UX Fika series was launched with the goal of bringing more voices into the conversation around UX. However today I will make a special exception.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day on March 8th, I wanted to feature a special talk with an inspiring young female not only to celebrate women’s achievements but also examine the barriers that still exist in gaining more equality, increasing diversity in the tech field and building more diverse products.
Dora impressed me not only because she has a very interesting UX background, but mostly because of how she combined design-thinking, entrepreneurship and passion into building something she really believes in. She has the vision to empower girls to become the women creating our future technologies and business or “build tools and a community to inspire, educate and funnel the future female tech workforce.
According to statistics, only one out of seven engineers are female and men are much more likely than women to have a STEM career regardless of educational attainment. So I guess there is a lot of work to be done in this area.
Let’s see how has Dora chosen to tackle this challenge!
How did you get into the world of UX and tech?
I have been always into science and math when I was at school. So my background was quite technical. However, I have always liked creating experiences and combine it with technology – that’s how I go into design and user experience field. After high school, I took off for some exciting global studies and majored in Neuroscience and Computer Science. Later life brought me to beautiful Stockholm where I have been studying Human-Computer Interaction at KTH university. That’s where the story of ImagiLabs has started as well…
What is ImagiLabs and how did it all start?
The ImagiLabs project has started during my studies. I did a research study for a competition. The topic that year was “leveling up playing field” – which meant finding a group that is currently somehow underrepresented and somehow empowering them through design. For me, that underrepresented group was women and specifically young women in technology. I knew that they have very few tools or platforms to learn to code from an early age and I have decided to address it!
“The society does not encourage girls to explore enough. There is also research that up till 12 years girls and boys are more or less equally interested in the technology, but afterward, the interest gets lower “
We have done a participatory design research study with teenage girls – analyzing the problem, brainstorming solutions and building prototypes together. After analyzing all the prototypes, we started seeing patterns: girls like to express their creativity, they want to share their creations, they spend quite a lot of time on phones – and that became the starting point for building hardware that is customizable through coding to spark the interest of teenage girls.
Did your UX background help in building a startup?
Starting a company coming from a UX background is a very big advantage – because you already have the mindset of the iterative process and customer centricity. I had it very clear in my mind: focus on the customer, listen to them. Don’t try to please everyone – build a product that makes sense for your target group.
It has become clear that acceptance, empathy, equality are important values… However, there is still a long way ahead of us. What is your opinion about the state of inclusiveness in tech?
Tech is the future. If women are not equal contributors to creating the technology of the future – we do not have equal chances to construct solutions and products. By bringing more equal contributions – where women get to shape it equally as men – we build a more inclusive society. Just look at the diversity of cultures nowadays – different people bring different perspectives. I hope it will become a no brainer in the near future.
Do you feel that women are well-represented in tech?
Overall I believe there is not enough diversity in the tech world. It is a fact it is very clear by looking at research studies. Just to give you an example, according to the Guardian, many scientists continue to rely on data from studies done on men only as if they apply to women. Specifically, Caucasian men aged in between 25 to 30, who weight 70kg. This is a “reference man” and his superpower is being able to represent humanity as a whole….
Another example from my personal experience was during one of my summer internships – all the meeting rooms had voice recognition. Whenever I tried using it, the system just wouldn’t recognize my voice, but always picked up on my male colleague voices. At first, of course, we thought this was funny but this also brought up a lot of conversation in the office addressing the question whether it might be because the training data used was from the employees, who were majority male.
In the end, it’s time to challenge your assumptions about what diversity is. Or perhaps – broaden our perspectives and personal definitions of diversity.
Can you name some women in UX you look up to and why?
A lot! I would just like to highlight that there are big role models I look up too but also people that are close by to me (I call them peer-models) – who make an equally big difference in believing that I am doing the right thing: my previous manager, my best friend, and co-founder of ImagiLabs. That is extremely motivating.
Some other people that Inspire me:
- Irene Au: for building high performing teams, establishing design practices, mentoring people and growing the next generation of great designers.
- Tracy Chou – a software engineer and a big advocate for diversity. She has led many initiatives at Pinterest, Quora, Google, and Facebook!
- Limor Fried – the founder of AdaFruits
And a few extra bits about Dora:
- The most frustrating and rewarding aspect of what you do is:
The most frustrating thing while working in a startup is prioritizing. You cannot do all the things at once and need to acknowledge your limits. Accepting it is not always easy.
The most rewarding thing is working on something you truly care about and building it with your best friend. She has been with me since the beginning of the journey – and it is truly rewarding to experience building our company together.
- If you had no limits (money, resources, time) what would you create?
This question really made me think and question myself, but I was so happy to realize that I would not change anything – most probably things would move much faster, but I would keep building ImagiLabs.
ABOUT UX FIKA
“UX Fika” is my concept of lightweight conversations with inspiring UX leaders over a cup of coffee (or two!)
For my international friends, FIKA is a Swedish concept, a state of mind, an attitude and an important part of Swedish culture. It means making time for friends and colleagues to share a cup of coffee (or tea). With no rush, full immersion and being present in the moment. That’s why I thought “UXFika” is a perfect name for meaningful conversation with UX leaders I look up to.