Women of Switch: Deanna Grindrod

UX Designer

Earlier this year, the Federal Government announced its plans to invest $3.4million to boost the participation of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers. With a growing body of evidence proving that diversity is as beneficial to a business's bottom line as its culture and its people, real change is starting to take place within the tech industry.

To celebrate gender diversity at Switch, we're kicking off a new blog series, showcasing the work of our talented female team members. This month, we sat down with our UX Designer, Deanna Grindrod.

Deanna - one of the first hurdles that women often encounter when entering STEM careers is university. Can you tell us about your university experience?

Well, to be honest, tech wasn't where I wanted to end up. I'm a creative person and was always drawn to art and design subjects at school. Product design is about solving problems based on human behaviour, which I absolutely loved; so, when my careers advisor suggested that product design would open up a much wider range of opportunities, that became the clear choice.

When it came to selecting a university degree, there were two paths - a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts. I selected the science route at first, but it became obvious, almost immediately, that I'd made a mistake. The psychological and human behaviour elements - that had initially drawn me to the subject - were no longer being discussed and instead we were focused on very complex, mathematical problems. In hindsight, being one of only three girls on the course also made me feel slightly alienated. I'm a girl's girl - all my friends are girls and, subconsciously, I think it emphasised the perception of being out of my depth.

I switched to the Bachelor of Arts within a few months; within that course, you could opt to focus on textiles or digital. I chose the digital route, and it was exactly what I'd hoped for. My dissertation was focused on PTSD in war veterans and how we can use design to encourage people to seek help. I learnt that if you get really deep into a problem, truly understand why people behave in a certain way, the design solution becomes the simplest part.

What happened when you left university?

I left uni with big ambitions of doing something that was going to save the world... but the reality is, you need earn your experience, just like everyone else! My first role was in digital marketing for a casino; every time we launched a campaign, I'd spend time looking at how it would impact customer behaviour. One day, someone from the customer experience team said, 'you're not a marketer, you're a user experience designer'. I moved to the customer experience team and that was really the start of my career in UX.

So - it was a real sliding doors moment?

Actually, not really. I think I was already geared towards UX even before university - I just didn't know it. My mother was a director of customer experience and my father was always very creative. I was aware of their influence and, even when I was a child, playing with my sister, I'd try to build racing karts out of boxes and try to work out the best design to improve speed and steering. I assumed all children thought like that, but it's only in the last few years that I realised I've always approached things from a UX perspective, long before I knew what UX was.

It sounds like you had great role models?

Absolutely. It sounds corny, but my mother is my inspiration. She started in the military, then held a director role in a large company and now she's a diving instructor in Indonesia - she's always been in complete control of her career. Whenever I feel overwhelmed or intimidated in my role, I think about how she would handle the situation.

The reality is that, while I'm very lucky to be working alongside some incredibly supportive people, there are occasionally moments where you realise that you're the only woman in a room of 20 men. As I say, I feel extremely lucky because everyone I work withhas been exceptionally respectful and supportive, but there's just those odd moments of self-doubt.

Why do you feel it's important for women to feel supported?

Every single company I've worked in has been very male dominated. In my previous role, out of 35 employees only two of us were female. Initially, that did genuinely make me feel uncomfortable, but I’ve been extremely lucky to have always been surrounded by wonderful colleagues.

At Switch, we have such an amazing, hardworking and friendly team that gender isn't even something I consider an issue anymore. Jon is like a mentor to me and also a huge advocate for women; he ensures that I have an equal voice in the office. Our work is very discussion based and there can be lots of opinions, so being surrounded by a team of people who highly value my opinion and want, need and actively encourage me to have the confidence to back myself is absolutely crucial. We're a young team and we all want to foster a culture that promotes diversity.

What does a typical day look like, for you?

Every day is different. The most important part of the role is liaising with the customer; ascertaining requirements and fixing the problem can only be achieved if we work very closely with the customer, keep them informed throughout the process and go on the UX journey together.

I work with a business analyst to build user flows and identify every interaction that needs to happen along the journey, as well as any pain points which might cause customers to drop out of that journey. People often talk about helping customers to get through the journey in 'as few clicks as possible' but I hate that; speed isn't the only element of a good experience. Sometimes, adding extra options and stages in the journey can enhance the experience and make it more memorable and enjoyable - two clicks aren't necessarily better than four!

I sketch everything out on paper, then mock-up my UI designs in Photoshop to show the client. We use UXPin for all our wire framing to enable clients to be able to see exactly what we're doing and be able to collaborate and comment easily, in real-time.

What is your favourite part of the job?

I enjoy all of it, but my favourite part is the human element and keeping the process realistic, intuitive and informed by human behaviour. Even minor design details can have a huge impact on how realistic the experience feels. For example, when I see drop shadows that aren't consistent, that really annoys me; there's only one source of light in the real world, so why isn't there only one source of light on your website? Design can be subjective but, ultimately, we need to choose what's right for the customer: reality above aesthetics, value above speed. I love being an advocate for the customer.

— Deanna Grindrod

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