SoftBank Robotics Women's Week: Interview with Yasmine Khansari
Yasmine Khansari:“My main mission is to explore this technology from the user perspective“
International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate women and girls around the world for their determination and achievements. This week we are also honoring extraordinary women in our company by sharing their career success stories. Hopefully, these interviews will also inspire you to pursue your dream career, perhaps also in robotics!
HEART: Hi Yasmine! You are a UX designer at SBRE. Can you tell us briefly what is UX?
Yasmine: Have you ever used a new mobile app and thought “oh, this is so enjoyable to use compared to others”? Have you ever created a personal customer account on a website which feels like an obstacle course?
In a nutshell, User Experience (UX) design is all about that: understanding what the user needs, their impressions of the product and what are the real problems they are facing. All that information allows to design solutions that are useful, easy to use, and delightful to interact with. In other words, the main goal is to facilitate the adoption of a product, especially when it comes to designing innovative products like robots.
What are different roles within the user experience field that one can specialize in?
The design industry has evolved quite a lot in the last few years, it has become considerably more complex and much more broader. Each wave of technological change brings with it an evolution in the roles that designers can undertake.
For example, you can take on a larger scope of responsibilities within the product design process or you can be specialized in a specific activity (user researcher, UX architect, UX strategist, UX writing) or in a specific field (mobile, AR/VR, Conversational UX…).
You are specialized in designing voice experience. What are common tasks and responsibilities of a Voice UX designer, especially within SBRE?
As a UX Designer specialized in voice experience, my main mission is to explore this technology from the user perspective. In order to better define and measure the efficiency of a conversation with a robot, I try to understand properly the fundamentals of voice interaction between people and its attributes.
Despite recent advancements of various technologies, we are still a long way from simulating a natural conversation like between two people. One of my biggest challenges is to define guidelines and to design relevant strategies that help users to have a smooth interaction with robots, by voice but also by combining other modalities as gestures, the tablet (Pepper) and the LEDs. For that, my other common task is to observe and analyze how people interact with robots and to detect the main pain points and opportunities.
I’m also supported by a large team of highly specialized engineers (from Dialog, Expressivity and Audio teams) and linguists and we work closely together to design and develop the best solutions.
In which part of the product life cycle does UX Design have an important role? How do you collaborate with other teams?
As user experience affects every aspect of a product, UX designers have an important role in the entire product life cycle. From the definition of the user needs to the design of the solution, and the evaluation of it, UX Designers work closely with various teams (business, project management, engineers, QA, etc...) to share insights from research. At the same time, we gather information from other teams about business needs, technical limitations and opportunities to design the product in an efficient way.
Would you like to share an anecdote from your experience as a UX designer?
My favorite moment in a design process is when a user meets your brand new design on the real field for the first time. It’s always thrilling to see how they interact with your product, even when it's totally different from what you expected!
What would be the best degree to pursue if you wanted to get into UX design? Which academic path did you take?
It is hard to say what would be the best degree to become a UX Designer, as there is no "typical curriculum".
In SBRE for example, UX designers come from a variety of backgrounds such as psychology and sociology. For my part, I first studied graphic design and then I pursued a master degree in a web and multimedia school. Actually, this diversity is precisely the richness of our team where each person brings their specialty and different points of view.
Whatever the academic path you choose, it should bring you the basic theories of ergonomics and design process. Then, the most important thing is to always be curious to learn new skills, to discover new tools and technologies. This mindset allows you to deal with the transformation of the design industry and of the world around.
Many of our readers are students who will soon enter the job market. To land their dream job, it’s important that their application stands out. Your application for SBRE for sure did with your unique CV. Can you inspire our readers by telling them more about it?
Landing your dream job soon after you enter the job market, with no significant work experience, can be a big challenge.
After my graduation, I really wanted to work as a UX designer specialized in mobile. I didn't have much experience in this field or a complete portfolio, so I decided to show my skills and creativity through an interactive website CV where recruiters could test the compatibility of their job offer with my skills and obtain a score, in a simple and funny way. And it worked!
Few years later, I met Pepper and NAO at VivaTech. It was so impressive to interact with the robots through conversation, so I dreamed of playing my part in this project. I had previous experience as a chatbot designer and I worked on a few AI projects, but not in a vocal interaction. I decided to learn more about it by myself. I practiced by designing applications on Google Assistant and Alexa. I also took part in the Alexa Amazon Challenge 2018 and I won the 1st prize! This helped me to learn, meet wonderful people as passionate as I am and show my ability to create great vocal user experiences.
As a UX Designer, the professional experiences and education are not the only things that matter. Creating and working on personal projects, sharing your works, participating in meetups and hackathons are also great ways to ensure your application gets noticed. Build an impressive portfolio and show how passionate you are!