Meet Shebani Saxena, User Experience Design Immersive Instructor

Shebani Saxena

Designing for Usability

Shebani Saxena’s interest in user experience (UX) design was sparked when, as an interface designer for an e-learning company, she realized her team didn’t have any student feedback in their process. She wondered whether the lessons were created in a way that students enjoyed. Once she learned about the field of usability, she hasn’t turned back. Shebani now works on the Client Experience team at Sunlife Insurance and teaches GA’s full-time User Experience Design Immersive course. Prior to that, she was a consultant with Human Factors International, where she worked for clients in domains including insurance, eCommerce, pharmaceuticals, and banking. Read her article, "A Beginner’s Guide to Usability Testing", here.

How would you define user experience design in two sentences?

UX design allows you to design products that people actually want, and will provide value to both consumer and business.

Why should someone learn UX at GA?

GA offers a great curriculum and accomplished faculty, and students will work with diverse teams to tackle real-world projects in their courses. UXDI is designed to cover all methodologies within UX and some beyond. The highlights are the instructors, who are industry veterans; their diverse experience is invaluable. Also the curriculum is designed to give students a lot of hands-on experience in a very intensive yet safe environment.

What personal qualities will set someone up for success in UX design?

Being empathetic, ready to constantly learn, and open to feedback.

What does a superstar student in UX design look like?

Someone who connects with people, is open to feedback, has the ability to zoom into details and zoom out to see the big picture, and can also appreciate design, while keeping up with the innumerable tools used in the field.

What was your path to becoming a teacher and leader in UX design?

I used to work for an e-learning company designing tutorials to teach finance. We were a team of three: a domain expert who did content development, a web developer, and me as the interface designer. I often wondered if what we were designing was actually the way the students wanted to learn, but we never had input from the students or a feedback loop built into our process. Later, when I learned about the field of usability, I quickly got my answers. This sparked my interest in UX design, and since then, there has been no looking back.

Why did the opportunity to teach at GA appeal to you?

I had taught previously and thoroughly enjoyed it, so in 2015 I decided to take it up again with General Assembly. GA is a great platform for learning the most in-demand skills. The course content is really great, and students get a lot of hands-on experience.

How would you describe your teaching philosophy?

Impart as much knowledge as possible from my UX journey to the budding new UXers through theory, practice, and lots of real-world examples from the industry.

What has been your favorite memory as a GA instructor?

I love when I see that “aha” moment on students’ faces when the process clicks for them, or when they apply UX methodologies to real-life projects and see how it all works. And of course when they get their first UX job!

How do you help struggling students break through to meet or go beyond their minimum GA course requirements?

As an instructor, it’s important to understand that students have different kinds of needs and learning styles. Some students require a lot of hand-holding, while others benefit from being shown a direction and then finding their own path. For struggling students, I try to show examples from my own work, talk to them about their needs, and mentor them on an ongoing basis.

How do you push high-achieving students to go beyond the minimum GA course requirements?

I ensure that high-achieving students are challenged through their projects and team assignments. I sometimes allow students to pick up their own projects, which allows for better and more enthusiastic engagement.

Between taking the course and finding a job, what is the best way to get practical, real-world UX experience?

Keep up with the class reading, follow industry leaders, play around with different tools, attend industry events, and continue to build your network.