Her Career Ladder
A community of Women of Color in STEM
It is not a surprise to me that lack of Women of Color in leadership program is not uncommon and has always been underrepresented to some capacity in their career but most surprising was how many of them give up too soon and do not stand up for themselves due to lack of confidence and lack of support.
I was very thrilled to be part of this project as being myself, a Women of Color, wanted to learn my fellow sisters’ stories and their journey during the process.Her Career Ladder is a brand new concept from Michele Heyward who is founder and CEO of PositiveHire, a tech company engineered to bridge the gap between enterprises and underrepresented women in STEM professionals.
During the initial chat with the founder, we learned about HCL and her vision for this community she is envisioning to build. Her mission for HCL is to fulfill the gap of insufficiency and trust . A community to learn, share and grow from each other, mind-liked women and the industry expert mentors. The platform would offer well curated resources such as summits, teachings, blogs, podcast, small group meetings, mentor sessions and in-demand lessons, 1–on-1 chat rooms and much more to enhance skills.
“We have strived to create a platform that provides career advancing education through the lens of other underrepresented women, career coaching to address our individual needs and barriers, and a safe community to discuss our experiences. ”
— Michele Heyward, Founder
My role as UX/UI Product Designer first off to get deep understanding about the client need, expectations and pain points. During my first kick off meeting over zoom with Michelle, she shared some of her ideas and vision for HCL which was very helpful to me. She likes to create a safe space for Women of Color to share their stories and learn from resources to polish their skills and or learn new ones. I learned about her direct competitors and what would be different about HCL and stand unique from rest other community platforms out there. I also learned about her some of the current roadblocks that she is facing. This meeting with her gave me good idea about her must haves, should haves and could haves.
I created this proto-persona so we could humanize the target audience we were looking at, before we even looked too closely at our interview participants and their user behavior. This helped us gather our general ideas about the audience.
To start off the research goals, laid out the few key strategy to move ahead with the process.
Competitive Analysis :Investigate existing membership sites with similar features via Competitive Analysis, including:
User Interviews:Accomplish this via recruit and interview target users, gain additional insights and establish key trends of interest.
Design For Pain Points: Brainstorm potential platform features based upon research.
We performed Heuristics Analyses in order to compare and contrast what about our competitor’s sites made them satisfying or disatisfying user experiences. We utilized the LEMErS method of Learnability, Efficiency, Memorability, Error Management, & Satisfaction.
Because we were building a membership platform from ground up, we weren’t able to complete a heuristics analysis on Her Career Ladder, so we completed a Heuristics Analysis for each of our competitors to learn the membership site expectations.
Plus/Delta charts are a tool we used to analyze what is working with a site in regards to the strengths they employ and, conversely, what in their business has the opportunity for growth. This was valuable in assessing our competitors as a way to further refine the features we needed to include in order to make our membership site competitive
Plus: Lists features for benefits on site; there is an app for members, which is forward-thinking
Delta: List of benefits do not include descriptors of each feature and therefore does not inspire interest or justify cost/value of membership; 3-day free trial of membership is not sensible, particularly because when you do become a member you can see the level of inactivity in the site- not enough time to properly connect with anyone when communication is dead on platform.
Plus: FairyGodBoss gives their information and resources right away when navigating to their site; due to imagery, site generally feels inclusive, for all kinds of women
Delta: Site is not utilizing the power of testimonials/social proof due to blurred testimonial pictures- it’s not very compelling; Community platform has a lot of moving parts and feels cluttered.
Plus: AnitaB has a really robust membership site, replete with resources like their mentorship program, Content Library, & Career Center
Delta: The Community Platform has a lot of features, which veers into too many. There you can create blog posts, store files- the value is not immediately clear for such features.
Plus: Big thing TechLadies has going for it is its mission-driven approach that is felt throughout their site, from their statements of inclusivity to their branding and style choices. It is clear they are very welcoming to people from marginalized communities who are seeking to advance their careers in tech.
Delta: TechLadies does not seem to cater to individuals who may need the training necessary to get the next position they desire. There is no robust library of resources that serve that purpose.
In conducting our Feature Analysis, we wanted to validate Michele’s “Must Have” by comparing it with HCL competitors. These included:
1.An attention-grabbing landing page that users wanted to explore and peruse for longer than 1 minute.
2. An “Our Story”/About Page explaining the purpose of the site, with a specific section for the founder’s story
3. An FAQ section for membership explaining membership benefits
4. Sign up section for the waitlist
For my analysis these sites either met the criteria fully or were otherwise surmised to lack these specific requirements.
We utilized the Moscow Method to solidify our commitment to the features we were going to build out. Keeping HCL “Must Haves”in mind and through robust competitive analysis and outside of the non-negotiable Must Haves that we discussed with client, we concluded that the features we “Should Have” included:
- A Resource page for trainings, blogs, podcasts, webinars, & summits
2.An noticeable Inclusivity Statement welcoming members of color who are agender, trans, or non-binary
3.Prominent member testimonials
4.Email signup for the newsletter, as that is a way she attracts a lot of users
Our “Could Haves” included:
- An Events page
- A Community platform
Screener Survey :We sent out a screener survey in order to recruit participants for our user interviews, setting it up to only speak with women or non-binary folks who had experience working in STEM fields.
21 people filled out our survey, which we posted across every single Facebook group, slack groups that had some variation of “women” and “STEM” and word of mouth.All of our respondents identified as women, and more than half had been in STEM somewhere between 0–3 years.The biggest takeaway from our survey was that out of 80% of our respondents feel that they have experienced differential treatment in the workplace.
User Interviews Questions we asked:
Affinity Mapping: After our detailed interview process to further gather and synthesize the problem statemnt, we jot down key trends and quotes from the interview and start grouping into themes to get into deeper findings and learn the insights.
From our affinity mapping, these were the findings we compiled and their accompanying Insights we synthesized. The key insights we found most prominent were:
82% of women look to other (similar) women for support
100% of women value mentorship and community
65% of women felt little opportunity for growth and advancement in their careers
Taking the key insights generated from our findings, we created an Empathy Map to keep in mind the core feelings of users as they would come to the site, and what they needed to feel and get out of the experience as a user of Her Career Ladder. We emphasized going from a lack of confidence, guidance, and skill sets, to a guidance from a mentor/career coach, and learning new skills.
Personas Detailed findings/insights and empathy mapping has given a clear picture of our user. This helped me to create the persons as my research has validated this person and her needs.
I put together two personas, women from two different career journey and age bracket. My first persona is Dahlia Reyes is 32, a lab technician, and ready to move up in her career as lead technician and eventually lead researcher. Her frustrations is that she has been passed up for promotions in the past 2 years and has not received any guidance for what to do differently.
Valerie Johnson is 50, has her Master’s in Computer Science, and is in need of a mentor and an organized set of resources for women long into their careers ready to greater leadership roles. Her frustrations are that she finds it difficult to connect with other Black women in STEM at or beyond her current position, and she feels mentally and emotionally drained in her workplace.
Problem Statement & The Opportunity: After synthesizing all of our research, we found that there is a real need for this type of platform, where could combine the requirements of the business with the community that Women of Color in STEM are searching for.
We came up with our 2-sided Problem Statement of-How might we attract Women of Color prepared to advance their careers in STEM to stay longer than 1 minute on HCL’s Landing Page?
How Might we explain membership, converting them from visitors to future members?
Our Opportunity is in building a membership site for Her Career Ladder that hatch trust and feelings of empowerment while also solving for the business needs of a streamlined, structured, membership site experience.
DESIGN & ITERATIONS
For sketching we used design studio method and incorporated some of the key features that were gathered during research. Focusing on Must Haves, Should Haves and Could Haves and after going through few variations of sketches, we pooled best features on each page before start building wireframes.
Ones we got the good idea of our all the pages, we created prototype wireframes on Figma and put out the test plan for User testing. Conducted successfully over zoom two rounds of user testing in total of 5 users, by giving them the clear scenario and what need to accomplish, gave us some really good feedback to polish our prototype further.
In first round of testing in lo-fidelity prototype I got some great feedbacks and made iterations — such as text alignment on hero image, elements were cramped, buttons were not looking button like so user could not click to learn more about the various features.
And on the second round of testing on landing page from hi-fidelity, I got the feedback the buttons were still not reading as interactive so I added
“Learn more” CTA .Added more height to the page and spaced out elements. One of the feedback was that user like to learn more about the mission so I added quote from the founder on landing page right below hero image so it’d hard to miss out.
Visual Design: During the second user testing, we received a very constructive feedback on color palette being very soft, subdued and may not perhaps convey the mission message quite well. It was very soothing but not strong enough. So we built a new palette using rich bold jewel tones as it reflects empowering and strength for a woman who is taking a charge of her career and driven to advance her skills.
ITERATIONS TO FINAL PRODUCT
More user testing.
Building out the community platform.
Building out the user portal.
Making the site responsive or making an app for members.
There is no magic to achievement, it’s really about hard work, choices and persistence — Michelle Obama
Thank You for reading this piece.