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Up-and-Comers: Mona Gabr, UX/UI designer

We’ve given the mic to the industry’s future leaders. Mona Gabr, a UX/UI designer, shares her thoughts on the design industry.

Last month, Mona Gabr won a Gold Pin in the Student Interactive Award category and a Silver Pin in the Student Public Good Award at The Best Design Awards for ‘Pick’. The project is a prototype tag system providing assistance to people with a disability when using public transport. The system allows for communication between the individual and the bus driver and helps ensure the individual gets on the correct bus.

Following her wins, we talk to Gabr about entering the design industry, how design can shape a better world and what’s in store for her next.

What sparked your interest in the design industry?

I’ve loved creativity since I was quite young. I’ve always loved exploring, trying new things, talking to new people and getting out of my comfort zone. During my first degree (Bachelor of Computer Science), I knew that it wasn’t ‘me’. While I did enjoy the creative aspects of it, it just wasn’t what I was passionate about. I struggled a little bit in realising what I wanted in a career.

But when I moved to New Zealand with my family in 2012, I decided to follow my childhood dream and become a designer! I wasn’t sure what kind of design I wanted to do, so I signed up for the Bachelor of Media Design so I could try out the different areas. After my first year, it was much more clear what field I wanted to continue my journey in!

I was pretty surprised ending up in the UX/UI area, which I hadn’t really heard of before. I found that my skills, passions and personality fit with it so perfectly! This is really when I started to get excited about the future of my career.

Were there any misconceptions you held about the industry before entering it?

Yes definitely! UX/UI design hasn’t been around for very long, before that there was only web designing. I thought that all you had to do was design a website and make it look good, but now I realise that it’s more about usability.

UX/UI is a combination of psychology, creativity and skills. You need to understand your target audience and their needs and pain points. Then you’ve got to creatively find solutions for these pain points before implementing it into prototypes.

You won a Gold award at the Best Design Awards for your Pick project that provides assistance to people with a disability. Do you see your role as one that can help shape a better world?

Great question! At first, I wasn’t aware of my identity as a designer in the community. But once I took a step back and looked at my values, I realised that I want to be using my skills and creativity to help this community thrive.

At the beginning of my career, I was too busy to do side-projects and passion work. But I realised that this was out of balance with my values and that my happiness lies in helping people and shaping a better world. I’ve decided to dedicate at least an hour a day to side- projects that benefit the community.

Where do you go for inspiration?

I love reading. I try to read books in different areas and genres so that I can keep learning every day. I also get inspiration watching TEDx and keeping up with new technologies and innovations. But I’d say that a lot of my inspiration comes from people.

What advice would you give those who are entering the industry?

Step back and ask yourself ‘why’?

Why am I doing this?
 Why should I study that in that field? Why should I work in this company? Why do I want to become a manager? Etc.

You have to identify the ‘why’ and be clear about the reason behind your work/study. Life is rough and you always will find obstacles and challenges and if there isn’t a good

reason or a passion behind what you doing, you’ll lose your enthusiasm quickly.

But you also need to know that you ‘why’ will change over time. Your values will change, your passions will change and your perspective will change. We’re always discovering new things about ourselves, so we need to evaluate these things and ask ourselves ‘why’.

Where to next for Mona Gabr?

My family and I are super excited to be moving to Sydney! We’re currently preparing for this huge step and looking for new opportunities over there.

But in the meantime, I’m working on a passion project that focuses on helping working mothers achieve a work-life balance.

I’ve found that there’s a lack of resources for working mothers, so it can be hard to achieve this work-life balance. A lot of the stuff out there is just to help them get into the workforce and there isn’t much about what comes after work. So, this is what I’m working on for them.

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