Hey Girlfriend!: Monica Ella Regalado
I received some great feedback on my last interview and so naturally I was excited to post this month’s!
Monica is a design computing student in Sydney, Australia. She is one of my closest friends and long time followers of my blog may remember the time I met her coincidentally at the train station. I’ve known Monica for about eight years, with a good period of that time being online friends. As two strangers who met on the internet, I think Monica being a bridesmaid at my wedding in October is evidence that friendship goes well beyond the confines of the internet.
Monica enjoys going to music concerts and in general just having a good time. She has worked part-time retail jobs but recently landed a role as a web accessibility analyst for Media Access Australia, thanks to her empathy for users and her passion for improving the web where possible. We’ve had many a chat about issues regarding women’s rights and people of colour, as well as what gives a woman confidence. Monica’s maturity spans well beyond her years, and although her satirical Twitter account is set to private, her infectious personality will really shine through in this interview.
Hey Monica! You’re still juggling a couple of jobs that are miles and miles away from each other, so no doubt you’ve been really busy especially this early into the year. I’ve once juggled three jobs, in pretty different industries, so… what would you say is the best thing about having multiple jobs?
Hey Georgie! Everyone always tells me to quit my retail job but I like the diversity I get from my different work pursuits. The best thing about having two jobs is that I don’t get bored and it’s easy to stay occupied. I’ve also learned that it’s important to look after yourself, and that working 60 hour weeks back to back is not sustainable when you need to juggle your mental and physical health. It’s good to know your limits and to practice balancing different parts of life out.
Before you started studying at university, I think you went through a bit of a panicked time wondering what to study. Was there anything in particular that helped you to eventually make the decision, or did you just choose something and go with it?
It was a mix of both.
Firstly, I think it’s absolutely horrible that I had to choose a course that would orchestrate my future at the tender age of 17. I don’t think many people know themselves straight after high school. While no one is forced to go to university after graduating, I felt pressure from my Filipino family full of successful uni graduates. I have friends who have fell into courses they don’t like because they didn’t know what they want, and it’s just such an expensive and tedious process of transferring courses or deferring.
What’s your biggest aspiration now as you finish up your bachelors degree? What sort of role are you looking into – design, development, or something that combines the two?
I really love user experience design and everywhere it’s headed, so I’m really working towards getting a role in that sphere. I love the whole process from gaining insights about users to prototyping. I love the idea of taking a current experience that humans have and improving it, or experimenting with new and emerging technologies to create new experiences that benefit the lives of people. I haven’t had much practice with development but I hope I get to toy around with it and practice it in future. I think it’d be cool to build stuff for VR or make cool physical prototypes too.
We’ve had thousands of discussions about the behaviour of men towards women, and you’ve had a lot of uncomfortable experiences being eyeballed in the street and having unwanted attention. What is your advice to women who experience this sort of behaviour?
First of all, safety. Trust your gut instincts; move carriages on the train, report anti-social behaviour to any authorities near you, call a friend if you’re feeling particularly isolated or unsafe. Unfortunately, the reality of retaliating to shitty people making you feel uncomfortable is dangerous as they could potentially harm you. I’ve stood up to people but only in really public places where I knew I would be okay.
My advice to people in general is that if you witness this kind of behaviour, help the poor victim. So many times I’ve been made uncomfortable (not just as a woman but as an Asian Australian) and people have just stood by watching. If it is safe to do so, offer a helping hand. You might not have to stand up for the person but at least let them know you’re on their side.
Does that really translate to the same behaviour occurring in the workplace? What would be your way of dealing with it if it occurred in the workplace?
In my retail job, I feel unsafe maybe once every month or two. The experience usually involves people invading my personal space or talking to me really creepily or asking me inappropriate questions. Unfortunately, it’s hard to deal with in a customer service job. I can’t really yell or react angrily, but I can handle the situation in other professional ways, such as calling security or simply walking away. If I was in an office environment, I would definitely stand up for myself and talk to HR about it. If this behaviour is not reported, it won’t stop.
A while ago you had a photo of you circulated around the internet, causing more inappropriate and unwanted attention, which caused you to hide under pseudonyms on social media. Can you share a little bit about that and how it’s affected the way you approach your online identity?
Oh boy this story! Essentially, someone shared a photo of me on a forum resulting in some really inappropriate (and scary) sexual comments (should note I was a minor at the time), making me feel frightened for my whole existence. After the whole thing had died down, I had made an effort to make my previously public and harmless social media accounts private which is annoying because I meet so many music friends from Sydney over Twitter and Instagram and now we can’t find each other. Some friends might remember that I had even considered legally changing my name that I would use in the professional world and on my portfolio, which is drastic but at the time, I felt like that was the most appropriate option.
My train of thought has changed since the whole ordeal in January 2015. I’ve spent a long time recovering and going through the stages of grieving and I think I’ve finally reached a stage of apathy about my whole online identity. I think I learned that no matter how you are online, someone out there can still be really mean or creepy about it.
What do you believe is the most incorrect stereotype about women as a whole?
I think the one that stands out is one that affects me the most as an Asian woman. There’s this whole trope of the submissive, pushover Asian woman and it’s alarming to see how many people look surprised when I’m loud and assertive.
You’ve had some problems with your skin in the past, as no doubt all young girls do. What advice do you have for girls who are self-conscious about their skin to get them to feel more at ease with their appearance?
- Don’t beat yourself up about it. At the end of the day, not a whole lot of people are aware to care enough. I remember wishing I hadn’t been born here because apparently first generation Australian Filipinos always have eczema so that they can adjust to the climate here (haha not sure if there’s any truth to that), but I have learned to accept my genetics.
- Have fun with it. Lather yourself up in coconut oil or Elocon steroid cream and then wear some pretty clothes or something and dance around the house.
- See a doctor. There are professionals trained to help you. If you are experiencing physical pain or you’re really just over it, even normal GPs are able to give you different options to try.
You have a younger brother, whom you have a good relationship with. You really set a good example and try to be the best role model for him – can you share how you educate him to respectful to all people, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation?
I’m no parent or anything but my approach is to encourage critical thinking as opposed to saying “Hey this is what you should believe in and this is how you should treat people”. I think some people think it’s weird that I care so much about this but it’s a highly undervalued and under-taught skill. I usually try to get him to empathise, “how would you feel if xyz”, which I think will also help him with his social skills too.
You’ve had experience with user testing at work. Have there been any users who have really changed the way you think about something or really opened your eyes in some way?
I’ve had a long think about this, and I wouldn’t say a particular user has really changed the way I think. However, working with people with disabilities really opens your eyes to the ignorance of society that they have to face. For example, I did usability testing for a form that homeless people fill out to apply for housing and my user was blind. She could not have filled out the form without me, and it was so interesting to hear the different things she said during the process. Imagine already being marginalised socially and physically, then not even being able to take the steps to improve your life because a designer or developer forgot to add a label somewhere or used visual cues that you couldn’t see.
When I see weird things on an interface during usability testing, I am also reminded that it might not be the designer or developer’s fault that they designed something so inaccessible. The reality is that not many courses have a big focus on accessibility. In my 2 years of studying almost a whole Design Computing course, I’ve maybe only seen one slide on accessibility. My experience doing testing has really made me hope that one day, education and awareness about accessibility in design will become more prominent and important.
What is one thing about the internet that is currently underdeveloped but that you wish got more attention and was better?
This is really random but I think solid review systems for e-commerce platforms and restaurants or whatever. Think of iHerb for example, there are so many reviews but they’re all positive so it makes you doubtful because a product can’t be that good (I don’t think so anyway). It’s a people thing as well, because we will only really post a review about something if it’s really good or really bad. I think that review systems can be developed so that 1) we are sent prompts to write reviews about things we purchase or services we use even if we are pretty neutral about it, and 2) a mixture of reviews are shown, so we can see a good range of opinions.
Having recently attended some meetups and taken part in several hackathons, what is the most rewarding thing about them?
It’s such a lovely feeling to be in a room full of people who are different to you but are on a similar page. I think meetups are amazing because you get to learn about the weird shit people go through to get to places that they like. It’s really comforting as an uncertain, young girl still doing her degree. Hackathons are so much fun because you get to meet cool people and it’s super thrilling to be working on multiple aspects of a product or service or design within a short span of time.
You recently got some recognition around a pitch that you shared at an Adobe event, for an app named “Buddy”. Your words to me after the event were, “I just went there for the free food, I didn’t know I had to make a pitch!” Can you share more about the event and what the response from the judges and audience was?
Hah! The tacos were pretty awesome that night, we didn’t expect for anything to happen at all. Essentially, an event organiser at Adobe contacted my friend Rehab about participating. Upon arriving on the night, we noticed that the “event” was also a really big meetup for designers, and not just a hackathon-like event. While we spent a couple of hours building a solution relating to the theme of “Inventing Sydney’s Nightlife”, designers from different agencies and companies were sharing their stories of their design processes. It was really inspiring and interesting to listen to while Rehab and I were rushing to finish the app prototype.
After our pitches, five judges who were speakers that night got up and gave their votes. I think our winning point was definitely our pitch. The other team had designed a really amazing UI and you could tell that they knew what they were doing (they were professional UXers!), however we had won on our storytelling. We were approached by different audience members at the end of the event about “Buddy”, with one software developer even offering to get their team to develop it for us if we ever wanted to take it further! If anyone is curious about the app, you can find out more here.
Describe your go-to party outfit.
When I don’t have time to think or iterate, I usually chuck on black culottes or a black skirt with a fitted crop top. I think about practicality mostly, and look out for comfortable shoes and lots of pockets to hold my stuff.
Would you rather have an 8am lecture or class at 7pm?
7pm class so I can work 9-5.
If you weren’t working in tech, what do you think you would be doing?
Maybe another somewhat creative job like marketing. If not that, I’d probably be doing social work or some other people-oriented job.
You love yourself some good music. What is your favourite stuff to listen to right now?
I’ve been listening to a lot of hip-hop like Quasimodo and The Pharcyde. My other go to at the moment is my favourite album from last year, A Seat At The Table by Solange.