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Q&A with Veronika Pilin, UX/UI Product Designer
Part One

Don Curren March 1, 2019

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your background before you came to Cambridge?

A: I started out in graphic design – I started working for retail head offices since my education was in fashion. And from there I was doing in-store visual merchandising design, and then I went on into marketing, and marketing back then, especially for retail, was a lot of print work such as catalogue design.

And then there was a growth towards ecommerce, so that’s how I got into web design and digital design. Since then, I’ve been working in fintech for four to five years.

Q: What prompted the jump to fintech in particular?

A: At one point I ended up working for a company that makes software for investment banking. I applied for the position because I felt that there are a lot of similarities between web design and enterprise software in terms of overall principles of user experience and user interface.

There are a lot of parallels and some general principles that apply to both. And I thought, after having worked as a visual designer of store-plan layouts, the focus is always on the customer’s experience. Although, of course, I had to learn the industry and fill in those gaps (since I had an education in fashion), my focus was always on how the users interact with either your store spaces, your website or your application. So, that’s why I find that it all correlated in a way.

Q: So, even though your background was fashion and retail, it seems to have made a good fit with Cambridge. It seems like such a different industry. Can you explain a little more about how that works?

A: That’s right, the industries are completely different. I forgot to mention that I was freelancing in web design as well, so it was not only fashion that I was learning about the entire time.

Back then, graphic design was the main bread and butter. I did a lot of logo design, print. Web design became kind of a standard for graphic design. Back then, again, a lot of companies decided to care a lot about their online image and that’s when WordPress came out and it became easy for companies to design and maintain their websites.

In terms of Cambridge, it’s having an empathy for users/clients just as you would for fashion and retail. I would say the experience with making the use of a product easy and intuitive is something that I could carry forward from my background in visual design. What makes my work different here in Cambridge is that unlike in print, we can launch a product, see how users are interacting with it and fix something that could work better.

You cannot test the same way in print. Of course, when it comes to digital space, the solutions are much more complex and not always linear. So, I guess for me and our team, it is important to figure out the solution in a way that would benefit the user and the company.

Q: How would you describe your responsibilities at Cambridge? What do you do?

A: I started out in Cambridge, working on the Cambridge Link application, which was our customer-facing application. I joined when it was already two years old. When I joined, the goal was to help design it or help reiterate on the existing application that was built by the engineers and the product owners, and there was no UX Designer at the time, so I was the first to join. I am still the only one, but the team is expanding. Initially it started out by leading Link to more user-friendly solution and redesigning some of the existing functionalities that have been tested. We are always adding new functionalities and features and improving them.

My job has evolved into dealing with the Mobile Project, as we decided to go with native iOS and Android, which was extremely exciting. We just launched it two weeks ago week. Our goal right now is to keep growing Link. Another really exciting project that is going to happen here in Cambridge is redesigning our internal systems, including the platform the traders are using. Our team is putting a lot of effort and initiative to improve both the customer facing apps and the internal ones and Cambridge’s day-to-day operations.

Q: When we talked before, you described the role of UX/UI as mediating between the user and the technology. Could you elaborate on that?

A:  Basically, my role is to make sure that user’s experience with the technology implemented is as seamless as possible. This comes from understanding what user actually needs.

Sometimes, even the user is not sure what they need or want. They are just there to complete certain transaction and there should be no problems that come with that experience. Which is why the product team and I are responsible, as UX advocates, to try and understand our user even if the problem has not occurred yet, make their experience pleasant and establish trust. Especially it is important since a lot of our users switch from offline to online, which is a big change, and we want to make this transition comfortable and compatible with their day-to-day activities.

Click here to read part two