Design Leader Insights - Ana Sofia Gonzalez

January 16, 2023

Alex Smith: Hi Ana Sofia. Thanks so much for coming on the show today. 

Ana Sofia Gonzalez: Hi Alex, thank you for having me.

Alex Smith: Yeah, of course. And to get started, can you give the audience a little bit of background in your history on UX? 

Ana Sofia Gonzalez: Yes, of course. I've been in the UX industry for over 10 years. I've been at Microsoft for five of those 10 years. And before that I was in consultancy in Denver and then I worked in Mexico doing my own freelancing and so been a little bit of everything.

Alex Smith: Yeah that's awesome. And Microsoft's a huge company, obviously one that's very focused on design. What, which parts of Microsoft have you had the pleasure of designing with?

Ana Sofia Gonzalez: So the cool thing about Microsoft and I imagine it is a new big corporation, every new team is like its own different company. So I started in Groove, which is a music app. And then from there I moved into mixed reality, which I design applications, enterprise applications for the HoloLens. 

Alex Smith: -Oh, wow.

Ana Sofia Gonzalez: And then from there I went to the CRM, designing the customer relationship management tool that Microsoft has called Dynamics for sales. And went from that then, and now I'm in process insights, which is a capability of process mining. 

Alex Smith: I gotta ask what is process mining?

Ana Sofia Gonzalez: Yeah. So process mining is an AI like mentioning learning tool where we can identify a process based on all of the data you give us. So you give us the data and we'll tell you, you go from A to B and from B to C, and this is where you take the longest. So maybe you can optimize or automate your process. So it  can block a lot of the digital transformation for new companies. And so it's the new emerging tech that Gartner is really rooting for. And it's pretty cool cuz I love to work with emerging tech. Also when I was in mixed reality was emerging and they're really cool challenges. And also there's no real definition. So you get to define for the industry too. So, so I think that's pretty cool.

Alex Smith: Yeah, I think that's awesome. I think it's also intimidating for a lot of designers to walk into a space of AI ML when there's so much technical knowledge potentially needed. How do you recommend designers going into emerging tech learn about such a niche area?

Ana Sofia Gonzalez: Yeah, so it's very funny enough. I actually didn't study human compare interaction. I studied industrial design. So coming into the field, I had to really learn on the job, the technical skills, but I was never really into the technical. But I always landed technical jobs.  And so I think that's like my superpower because I can tell people like, hey, this is if I can  understand it, and I'm in like the best company in the world. So it means that I'm like top percent of technical then how will our users understand it, right? So I think by leveraging that I'm not technical I can speak for the users. And even though it's intimidating, I just ask questions, like continue asking the why and how it works. And it's totally okay because people love to work or talk about their work. 

Alex Smith: -Yeah.

Ana Sofia Gonzalez: So the data scientist. When I continue to ask why or how it works, they'll talk for an hour explaining it to me. So, so it's, it's just like that collaborative space. Just keep asking questions and you'll get it. And then, and it's okay if you don't, because then it means that there's a gap that the users will like run into as well.

Alex SmithL Ana Sofia, so you mentioned designing for emerging economies like Mexico. How does that compare and contrast what are some of those big considerations that maybe people who aren't on the ground there, or don't know the culture are missing?

Ana Sofia Gonzalez: Yeah, of course, it's this website called Half Sales Dimensions that I use.  And it's so cool cuz it tells you like the five different cultures in every country. But, and so what I discovered is that in Mexico where community focused. So we're not individualists like in the US. In Mexico, we're more about the we, so community. And then the other thing is also that we're very around hierarchy. So we believe some in Mexico that if you have a certain title it's because you have much more knowledge than me, right? Or if you own a company, it's because you are this being that has a different IQ than me. And so you don't question hierarchy and that's actually something that I really like in the US and in the Microsoft that I see, like, I can question the principal level or Director and it's like, hey, why did you did it like this? In Mexico that really doesn't happen often. So with financial applications, like the mortgages,they would get scared with the big terms and they wouldn't research around the big terms and they couldn't understand the big terms. So that's the huge drop off that we had. So it was how can we change it into conversational with terms, they will understand?

Alex Smith: Let's talk about HoloLens. Where is that all heading? I mean, we hear about metaverse and design changing. 

Ana Sofia Gonzalez: It was super cool just to see like how we were developing it. So that product we were building was for VR and HoloLens. So we had to think both modes, HoloLens is AR. So what capabilities can you give in AR but then how, and it's a lot of a, like the mobile versus desktop. How do you have some functionalities in desktop versus some in

mobile, right? Same thing, AR versus VR. How can you empower more in VR versus like AR that you need to be focused in the real world? So it was a lot of those considerations. And what I've been seeing at least is that we shifted from consumer to enterprise. And now I think they're trying to do a little bit more of consumer, but I just feel like a lot of companies are seeing the value.It is gonna explode. Like you see Facebook is investing so much in Oculus and then there's rumors about Apple. So I do feel like there's gonna be, not like this year, next year, like maybe five years, the technology will get better and that's when people will start adopting it.Just see the people already buying the Oculus.

Alex Smith: Ana Sofia, what type of advice would you have to junior or emerging designers entering the field today?

Ana Sofia Gonzalez: Just ask questions. Like, don't be afraid to ask questions. Like, I feel like a lot of people don't think like they should ask questions cause then they all seem like they don't know.  And that's not true. Like actually you look like you're not curious and you don't wanna participate in, in yeah. So it actually can be counterintuitive. So just ask questions. Everybody is willing to help. Like, and if it's not, it's gonna be one out of five people that you ask for help. So it's, it's just like, you never know who will be there helping hand and want to tell you about emerging technologies or want to help you. I feel it's very rewarding to helping others. So I do a lot of mentorship and it gives me energy. And I know like my manager knows it. Like I have to give like 10 to 20 percent of my time to D and I work in mentorship. If not like I will deliver my best. Cause that's what fills me up, helping others. And so it's, it's a lot of, a lot of people there 

like me. And so they just wanna help others. And it's just like asking questions and practicing skills and not be afraid to fail. Cuz there's no perfect answer. Like you can have a modal with a title on the right and the left. And then who knows which one's the right one, right? It's just users testing users. So there's usually not the perfect answer.

Alex Smith: Yeah. I mean, that's great advice asking questions is, is core to creating great user experiences. Hopefully you're asking your users how, how it's, how everything's going. And for feedback. Thanks so much for coming on the show today.  We really appreciate it. 

Ana Sofia Gonzalez: Thank you.