My UX Journey, Vol 01: Meet Cinthya Mohr

In this series, our Hexagon chapter leads discuss what led them to work in user experience, and which experiences have been the most instrumental to their careers. For Hexagon’s New York chapter lead Cinthya Mohr, resisting the urge of designing in a vacuum has been an integral career lesson.

Interview by Laura Palotie. March 2, 2018.

New York-based Cinthya Mohr, UX Manager for Daydream at Google, has become an expert at leading shared design efforts spanning different teams. She says the most rewarding part of joining Hexagon has been meeting so many other UX women passionate about their growth.

Q: How did you get started in the User Experience space?
After studying graphic design in Lima, Peru, I spent a year in Madrid, Spain studying brand identity. When I returned to Peru in the late 1990s, I worked on print design for a couple of years. Then the internet blew up, so I transitioned to web design — and realized I needed to learn more in order to design for this new medium.

I started looking online for programs and found a master’s degree program on “human-centered design.” I didn’t know what it meant, but it sounded interesting, and I decided to go for it. The program taught me how to design with a user-focused approach. At that time UX wasn’t really called “user experience” as we know it. It’s been amazing to see this field evolve over the past 15 years.

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Q: How would you describe the UX community in your area?
The New York community is amazing. Over my nine years of living here I’ve really witnessed its growth. Finance, publishing, fashion, media and other industries are seeking UX professionals, creating more demand and growing our community with new talent. Before joining Google I worked at Microsoft and taught at the School of Visual Arts; the latter allowed me to meet both younger generations, hungry to learn more, and seasoned professionals looking to innovate. Through Hexagon, I’ve also connected with professionals who want to learn more about getting into the UX space.

Q: What’s a typical day for you?
I manage UX teams working on different applications and efforts for virtual and augmented realities, so I spend a good chunk of my time in meetings with cross-functional teams. I help form strategy and roadmaps, connect different efforts, and unblock things when necessary. I also meet individually with my team members, listening and offering guidance on their projects.

Outside of meetings I focus on wider efforts for our organization, mainly on diversity and inclusion. I’m planning a women’s summit for our group, looking at ways to do more conscious hiring and retaining of talent, and meeting with potential new candidates.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten about working in UX?
A great one has been the importance of empathy. We not only have to show it when we think about our users and their needs, but also when we collaborate with different team members, and when we seek to understand different perspectives and opinions.

The second one has been to remember that the designs you’re working on are not yours; nor are they pieces of art. You’re part of a team aiming to create an excellent product or service, so it’s important to leverage one another’s strengths. The concept of disappearing into a figurative cave and coming up with the best design solution alone doesn’t really work.

Q: What’s something you wish you had been told when you started your career?
Seek advice, often. Don’t be afraid of asking questions, of requesting advice and getting support. Having a team, mentors and sponsors makes a big difference as you grow.

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Q: What was the most valuable or enlightening mistake you ever made?
I’ve made many mistakes throughout my career. The one I learned the most from was attempting to design everything on my own. It simply didn’t work; I was missing a lot of information that was critical to making the solution viable.

It’s a much better idea to share your designs or sketches early on with a core group of people with different perspectives (Product Management, Business, Engineering, Research, etc.) and get their feedback. You should work through it together, brainstorm ideas, and iterate on them as a team. This is a much more inclusive and effective approach to design.

Q: What gives you professional inspiration?
At this point in my career, I’m inspired by the amazing talent we have growing in the industry. I’m energized by people’s enthusiasm, their hunger to learn, and their drive to make things that bring value to people’s lives.

You can read more from Cinthya Mohr at @cin.mohr. Special thanks to Laura Palotie, Fiona Yeung, and Cinthya Mohr.

Know Your Worth: Knowing it and How to Show it

written By Julia Meriel, mar 6, 2018

Hexagon UX Toronto’s inaugural event offered tips on negotiation, self-advocacy and more by a panel of leaders.

On February 28, the Hexagon UX Toronto chapter hosted its first event, Know Your Worth, at the headquarters of Wealthsimple.

With students, full-timers, freelancers and contractors filling the seats, the event featured a panel of badass female industry leads, digging into topics including salary negotiation, and knowing the right time to make a move.

 Photo by  Maggie Chan .

Photo by Maggie Chan.

On Preparing for Performance Reviews

Nat Cooper, Product Designer at Prodigy Game and Farwa Kazmi, Founder and head of Product Design at Explorux, both swear by using lists to track achievements, wins, and losses. Lists can keep you motivated and accountable, preventing you from walking out of a performance review without having negotiated anything.

In addition, going into a manager’s review with a list of your achievements helps root the conversation in the reasons why you deserve what you are asking for.

Leen Li, CFO of Wealthsimple, added that you should be prepared to set personal expectations for the next three to six months. This allows you to grow, meet, and exceed these expectations.

Pro tip: don’t forget about growing your soft skills alongside your technical skills.

 “Impostor syndrome is overused…You actually have to have achieved something to have impostor syndrome,” said  Christina Truong .

“Impostor syndrome is overused…You actually have to have achieved something to have impostor syndrome,” said Christina Truong.

On Negotiating

For a higher salary: 
Christina Truong, an independent developer and tech educator, acknowledged that people don’t like to talk about how much money they make. To get around this challenge, she advised talking about money to people you trust, and gathering data that way.

Consider Googling salary ranges for type and level of work you do (i.e. junior, mid-level, senior designer) in your location — this way you will have a baseline level of comparison. Learn from other people’s experiences, think outside the box, and put it to practice (read one success story).

When it’s time for a conversation with your manager, give them a heads up so they have time to prepare. Then own your accomplishments and confidently say, “This is why I think I’m worthy of a raise, this is my value.”

It’s not aggressive to ask for what you want. It’s confident.

Everything is negotiable, as long as you can demonstrate business impact. Translate your asks into solid metrics on how a raise will benefit your products, and the company.

On negotiating rates as a freelancer:
Reframe your thinking; don’t look at negotiation as an end-sum game of gaining something while the other party loses something. You may be paid for your time, but the employer’s time is also valuable.

“Say you set a price of $60,000 for your work, and you get it done for the client in a week. This is efficient and can result in high quality work. But let’s say, you set the price of $10,000— this could take six revisions, three months, and more headaches than you need. In this scenario, you lose time, when you could have been one and done with the client,” Truong said.

Pro tip: Save money. This gives you the power and breathing room to say no to clients that are not willing to meet your asking price.

On Making a Move

Nat Cooper said that her decision of whether or not to change roles is based on how happy she feels.

“If I look forward to going to work every day, it’s a place I want to stay. If you had a rock for each day of the year, and you arranged them into piles of happy rocks and sad rocks, what would your distribution look like? Is your happy pile bigger than your sad pile?” she noted.

Farwa Kazmi added that definitions of happiness and success are individual. Her strategy is to reflect on questions such as:

  1. Am I learning every day?
  2. Am I growing?
  3. Am I valued as a member of the team?

Leen Li advised professionals to look at their long-term career goals and take the route that will help them reach these goals quickly. She once took a 50% pay cut, but doing so put her on a faster track towards her personal goals.

At the beginning of your career, make sure you have a company that helps you grow the most in the first five years. Be really careful with the companies you choose.

Breakout Sessions

Following the panel, Know Your Worth continued with three breakout sessions led by Melissa NightingaleAvery Swartz and Lindsie Canton.

Nightingale shared negotiation strategies:

  • “Go into negotiations like it’s a samba💃, not a combat…You still have to work with the person you’re doing the negotiation with, so don’t go in there swinging.”
  • “Use sentences like ‘I believe that I’m out of step with _____,’ and fill in the blank with ‘market rates,’ ‘salary bands,’ or ‘my peers in the organization’.”
  • “Understand three things: what you want, what the market looks like, and what your company and its culture can offer.”
  Pro tip: You can get Venture Capitalists to give you anonymized salary data, including data on job titles and years of experience. Information is power.  Photo by  Maggie Chan .

Pro tip: You can get Venture Capitalists to give you anonymized salary data, including data on job titles and years of experience. Information is power. Photo by Maggie Chan.

Swartz focused on setting prices as a freelancer:

  • “Hourly rates are a joke. You’re penalizing yourself for being good because it will take you less and less time to do things with experience.”
  • “A contractor’s wage isn’t comparable to a salaried employee. There’s tons of perks independently covered when freelancing: vacation, sick days, rent, and professional development, to name a few.”
  • “If you don’t rise and go after the bigger, scarier gigs, then those gigs are going to someone else. Your playing small isn’t doing any favors to anyone. Go at your own pace.”

Canton addressed self-promotion and knowing your worth:

  • “When showcasing your work online, show how you get from A to B and how you solve problems by talking through your process.”
  • “Sell yourself by having an elevator pitch ready to share: who you arewhat you dowhat’s unique about you, and what your objective is.”
  • “Know your worth in monetary value by doing your research. But most importantly, stand up for yourself, be able to walk away from toxic situations and ask for what you need.”
 Lindsie Canton shared tips on online presence, and encouraged attendees to create and share their own elevator pitches on the spot. Photo by  Shiera Aryev .

Lindsie Canton shared tips on online presence, and encouraged attendees to create and share their own elevator pitches on the spot. Photo by Shiera Aryev.

Take Action

Think about your goals, but more importantly take action. It’s time we know our worth, and show it. 🙌

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Many thanks to Laura Palotie and Fiona Yeung for edits. A big thank you to all our volunteers, sponsors and chapter leads, Shiera AryevAndréa Crofts, and Jennifer Zhang, for putting on an awesome event! Without them this event would not have been possible.

Sponsors: WealthsimpleTWGAda SupportRangle.io and MakeLemonade. Psst.. all of them are hiring!

Hexagon UX is a community built to empower women and non-binary folks, level the playing field, and encourage them to be the best versions of themselves. Join us on Slack, where we will be continuing the conversation.