Sharalyn: How Design Theory Shaped My Career

Understanding the theories associated with user center design made Sharalyn Benko turn her passion into her future career.

“I was very interested in moving my career towards user centered design but wasn’t really excited about attending traditional style classes,” said Benko. “I found the Interactive Media program on the Internet after a bit of searching and it was exactly what I was looking for.”

Now 35 and living in Seattle, WA, Benko was recently hired as an Interaction Designer for Bluenile.com, an online retailer for diamond engagement rings.

Besides pursuing her master’s degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University, Benko earned her degree in Communications from S.U.N.Y. Cortland in 2001.

After working for the past 11 years as a print graphic designer and looking to move her career into a different direction, she then saw job listings for user-experienced designers than traditional graphic designers. “I was nervous about how I was going to balance classes with working full time.  I had nothing to fear.

The program is built for non-traditional students and it fits into a full time working schedule with ease.  It has turned out to be the best decision I have made in my career.”

Benko has been working closely with Prof. Ewa Callahan to further understand the user experience design “[She] helped me sort through the many theories of user centered design.  My capstone project grew from an idea I landed on during her class and I might attempt to get the theory published in the future.”

“User centered design is a fairly new concept to website and mobile app development.  I have learned that each project can’t be assessed with just one theory and that all projects require a unique user centered approach based on the requirements of the project,” she said.

Linking to one of her user center design papers on her portfolio website, and bringing printed copies to her interviews, was one of the main reasons why she was hired at Bluenile.com. The knowledge and expertise that she has gained from Quinnipiac already has helped her to acquire her new job and she couldn’t be happier.

“The ICM program is a flexible approach to learning that has allowed me to expand my design career into the field of user experience/interaction design.  I am grateful to the professors and college for giving me the opportunity to set foot into a new and exciting field.”

-Rachael Wolensky


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