Coming out of high school I actually planned to study medicine, I didn't even know UX existed. Because I didn't have the grades to get into medicine, I ended up studying MediaLab Arts at the University of Plymouth, where got introduced to HCI.
And the opposite is also true. Once I learnt about how design affects people's lives, I started seeing bad design everywhere. Handles to pull when the door needs me to push. Battery operated devices that need me to alternate battery orientation. Error messages like "An error occured".
Every time I see something like this, I see an opportunity to improve people's lives (why should doctors have all the fun?).
How do I away from such a compelling proposition?
Since 2008 I have briefed, designed and conducted user tests on all kinds of software. I've done this in a wide range of contexts: from quick turnaround guerilla tests on prototypes to extensive usability tests with eyetracking on financial software.
I really enjoying evaluating designs and prototypes and sharing results with clients and production teams.Through informed critique and deconstruction of designs we learn how improve designs, and how to design better.
Project sponsors or even designers and engineers sometimes believe they know what end users really want from a product.
As an advocate for the end user, I use data driven (where resoureces allow) personas and mental models to create a shared, objective understanding of the end user's real goals, motivations and pain points.
To help teams get a shared understanding of what a project intends I've used a combination of documentation and more recently, prototypes.
I find that prototyping adds immense value because by sketching or using tools like Axure, I can mock up a design quickly and show people how it should work. Better still I can allow them to use it. This allows everyone involved to understand the design with reduced ambiguity.