UX STAR INTERVIEW: Organizer of Ladies That UX Utrecht
Through this interview series “UX STAR”, we provide a learn-from-peer approach for the UX space from diverse perspectives and make UX more understandable to the public. We invite UX practitioners and professionals, instead of focusing on UX theory or knowledge itself, to share their insights about UX, the inspirations they got along the way, and how a local community is engaged in different regions.
We are happy to welcome Kimberly Snoyl to this interview, organizer of Ladies that UX Utrecht, sharing her insights and experience about User Experience (UX). Kimberly has worked in the UX industry taking on a variety of roles from a Researcher, Test Coordinator to Software Tester. Along with being an organizer of the community, Kimberly currently also works as a Test Consultant and Scrum Master at Capgemini.
How Kimberly became involved in the UX Space
Kimberly’s diverse and broad background started with her studies in Artificial Intelligence (AI). However, while studying AI, she soon realized that this was too technical for her. “I missed the connection with the people, and that’s when I decided to continue with a Master of Science in Human Media Interaction,” Kimberly explained.
She further tells us that soon after her master she became involved in UX design and user-centered design. “It was the first time hearing about UX, shortly after my master I was even considering to pursue a career as UX designer. However, during that time, the role of a UX designer wasn’t fully established yet. Most people did not know or heavily underestimated the value of UX design. You really had to sell your position as a designer to companies to convince them why they should consider hiring a UX designer. I eventually decided to start working as a Test Consultant at Capgemini. As a Software tester, you are really in the middle of everything. You can work closely with the product owner, UX designers, and the developers, so you can actually see what all these various roles entail.”
During several positions as Tester, Kimberly specifically took interest in usability testing, which commenced during her job at NS, the national railway company in the Netherlands. At NS not only usability but also accessibility are very important aspects of the job. While working as a tester, there is one thing Kimberly would like to see changed. “I often see that people undervalue the role of UX and usability when testing products. Most of the time, they are too focused on functionality, and whether the product works. But then I think, if you really intend to make a product for a user, you should make something that the users truly need. Hence, I made usability testing my core focus and is something I specialize in.”
What Inspired Kimberly to Build a Ladies That UX Community in Utrecht
Starting from her studies, Kimberly realized having a customer-centric approach to business is a valuable aspect in her line of work. Her motivation to start “Ladies That UX” in Utrecht came from her work experience, more specifically what she felt was lacking; which is the connection with the users.
“When working in a scrum team and development team, you are at the end of the process. The interaction with the users is really in a minimum”. Inspired by “Ladies that UX Amsterdam”, which is now the sister community of “Ladies That UX Utrecht,” Kimberly enthusiastically tells us her first time she ever heard about “Ladies That UX.”
“Starting from the first meetup of “Ladies That UX” that I attended in Amsterdam, I immediately felt a deep connection with all the people there. Everyone was really interactive and there were very inspiring talks. I became more passionate about UX, and I guess you can say I really do breath the UX mindset. After the first meetup, I attended more of them. After each meetup, I always went home with an inspired feeling and plenty of new ideas.”
This inspired feeling was exactly what determined Kimberly to bring a “Ladies That UX” community back to Utrecht. She explained to us, that during that time she couldn’t find any other similar groups on Meetup, which only focused on UX. When she found out that “Ladies That UX” is actually a global organization, with a growing number of local groups based in cities worldwide, she was certain that a UX community in Utrecht can be very successful too. Kimberly further tells us: “We have now people coming from other cities in the Netherlands as well. Additionally, we also have a growing number of international people attending, hence we always do the meetup in English.”
As the name “Ladies That UX” suggests, we were interested to know whether the community is only open for ladies. Kimberly clarifies, “Even though the name seems quite contradicting, the community is also welcoming to men. We try to put the bar low and make everyone feel at home, inclusive to all backgrounds, gender, age, race, and expertise. But at the very core, Ladies That UX aims to promote and support female talent and increase female visibility.”
“In the sector where I work there is a high proportion of men. Men are everywhere, to give you an example, in one of my recent job assingment at ProRail, I’m the only female person on the team with six people. So during the meetup, we don’t want them to take over too. But then again, we don’t exclude them. We can learn from them, and they can learn from us, so it’s good to have both. I think during our meetups we have on average 20% men and 80% women.”
How Kimberly Started her Own Ladies That UX Community
We were curious to know how Kimberly made this all possible. Having now more than 1K members, the meetups have really transformed into an engaging and interactive community.
“Actually before you can officially start your own “Ladies That UX” community, you have to receive permission from the original founders”, explained Kimberly. “I had to do an interview with both Lizzie Dyson and Georgie Bottomley. They started with the first-ever “Ladies That UX” meeting, which was held in August 2013 in Machester, UK. It was meant to create a space for women from all levels to engage and talk about their experiences, both positive and negative, and get the support and inspiration that they are looking for.”
We asked Kimberly whether there is any connection with the other “Ladies That UX” groups, such as any support or resource sharing. She explains to us: “Once you become a member of the community, you do have some general terms and conditions you have to obey. They also help you to set up a logo, and you will be added into three different Slack channels. One of which is for only the global organizers and founders of all the “Ladies That UX” community across the world. Then we have a slack channel for all global community members. Lastly, a channel exclusively for all “Ladies That UX” communities in the Netherlands.
Challenges Faced While Building a Thriving UX Community
While working as an organizer of “Ladies That UX” and building this community from the beginning, one of the difficulties Kimberly faced was building a network. What started out with a very small network of people, has now grown into an engaging and thriving community. “In the beginning, we just had to go on LinkedIn and try to connect with companies. It still feels like yesterday, I can’t believe it has been three years already! We have now more than a thousand members joining our community, and it’s still growing every day,” tells Kimberly enthusiastically to us.
When asking if Kimberly could describe her community in one word, without much thinking, she responded, ‘welcoming’. “We always try to create a welcoming atmosphere during every meetup. I have been visiting other meetups, but sometimes I felt alone, nobody comes to you and greets you.”
“Another challenge, which is more recent, was organizing our latest Meetup XL. We held a big conference on June 14th, 2019. We had 12 speakers, 12 sponsors and around 14 volunteers helping us that day. The general theme was ‘Grow The Mindset’, in which we celebrated diversity, experience, and knowledge-sharing in Utrecht.”
During the monthly meetups, we usually have around 50 people are attending, however, the meetup XL over 120 people attended. Kimberly further explained, “During the XL meetup, our goal is to bring the UX community in Utrecht together. We had people coming from all kinds of backgrounds. It was magical and inspiring to see how people interacted with each other.” Although challenging at first having to organize such a big meetup, in the future, we are considering to make this kind of XL meetup also sustainable in the longer-term.
Q&A Talk with Kimberly
Q: What do you like to do when you are not UXing?
I really value family time. So in my free time, I usually spend time with my family and my two children.
Q: What’s your favorite quote about UX?
There's no UX without the user.
Q: If you could give an aspiring UX junior any advice, what would it be?
I think it is valuable to have a technical background. But actually, most people pursuing UX, don’t necessarily have a technical background. Therefore, I think it’s important to educate yourself so you have a basic understanding. Another piece of advice would be getting a mentor. At “Ladies That UX Amsterdam”, there is a mentorship program, which our community in Utrecht is also involved in. Such mentorship program is very important I think. A mentor can help you to with any question you might have, and give you overall guidance in any challenges or problems you are facing.