I believe in starting a conversation with fellow professionals and learning from their experiences. Making their perspectives available to the whole community is one step forward in spreading the message about topics relevant to UX’ers, Designers, and curious people. That’s why I have started a project of #UXFika – lightweight conversations with inspiring people over a cup of coffee (or two!).
Helena is one of the most inspiring, powerful, and fun women in UX that I know. She is also known as the Queen of UX in Copenhagen – not claiming to be the best UX Designer, but working on raising UX industry standards, sharing the passion for UX, and empowering the community. She brings so much positive energy with her and always gives 110% of it when sharing it with other people. Having a classic design background, Helena combined it with startup life and has created CPHUX Community in Copenhagen. We had a great chat about building UX communities and why it is such an important job!
What led you to the field of UX?
When I was 15 years old I was working at a supermarket – filling all the baskets, making sure there were bags at the register. I remember we had an introduction about working in services and those early learnings stayed with me all my life. Service is when people leave the store getting more than they expect. I thought a lot about how I can exceed people’s expectations.
I was so frustrated in my early education years by not fitting in any disciplines until I discovered interaction design. I applied to the university two times and got rejected – so I made a complaint in a newspaper format stating I am qualified to study and got called for an interview. That’s how it all started and continued till today!
Where do you think your passion for UX comes from and stays as well?
I think it came from the fact that I worked so hard to discover what I want to do and find my niche. I was the only one in my class interested in interaction design, so it wasn’t a very popular choice. Plus, I tried to understand it very profoundly before starting to study it: what is an interaction, what is not an interaction.
I got my first UX job in Vancouver and it was a horrible first-time experience as a junior. I was super excited and passionate to get my first job, however, when I got there reality struck me. They were working in fintech and I had no idea about the finance business and monetary values. Nobody wanted me to fail, but once I asked for feedback – they told me they are disappointed in my work and that I was not delivering. They expected me to tell them what to do as a UX designer. I felt lost and confused so I started picking up low-hanging fruits. I got another job and got laid off and got another UX job… So the beginning was not easy, but I continued. My persistence and belief helped!
That’s where my passion for community comes from and I realized my passion for people and created the CPHUX community, where we can educate both: companies and UX people, learn from each other and grow the right mindset.
I am super happy to bring people together and facilitate the community of UX. It sounds crazy, but I know that communities can change lives. For example, there was a woman who was supposed to be deported back to Argentina and because I introduced her to a company in Denmark – she got to stay in Copenhagen. You have to dare to give part of yourself to other people and you get it back in so many ways: energy, inspiration.
You are currently the founder of CPHUX – what is it, how did you come up with an idea and why should someone join it?
CPHUX stands for Copenhagen User Experience. I was a bit tired of all the Facebook groups and literally wanted to create a strong community that is also alive physically, that connects like-minded people, and lasts not only digitally. It was born out of the community “Ladies that UX” IN Vancouver. I started the Copenhagen chapter and felt there was a need for more, that’s how I decided to create the Copenhagen UX community. I analyzed many communities and tried to figure out: what makes a good one.
In the beginning, I started creating an event calendar where I added every UX relevant event that I found – to make information accessible for the people! I want to create a place where people can get an overview. Then I did the same for jobs – to give power to them, make their life easier.
We have a simple vision. Firstly, when we bring people together, we raise the standards of the UX community as well. Secondly, we want to create transparency around UX design. Lastly, we want to bridge the gap with companies and UX designers.
I feel like we are ecosystem builders.
What makes this community unique and special?
The fact that you have a community of like-minded people you can actually connect with! and feel that you are part of something bigger than yourself. In the past, I have joined many many similar communities and wanted to build one where people meet more than once occasionally. We however try to make people come together. I want to create meaningful connections. Whenever we have events I try to let people in earlier for them to talk and connect to other designers as well! I also interview our members, celebrate their story and make them feel special! These are simple examples, but it makes a big difference.
One of the great things CPHUX does is inspires, motivates other UX folks. How do you manage to inspire them, and how do you stay inspired to keep growing the community?
Well, first you have to respect the members of the community, be passionate about the topic. That is the problem with many communities – you have to think about how to organize people and inspire them in a collective way.
People inspire me to continue growing. I am not a big social media person and maybe I could be an influencer, but I am very interested in sharing the story of other people. I want to nurture other people. Since 6 months ago, I have started having a welcome conversation with each member: to get to know what they are looking for, what they expect, and how I can help them. Giving back is what pushes me forward.
What is a good and bad UX leadership according to you?
The community will be there no matter if it’s facilitated or not.
A bad UX leader is when someone is doing something to promote themselves, to create a name or an image in the making. If that is the goal, you are not making it for the community. I feel a bit sad about leaders who do not know how to organize, how to engage communities or facilitate.
Good leaders are the ones who listen to people and care for the people and know how to facilitate them as well. Also, having respect for time and attention – if people join your community, provide them value.
What piece of work are you most proud of during your UX career, and why is that?
I am most proud that I have broken down walls between designers and companies and that is what sets CPHUX apart. That’s why we can do these great industry events that people are super happy about.
Also, I always think about the future and what is the vision going forward. I would love to create a UX guide that could make an impact in the local cities.
What does the future hold for UX according to you?
UX needs better business understanding. We need to know how to argue about design decisions in a business context, otherwise, we will have a hard time convincing others on impactful ways to adjust the design.
Why UX Podcast
What do you like to do when you are not UX’ing?
I teach fitness and it makes me very happy and it makes me a good community facilitator and I love baking, playing video games.
If you could give an aspiring UX junior any advice, what would it be?
I would advise you to connect with other relevant UX professionals. It is super important as a junior to connect and reach out to.
About the UX Fika Series
In UX Fika series of blog posts, I talk with people that inspire me and whom I look up to as my role-models. The motivation behind doing this is, you might see some patterns and hopefully you’d be able to learn from the amazing people that I have had a chance of learning from.
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.
I believe in starting a conversation with fellow professionals and learning from their experiences. Making their perspectives available to the whole community is one step forward in spreading stories, experiences, and ways of working. That’s why I have started a...read more
I believe in starting a conversation with fellow professionals and learning from their experiences. Making their perspectives available to the whole community is one step forward in spreading stories, experiences... and failures. That’s why I have started a project of...read more
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...read more