Amalia Cesare ‘21
User Experience Writer at The Vanguard Group in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
Program: MS in User-Centered Design
In her spare time, Amalia loves to explore the many trails in her area while she trains for a half marathon with her husband. During quarantine, she picked up gardening as a hobby and she is currently starting her second batch of seedlings to plant for the summer. She also lives in an area that is heavily concentrated with breweries, so she has enjoyed trying new suds and logging them on Untappd!
Get to know Amalia Cesare!
Why did you choose Brandeis GPS?
I chose Brandeis for several reasons. I was looking for a program that would fit into my life in a realistic way. I have two bonus kids, a full-time job, and when I started the program I had recently become a new homeowner and was planning a wedding. Life was chaotic to say the least! I wanted a program that offered top-tier education while also offering me the flexibility to meet my other obligations. I also needed a program that was fully remote because I was not in a position to relocate.
What inspired you to choose your field of study?
The short answer is that I was both inspired and frustrated by my experience in the IT field. As a technical writer, I was essentially the first user of a product. My engineers would hand over a final build and ask me to document it. This process exposed a lot of product and experiences issues that we just didn’t have the bandwidth to fix based on where my work fell in the product development life cycle. I wanted to move into User Experience and position myself at the beginning of the product life cycle because I wanted to be able to design meaningful experiences and effect positive change for the users of the products I was working on.
How have you enjoyed your experience at Brandeis thus far?
To say that I’ve loved my experience at Brandeis would be an understatement! Brandeis has given me so many things: a chance to learn from industry experts, the opportunity to learn through doing, the ability to network with others in the industry, and the confidence to step out of my comfort zone. At my previous employer, I was able to take on additional responsibilities as a UX Designer/Writer in addition to my role as a technical writer. Recently, I was lucky enough to be able to start a new position as a User Experience Writer with The Vanguard Group. My experience at Brandeis gave me the knowledge and confidence to nail my interviews.
What are your hopes and aspirations for the rest of your time at Brandeis?
I’m planning to complete my program in June of 2021. I hope that, during this time, I can continue to grow my UX network and showcase the knowledge I’ve accumulated with my capstone project. I also hope to continue mentoring students that are new to the program so they can have a successful and enjoyable experience at Brandeis!
What are your plans for after graduation?
While I don’t have any specific plans for after graduation, I’m hoping to continue learning and growing in my new role as a UX Writer. In the future, I’m hoping to transition into UX Research.
What advice would you give to incoming students?
Overall, I think the best advice that I could give to incoming students is to not rush through the program if you don’t have to. I’ve taken one class a session, which felt slow to me at first, but I’m so glad that I did. It gave me the opportunity to really focus on and absorb the material I was learning and to enjoy the process of gaining new skills. I’d also echo the advice of many others and say that you should never be afraid to ask questions! I came into this program without a background in design and was worried that it would put it at a disadvantage; it didn’t. If you have a question, just ask. There are many others in your class that have the same question (trust me!) and you’re not going to look silly for asking. This is the best opportunity to further your knowledge and level the playing field!
What has been your favorite class to-date?
My favorite class so far has been Information Architecture! It was one of the more challenging classes that I’ve taken in the program, but coming from an English background, understanding how tightly language is tied to positive and usable experiences made me feel like I had the ability to apply my existing expertise in a new field. It was also my first exposure to user research, which was both exciting and terrifying! Having to conduct tests with users took me out of my comfort zone, but it has grown into an experience that I love.
For more information on the User-Centered Design program, visit: https://www.brandeis.edu/gps/academics/user-centered-design/index.html.