Retooling For a Collaborative Future
Anna Kaziunas France, Experience Designer
My road to Infosys has been unconventional. I spent my undergraduate education studying the social sciences and graduated from a small Quaker school, Earlham College, with a double major in sociology, anthropology, and economics. I wrote my senior thesis on online gender presentation and studying social behavior in chat rooms sparked an interest in technology that I decided to further explore in graduate school.
I began my career in User Experience in at Indiana University Bloomington where I attended the School of Information and Library Science (now the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering). I graduated from IU in 2004 with a Masters degree in Information Science where I concentrated in Human-Computer Interaction, with a focus the fields of usability, information architecture, and interaction design. I spent the next five years (2004-2009) working in various Information Architect, User Experience Designer, or Interaction Designer roles at different companies in Ann Arbor and New England creating websites and web based applications.
In 2009 I experienced a layoff that would change the course of my career. The growth of the Arduino microcontroller platform, introduced in 2005, had made physical computing more accessible than ever before and I decided that I wanted to explore interactive experiences off screen, in the physical world. It was while searching for electronics courses in Providence, RI, (my adopted hometown of 12 years), that I came across the Fab Academy and once enrolled, fell in love with digital fabrication.
The Fab Academy is a world-wide educational outreach program of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms. Based on the MIT course “How To Make Almost Anything”, in which students learn an incredible range of skills that include: CAD, computer controlled cutting, version control, electronics design and production, 3D scanning and printing, computer-controlled machining, embedded programming, molding and casting, input/output devices, machine design, interface and application programming, and networking/communications.
When I began my studies at the Fab Academy in 2010, the program was made up of a handful of students studying at digital fabrication labs (or “Fab Labs”) around the world. After my graduation from the Fab Academy, I became a local instructor with the program at AS220 (a large non-profit arts organization) and later the Dean of the global program. By the time I left the Fab Academy, it had grown to an organization of hundreds world wide.
At the same time as I was serving as the Fab Academy’s Dean, I had also started working as an editor with Make Magazine, a DIY technology publication where I established and directed an annual digital fabrication testing event in which 3D printers were reviewed by teams of experts. I also worked as an editor for Make: Books where I recruited, guided, and collaborated with expert actors to create hands-on technical books designed to teach motivated individuals from any background how to create using DIY technology and computer controlled tools. In addition, I also wrote three books during this time: Getting Started with Makerbot, Make: 3D Printing, and Design for CNC: Furniture Projects and Fabrication Technique.
By 2018 I was feeling burnt out, looking for a change of pace, and wondering if I should get back into experience design, but wasn’t quite sure where to start. The landscape of the web had changed dramatically since my last gig as an experience designer in 2009 when I was designing for the desktop alone. Post 2010, designing for responsive web had become a way of life for UX professionals. CSS3 media queries were now ready for prime time and by 2014 for the first time more users accessed the internet from their mobile devices than the desktop. Although I had five years of experience as a UX designer, I had zero mobile or responsive web experience, and was wondering how I was going to up my game in order to get back into the industry.
Enter Infosys. I was looking through online job adds and came across an Infosys experience designer position in Providence, RI. Curious, I applied and was scheduled for an interview and design challenge. During the hiring process I discovered that Infosys was in the process of building a new hub in Providence that would house 500 designers and that they were partnering with the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) to create a strategic design program. I would be in the first cohort of those who were trained. Intrigued, I accepted the position of Experience Designer with Infosys in July of 2018.
Our RISD strategic design training began immediately and I was impressed by the diversity and caliber of the group of trainees that Infosys had assembled for the RISD training. There were folks from all areas of the company, most were brand new to Infosys, but some had been with the company for some time. Our RISD training was challenging and mentally exhausting. Although the work was difficult, the working together closely with talented individuals on abstract challenges like “the future of social wellbeing” was exhilarating. We often worked late into the night and read assigned reading through the weekend.
My work at Infosys since the RISD training has also been highly collaborative, to a degree that I have never experienced at other companies. Typically, prior to Infosys, I would work alone on my UX designs, presenting to my cross-functional team members who worked in other technical disciplines. At Infosys’ Providence design hub we work together as a team of UX designers, each participating in an equal, synergistic way through the concepting, definition, and design phases of each project.
I have only been at Infosys for seven months, but am eager for future collaboration with my colleagues, to see the implementation of the experience and design labs come to fruition, and to see the Providence hub grow to its full size.