UX Research Work Placement at Nimbus

Since completing his degree in Creative Digital Media in June 2022, Kevin Smith joined the Nimbus Gateway User Experience (UX) team for the summer of 2022 to observe, learn and contribute to the many Industry projects that flow through the Nimbus UX lab. The UX team benefited greatly through a 2019 Enterprise Ireland capital call that provided an optimum user experience design environment that has impressed and benefitted many Nimbus Gateway industry clients since.  

For this blog the UX team decided to hand the reins to Kevin to account for his experience working with the Nimbus Gateway. The following is an extract from his experience report.  

Having just finished my degree, I was poised to take the summer off, to relax and take the time I thought I needed. Eventually, I made the decision to forgo this plan and, instead, pursue an internship with the UX team at Nimbus. Now, as I wrap up my placement, I can say, wholeheartedly, it was a great decision to make. In my short time with the team, I’ve learned so much, grown so much, and got the chance to experience many facets of UX design. 

The transition into the workplace was aided by the flexible and hybrid model that the Nimbus team are currently using. I really appreciated both the ability to work from home in an environment that was comfortable and familiar, while also getting the benefits of direct face-to-face contact with my co-workers and colleagues. This meant I wasn’t constrained to just one or the other, and as a result, stressful commutes were minimized and productivity was maximized. It provided me with the opportunity to see how the role of a UX designer is going to evolve in the future with this hybrid model that seems to be working great for all the team. 

This is all without mention of the colleagues and co-workers I have been working under this summer. Before, this internship I had no real concept of what a UX office would be and I am incredibly grateful to have been surrounded by such great examples of professionals in the field to aspire to. It was great to be able to learn by observing them go about their work activities. In college, we are taught about the theory of UX and exercises in isolation for developing solutions but it is rare that we actually have the bandwidth to do much implementation. But being able to watch how these techniques and heuristics are applied before being asked to do it myself was a great way to put the theory I had learned into practice. I always appreciated the framework of expectations set for me. I was asked to watch and observe how an activity was carried out with a client-facing project and afterwards, expected and trusted to deliver on my own. I was doing real work that was being implemented into final UX solutions something that was never lost on me throughout the internship. I was given the responsibility to be able to rise to the job given to me and my colleagues made it clear they were confident I could do it.

Given that all of my co-workers were graduates of my course they were able to tie these tasks in directly with my college work which meant that the act of bridging the gap between the academic and professional worlds a lot more manageable. They were also able to identify the gaps in my knowledge coming out of the course and see what skills I would need for this role but hadn’t been given the opportunity to learn.  

That meant I was given the space for the first week or so of the internship to spend time easing myself into client-work while upskilling in software like Figma. Even little things like seeing how co-workers set boundaries with clients on the amount of work that could be done was something I previously would have had no concept of how to do but now that I have been shown that framework I am confident I could do it myself. 

In addition to seeing how my new colleagues worked and interacted within a professional environment, it was great to be able to interact with them as academics. I’ve had an interest in academia for a number of years now and have even been supported in this interest by some of my previous lecturers. I would love to become a lecturer in the future but have long resisted the reality that getting a PhD would entail. That being said, my attitude has changed now having been around so many people actively working on theirs. In particular, many of them are being supervised by that same lecturer who had advised me to undertake one myself. Whereas before I would have avoided the prospect of undertaking a PhD for fear that it would absorb my life and stunt my professional growth, now, having discussed it with colleagues I feel more confident that both the professional and the academic can be juggled.  

I am also now more aware of some of the potential pitfalls of undertaking such a line of academic pursuits but if nothing else, I am now armed with far more knowledge to be able to make a more informed decision when it is time to do so. But most of all I really appreciated the sheer variety of projects I got to work on at my time in Nimbus. In just 3 short months, I got to work on projects in fintech, business management, memory collection, etc. It allowed me to really get to grips with the diversity of projects a UX designer would be working on. It also meant that I was never bored which was great. I could always switch between one or a couple of projects to keep myself moving along. 

All and all I had a fantastic time as an intern on the UX team at Nimbus. I got to touch so many different projects, meet so many different people and got to do real work that would be implemented and see the light of day. I’m sad to leave the team behind but I’m hoping it’s not the last they’ll see of me. I look forward to strengthening my relationship with them and Nimbus as a whole as step into the next phase of my career as a MSc student.  

For further information about the Nimbus Gateway’s UX team please refer to www.nimbusgateway.ie or email Nimbus Gateway manager brian.cahill@mtu.ie. All good projects have good UX design. 

Team pictured includes:  

(Back row): Andrew De Juan, Kevin Smith, Kevin O’Mahony. (Front row) Moya Cronin, Sarah Hayes, Michelle O’Keeffe, Denise Heffernan.