No stranger to the world of data, Sandy Guberti Ng (‘18)–who has previously worked with big firms like IDEO.org and CB Insights–is currently applying her skills in data and design to her new position as a software engineer at Teachable, and in her volunteer work with Catchafire. Since 2019, Sandy has been primarily focused on data visualization and the creation of data products at Teachable, and works through Theory of Change models and their Logframes for multiple nonprofits through the Catchafire connection.
“Data visualization is interdisciplinary by nature,” she says, “ and can require data, design, and web dev skills. On the design team at CB Insights, I ended up taking more data and dev work, and had less time to focus on the design process. It’s funny but I actually get to do more user research and design work now as an engineer than I did when I was a designer.”
At Teachable, Sandy is working on the development of a brand new internal service. As the primary member of her team with a design background, she spends time studying how internal users at Teachable interact with and interpret available data. From this research, she works to enhance their user experience and understanding of the data they are consuming.
Part of her work here grapples with the fact that users don’t typically question what goes on behind the scenes of data, and believe that data is objective without much consideration for context.
“Even with good intentions, users may unintentionally mislead other people with bad data. What I’m really trying to do is to design data products that make it easier for people to understand the nuances in data. For example, creating a top ten list is not an objective process: someone needs to define what “top” means. An entity might be the “top” based on one metric, and not based on another. The way that the list is read has consequences.”
Due to her interdisciplinary background and two Bachelor’s degrees in Italian and Fine Arts before attending DSI, Sandy never envisioned herself going headfirst into the tech world after grad school. However, she cites this background as a stepping stone for growth in her current field. Though tech likely isn’t the first thought that comes to mind when you think of social innovation, it’s increasing pervasiveness in our daily lives means that it is a field that really needs social designers and human-centered thinkers.
Even after graduation, Sandy is in touch with fellow graduates of her cohort and the DSI community at large, and says they often talk through DSI values and teachings to help each other with challenges in their respective jobs. “In my experience, UI Design is relatively straightforward once the problem is well-defined. The real challenge is designing at the systems level: the support structures outside of the product. That’s the sort of thing I learned at DSI, so it helps to have a network that can help me work through these issues.”
With her varied experience before, during, and after DSI, Sandy’s advice to current students is this: “Remember that everyone’s journey is different, and everyone is coming into the program from a different starting point. Be aware of different goals, and be open to where these new experiences and ideas may lead you.”