What is your current professional role and how did you get here?
I currently work as a freelance designer with my main focus being on apps. The way I got here is interesting. I’ve always been a creative person. Art was my favourite subject at school and I went on to study a Bachelor of Visual Arts at university. While I was there, I did some electives in design and discovered that was something I really enjoyed. I did lots of volunteer work in the area. Then, I got an iPhone in 2011. I was immediately in love with apps. I emailed the developer of a dream-journalling app with some feedback. Actually, a detailed PDF with screenshots and red arrows. Rather than feel criticised, he was impressed. Over the years, we gradually started working together, some icons and buttons here and there, until I started designing whole user interfaces.
What was the first app you worked on and what did it do?
Even though I love Apple, the first app I designed was an Android app to complement a pre-existing iOS app. It was a health and fitness app that focused on the non-diet approach. It allowed the user to read an ebook, watch video content, and log their thoughts and feelings on food, and much more.
What went well? What could have gone better?
Visually, I was very happy with my design. I spent ages studying the Google Material Design spec, which I found challenging to get through, but it was very rewarding. There was a strong deadline to get the app done. So, I had to let go of critiquing how my design was implemented. Shipping is more important than perfection.
At App Camp, we emphasize that it’s important to have interests outside of tech and to take breaks from looking at screens. What are some of your interests outside of tech? What do you do when you need to take a break from work?
I love my technology so much. It’s hard to separate me from my phone and Mac! I do like to go for walks and spend that time in thought or listening to a podcast or audiobook that helps me grow professionally or personally. I love listening to good music and dancing around my room. When I am with company, I try to keep my phone in my bag most of the time and engage with the people I’m with. It can be a difficult balance since tech is so integrated with our lives these days.
Why do you support the goals of App Camp?
Working on apps has changed my life and given me the opportunity to really hone my skills, be good at something, and increase my confidence. It’s connected me with a great community and lasting friendships. I would have loved to have attended something like App Camp when I was young. Learning about and participating in this industry is very rewarding and it’s never too early to discover a passion, a purpose, and other valuable life skills.
What do you recommend to those who want to support more diversity in tech?
Lift up and help anyone that you can through your influence and reach. If someone in the community has a question, answer if you can. If you see someone is looking for work, share opportunities you know of with them. Support independent app developers from many diverse backgrounds by encouraging them, congratulating them when they launch, buying their products, and sharing their work.
How can technology be a force for good?
Technology allows us to connect with others around the world and reach even further. You can make a tool that makes other people’s lives better or easier. You can make something that brings some enjoyment, happiness, and laughter. You can touch the world and change the world.
You can find Heidi Helen on Twitter.
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