While working full-time as a UX designer, Ciarda Henderson earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in psychology—summa cum laude, no less.
When that intense workload came to an end and she finally had some free time on her hands, Ciarda did what any overachiever would do: she picked up another job.
“Why get a hobby when you can work some more?” she joked.
All kidding aside, helping adults transition to UX design careers seemed like the ideal next step, said Ciarda, who balances her full-time and part-time jobs with her roles as a wife and mother.
“I realized that [mentorship] would be a great opportunity to give back to an industry that has been kind to me for many years,” she said.
Ciarda’s UX journey began, as she put it, “back before Y2K,” when she was a product designer.
But it really started even earlier, with her undergraduate psychology studies. “I enjoy attempting to understand how other people think,” she said. “That’s is a tenet of UX design as well—understanding our target users’ perspectives so we can create meaningful solutions for them.”
Ciarda realized early on that she didn’t want to be a clinician, and she enjoyed the opportunities she had to be creative, so UX design seemed like the perfect professional fit.
During her career, Ciarda has run her own design business and taken in-house jobs. She spent several years consulting for Human Factors International, working on projects in the U.S., Mexico, and Europe. When she decided to plant roots, she accepted a position at MarketTools, which was acquired by Confirmit, where she still works.
Just this spring, she became director of user experience at the Oslo-based company. In addition to managing the design team, she is the lead designer for several Confirmit products.
“On a typical day, I am splitting my time between meetings, design projects, and recruiting efforts for the team,” she said. “The good news is that I’m remote, so all the time I could be commuting is spent being productive instead.”
She’s been exceedingly productive at Confirmit, of course, but among her most memorable projects is one from a previous job that’s been in use for more than 10 years: the Avery Design & Print software, an interface where users can create designs to print on their Avery products (labels, tent cards, etc.).
“Not only was it a great project in that we got to do just about everything under the UX umbrella—user research, ideation, low- and high-fidelity mockups, prototyping, usability testing, and specification development, it was also a huge team effort between my team and the client team who we were collaborating with,” she said. “The fact that it’s still out there makes me happy too.”
Mentoring also makes Ciarda happy—particularly when she helps an aspiring UX designer discover an “aha moment.”
“I had a student just the other day who told me after completing his user research and creating personas for his capstone project that he had gained a new appreciation for both,” she said. “While he had initially thought personas weren’t of much value, the exercise of creating them allowed him to understand their value as artifacts generated by data. I think he had previously seen them as make-believe users that really wouldn’t provide value.”
In working with Springboard students, Ciarda is pulling from experiences she has had with her own mentors. Among them: Phil Goddard, with whom Ciarda worked at Human Factors International. “What I appreciate most about his mentorship was that he trusted me to run projects but was always there for guidance when I needed it,” she said.
Ciarda also singled out Margaret Coles and Alexia Moore. “Both of these exceptionally bright and talented women have been role models to me, showing me how to believe in myself, always be prepared, and know when to take risks,” she said.
While Ciarda is committed to helping everyone with a love for UX design launch a career, she’s particularly passionate about guiding more women into the space.
“Over the last several years, I’ve noticed more and more that men outnumber women in technology—at least at the companies I’ve worked and consulted at,” she said. “Although we’ve come a long way in terms of gender equality in the workforce… we still have a ways to go and I’d like to help where I can.”
Looking for a UX design course that includes one-on-one mentorship with an industry expert like Ciarda? Check out our UX Career Track now!