Aspiring designer blends tech and arts interests in College of IST

Emma Riglin
July 11, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Jessie Demmert found a passion in both technology and the arts at a young age. She had always been fascinated by computers and had been performing on stage since she was 10 years old.

“I really enjoyed computer science, but I was also interested in art and graphic design,” said Demmert, a 2019 graduate of the College of Information Sciences and Technology. “Every [other school had only] one or the other.”

She was seeking a program where she could blend her interests in technology and the arts, but she had trouble conveying to others exactly what her dream job was.

“The only way I could explain what I wanted to do was that I wanted to know how to build websites, but also make them look good,” Demmert said.

Then, one day in an introductory information sciences and technology class, Demmert reached a turning point for her future.

Jessie Demmert

With help from the College of Information Sciences and Technology, 2019 alumna Jessie Demmert has been able to turn her passion for technology and the arts into a career as a user experience designer for Siemens PML Software.

IMAGE: Provided

“I was trying to tell my professor what it was that I wanted to do,” she said. “I wasn’t very good at explaining, but she immediately said, ‘Oh. You want to do UX!’ and it was the first time I was able to put a name to it.”

UX, or user experience design, is the process of creating products with the consumer’s perspective as a priority. Demmert wanted not only the foundational programming knowledge to create applications and websites, but also the ability to design them in a way that was practical and pleasing to users.

She knew that she wanted to explore two different fields of study to put her on the path toward her dream career. But with the College of Information Sciences and Technology and the College of Arts and Architecture having conflicting administrative requirements, Demmert was challenged to find a way to pursue her passions without adding considerable time to her undergraduate career.

With the help of Mike Hills, associate professor of IST, and guidance from her academic advisers, Demmert was able to chart a path that combined her passion for technology and art while staying on track to earn an undergraduate degree.

Once her academic path was paved, Demmert then worked to find a meaningful opportunity to complete the college’s internship requirement.

“I interviewed [at] a lot of places that didn’t even know what UX really was, and [thought] what I was doing was either web design or graphic design,” Demmert said.

After talking with a friend about her struggles, he suggested she look at Siemens PML Software, the software branch of Siemens LLC.

“I applied, interviewed with them, and got the position in less than 24 hours,” Demmert said. “It was a perfect fit.”

Demmert interned with Siemens for a year and was offered a full-time position several months before she graduated.

At Siemens, Demmert is a UX designer and her responsibilities include developing, modifying and implementing software. She works in a fast-paced, hands-on environment, which she says is the part of her work she loves most.

“I am always learning,” she said. “Since UX is such a new field, there is no clear path on how to fix problems. Most of the time, when a problem is brought to our attention, we spend the day researching how to solve the problem. I spend more time researching and compiling information than anything else and I love that.”

Focusing on the user

Future students in the College of IST will have the opportunity to chart a path similar to Demmert’s. With UX becoming more important in daily life, the College of IST saw a need to implement a field of study for students like Demmert who understand the importance of UX and see a growth in the career field.

This fall, the Human-Centered Design and Development program will be launched for students, like Demmert, who want to learn how to create and design technology with the user’s needs in mind.

"Having an understanding of technology and how people interact with it is the basis for UX, and I pull from [my IST] knowledge constantly when implementing the UX methods in my work.”

— Jessie Demmert, 2019 College of IST alumna 

"Having an understanding of technology and how people interact with it is the basis for UX, and I pull from [my IST] knowledge constantly when implementing the UX methods in my work,” Demmert said. “Technology is more than just the code, and I learned that while studying in IST.”

She added, “Have you ever used an app or a website that you could not understand? You knew what you needed to do but could not figure out how to accomplish it? That’s bad UX. UX helps make technology logical for the user so that they can fulfill their needs in a timely fashion.”

She explained that a user could lose trust in and eventually dislike a company based solely on their experience with their website.

“A user needs to enjoy their experience with a piece of technology if a company wants the user to continue to use it,” said Demmert. “A user’s feelings play a huge role in UX, and [designers] tend to overlook it.”

A creative outlet

While at Penn State, Demmert was on the executive board and served as graphic designer for No Refund Theatre, a performing arts organization on campus. Demmert found many of her friends through the organization and describes the club as what got her through her college experience.

“I am an extremely emotional person, but as a woman in a predominantly male field, that’s not always a good thing,” Demmert said. “Thankfully, I was cast in a show every semester, so I always had a performance to pour all my emotions into.”

She added, “I’ve found that I think clearer in class while I’m in a show. I’m able to control myself better when I have an outlet that lets me be emotional.”

Demmert found that not only did performing give her a creative outlet from her technical work, it also improved her abilities in the IST classroom.

“I’ve never shied away from a presentation, and this became extremely useful in group projects,” Demmert said, noting that her performances also helped her with presenting in class. “Sounding confident is crucial to a good presentation, and acting most certainly helped me to gain that confidence.”

As a student, Demmert also went on an interdisciplinary educational trip to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, for a behind-the-scenes look at the park’s operations. There, she got the opportunity to learn from Disney Animation Studio’s graphic designers and animators, known at Disney as “Imagineers,” about how characters are created with technology. While Demmert loved learning about the way the company runs and how animations come to life, the most important lesson she learned from the trip was about herself.

“In the technology field, you see everyone wanting to be the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs,” Demmert said. “They were a very specific type of leader, and that allowed them to flourish as CEOs and innovators in their field. I never wanted to be like that. I don’t want to become my team's boss someday, and I found out that is OK.

“I love working for and helping people, but I don’t necessarily want to be a CEO someday. I found out that I am built for the type of position I am in.”

Last Updated July 18, 2019