Cheryl Platz

Redmond, WA, US
Field of Work 
Computer Science
 
Interaction Design
Company 
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Job Title or "Student" 
Principal UX Designer
Education 
Carnegie Mellon University
Degree 
B.S. in Computer Science and Human-Computer Interaction
Education Level 
Bachelors
Profile Biography 
Ever since I was little, I've been equally inspired by artistic and technical pursuits. I'd fall asleep with a VCR manual surrounded by crayons and drawings. But I always thought I'd have to choose one or the other - until I found Carnegie Mellon, a school with an amazing variety of interdisciplinary programs. In particular, I found Human-Computer Interaction fascinating - it combined computer science, visual design, and cognitive psychology to help us predict how people want to use software and then to design software that met those needs while being visually pleasing.

After graduating, the country hit a recession and the original job I had lined up went away. So instead I went to a year of grad school at CMU's Entertainment Technology Center, which led to an internship in interface design at Walt Disney World and a full-time job at Maxis/Electronic Arts working on the Sims games. Both were dream jobs for me - but over time, my video game projects became less challenging but demanded more time. I decided to take the leap back to "traditional" user experience design, and the second phase of my career began.

Since then, I've become a Principal-level designer with experience at Microsoft, Amazon, my own consultancy Ideaplatz, and now the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. My specialties are large-scale information technology systems (I was the design lead for Azure and the Power Platform Admin Center at Microsoft), conversational AI (I worked on both Alexa and Cortana), and design for multimodal systems (like the Nintendo DS, Windows Automotive, Windows tablets, and the Echo Show.) I'm now a globally recognized pioneer in user interface design. I've delivered talks and workshops on 5 continents, and my first book comes out in late 2020.

As a designer, I champion for our customers and their experiences during the process of developing software or hardware products. I love the variety - I spend some days building an information architecture or prototype, researching, or figuring out a tough problem... and other days I'm sketching, storyboarding, or doing visual design.

In that "free time" of mine, I am a professional actress. I have been a cast member with Seattle TheatreSports (improv comedy like 'Whose Line is it Anyway') for 9 years. I'm a staff member and performer with Seattle Experimental Theater, where I perform in their improvised parody of Star Trek, "Where No Man Has Gone Before", among other shows. I'm a founding member of "NERDprov", a geeky comedy group that has performed multiple times at large events including Bumbershoot and the Emerald City Comicon.

As a STEM role model, I speak routinely to groups of middle school and high school girls and mixed-gender groups of anywhere from 10 to 500 students, including events with IGNITE Worldwide, AAUW, NCWIT, TEALS, and GeekGirlCon. I created a 2-hour hands-on workshop, "Making the World Easier with Interaction Design", which I have taught to over 300 girls to extremely positive feedback with Microsoft's DigiGirlz camps and the University of Washington's DawgBytes camp. The City of Redmond invited me to keynote 2 of their semiannual Girls Unlimited events; once about my career in technology, and once about my artistic career in acting. My calendar does fill quickly, so I encourage inquiries well in advance of your event.

My advice to anyone reading this is that your path is unique, and may not look like anyone else's path. What makes you happy? Are there multiple things that make you happy? You may not need to choose between them - there are many creative ways of combining passions. Try not to be discouraged if the life you want isn't visible in others.

The people you meet in college and the workplace are just as important as the things you learn. Get to know the people around you, and let them know you, too. Use social media to reach out and stay in touch. Be an individual. You never know who will be getting you your next job.

And don't wait for life to happen to you. Be the force that drives your own life. If you're unhappy at your current job, figure out why, and if you can, be a force for change. Find happiness outside of work by connecting to others, reconnecting to an old hobby, or taking up a sport. The more balanced your life is, the more prepared you will be to weather the inevitable challenges along the way, wherever they come from.

Life is a journey, not a job.
Interests 
Writing/blogging, Dance, Computing, Reading, Video games, Travel, Acting
Race & Ethnicity 
White
Level of Participation 
Job shadow, Summer camp visit
My Experience 
I have been a Role Model many times.
Availability 
Weekdays, Weekends
Resources 
Field trip hosting, Fun demonstrations or materials, Hands-on activities for students
Program Affiliation 
NGCP Collaborative FabFem

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