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Meet Our Alumni: Stacey

Alumni: Stacey
Class of 2017

Why did you choose the MHCID program?
My career started in print design and quickly turned into “digital design” as it was called at the time. I worked at advertising agencies and as in-house design leadership across many different industries. While my focus was through the lens of the customer—or whoever the design was intended for—it wasn’t until much later in my career that I even heard the term User Experience as a job title or discipline. I realized that I had been doing much of what the field of UX encompasses but without the formal language and education. The field I was part of had evolved around me. Needing to acquire the current language and tools used in UX drove me to consider graduate school after being in industry for nearly two decades.

What drew me to the MHCID program at UCI was initially the promise of a solid degree program that I could accomplish while still working full-time and without needing to make an expensive move to another state. What really sold me on the program was the diversity of the staff and curriculum, and its notable focus on accessible and equitable design, by the nature of the instructors and their specialties.

What was the program like for you?
At the time, it was truly perfect for me – it was flexible so I could continue working full-time, while being an extremely engaging experience that taught me a lot. In hindsight, it was a wonderful primer in working remotely and this has allowed me to have a huge advantage in the ease with which I was able to transition myself and my team at work to a wholly remote work environment during the pandemic shutdown in 2020.

Did you work while completing your degree?
Yes, I worked full-time. It’s very do-able to work full time through this program, as long as you are adequately prepared, mentally and with your support network. My advice is to ensure you have a support system in place—friends, family, neighbors—people you ask for help with errands and the minutiae of life while you balance essentially two full-time jobs.

What’s your most memorable experience as part of the program?
Meeting with my capstone team for the first time after a full day of meeting our client and learning about the problem space. That night we convened in a hotel room to debrief and brainstorm. We used the large-screen TV in the room as a white board and wall for posting sticky notes since no other surface in the room would keep a sticky note in place. The intensity of ideas and emotion that night when four near-strangers scurried around a 250 square foot hotel room with the goal of helping chronically ill patients will forever stay with me. It is a prime example of what groups of humans are capable of, no matter the people or the location, if the drive and common goals exist.

Where are you now and what are you working on?
Today I work at IBM, as a Senior Design Manager within the Design and Product Program Office, which supports the roughly 3,000 designers and researchers and nearly 1,500 product managers across IBM in being successful at driving the company’s strategy forward and into the market. The team I lead designs and delivers cohort-based blended educational programming for our internal “users”. We aim to teach and create safe spaces for learning and practicing effective ways of working on cross-functional teams at IBM.

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