Our feature series “Meet the Team” gives our readers the opportunity to take a deep dive into what makes our team special. We interviewed Angel Han, the newest UX Designer at Air Force CyberWorx, to introduce her to our readers and allow them to tell the story of her career in UX Design. Please enjoy getting to know our innovative team members and exploring the people who make CyberWorx exceptional.

A Friend in the Biz

UX Designer Angel Han

AF CyberWorx (CWx): What drew you to Air Force CyberWorx?

Angel Han (AH): Honestly, I didn’t know what AF CyberWorx was until Christelle [Panumpabi] got hired here. She and I would do monthly accountability calls and catch up because we were both looking for jobs.

When she started working here, we continued to do that on a more spaced-out basis, but she said, “Yeah, it’s great here. Learning all about the military and getting to work for the Air Force is super cool”—and she told me about the stuff you get to do here at CyberWorx.

So then I looked it up. I went on the website and thought, oh, this is pretty cool. Sounds very abstract in a way, but very innovative. I never thought I would have a chance to work here until Christelle told me there was a job opening, and she referred me to it.

Just hearing about it through Christelle and also being able to talk to the team during the interview made me feel [CyberWorx] seems like a great place to work. Everyone seems very friendly. It fits my vibe and my personality. I didn’t think that I would actually get the job, but I got the job! It’s been very rewarding and fun to learn about everything that CyberWorx does.

CWX: What first sparked your interest in UX design?

AH: That goes all the way back to college. I studied industrial design, which is more focused on physical products like furniture, appliances, that kind of stuff. A lot of that involved human-centered design as well. There’s a sense of user-experience design in industrial design.

But after I graduated, I realized I didn’t want to go in the direction of physical design. And then a lot of my classmates were pivoting toward UX, so that’s when I started to get a little bit interested in that as well. I realized that a lot of the skills I learned from my major—like the design-thinking process and technical skills—could transfer over to UX design.

So that’s how I got into UX. I enjoy it a lot more than what I studied in school.

CWx: Monthly accountability calls. Older classmates in UX. It sounds like you had good connections in that professional community, even during college.

AH: In school I always heard the saying that “Your network is your net worth.” Okay, sure. But I realized how useful having a good network actually is.

I knew my classmates who were a few years above me in my program at school, and I also connected with other people who were pivoting into UX design—getting to talk to them and hear how they were successful in navigating the job search.

Just getting advice from different people was very helpful in helping me to shape how I wanted to navigate creating a portfolio and what direction I wanted to go—where I wanted to focus in on, in terms of UI or UX design, or research.

Every role I had leading up to this has been through connections and networking. And actually, cold-applying was not very successful. So I realize now that, yeah, your network is actually very important in being successful. So I’m trying to continue building that.

Deciding on Education

CWx: How did you decide on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign?

AH: I grew up in Naperville, which is three hours north of University of Illinois and about 45 minutes from Chicago. It was close enough to home that I could go home for the weekend, but not close enough that my parents could just drop by! I applied to other schools, but University of Illinois was one of those well-rounded schools holistically.

Financially, it was a good option because it was in-state. And then also because I was looking to get a design degree, I was leaning more toward state schools because—let’s say I ended up not wanting to do that, I could always transfer [to a different major]. University of Illinois had a really good business program, and also engineering. They had a lot of options, so that’s what I liked about going to a big school.

The Full AF CyberWorx Experience

CWx: Considering your short time here so far, what’s something you learned or something that surprised you?

AH: [chuckles] I guess this is something I learned—it’s kind of funny—before I even started. So I’m a big fan of Top Gun, especially the new Top Gun: Maverick, and I was very disappointed to learn that Top Gun was about the Navy and not the Air Force! Christelle would send me pictures of planes, and I would think, “It’s just like Top Gun!” And then I realized: different branch.

CWx: Speaking of that, what is it like for you to work here at Air Force CyberWorx, as a non-military person?

AH: The first few weeks, and honestly still now, sometimes things I hear in meetings will go in one ear and out the other—not because I’m not listening, but it just doesn’t mean anything to me because I can’t comprehend the jargon or the acronyms. I’m slowly picking up what things mean, though, and kind of making sense of it.

That acronyms sheet [an internal reference guide for military acronyms] is very helpful. I actually made a Quizlet so I could go through it when I’m not doing anything else. So I’m getting the hang of it, I think!

CWx: What are you excited to explore further as you continue here?

AH: Shadowing the sensing sessions [user interviews] has been very interesting. I think that’s something I’m excited to be able to apply—lead my own sensing sessions or user interviews.

I’m excited for the upcoming facilitation in the workshop that we’re going to be doing. I’m very introverted but being able to apply those skills of guiding people through workshops and uncovering pain points is something I’m looking forward to working on—and maybe lead projects.

Angel Han

CWx: Would you like to share any professional growth or career plans?

AH: I’ve always wanted to go back to school for my master’s, although there are so many things that interest me, I don’t know for what. Front-end development or coding has been something that has always been interesting to me, and now that I see how those things can work together with UX, I want to learn some computer science or something that can improve user experience.

From Illinois to Colorado

CWx: How about your family history and where you’re from?

AH: Both of my parents are from China. My mom’s from Beijing. My dad’s from Hunan. I was born in the Chicagoland area; I think that makes me second-generation. I have an older brother who is three years older than me. He’s about to start at MIT in the fall for his master’s.

Angel Han with family

CWx: So you’ve lived in Illinois all your life. What do you think of living in Colorado so far?

AH: It’s always been on my bucket list to live where I can see mountains. Chicago, or Illinois in general, is very flat, so I was very excited to come out here—and Colorado Springs is so close to the mountains.

I like being able to drive to work and see mountains every day. Also, I really enjoy doing outdoor activities like hiking, and sometimes I climb outdoors. So I’m happy to be a lot closer to that and having that be more accessible; I can actually do my hobbies now instead of driving three hours away to do those!

Angel rockwall climbing

More about Angel Han

Besides being AF CyberWorx’s newest UX Designer, Angel Han is an outdoor enthusiast and amateur movie critic. She is passionate about human-centered design and eager to learn and discover more of how she can contribute to the UX field through AF CyberWorx. You’re likely to find her exploring Colorado trails, bouldering at the gym, or (occasionally) crocheting.

Welcome to the CyberWorx team, Angel! We look forward to learning and benefitting from your strengths and passions as our newest UX Designer.

Learn more about aF CyberWorx!

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