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.
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.
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.