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Hi, I’m Dené.


I tend to think that we are all a culmination of our experiences…


A brief timeline of my experiences

“Quiet, observant” child with the inkling to tinker

As a child, I loved exploring. I didn’t know what a designer or engineer even was, but I was curious and would latch onto ideas-attempting to make grain out of dried grass or making “fairy dust” from wood shavings… Raised in New Mexico, USA, I love observing and exploring the juxtaposition of rural and urban life.

Studied Psychology (BA)

I have always thought that my “superpower” is intuition. I like understanding people and discovering clarity between others who see different realities. This formal education in Psychology fuels the research studies I create and gives parameters to interactions and observations.

Started first “real job” as a Counselor at the San Francisco county jail

Though I was still unsure of my career direction, I was determined to use my Psych degree. This experience was transformative and expanded my understanding of the human experience, showing me distinct perspectives, journeys, and goals. This was my first experience conducting 1-on-1 interviews and leading group therapy – now applied as focus groups.

Moved to Beijing and got a MA in New Media

Living in San Francisco was like living in a continuous focus group. As I was exposed to the “tech world,” I became fascinated. Simultaneously, I was eager to return to China (where I had studied abroad). Beijing’s tech scene was moving at an unprecedented rate and with a scholarship, I dove into the world of New Media. It was a wide-ranging program that provided an expansive understanding of the digital adaptation our world is undergoing, its impact on society and individuals, and practical skills to shape this next stage of the human experience.

Worked for a startup app

Upon graduation, I was hired as employee #2 of an app startup in Beijing. It connected Chinese people to foreign teachers in Beijing – a direct connection that was not readily available at the time. I wrote the English version of the app, ran beta testing, managed the non-app design, marketing & branding team, and designed the website. In true startup fashion, it gave me a great sampling of experience.

Worked for a priest

One of the longest Sino-Western relationships dates back to the 16th century when the Jesuits arrived in China and began exchanging information in science and culture. The Beijing Center carries on the Jesuit tradition, with a library that hosts some of the oldest maps and books about China written in English and a study abroad programs that brings students from around the world to China. I was the Communications Director, dedicated to creating stories about this cultural exchange. I wrote the voice & tone guideline and directed the redesign of the website.

Finally figured out that what I’d been doing for the past 3 years is called UX

During The Beijing Center’s website redesign, I worked closely with the UX director of the agency that I’d hired. Through this interaction and some introspection, I knew that I came alive when I tried to understand why people make the choices they do- especially when interacting with technology. I knew that my brain seemed extremely clear when figuring out systems, but I had done so many “random” projects, I wasn’t sure how it all came together. It was then that I realized that everything that I loved to do actually did fit into one job description. UX.

Got a job as a UX Project Manager at a digital agency

After the website was complete, I asked the web design agency for a job. They welcomed me aboard and I trained directly under the UX director and CEO.

Promoted to Senior UX Researcher and Project Director

Taking projects from proposal through publication. I worked with people in English, Chinese, and more often, a mixture of the two- or more. I worked with diplomats, CEOs of startups and managers of Fortune 500s. I met the guy who trains the wolves for Game of Thrones and some of my all-time favorite journalists. Basically, I worked on awesome projects with awesome people.

Working to positively impact people’s lives with digital products<-- I am here!

Currently in NYC, I  work to shape government digital services to positively impact people’s lives. I’m currently on an embedded strategic sprint team at the VA (Veterans Affairs). Unleashing the power of service design, I partner with government stakeholders to improve the experience and submission success for caregivers and Veterans applying for health care at the VA-the US’ largest health care system. It has been a rewarding experience to conduct research with so many incredible humans and apply that directly to reduce their burden while simultaneously bringing human-centered design best practices to such a large government organization.

For a more formal introduction

View Resumé
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My approach to UX

I approach UX with an understanding that my work is an integrated part of the human continuum. I apply design thinking with recognition to the impact that UX decisions make on people’s everyday life. Technology is  no longer a digitized version of a “tool,” but is shifting society and shaping understanding for the entire global society and human race. I believe it is my job to take the already discovered knowledge in the fields of Ethics, Psychology, Technology, Design, History, Philosophy, Sociology, Neurology, Culture…just to name a few…and apply this with empathy to create meaningful, accessible digital experiences. Yes, I do believe this can all be done in concert with meeting business goals.

dene wireframe bandw

Experience in

  • Design strategy and project scoping
  • Qualitative research methodologies- interviews, focus groups, participatory design, ethnographic field study
  • Quantitative research methodologies – tree testing, card sorting, heat mapping, eye-tracking, survey creation, UX audits
  • Creating artifacts: User profiles, user flows, wireframes, and prototypes
  • Design and technical project management
  • Proposal writing and client management