In the summer of 2018, I was fortunate to be a User Experience Design Intern at Microsoft at the New England Research and Development Center (NERD). I was part of Microsoft's Garage Program, which is a 12 week internship that gives interns the opportunity to work on an emerging tech project sponsored by full time employees. Within the span of the internship, I worked within unfamiliar territory within the Mixed Reality space for Microsoft’s HoloLens. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to talk about the project, but I am allowed to share my experiences, process and learnings throughout the best summer and internship I could’ve asked for. Let’s dive in!
Within a span of 12 weeks, I was part of a fast paced and rigorous timeline to get our product researched, ideated, funded, prototyped, developed, tested and handed off by the end of the summer. Below is a list of roles and tasks I was responsible for:
- Conduct extensive research on Mixed Reality and its design considerations
- Produce Product Artifact
- Pitch and get our product funded
-Conduct initial user testing on the current application
-Wireframe and prototype based on the user testing
- Utilize various applications such as Unity, After Effects and Adobe XD
- Collaborate with developers and program managers
- Provide and receive feedback to other UX Designers
-Conduct A/B usability testing for our updated product
-Produce design documentation for future MR teams
-Design and animate on-boarding process for another Microsoft product, “Ink to Code”
Working in the Mixed Reality Space was daunting because it pushed me to think way pass the 2D dimensional space. I spent the first week doing deep research into MR, which was a leap from what I learned as UX Designer. All assets now had additional properties like typographic scaling and spatial mapping, and MR/VR user considerations like gaze mode, user comfort (optimal head angles for regions to place assets) and attention directors had to be taken in to account. No longer is a user just seeing the world on a screen, but through the world around them.
Designing and prototyping were just as challenging and fulfilling, too. I dabbled in Unity, XAML code, Illustrator and After Effects to prototype what our product’s experience would be like for my manager and developers to digest. Furthermore, I conducted user research and usability testing with the HoloLens to ensure that my team’s efforts were successful. Needless to say, it was an daunting, yet exciting experience!
The program was extremely special, because I had to stand my ground as a designer amongst software engineers, program managers and data scientists. In my team specifically, there were five developers, one program manager, and myself as the sole UX Designer. In doing so, I had to learn quickly how the pipeline between each role was, and understand we function as smaller parts for the whole system.
I made sure to involve my entire team in my design process and what I was envisioning, so that they can understand that design is more than just visual, but a problem solving process similar to theirs. Along the way, I also learned from them and and skills in Github, XAML code and product artifact documentation. In the end of the day, it is always important to be open-minded and willing to learn more all while making sure that your role is just as important as anyone else’s regardless of the discipline.
If it wasn't clear already, it was literally the BEST summer I ever had. Not only was the project I worked on amazing, but so were the people around me. I was able to connect and make life-long friends with the other interns, and create so many memories with them. Microsoft truly fostered an inclusive environment and healthy work life balance, which allowed me to feel energized and passionate about what I was doing. From seeing Pitbull at the Microsoft intern event, skydiving, late-night ping pong battles to marching for the Boston Pride Parade, I truly felt a part of something.