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Janka Koen

Growing up in Czechoslovakia, there was a stigma about girls being in IT. Janka’s dad and brother were both in IT, so it was nothing unusual that she played around with technology at home. Even building her own computers, but she never thought she could do it as a career. Instead, she decided to study International Business, which made her miserable. It was her boyfriend, now husband Peter, who told her that he had seen how good she was with computers and that she should do something that made her happy instead of sticking with International Business. The moment she started studying Software Engineering, she excelled. That’s when she realized how important it was to have someone who believes in you.

She started at Microsoft as a developer in consulting services, but quickly realized what she really wanted to do was User Experience. Her manager at the time didn’t think this would be the right fit for her, as the team didn’t have any capability to do or sell anything design related. He had her attend a customer meeting to gain more experience but told her not to participate, just observe and learn. To her surprise, the very first topic of the meeting was user experience and its importance. Being the only expert in the room and taking a chance, she leveraged her know how and talked about her ideas with the customer. The customer ended up asking her to join for the rest of the project to implement her design. Her manager was impressed with her quick thinking, and Janka has been helping customers with UX design at Microsoft ever since.

Since joining the CSE team as a Senior Human Experience Designer, she really enjoys working on the cutting edge of innovation and doing things nobody else has done before. She loves working with customers directly because it allows her to solve technical problems with a human-centric approach.

It was not always easy – at university, being one of very few females, Janka learned early on that when she partnered for project work with any of her colleagues, it was expected of her to make the project “pretty”. What others would see as an obstacle, she made into her opportunity. Janka has a natural inclination towards design, and soon she realized that even though there were thirty guys in her class that wanted to be a developer, nobody had her skill set for design. Janka wanted to be one in a million, not one of a million, and decided to focus her studies on her unique skill set.

Janka now teaches Sketching and Prototyping at the University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien to students in the Master’s program of User Experience Management. It’s her mission to empower others and give them the courage to believe in themselves.

Questions about anything from teaching to User Experience? Check out Janka’s LinkedIn or connect with her on twitter!