CUA of the Month – September, 2007

Ruchika Nambiar
"The User-Centered Analysis module was the most interesting to me – mainly because I'm a person who likes order and method. It had me wondering why a concept as sensible and practical as usability is booming only now. Why wasn't it thought of much earlier?"
 
Ruchika Nambiar
Trainee
Sobha Renaissance Information Technology Pte Ltd.

The Youngest CUA

by June Oliver

Usability officially entered a new generation on June 16, 2007 when Ruchika Nambiar passed her CUA exam – two months before her 15th birthday.

Ruchika's path to usability began with a hobby. "For the last couple of years, I've been interested in fashion design. I have a portfolio of creations," she explains. "When my father saw my interest in design, he encouraged me to look into software design."

Naturally enough: Ruchika's father is Dr. Madhu Nambiar, founder and CEO of Sobha Renaissance Information Technology (SRIT).

SRIT operates on several continents, offering IT consulting, development, reengineering, and integration services. A division of Bangalore's $1.9 billion SOBHA Group, the company serves healthcare, telecom, and total enterprise clients like Ford and Mercedes-Benz.

The first company in the world to achieve Level 5 certification from the International Systems Security Engineering Association, SRIT is committed to continuous improvement. This commitment fuels their approach to usability, which emphasizes understanding user needs and behaviors to achieve "client delight."

SRIT's User Experience Team of CUAs, graphic designers, and technical specialists took Ruchika under their wing during a two-week summer internship. "It was entirely different from what I imagined it would be," says Ruchika. "Really I had no idea what usability was about, but everyone on the team helped me learn."

"I want to thank them all for their patience and the time they spent with me. Mr. Mohan arranged so many good learning opportunities. Mr. Ramnath taught me basic user interface concepts like colors and fonts. Mr. Hari introduced me to Photoshop. Ms. Deepika showed me Flash and set me to work making greeting cards. Mr. Pradeep trained me in Dreamweaver.

"Especially, I want to thank my father for encouraging me to take this direction. I learned that it's not only fashion that interests me, but the design process itself. It doesn't matter what I am designing. Each assignment is unique and allows me to explore my own depths, to compete with myself."

Ruchika decided to extend her summer training by enrolling in HFI's CUA training program. "I started the first module in May. We have summer vacation in April and May, so the timing was perfect."

Ruchika attends the National Public School in Bangalore, one of India's top schools. She's a 10th grader now and taking eight classes a day, including computer science where she is learning Visual Basic. Despite a straight-A scholastic average, she found the CUA certification quite daunting at first.

"The pre-test questionnaire at the beginning of the first module was a complete shock. I couldn't even understand the questions, let alone answer them!

"I was very relieved that this was not an entrance test but a preview. At the end of the module, when we took the test again, I was able to get almost all of the answers right."

Terminology was another hurdle. "I found it hard to understand the terms that the employed professionals were using, but I soon got the hang of it."

Once Ruchika got her bearings, she found the material fascinating. "The whole course was very enriching, but the User-Centered Analysis module was the most interesting to me – mainly because I'm a person who likes order and method. It had me wondering why a concept as sensible and practical as usability is booming only now. Why wasn't it thought of much earlier?"

As training progressed Ruchika's comfort zone expanded. "The coaching was highly supportive," she says. "It gave me the confidence I needed to take the CUA exam." She passed on her first try, much to the delight of her family and friends, some of whom are considering CUA training for themselves.

Now Ruchika is eager to practice what she's learned. "I'd like to work in my father's office again. This summer I read over usability evaluation reports and learned how the evaluations are conducted. Next summer I hope to conduct some evaluations myself."

Ruchika has already conducted one evaluation. "I had an assignment to create my own Web site, but I started CUA training before the project was complete. Now I want to start all over and change everything."

With eight classes and considerable homework in the immediate future, the redesign may have to wait. Ruchika has a good idea of how to begin though. "First I need to decide on the feel of the site, what image I want to project. Then I can select colors and a language style that would support that goal. After that, I'll decide on the content. Purpose is a major factor. Sometimes I visit a site and wonder what the purpose really is."

Meanwhile, she is putting her usability training to work in her notebooks. "It's mainly a matter of intention, rather than technique, but I try to make them very easy for everyone to read. My friends can't believe how much trouble I take to make them neat."

Usability training for the next generation not only opens up all kinds of career possibilities. It may just be the cutting edge of 21st century etiquette.

CUA of the Month

Each month we highlight the successes and achievements of a different member of our CUA community. If you are a Certified Usability Analyst and would like to be considered for CUA of the Month recognition, please send a brief professional bio to hfi@humanfactors.com

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