Coffee and a catch up: Francesca
Can you tell us about your background and your career so far?
I started with a degree in Computer science with a specialisation in human and computer interaction from the University of Milan. I then worked as a web developer until moving to Turin to become a consultant in the automotive field where we developed the infotainment system for BMW cars. Alongside this role I worked as a UX designer, reviewing the usability of the products. I wanted to do more on the user experience side and I was lucky enough to win a scholarship to do an MSc in advanced computer science with a computer interaction specialisation at Swansea University. There I had the chance to work on very different technologies and to follow an interest I had in augmented reality that lead to the publication of a short abstract which I presented at the Computer Graphics & Visual Computing conference, hosted at UCL in London.
After my masters, I worked as a full stack developer in Cardiff, with a focus on the User Interface (UI) aspects of web Real-Time Communication applications.
What attracted you to the job at Flexys?
What first caught my attention was the title of the job- UX engineer. This highlighted the importance of the two sides of the role, using technical skills to solve problems and the user experience side of things. From the job description, it was clear Flexys was looking for someone with ideas on how to improve the product from the UX side. In previous jobs, I had worked for quite big companies that didn’t have a UX culture and it was quite hard to evangelise.
What does your job involve on a day to day basis?
My tasks can be quite different day to day, this is one of the things I like. I could be coding to develop features or doing something as simple as bug-fixing. When we are implementing a new feature I research the best way to develop the user interface. There is also a review process to make sure the product is aligned with the original plan.
Are there special considerations you take into account when designing the UI for the Flexys debt collection solutions?
I think user experience in collections offers lots of opportunities. Understanding how human perception works is important in user experience design because it lets you develop interfaces that actually work for people and when it comes to collections there are many aspects to this.
One of the biggest fears of people in debt is that they will feel judged and uncomfortable. So even picking up the phone to ask for help or explain their situation is really hard. So allowing customers to just open their PC or phone and click on a link and get that help can make a huge difference. We also make sure the tone of the application is forgiving and helpful as this can make a real difference.
Another aspect would be that people often feel they don’t have control when they are in arrears. They have to phone a call centre and explain their situation but then when they call again it’s a different person and they have to explain again. Having a tool under their control where they can keep track of their situation and react to it is powerful. All this has to be done with a system that is clear and easy to use.
When customers use the Flexys Collaborate digital solution, they are provided at the initial stage with an overview of what can be done using the system, how long it might take and what documents they might need, so that they can be better prepared. This helps reduce stress. If at any stage they need a break or need to gather more information, they can pause and everything they have done will be saved, they won’t have to start the process again from scratch.
What about future developments?
These days we talk a lot about open banking and how it could help creditors have a better understanding of customers’ situations. The way we collect information about Income and expenditure is through the Standard Financial Statement but this is a long process and people often don’t know where to start. Using Open Banking to allow access to a bank account and get the necessary information would be useful but one of the challenges is to get the trust from people to give access. User experience can help with this by making clear that the system you are using is trustworthy and secure.
What do you most like about your job at Flexys?
I really like that, finally, I am able to focus on user experience. I like the fact that my opinion is heard and that I work for a company that understands the importance and value of user experience. But I also like other things that are not related to the technicalities, such as working in a group of people where I am involved in decisions. We also find time for ‘brown bag’ sessions which are held at lunchtime, where one person picks a topic and explains it to the others. We run a book club where we choose a book to read together and once a week we discuss it. We also have the chance to continually improve and learn. It’s important to stay up to date and motivated.
Tell us about your interests and hobbies
Coming from Sardinia, I miss the hot weather, so whenever I can I like to travel somewhere hot. I find that quite recharging. I am quite into cats, I have two.
I started to practice yoga a few years ago and I go to classes here at Future Space three times a week. It helps to find peace in a busy day and I come back to work and feel better. I have also started cooking, mainly because I miss certain foods. When I struggled to find decent pizza I decided to learn to make it myself, it is nicer and saves money!