How She Works

I am Adaoha Onyekwelu, a UX Designer at IBM, and This Is How I Work!

Last week, we met Florence Okosun, a self-taught Web developer who works at Andela. This week, we get to meet another awesome Nigerian lady who currently works as a UX Designer at IBM in Texas. Without further ado, meet Adaoha:

You studied Web and Information System. How did you become a UX designer without going to a design school? Were you self-taught?

I took two mandatory classes as part of the WIS curriculum:

  1. Designing the User Experience, and
  2. Discovering User Needs to Enhance User eXperience.

When I took those classes I fell in love with the field. At the time of my taking these courses, I was already in my third year, so switching majors to something like HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) would set me back a good year. Because of this, I decided to learn more about UX on my own, reading articles, watching YouTube videos, and eventually taking some free online courses. So I guess you can say “self-taught”. Eventually, I scrapped together a portfolio and used that to apply for internships. Fortunately for me, UPS saw potential and took the leap of faith to hire me as an intern. From there I was able to flourish, gaining more knowledge and skills as I worked with UX experts.

 I decided to learn more about UX on my own, reading articles, watching YouTube videos, and eventually taking some free online courses  

How would you describe UX design to the uninitiated?

User experience design is about making things less frustrating, dare I say, easier. It’s about enhancing the overall interaction between a person and a tool, product, or service.

So, is UX design UI design?

Big difference, it implies it in the name. UX is about the overall experience, from discoverability to usability, and it’s focused on the needs of the user. and throughout the duration of the project centralizes the user as the “North Star”. UI is focused on the interface and not necessarily the user.
What are your favorite apps for UX?

I love using Sketch and Invision for light to medium weight work. When I want something more robust I go for Axure. These are all industry standard tools. I also love working with Keynote and am currently learning Principle.
Take us through a typical workday.

There’s nothing much to it, my workday is pretty normal I would assume, like everyone else’s. I come in with my cup of coffee:

Check my email and calendar.

If I have meetings on my calendar, I attend them, if not I just work at my desk. I usually like to stay active throughout the day too, so I take random breaks to walk around the office, that usually helps me to take a breather and recollect my thoughts.
One GIF that can be used to describe working as a UX Designer at IBM?

How do you de-stress?

I like to take walks around the office, maybe even a trip up the street to Starbucks for a quick coffee break.

Sometimes reading a portion of the Bible, browsing YouTube videos or writing in my bullet journal.
Have you ever faced different expectations as a UX designer because you are a woman

I don’t think so.

I’m expected to work as a “typical UX designer”, whatever that means (lol). I would say though that working in a company dominated by men and in teams of engineers (mainly men) it’s sometimes a bit intimidating to get my thoughts and opinions in. But, I have learned over time how to be more assertive and just jumping in when I need to.
What is the most interesting project you have worked on?

One of the first projects I worked on at IBM (the Actions Editor) I would say is interesting in a way. IBM has many tools in which some prove to be more difficult than others to navigate. The management facility for its operating system, Z, has an abundance of plugins that aid to the simplification of the tool. The company is constantly striving to push improvements and really help its clients to do better, quicker, faster. This tool called the “Actions Editor” is amongst those offerings to increase the productivity of our clients. On a high-level, this tool is meant to help those who write or edit workflows. Prior to this project, clients would need to educate and train new hires on XML and the basics of workflows and what they do. Enter our solution, a simple to use, easy to understand tool, and the resources spent on training is minimized drastically, saving our clients time and money. It’s interesting in that the process was different from what I was used to. Working in software development at such a big company is an experience. Yes, they work with the Agile methodology, but at scale.
Over the course of a 6-month span, I collaborated closely with Content Design, Front-End development (FED) and Engineers, from concept all the way to the products general release (GA).  We started with two-week agile sprints, from sketching ideas on whiteboards, setting expectations, to identifying who our users really were. Over the course of the project, our aim was really to build out a solid experience for our users. We designed each experience using Sketch and built prototypes using Keynote and Invision. We then conducted usability testing with each prototype to help with the next build. Incorporating our users into the process really helped us to gather meaningful feedback to improve each micro-interaction, that ultimately produced a product I can truly say I (and the team) were really proud of. And of course, being the first product I was a part of as a full-timer to be released, I felt accomplished!
As a UX designer, can you share 2 websites or apps that you love?

JW.ORG is excellently done! It is also translated in over 900 languages! Just think about the amount of work that goes into translating this website, but still having a universal crisp design. This website does an amazing job of that.

How do you keep your knowledge of UX design & techniques up to date despite your work schedule?

Reading, and lots of it! Also podcasts and videos! I love to use Every morning I get a curated list of articles to read. I also like to randomly search the internet (Google). Dribbble and Behance as well for inspiration and to get an idea of how other designers are thinking.
If you had an option of installing only 3 applications on your smartphone, what would they be and why?

JW Library of course! It’s the app version of one of my favorite websites (, I love this app for daily Bible reading! The app is FREE and has over 100 languages available for download. Although I speak and understand Igbo fluently, I’m still working on my reading skills and this app has the Bible available in Igbo which is awesome, and unheard of! I have downloaded the NWT, KJV, Byington, and ASV versions in English to cross-reference too. It also has songs available for download in Igbo as well. It’s an app I make use of daily! Definitely my number one app!
Spotify. I love music and Spotify is perfect for me. I can pre-download all my songs so I don’t have to use my data when I’m on the road. I can also set up different playlists that help me get in the mood for what I’m doing or about to do. I have a work playlist, bedtime playlist, exercise playlist, etc. I also love how it works seamlessly between the desktop and mobile app.
Google Keep. This is my go-to note app. I can truly say my whole life is in that app. Although I like the traditional way of note taking (with pen and paper) there’s just something about the Keep app that keeps me coming back. It’s so simple and easy to use. When I have to jot down something quickly I reach for that app, whether it be my groceries, reminders, or links to websites I’d like to revisit. This is the only app I trust for my notes.
Current mobile device and PC?

One Plus 3T and Macbook Pro
A picture of your favorite tech gadget asides from your Smartphone?

Gimbal Stabilizer

If I checked your work playlist, tell me 3 songs that have the most plays?

For My Head – Mr. P
Nkemji Keke – Rudeboy
Never Gonna Give You Up – Rick Astley
Random right? LOL
Share a picture of your workspace setup?

If you were to do your career all over again, would you do anything differently?

In all honesty, no I wouldn’t. I believe the decisions I made were good ones (for the most part). The different things I experienced and paths I took made me who I am today and brought me to this point in my career.
What advice would you give to young people thinking about being a UX Designer?

Always keep up! UX is one of those fields that change up at the snap of a finger or blink of an eye. In order to remain relevant, you have to be at it constantly. On another note, don’t do it because you think it’s “easy”. It takes time, energy and resources. You also want to build up as many skills as you can, don’t be a straight designer, and by that I mean don’t just hold on to one thing and roll with it. Look into visual design and research, maybe front-end development. It’s good to be “T” shaped. So don’t be quick to dismiss things because you never know when that skill or knowledge will come in handy. Being “T’ shaped also helps you have empathy when working with a multidisciplinary team. You can somewhat have an understanding of what’s feasible and what’s not for your team members when creating designs.

In order to remain relevant, you have to be at it constantly.

Fill in the gap, I’d love to see Victoria Nwobodo & Lynda Nwankwo tell us how “she works.”


17 comments on “I am Adaoha Onyekwelu, a UX Designer at IBM, and This Is How I Work!

  1. Abdulsamad Umar says:

    Inspiring Article.

  2. Laide says:

    So I learned a lot from Adaoha, especially the last major question. Thanks for sharing babe, you have really helped someone out there.

  3. Lanre Akogun says:

    Wow you were self taught, yet you still ended up at one of the top tech companies in the world. GOOOOOOAAAAALLLLLLLSSSSSD

  4. ỌBÁDÁRÀ says:



    Happy to meet you Adaoha

  6. Wao! Quite interesting interviews

  7. Alexys_J says:

    I love her work space. Nice Post MissTechy

  8. Katumu Adasi says:

    Interesting, she can do the job well.

  9. Promise Ekpo says:

    Nice Insight….Love the detail

  10. Mike says:

    I love inspiring stories… Well-done Miss Tobi.

  11. Sun says:

    This is a case of beauty with brains… Kudos Ada

  12. Francis Amadife says:

    A Great woman to identify with, Indeed a role model

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