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Meet Yvonne Shek, M.Sc.

As a user experience (UX) practitioner with over 20 years’ experience in the field, I’m excited to bring my passion and experience to my new role at Humber College. 

My own journey in UX started at the University of Toronto, where I majored in cognitive psychology and minored in anthropology and industrial engineering. My interests led me to pursue a master’s degree at the University College London in ergonomics. 

Since then, I’ve worked at the Department of National Defence in human factors research, media and design agencies, consulting firms, and started my own UX consulting firm in 2013. I’ve completed hundreds of client projects. The industries I’ve worked in span real estate, food and hospitality, government, financial institutions, retail, telecommunications, education, healthcare, automotive, entertainment, non-profit, and others.

I enjoy public speaking and have spoken at CanUX, The IA Summit, Euro IA, and the UPA.

My personal areas of interest include UX research, service design, design for the greater good, continuous improvement, personal growth, upstream thinking, decision making, and problem solving. My vision for my students intersects my areas of interest--exactly. My goal is to help coach the next generation of design thinkers to solve wicked, complex, and seemingly impossible problems.

What sets the Humber Bachelor of Design (UX) program apart from the rest?

The reason I wanted to be a part of this team was because of the breadth and depth of expertise and offering, and also the focus on the practice of UX. By practice I mean students get to try doing the same things over and over again. It always amazes me how chefs can crack an egg flawlessly with one hand. You’d never see pieces of eggshells or a broken yolk.

Everything is practice—including UX. Students are offered opportunities to learn through practice. I believe it isn’t enough to teach theory and expect students to make that leap into how to apply their knowledge. Student projects must be real projects and not silly made-up scenarios. Our students get to do that. We are their coaches and mentors, to help guide them towards having intact yolks and no eggshells, so to speak. That builds confidence and expertise, before they enter the workforce.

What are some projects you are proud to have worked on?

I just started at Humber this semester, so most of my projects that I am proud of have come from my time working as a UX consultant and practitioner. An early project that I am proud of was building the first website, which was an amalgamation of five Bell Canada properties. Another was the 2014-2015 redesign of, where I was the main UX professional working on the Personal, Business, Wealth, and Capital Markets.

However, my proudest work has to be building UX teams at nForm, Akendi, and CDL. Starting my own company, Integri, was also a challenging and satisfying endeavour.

Name three skills important for students to succeed in the UX program.

Because UX is highly iterative, explorative, and experimental, students who succeed in this program and in this field tend to have:

  1. The skill of feedback. They want and treasure feedback, so that they can improve their own work and thinking. They are also good at giving feedback to support others.
  2. The skill of being adaptive and flexible. They adapt to their environments and understand a changing landscape. They are flexible, even though they have a strong sense of their goals and values.
  3. A purpose. I am not sure if having a purpose is a skill. However, I strongly believe that having a purpose can be acquired. In that sense, having a purpose is a skill. If a student comes into the program without one, I think through the practice of UX and being exposed to real world problems that designers need to solve, they will develop a strong sense of purpose.

What is one core message you received from mentors in your industry?

That it is not enough to “just do design.” It’s not about moving a button from the left side of the screen to the right side of the screen because it looks better that way. In fact, it is a far departure from that.

Design is purposeless unless it adds value. That’s why I emphasize value of any design project with my students. At the end of the day, has the work contributed to the business value? Has the work benefited customers? Has it made a difference for society? Or has it made a difference to a vulnerable sector? That is the so-what I would like to pass on to my students.


Yvonne Shek