Ryan: You interned in the user experience department at Pearson this summer. Can you briefly describe your internship?
Reecha Bharali: My internship with Pearson has been basically working as a user experience researcher. I was responsible for testing Pearson products and being involved in UX (User Experience) decisions for them. I am majoring in Human Computer Interaction at the Indiana University School of Informatics. The roles and responsibilities during the internship were directly related to my research interests in my major, which are usability, user experience and interaction design.
Ryan: What kinds of things have you learned during your internship?
Reecha: An internship teaches you in every way and form. The internship program, PEIP at Pearson, helped me learn more than what I had expected as an intern. I have improved upon my professional skills, and I believe I have become adept in dealing with UX issues. The internship also demanded improving the soft skills with frequent interactions with teams and advocating usability findings and judgments.
Ryan: What is “user experience”?
Reecha: In my opinion, user experience is simply the experience of the user with a product, system or a service. User experience deals with the user’s perceptions of oneself and the aspects of the product, system or service that a person interacts with. It is influenced by various factors relating to the user, product and the interaction space, which involves mindsets, perceptions and expectations.
Ryan: What was your favorite thing about testing?
Reecha: User testing is typical to my area of work. I like both interacting with the users and observing them from our observation room at the Pearson Usability Lab in Indianapolis. But I especially enjoy facilitating the user testing sessions. Users have different ways of approaching a product, and I like the versatility of the role as a facilitator to make oneself suited to the users.
Ryan: Can you describe typical day during your internship?
Reecha: A typical day starts early with good mornings. We jam our big round table in the Usability Lab, where we spend our day and avoid being secluded in our cubicles. We generally start going through the day’s agenda and talking about our roles for the day. On the days of Open Lab Sessions we need to facilitate user notes and take valuable notes from them. We are also frequently involved in meetings with other teams in Indianapolis and different locations through conference calls and hangouts.
Ryan: What made you want to come to the U.S. for graduate school?
Reecha: The programs in the graduate schools in the States made me choose the U.S. for a graduate School. Their excellent infrastructure and faculty made me opt for my HCI degree here. More specifically, Indiana University has a good course structure with flexibility of courses and electives, which gives a student the liberty to focus on one's area of interest within the major.
Ryan: Why did you choose to pursue a master’s degree in Human-Computer Interaction?
Reecha: I had a background in science and I ended up in a technical design course during my bachelor’s. During the course of my study, I learned to develop both my technical and creative bent of mind. I became highly interested in the field that was concerned with the interaction of a product, system or service, which was also known as Human Computer Interaction. It introduced me to a new aspect, which emphasized dealing with human behavior and product development. I became interested in working as a UX person. So finally here I was working on my graduate degree in Human Computer Interaction.
Ryan: What is the biggest difference between school in India and school in the U.S.?
Reecha: The biggest difference I feel is the academic independence: the liberty to customize and choose your courses according to your interests and pursuits is something I like. The students are very practical. I am often impressed by their instant creativity and their inquisitiveness in the class.
Ryan: What would you like to do once you’ve finished with school?
Reecha: I would like to be a part of the corporate culture that syncs with my major. I am hoping to land in a job and work as a UX researcher/designer. Personally being peripatetic, I also believe I will hit the U.S. roads once I have graduated.
Ryan: Do you think you’ll end up staying in the U.S.?
Reecha: The U.S. is a great place to be and has a great corporate culture. I like the liberal nature of the people here and their drive to perform. They attract me very much professionally, and I would want to be a part of it for some time. But I have my family and friends back in India, and my soul pretty much belongs there.
Ryan: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Reecha: Well time is just a number, though I value it very much. I see myself as a UX professional working hard for something I really want to work on and making a significant impact in the domain. I am interested in e-learning and digital learning products. I hope I get a chance to work on those. Finally I would like to see myself as a successful woman and, even more, a better person.
Ryan: What do you think is the most exciting thing about the user experience field?
Reecha: I believe user experience bases itself on users and is substantially based on research studies. It’s a science itself but demands a creative bent of mind, which makes it extremely interesting. I believe it is also a hub of the knowledge of different disciplines like psychology, design, computer science, sociology and others. As a UX professional, you always need to learn and keep yourself updated.
Ryan: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to study user experience or human computer interaction?
Reecha: To budding human computer interaction enthusiasts I would say, it is a field of opportunity. It is an exciting field to work in as it requires intense observational and analytical skills with each project. It is a highly versatile domain and you get to display your innovations every time. HCI as a field is always transforming, so keep the gates of learning open.
Ryan: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
Reecha: Challenges come in all forms and shapes at all times as a professional and as a woman. I try to deal them with no biases. However in the recent past, career decisions have been most challenging with the unstable economy. I opted for HCI as a degree that interested me and supported my skills. Coming to a foreign country and blending here was a big challenge.
Ryan: What achievement are you proudest of?
Reecha: I am proud of being who I am. I have a varied set of interests that always keeps me involved. I keep myself open to new things, and I am always interested in learning new things. I have a set of great friends and a sweet family, from whom I enjoy great love and support. I am doing well academically and am hoping to practice at my profession soon.