This week we chatted to Mhairi McGinlay, our fabulous User Experience (UX) Designer, currently based in Glasgow. She has spent 2 years working in this field and enjoys working in a fast-paced environment allowing her to grow. She gives us an insight into what life is like in a start-up as well as shares her experience of building her skills as a UX designer.
Tell us about yourself and what your career journey was before Aveni?
I moved to Glasgow when I was 18 and pretty much since I arrived I have just embraced any creative opportunity that I could. I started doing some freelance illustration and design for publications and musicians in the city. I also had opportunities to work with photographers and got to try my hand at social media marketing and I really wanted to find a way to combine the design skills I had learned over the years. I started working with Mark and Zoe at their company Ginger and they really mentored me and gave me lots of projects and direction. When Mark told me about Aveni, it really interested me and I was eager to get involved.
What does a typical day look like for you? How do you manage your day while working from home?
I get up around 8 and just get ready, I wish I could say I have a cool morning ritual but truthfully I just make a coffee and start working around 9. I usually read a few articles about UX trends and other interesting design stuff, and then I reflect on what I have been working on and what I’m planning to do next! I work with the development team and we do a lot of experimentation and planning, so we pair a lot during the day. After dinner, I try to chill out and watch something or pick up something crafty to do. Working from home is a pretty good fit for me as I spent a good few hours commuting before but I miss the office and our whiteboard sessions a lot, and of course, I miss our office dogs 🙁 That being said they make appearances at our standup sessions every so often!
What is the one tech tool that you couldn’t live without and why? And what skills/tools do you think are important for those interested in working within the field of UX?
There’s so many but I would have to say Medium, there’s a lot of good content about UX on there, I’ve recently started using Skillshare and believe it or not there’s some amazing design TikTokers that make short videos about best practices and helpful tips! It’s not something to use every day but handy when you are commuting and looking for some inspiration. The Aveni team uses Slack and Figma a lot. In terms of skills, I would say communication and prioritisation are important, especially since with UX you have to try to take all the different moving parts of the product into account. I think pairing with the development team helps keep us on the same page, and we work quickly so learning when to prioritise something and when to move on is a skill I’m always trying to improve. I recently completed a Shecodes course to brush up on some basic front-end knowledge and it has helped me feel more confident when pairing on features with our developers, so I’m hoping to keep improving on my coding skills in general.
The financial services industry isn’t known for its ground-breaking creativity, so how have you found working in this industry and are there any challenges you’ve faced while working in this industry as a creative?
I really love how design and UX in the financial industry are changing right now, there are so many amazing companies showing us that we can really simplify and bring some personality to our products. I have definitely found it challenging to sacrifice elements of a design but it’s rewarding to try out lots of ideas and break things down to the substance. At the end of the day we need to make it usable and accessible first so I try to simplify as much as possible and remember not to lose sight of the goals we have set. I feel really proud of the work we are doing to make Aveni really stand out, we have a really unique proposition so why try to fit in?!
What’s it like working for a startup? What do you find most rewarding about your role at Aveni?
I love it, hands down the most rewarding thing about working for Aveni is the ability to learn as you go. It’s so fast-paced and we have to try out tools and approaches that are new to us but everyone is really supportive of each other and willing to help. It’s hard to keep up and not get too attached to your work but having the opportunity to try something new is great. No two days look the same and it keeps you on your toes for sure.
Who/What inspires you?
I try to look for inspiration everywhere, the thing that motivates me most is seeing people I know doing things they love! I have been lucky to be surrounded by family and friends that encouraged my creative side, there’s a lot of voices telling you to stick to narrow paths to be successful in the creative and tech industries and I love hearing from people that have disproved that. I try to listen to podcasts and read about the latest design trends because I find a lot of motivation in trying new things. One of my favourite UX designers at the moment is Geri Reid. She has designed for a lot of financial companies and is currently working on creating a design system called Constellation. She maintains a really strong focus on accessibility in her designs which is something I’m really interested in getting better at. I recently reached out to her to chat about design systems and how we can use them to improve our design and development process. She was so helpful and nice!
When you’re not working, you are…
Taking pictures of weird buildings, I really love photography and architecture and I love spending the odd day gallery hopping. I draw a lot and always have something on the go when I’m chilling out after work. I’m a big fan of live music too and decided I was going to go to as many gigs as possible this year. I managed 9 over the course of January and February and then lockdown hit so I guess that’s not happening! Luckily my partner Ryan is a massive gaming nerd so we always have something to do inside. So yeah, literally anything artsy or musical.
List 5 hashtags that describe your personality
I would have to say –
#Silly #Creative #Chilled #Hardworking and #Optimistic
Here are some of Mhairi’s photos for you to admire!
Work with the talented Mhairi, join our team! Find out more. Visit our Careers Page