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Bold for change: These are the women bringing a bold approach to UX

‘Be Bold For Change’ defines this year’s IWD

International Women’s Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women’s Day, is celebrated on March 8 every year.  It originated in the Soviet Union in 1917, where it spread to other European countries. The day was officially recognized by the United Nations in 1996. The focus of IWD’s celebrations is on celebrating women for their economic, political and social achievements.

This year’s theme, ‘Be Bold For Change’, encourages women to forge a better working world through their leadership, talents, and efforts. The travel industry is in a unique position, insofar as the number of women that are already employed.

The challenge is in maintaining visibility and maintaining that representation up through the ranks, as Michelle Lee, the founder of Women in Travel, told Travel Weekly in an interview:

“When you’re looking at metrics, over 60% to 65% of the workforce in hospitality are already women. And yet the more senior you go, the fewer women there are. What that provides us with is a unique opportunity. [In other industries] such as manufacturing and engineering, where you first have to get women in and then get them up, we already have a very strong, over 50% [of the] workforce.

Here at Sabre, we recognize International Women’s Day as an important opportunity to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women through visibility and awareness.

In the User Experience division of Airline Solutions, we profile several women who have made bold steps in the UX profession. We’ve invited them to share their perspective on their experiences working at Sabre, business opportunities for women in UX, inspirational women leaders, and mentors that have paved the way for their growth.

Featured: Alyssa Gruen, UX Lead & SSI Project Lead; Sarah Burton, Senior UX Designer and CREW Project Lead; Smita Khurana, UX Designer for SabreSonic DX; Seda Maurer, Accessibility Program Manager; Alex Ornelas, Senior UX Designer for CREW; Pri Hossain, UX Designer for SabreSonic DX; Cindy Ramirez, UX Designer for AVPS and CREW; Nicole Nash, UX Designer for SabreSonic DX.

How are the job and business opportunities for women in UX?

Alex:  I think that we are beginning to see a rising trend in women entering the UX world and becoming predominate players in UX. Compared to when I started my career, all I have to do is take a look around.

Seda:  I believe that one needs to consider women in IT to understand the opportunities for women in UX! When I look back at my own experience of almost 30 years in IT, it is obvious that we have come a long way. Today, I see the level of expertise that my younger peers (the women specifically) possess, and I know that they will be very successful. However, there is still a need for a cultural change where a woman can be elevated to leadership roles based on her potentials, too.  This can only happen with further training, cooperation, and awareness by both men and women!

Pri:  The technology field still has an uneven ratio of men to women. However, there’s been a push for women in recent years.  UX now has amazing groups such as Ladies Who UX which connects women who are in UX or want to learn about it. Women are making platforms and connecting with other women to establish relationships, share advice and support one another.

Cindy:  I think there are a lot of opportunities for woman in UX right now.  I would like to see more women as CXOs or Creative Directors. But, that’s actually one of the reasons why I’m really enjoying working at Sabre. I think we have women in key roles, and that’s very refreshing and wonderful.

Sarah:  As a woman, I do not feel obstructed in any way from succeeding in a UX position, especially at Sabre. Sabre UX has been accepting of all motivated and creative individuals, and every day I see another woman rising as a star!

Who do you look up to in the business world?

Smita:  Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and CEO of Theranos. She truly is an inspiration for all the young women out there who believes in unlimited power of women.

Alyssa:  Richard Branson. He didn’t begin as the interstellar business mogul he is today. He seeded the Virgin brand with a record shop, then music production, then a trove of ventures, and now he’s invested in the final frontier with space travel at Virgin Galactic. More intriguing than the depth and variety of his portfolio is his ability to grow in new spaces. He builds capacity by building teams of people who are better than him in uncharted territory. He puts himself in the seat of the learner and champions continuous learning.

Alex:  Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook is awesome! She has been named the most powerful woman in technology 5 times in row by Forbes.  She’s passionate about empowering women and serves on the board of Women for Women International. It’s an organization that provides support for women survivors of war, helping them rebuild their lives.

Cindy:  Sheryl Sandberg. She’s one of the few females leaders in the industry with an exposure that’s helping to change the perception of women in the workplace and as leaders in various fields. As current COO of Facebook, she’s helping pave the way for one the leading companies in technology and communication. She’s also the founder of LeanIn.Org, inspired by her book, she’s helping other woman find inspiration in each other and succeed in their goals.

Who’s your favorite mentor in the travel industry, or in UX?

Alyssa:  I admire leaders who meet the needs of the future with open curiosity about the world around them today. This, along with the resolve to lead an organization based on the principle that happy customers are created by empowered employees makes for an all-star leader. Leaders like Brian Chesky & Joe Gebbia at AirBNB, and Richard Branson at Virgin Brands embody these notions.

Pri:  Seda Maurer who runs Accessibility for Sabre is my travel industry UX mentor. Seda has such vast knowledge in many segments of travel and technology industry and loves sharing her knowledge pool.  It’s great to have a strong female mentor who you could learn from and confide in.

Cindy:  One particular female I admire outside Sabre is Julie Larson-Green.  She’s currently CXO at Microsoft and leading many innovative projects including Microsoft’s own design language (Metro).

Seda:  Michelle Peluso, the former CEO of Travelocity (co-founder and CEO of Site59). She proved is a brilliant mind, successful woman, can also be feminine, graceful, and funny!

Sarah:  I’ve always been interested in air travel because of my parents. My father is an aerospace engineer and my mother is an aerospace machinist. I’m proud of each of them for their contributing roles in the travel industry and it’s gratifying to keep this line of work in the family.

Alex:  Marti Gold.  She’s a creative director with over 20 years of experience. She’s extremely passionate about UX and she inspires me every time I speak with her.

What are some of your favorite quotes from women who inspire you?

Alex:  “If we do not share our stories and shine a light on inequities, things will not change.” – Ellen Pao.

Seda:  Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement – Golda Meir

Nicole:  “Fail fast and fail often.” My former UX Director, Andrea Boff Sutton would say this quite a bit. Everyone should feel ok with doing; most of all learn from the mistakes.

Pri:  “Success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” – Michelle Obama

Smita:  There are many quotes by Elizabeth Holmes which inspires me but one of my favorite is “I don’t want to make an incremental change in some technology in my life. I want to create a whole new technology, and one that is aimed at helping humanity at all levels regardless of geography or ethnicity or age or gender”

Alyssa:  “It’s human nature to arrive at some solution that people have in mind. It’s important to take a step back…or ten. First we have to understand what problem we’re trying to solve. Then you can move forward creating a solution that can be evaluated.” Kristen Connor (my mentor and former boss), Head of User Experience at Better.

Cindy: “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it” – Maya Angelou

What would you want to tell your friends and family about working at Sabre?

Nicole:  I am enjoying it here! The atmosphere and fellow employees are a joy to be around. It’s great to be somewhere that values you as an individual and enables you to grow.

Cindy:  I love working at Sabre! I’ve had the pleasure to work with different organizations in my short career. Even when I’ve learned a lot in all of them, there hasn’t been a place like Sabre. It’s a passionate group of people. Because they give it all they have every single day, it brings a sense of satisfaction to everything we do.

Alyssa:  The people I work with are smart, authentic, and respectful. I feel privileged and grateful to work here. We put our focus on what is in the best interest of our customers. There are also many professional development opportunities.

Seda:  I view Sabre as a company with “heart”! I am very grateful for Sabre’s deliberate efforts for being environmentally friendly. Sabre encourages their employees and provides the means for them to maintain good health. Additionally, Sabre also values the skills and the intellectual property of their employees, providing them the opportunity to move around and try different aspects of the business for their career growth.

Alex: One of the first things I noticed when I returned to Sabre was the diversity of the teams. I’ve never worked in an office where I could hear people speaking Spanish while collaborating. That made the working environment delightful for me. In addition to the diversity of the team, everyone is very talented and there is a lot of opportunity for growth.