I was founded in 1987 in Albany, New York, an area of the country that's ripe with tulips, cement buildings, green mountains, and grey winters. I grew up a quiet, bookish child with a penchant for Star Wars and pop punk.
When it was time for college, I headed westward to SUNY Oneonta. I majored in Psychology and minored in French. (To be honest, I also majored in Sociology, but I was one class short of that degree because I decided to take a conflicting neuroscience class. That decision has literally never mattered.)
I struck a happy chord in college when I worked as a research assistant with Psychology department faculty. My favorite research projects were those involving Human Factors experiments, a field that I hadn't previously known existed. In the field of Human Factors, we apply psychology research toward improving human interactions with technology. I provided support for studies on alleviating pilot motion sickness and on assessing optical illusions in cockpit displays.
PhD Years, Y'all
I hardly knew what I was getting into (thank goodness!), but I was fortunately accepted to the Human Factors Psychology PhD program at Old Dominion University. For the next five years, I disappeared into this academic world in mid-Atlantic coastal Virginia, forging amazing friendships and building broad + deep expertise.
Our Master's and PhD programs covered a lot of ground: statistical theory and analyses, ergonomics, human decision making, web interface design, human perception in virtual environments, robotic technology design, and a whole list of other things.
As a graduate researcher, I was interested in improving healthcare training using tools like virtual environments, simulations, and video games. My area of focus for PhD qualifying exams was instructive virtual characters, and my dissertation investigated the use of narrative performance feedback for training communication skills. (That was a lot of words, I know. I'm sorry!)
During these grad school years, I also became interested in the overlapping field of User Experience (UX). Generally speaking, UX takes what Human Factors stands for and adds more emotional qualities to design. Human Factors wants people to be safe and productive, and UX wants people to be happy, too.
There and Back Again
After wrapping up every PhD thing besides the (gigantic) dissertation, I moved back to Albany. I wanted to start building my professional presence in upstate New York, because truthfully, I had missed these tulips, cement buildings, green mountains, and grey winters.
I quickly joined Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) at the Center for Modeling, Simulation, and Imaging in Medicine (CeMSIM), where I worked as a Human Factors Research Specialist for a while.
Entrepreneurship + Startups
While reacquainting myself to my hometown, I absorbed all I could from the local tech, design, and entrepreneur communities. I noticed a UX-shaped hole that needed to be filled.
I met my business partners through work and meetups, and together we created Kennason, LLC, a consulting company for UX research, strategy, and design. We have worked with great and inspiring clients, from small tech startups to large organizations, and we are always excited by new and challenging ideas.
I also spent some time leading scientific research efforts for a tech startup called Dumbstruck, housed in the New York Biz Lab in Schenectady, NY. Dumbstruck is a video testing platform that uses automatic facial analysis to measure viewer emotions. The idea of using emotion recognition in new and exciting ways was intriguing to me, but my role did not last. I collected some lessons and moved back into full-time consulting.
In addition to consulting, I am a freelance writer for What Users Do, often writing articles geared toward UX beginners. I've learned that I truly love sharing knowledge and teaching others.
I love volunteering as an organizer for AlbanyUX. We are a small and scrappy group of UX professionals and students who get together about once every three months to network and learn from others.
I'm also volunteering as the Sponsorships Director for AIGA Upstate New York. I love working with such a dedicated, kind, and inspiring group of creatives, and I have learned so much about how to develop positive community relationships and raise money for a nonprofit.
I am a social sciences person who kinda morphed into a creative entrepreneur somehow, and small talk at weddings is a real bitch when somebody asks what I do for a living.