Michelle Kuah is a graduate of the Ruby Cohort. Prior to joining Designation she was a professional dancer in the Washington, DC area.
Where do you work, and what’s your job title?
I’m a UX Designer at StoreHub, a cloud-based, iPad point-of-sale software company based in Malaysia.
Tell us briefly about your company.
StoreHub specializes in products for small-to-medium enterprises, primarily in the retail, food & beverage, and service industries across Southeast Asia, although our customers can be found worldwide. I joined the company as the first product team hire, and together with engineering, we currently hold strong at five people.
Tell us briefly about your job.
My job changes everyday. As a UX team of one, I regularly alternate between being a UX generalist and specialist. One day, I might do customer interviews to identify the most beneficial product features for our different customer segments. The next day, I might spend the better part of my time video conferencing with our development team based in China or parsing through interaction flows and feedback messages for highly-specific, complex use cases and their 10 variations. The next week, I might tackle a full production sprint, creating ultra-high fidelity wireframes—I’ve been straddling UX/UI until our new UI Designer onboards, content strategy, and copywriting.
For the last month, I’ve worked with other teams on the rollout of our mass site redesign to complement our upcoming rebrand. Just earlier this week, I wrapped up the final pieces for a new user onboarding project now firmly in development, and I’ll soon head into a few research and testing sprints while we gear up for a new product launch. It’s a bit insane to think about how much my work and the company has changed in such a short amount of time.
What did you do professionally before you started at Designation?
Immediately before Designation, I was a professional dancer in the Washington, DC area, and like most artists, making ends meet through teaching and coaching classes on the side. Feel free to read about my journey into Designation here.
How did you hear about Designation? And why did you decide to attend?
I initially found Designation on SwitchUp, after searching for bootcamps and traditional graduate programs. After going through the application process for, and ultimately opting out of, General Assembly’s UX Immersive, I decided to go for Designation because of its proven reputation, connections to the Chicago tech scene, and overall perceived return on investment.
How would you describe your Designation experience?
Intense, but beautifully so. I often joke that writing my Medium article was the only way I could make sense of it all.
What did you find was the most useful skill, tool, or experience from your time in the program?
Getting facetime with a whole host of industry professionals and related experts was priceless. Networking in and out of program helped me understand the variations within UX and the diversity of work in the field.
How did Designation help prepare you for your job?
Designation taught me to define and articulate my own design process. UX work can often feel confusing and ambiguous, especially to those who aren’t in the field. When working across multi-disciplinary teams, it may be incumbent on the designer to be able to explain, in very discrete terms, why he/she made certain choices to a colleague, client, or boss, even on a microlevel. It’s simply not enough to say “I made this choice because it serves the user’s needs.”
Designation allowed me to recognize the greater strategic aspects of UX. It’s not only about finding the “true” problem, or creating a user-friendly solution. It also means setting clear expectations, requirements, principles, and targets—all of which can be vital to keeping a designer and company on track.
What’s your favorite thing about being a professional designer now?
Being able to geek out with my small but mighty product team! Only three of us are based in Malaysia, so design feedback sessions are…memorable, to say the least. We all hold big personalities, so we can feel like kids in a candy store once we all get on our tech/business/product/design tangents.
Over the last few months, I’ve really started to appreciate how much we’ve worked together as a true team. Each person fully owns their respective segment, so we each play an integral part in seeing projects through from initial conception, to prototype creation, to design ideation, to development and implementation.
“As you work to refine the depth and breadth of your design skill set, you may find your initial interests taking on new form or shifting in response to new challenges. Stay open-minded but grounded, observant but assertive, confident but humble.”
What advice can you give to someone trying to start in the design industry?
Just because UX is interesting doesn’t mean it’s always fun. As you work to refine the depth and breadth of your design skill set, you may find your initial interests taking on new form or shifting in response to new challenges. Stay open-minded but grounded, observant but assertive, confident but humble. Don’t forget why you started in the first place—but if you do, keep others close by who will help you remember.