I was super excited to receive the offer letter to be a part of Terraso’s team. Firstly I was fascinated by Terraso’s mission to help landscapes worldwide create sustainable outcomes. Secondly, my goal was to understand the role of a UX Designer in a start-up cum NGO. This was a perfect opportunity for me to identify my value in the team as a Junior Designer by leveraging my background in urban studies that focussed on understanding the intersection between people, context, and nature.
During my internship, I observed how Hana and Derek would conduct ad hoc sessions where they created a space for the users to talk about their motivations and pain points concerning their interaction with Terraso and other relevant tools. We would analyze the sessions and create summary notes. A product spec draft would then be created that was later brainstormed and refined by the whole team (product, design, and engineering). From there, I learned how to iterate on design solutions based on the product spec document.
Hana helped me understand the relevance of identifying the right tools that could deepen my understanding of the design process depending on the particular problem I was trying to solve. E.g. Creating a workflow before jumping into design helped me understand multiple scenarios and edge cases that may get missed out. Once the features were implemented, we would further test them with real users to assess their usability. It was a heartwarming feeling to see the excitement of the users. At the same time, it was informative to receive critical feedback to ensure that we were creating a meaningful product for them.
I also learned through multiple design iterations how to be intentional in the design and how every design element on my board has to come up based on a thorough understanding of our users, accessibility criteria, and engineering aspects. I learned how to present my design to the product and engineers, brainstorm as a team, and not work in silos. The diverge and converge methodology applied not just within the design team but with the whole team helped me understand the value of agile methodology in designing solutions.
I also shadowed Hana in creating personas for the Landscape Finance module. I experienced the process from developing subject matter through digging resources to asking the right questions to the stakeholders to working with stakeholders in whiteboarding sessions to creating personas and customer journey maps as tools to identify the right design solution. It was fascinating to see the hesitation among the stakeholders in the beginning as they felt that it was all a hypothesis, and then to their amazement and enthusiasm, once we had the board put together they could visualize the information in front of them. The process of asking the right questions and building on them together with the stakeholders helped us develop a deeper understanding of the subject before we dived into the design.
Throughout my internship, I was especially fascinated by our bottom-up approach to creating the Terraso application. Apart from our team meetings, we had frequent meetings with the 1000L to ensure that we worked in sync with our landscape partners toward our broader goals.
I think one of the major learnings for me, coming from an Asian background, was understanding the power of inclusivity in design. There is value in your strengths and weaknesses. When I started my internship, I was very conscious of my limitations in communication skills. Hana helped me understand that our unique experiences bring value to creating an inclusive design that could make sense to users from different contexts and regions. Our thoughts, ideas, and questions can start conversations and may help in identifying problems that may not be obvious to others. I am extremely grateful to Hana and Terraso for allowing me to work here, and I look forward to using my learnings from my internship here in my next role.