Tamara Chehayeb Makarem featured

Inspirational Woman: Tamara Chehayeb Makarem | User Experience (UX) Design Lead at Scott Logic

 

Tamara is a User Experience (UX) Design Lead at Scott Logic, a UK-based consultancy delivering high quality software and UX design for clients in financial services, the public sector, and healthcare.

She has worked in Beirut, London and New York, and designed desktop, tablet and mobile web applications for Fortune 500 companies.

Tamara User Experience

She is a strong advocate of design thinking as a methodology, and shares her thought leadership on Medium and on her company blog.

You can connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

What has been your career path like? Did you ever sit down and plan it?

I started with a basic plan of the things I wanted to achieve in my career, but I made changes along the way. I did a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design at the American University of Beirut where I studied the fundamentals of typography, colours, layout, iconography, and illustration. I then applied my skills working as a graphic and interaction designer in Lebanon, designing using both Arabic and Latin alphabets for multilingual users.

I wanted to move to UX Design and to work in a bigger market with more opportunities, so I moved to New York. There, I earned a Masters of Fine Arts in Design and Technology from Parsons, the New School for Design. I then worked in New York designing web and native applications for clients primarily in e-commerce, healthcare, and banking. I got to manage teams across multiple offices in the US and abroad, for clients such as Microsoft, so it was a lot of responsibility but I enjoyed the challenge.

I got married and moved to London. Two years ago, I joined Scott Logic where I‘ve been designing web applications ranging from trading platforms to financial tools, analytics dashboards and intranets. Throughout my career, I’ve tended to set myself broad long term goals. I then set short term targets to ensure I keep track of my progress. I‘ve made some alterations along the way, and they’ve worked out well.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

The biggest challenge I’ve faced is having to rebuild my network each time I moved, and to find ways to maintain the networks I built in the past. I‘ve lived in four countries, so starting again is something I’m used to, but establishing a network and a profile in a new location is a slow process. I’ve had to attend a lot of events to meet new people.

How important is networking in the technology and software industry, and in particular to your role? What three tips would you give to a newbee networker?

Networking is not just about meeting new people and raising your profile. It can also help you get feedback on your ideas, learn from others, and find opportunities for work and collaboration.

My three tips to a newbee networker would be to:

  1. Find the right events
    If you’re searching for interesting events to attend, Meetup and Eventbrite are a good place to look. Find networking events that are relevant to you, and try to attend one or two a month.
  2. Be bold
    If you’re nervous about approaching a person at a networking event, chances are that person feels the same way. You lose nothing by being friendly and introducing yourself. Make the first move.
  3. Follow up
    If the conversation is going well, exchange contact details and follow up after the event. Even if there isn’t an opportunity for collaboration at the moment, it might come up later.
On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

It depends on what phase in the design process I’m in.

During the user research phase I lead UX workshops, so I spend the day collaborating with a team including designers, developers, project managers and stakeholders. Ideating, sketching, and prototyping would be typical.

In the design phase, the core of my time is spent creating wireframes, mock ups and prototypes. The rest is divided between meeting with clients and the team to ensure the project is headed in the right direction.

In the last stages of the design process, I create style guides, provide specs to developers and test the build to ensure the design has been implemented as envisioned.

I also join our business development team in meetings with prospective London-based clients to introduce them to the UX practice and our process. The range of responsibilities that I have is one of the things I enjoy most about my role, as it makes each day different and offers new challenges.

What are the best elements of your role, and the most challenging?

With the rise of new technologies like smart watches, virtual reality goggles and smart cars, UX Designers need to quickly adapt to change and acquire new skills. We sometimes have to design for technologies with no precedents to look at. This is challenging but also exciting for me. It means I can play a great role in setting the trends for new technologies.

Have you benefited from coaching or mentoring in your career, either formally or informally? Do you feel this is/has been important to your professional development?

I have not had any formal mentoring or coaching, but I have had informal advice from the people I’ve worked with. It’s important to think about both internal and external obstacles that prevent us from achieving our career goals, and coaching can help with that. At Scott Logic, we’re in the process of rolling out a new coaching scheme, and I’m looking forward to participating in that.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move into a career in UX Design?

My advice to someone considering a career in UX Design is to recognise that teams are multidisciplinary so their technical background is likely to be a strength. The UX team at Scott Logic includes designers from a variety of disciplines, including product design, animation, graphic design, software development and interaction design. I think that’s a great asset because cross-discipline collaboration allows each of us to bring a new perspective to the design thinking process.