Nedret Sahin is a User Experience Designer at Velir. She aims to create functionally seamless web experiences as part of a multi-disciplinary team consisting of designers, strategists, analysts and web developers. Her strengths lie in translating strategic business goals into thorough, thoughtful wireframes that are built upon a strong foundation of research, information architecture and best practices in usability. She performs market and industry research, completes heuristic evaluations, determines navigational hierarchy and overall page layout to ensure compliance with industry standards in user interface design. She enjoys leading collaborative workshops with stakeholders to help improve their websites’ current user experience. She loves to observe, listen, analyze and interpret. She thrives when she collaborates and becomes beyond giddy over opportunities to delve into the human psyche. She continues to be fiercely fascinated by every facet of human functioning, and how it intersects with the digital realm.
During her time at Velir, she has had the opportunity to work with the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, the Kauffman Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the American Association for Talent Development, the American Association of Retired Persons, the American Society of Association Executives, the Produce Marketing Association, the Brookings Institution, the publishing firm Informa, the executive search and consulting firm Spencer Stuart, Citizens’ Committee for Children, the City of Somerville, as well as the State of Massachusetts.
How (and when) did you get into your current field or company?
The first time I was exposed to user experience design was during an internship I had my junior year of college. It was in the new technologies department of the Turkish digital television provider, Digiturk. My first assignment was to do a heuristic evaluation of their website. This was exciting, as it allowed me to analyze how people that visit a website think, and start to get into web usability best practices. At the time, I didn’t even know this was a heuristic evaluation, and didn’t know user experience design was a field I would find myself in years later. My concentration in business school was a combination of marketing, information design, corporate communication and psychology so I knew I wanted to do work that was both creative and analytical. My first job out of college was at an e-commerce shop in the Back Bay, which is when I truly started prototyping, and became a user experience designer. After almost two years there, I applied to Velir, opting to write a short paragraph of my mind thinking out loud as I design instead of a cover letter, and have been here for the last three years.
What does a typical day look like for you?
As Velir is an agency, a typical day involves juggling two or more projects, working with groups of motivated project and account managers, strategists, analysts and designers. There’s lots of collaboration and consistent communication to ensure project goals come to fruition. As I’m a visual thinker, many meetings involve sketching on whiteboards around the office, thinking through design problems, establishing page hierarchy and layouts. I don’t take myself very seriously, and have been called eccentric– I sprint through the office, speak in accents and make strange sounds. I love Venn diagrams, and the three-way Venn diagram that informs my everyday is one of business needs, user needs and technology constraints. I am always trying to find the sweet spot between those three, while practicing empathy.
What is the favorite part of your day?
After my larger than life morning mug of coffee? Jokes aside, though cliché, my favorite part of the day is when I’m able to get into the groove of designing, losing track of time. I love when I’ve spent time thinking through complex design problems, and creating prototypes that help teams visualize solutions. At times I’ll come in when no one is around, and work without distractions. This way, I know that when I’m ready to socialize my work, I’ve spent a healthy amount of time with it, thinking through edge cases, repeatedly going over scenarios. I also love it when I’m able to help a visual designer think through possible solutions, talk them through what they like or dislike about what they’ve designed, and ensure they’ve built intuitive interfaces. I love creative collaboration, and I become beyond giddy if I get to analyze the way people think.
What excites you about working in your industry?
Without a doubt, the existence of change. The constant rate of technological innovation ensures that there will always be new design problems a user experience designer needs to solve. New devices, new interfaces, new interactions, new browsers, new best practices best on research in behavioral psychology, to list only a few. In our current digital climate, the need for change is undeniable, but also at odds with how people feel most comfortable. We are creatures of habit, so finding a balance and ensuring that innovation can still be intuitive is a challenge I take pleasure in undertaking. I’m a pattern-recognizing problem solver, so show me something new and I’ll find something that’s familiar about your experience with it. To quote Heraclitus of Ephesus and the millions after him, the only constant is change; more than just being excited by that, I love that.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
As a female working in a male-dominated field, I spend a lot of time noticing and navigating gender issues. I observe patterns, both in my own behavior, and in the behavior of fellow females. I notice that we spend a lot of time policing ourselves, and we need to stop. The best piece of advice I was given was that if I think I deserve more, I need to ask for it. Also, that I need to stop worrying about making people feel comfortable. Even if I’m giving it my all, there is no one that can know what I’m capable of besides me. So if I wait around for people to realize what I’m worth, I’ll have a lot of waiting to do. Especially as women, we learn early on to make ourselves small, quiet and complaisant to appease others. We need to remember that we are our biggest advocate. Nothing grows without discomfort, so when I find myself challenging a gender bias, and asking for more I know I deserve, I simply think of it as growth, and I no longer feel the need to police my behavior to make someone else comfortable.
What is your favorite part of being a woman in STEM?
My favorite part of being a woman in STEM is also my least favorite part, that I am representing women in a traditionally male-dominated field. My existence in this industry is a testament to the fact that women are capable of the kind of thinking needed in these industries, which many sexists would disagree is the case. It’s my least favorite part because I know I represent a very small portion of women, and that the gap we have yet to close in terms of diversity in these fields is huge. I acknowledge that my perspective is that of a white, privileged, mostly gender conforming female and that there are so many talented people that deserve to be here, just as much or perhaps more than I do. The fact that this is the case continues to infuriate me, compelling me to address it, even if it makes people uncomfortable.
What other women inspire you?
That’s a question I ask myself every year around Halloween, as I dress up as a badass woman from history! One of my favorite misquotes by Virginia Woolf is, ‘for most of history Anonymous was a woman’. This strongly resonates with me because I want to believe that there are many more women I have been inspired by to date, that simply haven’t been given credit for their hard work. Some women that inspire me are Frida Kahlo, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart, Ella Fitzgerald, Benazir Bhutto, Simone De Beauvoir, Florence Nightingale, Anna Freud, Zaha Hadid, Somaly Mam, Malala Yousafzai and Anaïs Nin. One of my favorites from this list is the female erotica writer Anaïs Nin, for having the courage to explore female sexuality in the time and way she did. A quote of hers that is forever etched in my mind is “we do not see things the way they are, we see things the way we are”.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
There’s plenty people don’t know about me! Though I’m an extrovert – ENTP for the psychology nerds out there – I keep my personal affairs mostly to myself. I’m pretty sure I tend to know more about people than they know about me, and I like it that way. Something I doubt most people know about me that I am willing to share is that I can barbell back squat my own weight. Flex.
What do you geek out about?
Psychology! I often share the anecdote that I applied to all liberal arts schools with the desire to pursue a degree in psychology, besides the business school I went to. Had I not been offered an academic scholarship by Bentley University, I probably would have not gone, and would have likely studied psychology at Boston College. Though it wasn’t my major in college, however, I still spend ample time geeking out about psychology. I enjoy reading about it, watching talks on it, going to therapy to gain a better understanding of myself and others, and above all, I love that I can read about it and have it benefit me day-to-day as well as in the long term, my career.
Free space! Feel free to tell us anything else below
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to geek out with fellow female geeks!
Interested in hearing more from Nedret? Tickets are available to our October event with Velir.