Who am I?

tl;dr - I am Sam Hankins. I’m a UX designer committed to creating thoughtful products deeply rooted in an understanding of the stories of real people and a concern for the problems, big and small, they face everyday.

A Long Time Coming

Building a career in UX design for me has been a lifelong journey full of meaningful pit stops that have equipped me to be a thoughtful, empathetic and analytical user advocate. Along the way I’ve had a short stint in art direction, a longer visit with bartending and waiting tables, a 3 year stay in law school, and taken up residence in higher education in my most recent life. While these experiences run the gamut of industries the common thread that ties them all together is my passion to understand people and their needs and then come to real solutions for those people based on that understanding.

Another part of my life was completely taken by technology at a very young age. At the age of 11, I was begging my family for a Gateway 2000 Pentium 90, the fastest processor of the time. Later, we were the first family on the block with DSL (how I convinced my cable TV free family of that one I'll never know) and I was impressing my friends with mix CDs I burned with songs I downloaded off of Napster. By high school, I upgraded to an HP tower computer and would geek out by swapping out video cards, adding RAM, and reading up on the newest Sound Blasters Creative Labs offered.

Naturally, in high school I wanted to pursue a career in computer science and transferred high schools to take AP Computer Science. Learning C/C++ was exciting and came very naturally, but when I looked around the computer lab I was the only girl and didn’t get MIT or Carnegie Mellon level grades. It was the late 90s/early 00s. I believed a career in tech wasn’t for “people like me,” chalked it all up to an expensive hobby and started to explore other paths.

Lessons Learned Along The Journey

With each of these other paths came very important lessons and valuable experience that inform my approach to design and led me to the ultimate destination of UX. Said lessons are as follows:

Sam's Life Lessons Turned UX Values

  • Art Direction: Creating an effective message is much more than something pretty with some snappy words, you have to know your audience — I also had the “privilege” of learning a number of now outdated technologies (i.e. web design based on slicing up Photoshop images and plugging them into Dreamweaver and Fireworks, oh yeah and web animations in Flash and only Flash);
  • Waiting Tables and Bartending:You create really great experiences for your guests by understanding who they are and what they were looking for. You have but a few moments to get the information you need to make that happen, and you must be able to do this repeatedly each night juggling multiple groups and needs at the same time. The two keys to success here: empathy and prioritization. Also, a pair of really comfortable shoes.
  • Law School:You are the best advocate to achieve your client’s goals. The best way to do that is to: (1) understand his or her problem inside and out by interviewing him or her and anyone associated with the problem; (2) know the constraints (or laws) that govern this particular situation; (3) analyze how the facts from your client work within said constraints to produce the client’s desired outcomes; and, (4) be ready to fight like hell on behalf of said client.
  • Higher Ed Admin: While community building is very important, it is equally important to recognize the individual experiences each person brings to make that community great. Not everyone has the same needs, and the loudest voices don’t always communicate the stories of the quietest. This is humbling every day. There is much to learn, stop and listen.

Taking a Leap

Although I have built a long career of listening to people and helping them solve problems, my inner 11 year old drooling over PC Mag self was unsatisfied with the solutions I was offering. Throughout my life I have been an enthusiastic consumer of the latest technology and have bore witness to exactly how the increasing accessibility of technology has changed the way we live our everyday lives. While I found great value in the work I was doing, I also felt that technology has brought us to a place where we can be more thoughtful and savvy with solving problems. I became aware my career was not the ideal fit, it was time to make a serious change.

UX design is the perfect marriage of my passion for technology and my talent for empathizing with people and producing real solutions for them. Making a career change takes serious committment, and therefore I enrolled in Bloc.io's UX Design Apprenticeship program where I was mentored by Chris Courtney. Through the program and Chris's guidance I learned what it meant to be a problem solver and how refocus the different skills and talents I had previously accrued over the years into a process that produces user centered products. Good design is much more than pretty things, it is a beautiful conversation rooted in a deep understanding of the people you are creating solutions for.

I am eager to make my mark on the world.

But enough about me, let's talk about you.

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