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21 March, 2013

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Have Your Cake and Eat it Too: Achieving An Ideal Work Life Balance as an Independent Consultant

Meena Kothandaraman Presenting

Being an independent consultant in the user experience field has its many perks: choose your projects, choose your hours, and be your own boss so that you can work when you want. This flexibility and independence, however, can pose unique challenges for people in our field because we are often compelled to travel, work around other people’s schedules (participants and clients alike), and work toward competing deadlines. Often, the life goals we have with going independent can be at odds with making it all work.

Meena Kothandaraman, a seasoned user experience consultant, has reached a point in her career in which she has achieved a work life balance that works for her. Working on  interesting projects and maintaining her desired home life are not mutually exclusive. Meena will share some insights that have worked for her on how to achieve this balance.

Meena’s Bio:

Meena has a true passion for modeling user experiences that make a difference to all stakeholders. With over 22 years of experience, she has consulted for numerous organizations worldwide and is well versed with the importance of understanding user motivations and behaviors for products and services. Relating good user definition back to specific returns on investment is something she considers key to the experience strategy. She has specific skills in conducting user research, defining accurate personas, and porting the concepts learned through to a unique and enjoyable design. Meena’s experience is varied across websites, mobile and tablet applications, as well as overall customer experience paths.  This has led her to be incredibly effective at creating user experience strategies that can be applied organization-wide. Recently, Meena has been instrumental in helping utilities initiate corporate-wide customer experience strategies. She has been invited regularly to key Energy conferences to share insights on user definition, and how to reduce the pain points for both customers and utilities in various shared processes.

Apart from consulting, Meena teaches in the Bentley University, Human Factors and Information Design (HFID) graduate program and has helped evolved the course offerings over the past ten years to now stand as one of the top three human factors/user experience programs worldwide. She kicked off the Bentley HFID Extension Campus in the California Bay Area in January 2013. Meena has carried through her ability to look at designs from the user’s lens to her favorite pastimes as well: teaching Indian classical music, running her cooking show, and writing children’s books.

In the past, Meena managed the Customer Experience Innovation Center for the Scient Corporation in Boston, worked as a Managing Director with Human Factors International, and led the Human Factors Competency in the Midwest region for Cambridge Technology Partners. She holds an MS in Information Resources Management (with a User concentration) from Syracuse University, and a Bachelors of Commerce (with an MIS concentration) from the University of Ottawa, Canada. She currently partners with Motivate Design, a boutique firm out of NYC, for large scale projects.