Before I became a design, I was a linguist. It's still a central aspect of my identity. It's something I pursued because long ago, I was a Peace Corps volunteer who miraculously learned Spanish after being thrown into her Panamanian community, and at the end of it all, wanted to know what the mechanisms were behind the sudden rise of my Super Power of Language Acquisition (spoiler alert - it wasn't a miracle, it was my brain).
The Peace Corps taught me a lot. It taught me Spanish, it taught me how to live without running water, and it taught me how to survive a Diablo Rojo ride. In addition to these lessons, the Peace Corps also taught me the tenants of ethnographic research. A lot of my time in Panama was spent knocking on my community members' doors, getting to know them as people, observing them in their every day life as they did mundane things like filter water and build latrines, and conversing with them about why they did what they did. This required a lot of listening, a lot of discovering motivations behind actions and attitudes, and a lot of heightened empathy.
In grad school, I delved elbow-deep into psychology, human behavior, semantics and signifiers, and more ethnography, and the lessons about empathy that I'd learned in the Peace Corps came into even sharper focus.
In the midst of all of this, I also stumbled upon the field of User Experience, and was pretty flabbergasted by the transferable skillset I had. Ethnography? Got it. Empathy? Overflowing with it! I was so excited about how linguistics and user experience overlapped that I also enrolled in a design apprenticeship, and around a year later, landed my first design job.
I love design because it offers me the opportunity to positively affect lives. Great User Experience resulting in improved accessibility, empowerment, educational opportunities, and activism excites me and maybe makes my eyes well up with tears a little bit.
In the future, I'd love to work on conversation design, or contribute to a research team who loves listening and learning, or helping crafting the language of a user-facing interface. Connect with me to hear my passion for the accessible automated phone conversations, to discuss why Siri doesn't auto-punctuate a question with an interrogation mark after hearing the syntax of the user's utterance, to hash it out re: *N Sync vs. the Backstreet Boys, or if you think I'd be a perfect fit for your team!
PS: Jaen is pronounced like "Heinz" but without the Z. My last name used to be Muterspaugh, but I changed it because I thought Jaen would be easier. I was wrong.