you're in at SILS (Library Science or Information Science), be sure to take as many classes from the other track as you can -- these disciplines are even more highly interrelated than you think.