Virtual UX Design Workshop with Microsoft

On Jan. 19, IGNITE welcomed 37 girls/nonbinary students from Eastlake High School in Washington to a virtual UX Design Workshop with Microsoft! Sierra Lorenzini, a UX designer with a specialization in video games, kicked things off by sharing how intertwined design is with the engineering process and everything at Microsoft, from running websites to running Minecraft! Though technical roles and skills are important, she stressed that products can’t be completed without creative roles and skills. 

Sierra asked students to think about their favorite apps and the colors, fonts, and layouts; all those things and more are a part of a user’s experience with a product, and every app has someone behind it who has thought about what the experience of the app should be. That’s a UX Designer’s job!

Elizabeth Maher, Microsoft Senior Software Engineer, then introduced a panel of STEM professionals from Microsoft.

Sierra is a UX Designer at Turn 10 Studios, where she works on Forza Motorsports! Growing up, Sierra loved video games but didn’t know she wanted to study anything related to computer science in college until she attended a class with her roommate and loved it! A woman at Microsoft helped Sierra get her first internship at Xbox. She emphasized the importance of female mentors and support systems.

Jin Shin is a Senior UX Designer at Minecraft. She has always been interested in logic and solving problems, as well as video games. Jin was originally a graphic designer in Korea, but she ultimately discovered the gaming industry to be the perfect place to merge her passion and experience! Now she helps shape how players around the world interact with the Minecraft game!  

Parul Matah is a Principal Software Engineer for Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing service. Like Jin, she has always enjoyed solving problems and discovered that computers were a great way to explore! Parul has worked in many different areas of technology, and she loves that there is so much variety.

The students asked a lot of great questions, including:

  • How much flexibility does the job have for life, children (or dogs)?  
  • What experiences in academia have prepared you for the career you have now? 
  • What is your favorite part of being a UX designer?
  • What would you say is the most artistic/creative job in tech?
  • What can I do in high school to pursue UX? Specific classes to take to start this career path?
  • What are your recommendations for students who want to have a STEM-based career?

The panelists shared a wide range of advice:

  • Jobs in technology provide flexibility and work/life balance, such as the ability to work from home–plus they pay well, which gives you the freedom to do things like travel.
  • You don’t need to be super technical to study Computer Science. 
  • When you walk into a meeting or office, remember: Nobody else has any idea what’s going on, either! 
  • Take advantage of the opportunities available at school.
  • Find mentors and people who can support and guide you along your journey.
  • Education matters! Good education is an investment in your future and will boost your chances of living a comfortable and stable life.

Next, the students broke into small groups for a creative design activity with mentors Elizabeth; Prarthana Kamath, a Senior Software Engineer; and Genevieve Warren, a Software Design Engineer. Students chose from a variety of personas, like a musician, teacher, grandma, or even a cat or dog, and were tasked with sketching out an app to meet their user’s specific needs. Everyone showed their creativity and outside-the-box thinking and came up with some amazing ideas!

This event was a great opportunity to learn about the creative side of STEM and all the different paths you can take. Thank you to the incredible Microsoft volunteers for providing a memorable and inspiring experience: Tech Host Casey Schaertl, Facilitators Sierra Lorenzini and Elizabeth Maher, Panelists Sierra, Jin Shin, and Parul Matah, and Elizabeth Maher, Prarthana Kamath, and Genevieve Warren for mentorship in the breakout rooms!

After attending this event:


of students are interested in STEM

Take STEM Class


of students know more about STEM career choices and the benefits of working in a STEM field

Ask Teacher about Additional STEM Activities


of students feel more confident in pursuing STEM


of students gained perspective and feel more hopeful about the future

Here’s what the students thought of the event:

“I loved how we had whole-group and small group activities. It made me feel like I could achieve the sun, moon, and stars. I liked how they came from a variety of backgrounds. I also like how they came from a variety of cultures, and ages since they gave different perspectives.” – 10th grade

“I think it was really inspiring to see all these different people with their journeys and how they ended up in STEM. It also showed me that it is OK to pursue STEM and made me feel comfortable. I also really liked the activity we did as I had never been exposed to UX before and it got me really interested.” – 12th grade

“It made me realize that there are so many more options for coding than I thought. I used to think that if you wanted to code there was only one option, but it’s interesting to see the variety of jobs. I also got to see how there is no set course for entering the STEM field.” – 9th grade

“It was inspiring to see women in a field dominated by men! It was especially cool to see all the different areas and applications of design in technology.” – 11th grade

“Today’s event inspired me by teaching me about all of the types of UX careers that exist. The presentation was great, and the activity at the end was really fun!” – 9th grade

“It was really nice to hear all of the ways that these women got a job in STEM careers. I loved all of their stories, and their advice was very helpful. Thank you so much for coming, it was such an amazing opportunity to talk with you guys! I loved all of the advice you gave, and I had so much fun today :)” – 9th grade

“It was really interactive and made me realize that it is achievable for me to get into something relating with both art and technology as that is something I am really interested in.” – 9th grade

“Seeing so many women in STEM made me feel more confident in my dreams of joining a STEM field. I thought the presentation was great and the activity was fun! I look forward to more events. Thank you!” – 11th grade

“I loved hearing that most of the speakers didn’t know what they wanted to do until college. They reassured me that I don’t have to know what I want to do to succeed in my future. Additionally UX seems like such an interesting and up-and-coming job to have. Each one of you had an amazing life story and have reassured me that I don’t have to give up my passion for art to pursue STEM!” – 9th grade

“It inspired me to see how there are so many females and nonbinary people who are finding themselves in STEM. I was especially inspired by the diverse background that each panelist carried despite ending up in STEM. It gives me confidence that I have the liberty to really take time to explore myself. Thank you so much for hosting these workshops and bringing awareness about UX and design and the implications it has in the tech industry. I’ve been meaning to go into something like this for a while now and your voices have encouraged me!” – 11th grade

“It gave me reassurance that a career in tech is accessible to everyone and has a place for artistic and creative people.” – 11th grade

“The volunteers described what they did and explained what did and that inspired me. I have always been interested in math and computer science so this event just helped me find out that I am interested in UX.” – 9th grade

“As a Korean girl, it was super cool to see someone like me in the STEM field and talking about their experiences. I also really liked the activity that we did and learning about wire framing. I can definitely see myself using this new learned skill in future projects. This workshop is an informational and fun experience. You will learn about people who work in the field with their experiences. The work itself is very laid back and fun to do so there is no pressure!” – 9th grade

“Today’s event inspired me to learn more about different fields in STEM. I have always believed STEM was meant for people in the computer science field and medical field, but after today I think that if I like to design different applications in STEM, I can pursue it as a career. UX design definitely brought a completely different perspective into my mind about STEM and I appreciate that, because otherwise I would have never realized the other opportunities in STEM.” – 10th grade

“I would like to share that I absolutely loved the workshop. I loved how it was interactive, and we got to experience something that someone would do in their job. I liked the mixture of talking and interacting!” – 10th grade

“It was so inspirational to hear about how fellow minorities could power through oppression and get great jobs in the tech field. They even shared the best advice they had ever gotten and it was amazing. it was stuff like ‘There is nothing you can’t do!’ Thank you. I really loved to hear about your stories and your advice today.” – 10th grade

“I’m hopeful because the mentors told us not to worry so much about our major. They also gave us some great advice like ‘not to feel awkward because of who you are.’ Thank you so much for all the great stories and advice! You guys are really motivating!” – 11th grade

“I found out all the different career choices I could pursue. I learnt how cool and interesting UX Design is and I will probably take something related to STEM as my major in college. It is really important that women and nonbinary people are represented in STEM, and STEM offers various job opportunities that could meet a lot of people’s interests.” – 9th grade

“It was very inspirational to hear everyone’s stories on their pathway to become a female in STEM. I loved meeting everyone! Thank you so much for hosting this event! Hearing everyone’s stories, their roles today, and the panel discussion was very helpful and inspiring. The example UX design process we participated in was fun and engaging!” – 9th grade

I met so many women who inspired me and talked about their careers and life—it always helps! Thank you!! you’re so inspiring and I can’t wait to immerse myself “ – 11th grade

“I liked understanding the different pathways that people could take to reach a certain career. This was something that helped change my perspective to understand that life is not linear.” – 9th grade

“The event was interesting because it showed me multiple different jobs I could pursue, as well as many different ideas on how to go forward. It also helped with understanding that I don’t need everything to be STEM-related in my career.” – 9th grade

“Seeing and hearing from so many different women in STEM and computer science inspired me as a woman, and showed me that it is possible to have a place in these fields. Hearing their backgrounds and experiences, it gave me confidence that I will be able to overcome challenges and obstacles in the future for my career. I would like to strongly thank each of the volunteers for their time to talk to us today. I really appreciated them being present and supporting us by giving us their confidence.” – 10th grade

“It was overall very fun and inspiring, because of all the ideas and knowledge shared with me.” – 11th grade

“I got to learn about the different career paths everyone took and how despite coming from different backgrounds, they were all part of the diverse fields of STEM. I felt inspired learning I didn’t need to have it all figured out right away. Thank you for sharing your experiences! It gave me a better perspective on my own life and helped me figure out some ways to get into the UX design career path.” – 11th grade

“It was really inspiring to hear these women’s stories of how they got into STEM or UX Design and even if you only start in college, it’s still something you have time to pursue. It also made me feel more comfortable about the idea of going into a career like design. Thank you for coming and sharing your experiences, it’s gotten me more interested in design and gave me some good places to start!” – 9th grade

“Today’s event inspired me because it showed me the many different paths I could go on after college. I’ve never really thought about what I want to do after college, so it was great to learn about how you can combine two subjects you’re passionate about and make a career out of it. Thank you so much for your time! This was very fun, and I learned a whole lot about UX design and future careers in CS!” – 9th grade

“I was really inspired by one of the speakers saying that you don’t have to know what you want to do in high school. Because sometimes I feel like everyone knows what they want to do while I’m still exploring my options. I would really like to thank them for coming! I would like to share that a lot of the products they have worked on have made a positive impact in my life.” – 9th grade

“It really helped me understand the benefits and variety in STEM. Thank you for taking the time to do this.” – 9th grade