The Passion Project: An Interview with Yessi Arifin | UX Designer

18.7.15 Yessi_The Passion Project.jpgYessi Arifin is a User Experience Designer with a big heart. She speaks about her passion and personal values.

“You know, sometimes I don’t really know how I got to where I am. I just make stuff up as I go along. I feel like there was a period in my life where I was kind of serious. But for the overall direction of my life, I kind of just make things up as I go on”, she says, “I guess you kind of have to be weird to be, you know, be yourself.”

Tell us about yourself

My name is Yessi. I am a designer and I’ve always been really into creative things such as drawing and making stuff. I didn’t have that many toys growing up so I invented a lot of play for myself. I would create a miniature doll set with LEGO and put on an elaborate play with my babysitter.

In high school, I got into a specialized arts program with a teacher who really mentored, coached, and believed in my potential even though I wasn’t considering creative work as a serious profession. She pushed me to do more. Coming out of a family where everybody was a successful businessperson or engineer, that wasn’t really in the books. But because of the mentorship and encouragements from Mrs.Forrest, I decided to go for it and went into design. I think without her, I would not be where I am today. She just instilled work ethic, uncompromising like standards, at work and just like creative zest and creativeness. From then, I realized I liked the logical, creative side of design such as design research. I found UX because it combines research and thinking as well as creativity so it’s exciting.

What do you do as a UX designer?

The general idea of UX is when a customer needs something, user experience designers figure out how to meet those needs in the product. Most of time, UX is about digital experiences – experiences you feel through your screens. It could be through your phone, a website, or your computer.

What do you do as a UX designer?

UX is a very process heavy kind of design field so you would have to know intuitively when it’s time to do more research , when it’s time to work on paper, and when it’s time to do just high fidelity work.

When I just started I didn’t know. I kind of just went into high fidelity. I didn’t know I was supposed to research into this first. I kind of just pushed forward instead of asking questions. UX is a very process heavy because it just goes by so fast. Each design sprint is 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 4 weeks so there isn’t much time to redo your work. You need do things in a methodical way.

What is your day-to-day like?

Just like any profession, there isn’t really a regular day. It depends on where we are at in a project. Most of the time,we figure things out as we go. As the UX person, we are caught in this battle between the executive team’s vision and what the customer wanted. We risk building something that may be hard to sell later on. Most of the time, as the UX person, you don’t have that much influence over what it is you get to build. To me, it is all about influencing the right people within my spheres of influence.

What characteristics do you need to become a UX designer?

You need to influence and think on your feet. UX people are like the lead facilitator. If I were part of a tribe, I would be on the horse leading the path because I am the one who puts multiple perspectives into one coherent thing. So it’s all about influence and thinking on your feet. A lot of my job, because UX is so new, is about educating people – sharing them the value of UX, why is it important, what we do because most people don’t really know what we do.

What is the value of UX?

It is making things make sense. When a customer receives their product, it is a seamless experience. Let’s say for Apple, you can go from your phone to the desktop seamlessly. Things sync, things work for you for what you are trying to do in a simple way. If I’m doing something over and over again like turning on my iPhone, it shouldn’t be something overly complicated like solving a crypt every time. Often times when UX is not involved and you are not doing this heavy research into observing people and what they actually care about, asking people, developing, iterating a design, those kinds of things happen.

What does it mean to be innovative?

I think in the real world, innovation is incremental. Being innovative is not coming from zero to 100 because people won’t really adopt. I think for me if people don’t use what I do, then there is no value to what I do. So I am not interested in designing stuff that people won’t use. To me, innovation is incrementally taking somebody from state 0 to maybe 5 or even 1. Probably 5, that will be more fun. If you are in UX, you are always working in the future. I design things that are maybe 10 or 15 years ahead. When the technology is ready the design could be mass marketed and built. But the technology needs to be ready. The market needs to be ready.

What have been some challenges you’ve had while pursuing this career?

I would say one of the challenges is being a woman in tech. Technology as a whole is still predominantly driven by men. I am 5 foot tall and I look way younger so it takes awhile for people to respect my opinion and listen to me. I choose my words well and I don’t talk for the sake of talking.

How does fear and love play in your life and your decision making process?

When I was younger, I was very fear driven. I used to think that I can’t fail this class. I can’t let people down. Now I’m at this stage in my life where I am confident that I can have my base covered. Now that’s out of the way I can focus on doing what I love – learning about design, teaching, travelling, serving people, volunteering, and making sure people are being taken care of when they are being forgotten from the system.

Do you have a life goal you are working towards?

I don’t really have a concrete goal over my life. My dad always say don’t plan ahead more than 5 years or 3 years into your life. Just plan the next year because you are not going to know what’s going to happen. Pinning myself down is limiting because I don’t know what greatness is in store for me.

My goal for this year is to develop social intelligence. That’s about negotiation, knowing how to handle difficult people and different situations, being more perceptive on how others are feeling. It’s about having more empathy towards their situation. I want to be myself and more open.

What is your philosophy in life?

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Whenever I’m going through something difficult, something stressful this is the quote that I have in my mind as I’m deciding what to do next. This is being Christian faith too. It’s not about what you do that makes you worthy, it’s about your faith. It’s not about your work that makes you worthy. Living in this place, this society, people value you based on what you do. It’s about your faith and the love you give to people and the love you allow yourself to receive. That when you serve, you volunteer out of your heart. You work out of your heart. No matter what you do, even if you lose your job you can still do that. It depends on the heart that you put into it.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I like to travel. Even though I love my work, it can get repetitive. I start to feel jaded about what I do. I start to feel like a routine, even though it is a creative routine. Travelling allows me to reset. My preconceptions I have. I can let that go. My recent trip to Korea with this Monk who makes traditional cuisine, from Netflix, chef’s table. Being in her presence, watching her cook, helping her garden gave me new perspective. She lives a completely different life than I do. She cares about completely different things than I do. It reminds me that the things I care about doesn’t even matter in the great scheme of things. It gives you a different perspective about how to live yourself and what life is for.

Check out Yessi’s portfolio to learn more about this talented designer.

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