‘I’m passionate about leaving the world better than I found it’

User experience (UX) design has become a thriving industry over the last number of years as the interaction between human users and everyday products becomes more important. UX design is now essential for virtually every product, service and technology in the world and there are many layers of ethics, accessibility and unconscious bias that need to be addressed by designers.

One such UX designer is Paola Mendoza-Yu. “I’m an Afro-Latina UX designer, mom and wife. I was born in South-Central Los Angeles, California to a wonderful, single, undocumented-immigrant mother,” she told Siliconrepublic.com.
“I describe her that way proudly because she was who I strive to be – a warrior, fierce protector, staunch feminist, loyal friend, beacon of honesty and humility; all wrapped up in humour, love, and affection.”
Mendoza-Yu has been designing in one way or another professionally for more than 15 years, covering various industries including digital publications, e-commerce and software-as-a-service providers. She currently works as the principal UX designer at education technology company GoGuardian.
“I’m passionate about leaving the world better than I found it and doing so thoughtfully and respectfully,” she added.

‘I’m hoping ethics can one day have a seat at the table just like research does now’ – PAOLA MENDOZA-YU

What first stirred your interest in UX design?
I ‘met’ Photoshop when I was 12. The stripped-down version, known as Photoshop Elements, came bundled with a computer my dad bought me for Christmas one year. I became obsessed with what I would later find out was called graphic design. [In] my junior year of high school, I found out I could do it for a living and that was that. I became a graphic designer.
It’s interesting to work in this era of design where it garners the respect that it does. When I first started designing, production-level work was all that was expected of you. If you were a designer, it meant you took care of all creative work. That didn’t change for a long time and eventually, as the internet became what it has, my responsibilities expanded.
I had to make a lot of intentional pivots along the way to get here. Until one day, I was just doing UX. The name of my profession has changed a lot over time: graphic design, graphic design for the web, web design, UI design and eventually UX. I’m sure it’ll keep changing as we keep defining what it is we truly do. But I feel like this is what I have always done and so I consider myself lucky to have found my calling at such a young age.
How has the UX design sector changed in the years that you’ve been in it?
In my opinion, the biggest shift has been the rise in respect for research – the general understanding that you need to speak to the people you’re building solutions for throughout your entire process.
Not that proponents of research and the data surrounding its...