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Spotlight Series: Brie Friel, Senior UX Designer, Aer Studios

Brie Friel

ARTICLE SUMMARY

We're shining a spotlight on Brie Friel, Senior UX Designer at Aer Studios. Brie chats to us about how she got into the industry, what an average day as a UX Designer looks like and her advice for other women in tech.

Brie is a UX and UI Designer at Aer Studios with seven years industry experience, beginning her career as a Business Analyst before transitioning into User Experience.

She is passionate about creating fun and engaging experiences for all kinds of people and is a keen advocate for ethical design and neurodiversity. Brie has worked across a number of industries, including public services, entertainment, healthcare, aviation & space technology, ecological & green technology, and many more. 

How did you land your current role? Was it planned? 

With a degree in Business Information Systems in tow, I graduated university and started my career in tech on a Business Analyst graduate scheme. I knew very little about UX at that time, and it wasn’t until I worked alongside an experienced UX Designer that I started to see the user-focussed side of tech. We had some really good discussions on the train back and forth from the clients office and I had a lot of thoughts and questions about the project, which looking back now were actually very user centric. I didn’t spot the connection at the time. Luckily for me though, the UX Designer did, and when Junior UX positions came up within the company, they forwarded the job spec and told me to apply. 

What are the key roles in your field of work, and why did you choose your current expertise? 

User Experience comes in many shapes and forms: UX/UI Designer, UX Researcher, UX Strategist, Product Designer, Product Owner, the list goes on. It’s a very adaptive field and in the various project roles I’ve filled over the years, my responsibilities and tasks have never been the same. Even now, I’m a UX Designer in job title but I’m currently working on a research discovery. 

Did you (or do you) have a role model in tech or business in general?

There are certainly people that I admire both in the tech industry and outside of it, but I’ve always looked a little closer to home for my role models — people that I’ve worked alongside and have given me advice and support. I had the pleasure of working with Zara Powell recently. Aside from her full time job as Delivery Director at AND Digital, she mentors other women in tech, was selected as a UN Women UK 2023 delegate, jointly hosts a podcast with another inspiring woman in tech and does a tonne of other things, including being an amazing mum. As if all that wasn’t impressive enough, she somehow manages to also be one of the nicest and most down-to-earth humans I’ve ever met. She was the best manager I ever had and I hope I can be the same for someone else one day. 

What does an average work day look like for you? 

There honestly is no average day. Some days I’m in meetings from start to finish, others I’m in user interviews, designing interfaces, writing reports, facilitating workshops. Never a dull moment, as they say.

Are there any specific skills or traits that you notice companies look for when you’re searching for roles in your field? 

Probably flexibility. UX looks different in every person, every project, every company — being able to jump into whatever the next challenge is with an open mind is really important for both parties. 

Has anyone ever tried to stop you from learning and developing in your professional life, or have you found the tech sector supportive? 

There have been hurdles along the way but, in general, I’ve found the tech sector to be quite supportive. Unfortunately, though, not every woman can say the same. Bias and stereotypes can be a barrier, women’s health is still a taboo topic, and there’s a lack of sufficient support for women looking to reenter the workforce after having children. Organisations like HeyFlow are doing amazing work to challenge these issues, educate leaders and raise awareness. They came in and facilitated a workshop for my company recently and it was really well done and insightful.  

Have you ever faced insecurities and anxieties during your career, and how did you overcome them?

All the time! I’m not a naturally confident person and being a woman in tech has certainly tested my conviction over the years. That said, I think my default position of questioning everything — including myself at times — lends itself well to UX. There’s no room for ego in this kind of role. You have to be prepared to be wrong and, better yet, appreciate it when you are, because that new information allows to you make better decisions. There is a balance of course; questioning everything shouldn’t mean that you don’t trust yourself, your experience and your instincts. But for me, it’s less about overcoming my anxieties as it is about finding a way to harness them in a way that works for me and my role. 

Entering the world of work can be daunting. Do you have any words of advice for anyone feeling overwhelmed? 

I think it’s important to recognise that it’s okay to be overwhelmed and that it doesn’t mean you’re not capable of overcoming it. Always be kind to yourself.

What advice would you give other women wanting to reach their career goals in technology? 

Being a woman in tech can be intimidating but it doesn’t have to be isolating. Find your cheerleader, try new things and fight for your seat at the table. And if someone happens to slide a job ad in your direction, have a quick look because you never know. 

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