Home People This Librarian Turned Into A UX Designer to Tackle Real Human Problems With Data

This Librarian Turned Into A UX Designer to Tackle Real Human Problems With Data

by Muriel Vega

Christeene Alcosiba took a winding path to technology. Currently an academic librarian and program director at Emory, Alcosiba entered a UX design course to transition her experience managing large data sets into technology. The newly-minted UX designer has a special knack for Human-Computer Interaction concepts and evaluating and building products for targeted users.

To test out her new skills, Alcosiba tackled a project inspired by the loss of her father to Type 2 diabetes complications, looking more closely at the diet issues often seen in food deserts. She created an app to provide healthy recipes and meal kit delivery to underserved communities with a high prevalence of diabetes.

“I want to be a part of the next tech wave of liberal-arts-trained technologists who helps build products that solve real human problems,” says Alcosiba.

Alcosiba is now looking to join a team with a strong, supporting culture that looks at things differently when solving broken processes. Recruit this well-read UX designer before it’s too late.

What program are you graduating from?

I’m a newly-minted graduate of the part-time user experience design course at General Assembly. I work full-time as an academic librarian and program director at Emory University, and wasn’t able to commit to the immersive program. Nonetheless, I learned so much from my instructor and my incredible classmates who worked in a range of tech positions ranging from developers and graphic designers, to product managers and project managers. Each of them brought valuable perspectives to our coursework, and made me a better UX designer.

What is your previous education?

Before graduating from GA, I earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Journalism, and then continued onto graduate school for my master’s degree in Library and Information Science after a stint as a high school teacher. While that may seem like an unlikely path to UX, I’ve honed many skills that are immediately applicable to UX work including statistical analysis, applied research methods, evaluating and building products for targeted users, managing big data, and selling abstract concepts to tough crowds.

In retrospect I realize now that my master’s thesis was more closely-aligned with Human-Computer Interaction topics of inquiry than classical library ones. I completed a case study on the creation of Salman Rushdie’s born digital archive and learned a lot about the intricacies of digital privacy and forensics, design iteration, and the limitations building of research tools like these.

Why the interest in the technology field?

In all of the work I’ve pursued, I’ve always understood the common thread to be this: advocacy. Whether it’s teaching a class, preserving the historic record, or building an app – the thing that excites me is the possibility of making the world better, more equitable. Tech has the power to effect lives global scale, and I think that I have a lot to offer this field as it evolves and grapples with complex ethical challenges.

What startup/tech projects have you worked on?

Empowered by what I learned at General Assembly, and inspired by the loss of my father due to complications of Type 2 diabetes, I began building an app for low-income users with diabetes called A1Cook. This app is designed to connect this underserved community – often living in food deserts—with healthy recipes and meal kit delivery. Working on A1Cook has been some of the most rewarding work of my career, and I want more! I’m hoping to pitch my app to a national grocery chain, or maybe even go for it on my own with angel funding.

What tech/tools are essential to you as a developer?

As an academic librarian with almost a decade of experience, I’m already well-versed in many of the tools of the trade for research and data visualization. I’m in serious relationships with User Testing and Tableau.

I’m a relative newbie to the design side of UX, though, so right now I’m honing my skills on the most common tools I’m seeing in job descriptions to get a better feel of what works best and in what context. Sketch, Axure, and InVision are my go-to’s at the moment, but I’d love to get my hands dirty with Marvel, Omnigraffle, and Git soon.

How do you stay informed & on-top of emerging trends?

In addition to reading Hypepotamus religiously, I’m also a fan of the usuals: Medium, Wired, and the blogs of A List Apart and User Testing. I’m also a massive Twitter fan and find a lot of value in getting and sharing UX information there.

What are your best technical or creative skills?

My best technical and creative skills both center around strong systems thinking, deep empathy for and curiosity about people, and a hard-nosed dedication to getting shit done. Beyond that, my most unicorn skill is writing, storytelling. I’m a published poet and contributing writer for ArtsATL. Writing is the second thing on my own hierarchy of needs, just below beach naps.

What’s next on your list to learn?

Next up on my list is to continue to beef up my front-end development skills. My 9-year-old daughter has been learning computer programming since kindergarten and loves it. We’ve set a goal to work through all of Khan Academy’s programming modules this year, so, I’m looking forward to working on that with her.

Are you interested in working for a startup, mid-sized company, or a corporate giant?

I’m interested in working with any group of folks that are irreverent toward broken processes, excited about their work, eager to experiment, and fiercely dedicated not just to recruiting, but mentoring women and people of color in tech. For me, it all comes down to strong culture. The rest is negotiable.

Interested in looking at Christeene’s credentials? Check out her website and LinkedIn.

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