Interview with Karen Abney, Lead Interaction Designer at GE Appliances

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Karen Abney is a veteran designer with over 30 years of experience. A graduate of the Amaranth Cohort (our very first program!), she came to DESIGNATION to learn more about User Experience and Front-End Development, and now works for GE in Louisville, Kentucky.

Where are you now working, and what is your job title?
I am a Lead Interaction Designer at GE Appliances, on the Industrial Design Team.

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Tell us a little bit about your job!
In this role, I am responsible for developing user interfaces, and connected experiences for GE appliance products. I work closely with the cross-functional teams in Refrigeration, Clothes Care, Dishwasher and Consumer Comfort to create interactions that delight in the home and captivate on the sales floor.

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How would you describe the DESIGNATION experience?
Grueling. But in a good way. I came into the program not really understanding how far behind I was in learning new technologies and methodologies. It was overwhelming to realize how far I needed to come. But I hung in and the teachers hung in with me and I was able to walk away with skills that have made it possible for me to advance considerably in my career.

What was the most interesting or useful thing you learned during the cohort?
That it is important to always be learning. And that you’re never too old to learn… it just takes longer.

“It was overwhelming to realize how far I needed to come. But I hung in and the teachers hung in with me.”

What are the people at DESIGNATION like (including staff, instructor and fellow students)?
I was in the first cohort so it was like we were all learning things together. For staff and instructors, it was how to run a school, the best teaching methods, and just what you do with 23 bewildered students in a room together. For me and my fellow students, we needed each other for support and validation. I found everyone there to be kind, helpful and generous with their time.

“I could not have gotten this job without the UX/UI training [at DESIGNATION].”

What were you doing before you came to DESIGNATION?
I had over 30 years of experience in the design and creative thinking business. My design background included visual design, creating consumer experiences, immersive environments, packaging, retail and advertising. But I needed a way to stay relevant in an industry led more and more by technology and new practices, so I searched for, and found DESIGNATION.

How did you hear about DESIGNATION, and why did you decide to come?
I found the school through an online search. I came because they let me in (even though I could tell from the interview that they were skeptical…)

How did DESIGNATION help prepare you for your new role?
I could not have gotten this job without the UX/UI training. Learning the new methods and practicing them has proven to be invaluable in my new role.

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What was your favorite part of the DESIGNATION experience?
Karaoke nights at Weeds bar. Just kidding (mostly). What was my least favorite part? Coding!

What advice would you give to someone who was trying to break into the industry?
Don’t be afraid to try things. And fail. And try again. And ask questions. And be a sponge and absorb as much as you can.

“Don’t be afraid to try things. And fail. And try again.”

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