HI Women: Gretchen Enger, Director of UX

2015_cruise_andy-roomMarch is Women’s History Month, and Sunday, March 8 served as International Women’s Day. We’re celebrating by profiling some of the women who make HI what it is—a company that holds our culture as sacred as the services we offer.

Asked to describe her job, Gretchen Enger says, “My department makes websites suck less.” Gretchen has been with HI for four years—the last year of which she’s carved out her current position, Director of User Experience (UX).

She ended up at HI “kind of by mistake,” she says. Kris Hancock, Recruiting Manager at HI, had been building a relationship with Gretchen, complete with quarterly lunches, as she worked on various contract projects over the years. She was invited to join HI full-time as the Senior Information Architect (IA), and she’s taken to her work within HI with a passion.

As for her skillset, “people are still learning the value of of UX,” she says. And part of her job is to teach them, both clients and internal colleagues, what good UX can accomplish. “People think IA is just wireframes—and it’s a whole lot more. It’s research, discovery, interviewing…I want to sit with someone in their home and find out, if they’re signing up for benefits, what does that look like?” The research Gretchen conducts helps determine if a client’s assumed problems are actually real problems. And then her team designs a strategy to solve those problems and achieve a client’s business objectives.

Good user experience design means understanding what makes people tick and figuring out how to make something work better. “I look at something and I think, why would you do that? How do you expect users to interact with that?” Take her children’s wardrobe choices: “I look at the outfits they put together…navy and black do not go together.” And when asked about the color of the dress making the rounds on the internet, she answers correctly: “I don’t want to go there.”

Gretchen’s investigative outlook helps her serve as the sounding board for her husband’s small business, and you can see it in her hobby choices: “I devour books,” she says. She reads mostly fiction—mystery and thrillers—and she’s drawn to legal, law enforcement and medical subject matter. “My dad was in law enforcement my entire life. And I had childhood cancer, so I was under physicians’ care—the same staff—for almost 20 years, so they were like a family to me.” She relates these experiences to her career. As a cop or a doctor, “you’re trying to solve people’s problems. There’s a psychology of why people do things, what’s in it for them and how it goes wrong. I love watching people and seeing why they do the things they do.”

As for the future, Gretchen is looking forward to spring break filled with ATVing. And professionally? “I’m going to be a partner one day,” she says. “Where else can I go as a UX director? I want to have a stake in the company, even if I have to take a step out of the UX role and focus more on the business aspect.”

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