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Northrop Grumman is a Center Centre Partner Company

By Jessica Ivins

Northrop Grumman is a Center Centre Partner Company

We’re so excited to announce that Northrop Grumman is Center Centre’s first partner company!

As a partner company, Northrop Grumman will get a first-hand look at our students’ design work as they progress through the program. Our students will gain real-world experience from Northrop Grumman. By working with mentors from Northrop Grumman, our students will strengthen their design skills and have an opportunity to interact with professionals addressing customer challenges. Meanwhile, members of Northrop Grumman’s User Experience team will see what each student is capable of and how they learn new material. For Northrop Grumman, this partnership helps provide a pipeline for talent in this demanding and rapidly growing discipline.

Northrop Grumman is a perfect partner. They design, develop and implement a wide variety of mission-critical systems, systems that are transparent and easy to use and that are enabled by user-friendly interfaces. Northrop Grumman’s User Experience experts help create designs used by people in high-stress environments, including air traffic controllers, police officers, firefighters, and soldiers, all who rely on well-designed software to do their jobs and fulfill their missions effectively. According to Mike Hübler, chief user experience architect and manager, User Experience department, “For people who face life and death situations, safety and accuracy are critical. In these high-stress work environments, having the right user experience is not a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have.”

Dr. Neil Siegel, vice president and chief technology officer, Northrop Grumman Information Systems sector, told us, “We keep the experience of our users at the core of our decisions. User experience is so important to our goals and the services and solutions we deliver that we’ve made it one of our core technology focus areas.”

At Center Centre, we’re impressed with the depth of knowledge and experience of the Northrop Grumman UX team and thrilled they’ll be working alongside our students. Northrop Grumman will appoint four of their team members as mentors. These mentors will work with students throughout their two years at Center Centre. Mentors will regularly meet with students, constructively critique students’ work on an ongoing basis, and share skills that Northrop Grumman looks for when they hire designers.

Northrop Grumman supports a culture of lifelong learning. Each User Experience department member dedicates time to professional development. Their focus on continued education is one of the many reasons we’re so excited to have Northrop Grumman as a partner.

Center Centre students will work with the UX team on real projects for Northrop Grumman. These projects support the Center Centre curriculum. Mike Hübler said, “We look forward to working with Center Centre students, helping them sharpen their skills and as well as getting their perspective on Northrop Grumman projects. We’ll get to share our knowledge with the next generation of user experience experts, and Center Centre students will see what it’s like to work with our team and on the kinds of challenging efforts our customers face.”

Read more about why Northrop Grumman values our partnership.

If you’re working for a large company faced with growing need for UX talent, and you want to be a Center Centre partner company, let us know.

Leslie shares about design, learning, and tech in Chattanooga

By Jessica Ivins

Leslie shares about design, learning, and tech in Chattanooga

As part of their “New Tech Cities” series, OSTraining interviewed our co-founder, Dr. Leslie Jensen-Inman.

We’re a really tight team at Center Centre. We know a lot about each other, and yet we learned some new things about Leslie, Center Centre, and Chattanooga when we read Leslie’s interview.

Some things we learned

Leslie’s had a lot of different jobs—from pushing manure to pushing pixels. She and her husband bought their house off the internet (wait, what?). Leslie loves that Chattanooga has a clean downtown. After a day of walking around a city, Leslie determines how clean the city is by looking at her fingernails (we’re filing that under, “Strange but true”).

Below is part of of Leslie’s response to the question, “Have you had a dozen different career paths, jobs, and educational goals … or just one?”

Designing and learning are at the core of who I am and influence what I do.

When I was about five years old, I was learning how to write my ABCs. I mean really write them. On proper thick ­ruled paper. I was focused on getting my letterforms just right. To achieve this goal, I would write and erase the letters over and over again. So much so that I would wear through the paper and have to start all over again.

When I was five, my mother didn’t scold me for erasing through the paper. She didn’t say, Leslie, you have to stop…this is crazy. Instead, she bought me more paper. She recently told me, I didn’t know it then, but you were kerning—you were letter­ spacing. (I have a pretty awesome mom.)

When I was a kid, my very first job was mucking out horse stalls. It wasn’t a sexy job, but I learned an important lesson early on—there is a right way and a wrong way to muck out a stall. I was fortunate to learn from someone who had experience mucking out horse stalls. I learned their process, and I didn’t get kicked by a horse. Early on, I learned how important it is to work with and learn from people who know more than I do.

At some point, I realized that I’d rather push pixels than manure. There were a lot of steps between mucking out stalls to becoming a designer.

Read the full interview to learn more about Leslie’s career path, what makes the tech scene in Chattanooga awesome, and how Center Centre is a project-based school in a project-based city.

The Unicorn Institute is now Center Centre

By Jessica Ivins

The Unicorn Institute is now Center Centre

The Unicorn Institute was our research project exploring the gaps between UX education and the UX industry. We evolved this research into the user experience design school, Center Centre.

As you may know…

Center Centre offers a two-year, on-site, full-time program—the first and only of its kind—that prepares students to be industry-ready junior UX designers. Center Centre is authorized as a postsecondary educational institution by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC). We plan to start courses in 2015.

A little secret behind the Unicorn Institute

Something you may not know…

Before we were authorized as a school by THEC, we couldn’t legally call ourselves a “school.” If we did, we’d be in big trouble with the state of Tennessee. We didn’t want that, but we did want to talk publicly about our research and our findings. So we created a research project that allowed us to share what we were learning about the gaps between UX education and the UX industry. We named our research project the Unicorn Institute.

We chose the name Unicorn Institute based on what we learned in our research. We interviewed dozens of UX hiring managers and their teams. We learned that hiring managers needed well-rounded UX designers. These designers needed to do many things like write content, code HTML prototypes, and conduct usability tests. Because well-rounded designers were hard to find, they became known as “unicorns.” Our rebranding process:

  • Rebranding is no small feat. We made a lot of changes across different channels. Our rebranding process had many steps:
  • We audited the content on the Unicorn Institute website and the Center Centre website.
  • We identified what content was still relevant to Center Centre and what content was outdated.
  • We determined what content on the Unicorn Institute website was still relevant to Center Centre, but not yet on Center Centre’s website.
  • We rewrote this content to match Center Centre’s updated voice and tone.
  • We added updated content and new content to the Center Centre website.
  • Over time, we removed outdated content from the Unicorn Institute website. (Removing content in phases made the process manageable. It also allowed us to complete other tasks for the school while we rebranded.)
  • We reduced the Unicorn Institute website to a landing page that links visitors to Center Centre’s website.
  • We updated our email newsletter template with Center Centre’s branding.
  • We combined our two Twitter accounts, @UnicornInstitut and @CenterCentre, into one account, @CenterCentre.
  • We updated all remaining social media pages like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
  • And now, we’re letting you know that we’re officially Center Centre.

We still ♥ unicorns

Even though we’re now Center Centre, we’re still creating unicorns—well-rounded junior UX designers.

Over the past few years, supporters, friends, and family have given us many thoughtful (albeit a bit tacky) unicorn gifts. To honor these special creatures (and the special creatures that gifted them to us), we proudly display the unicorns at Center Centre.

Unicorn wall

Looking forward in 2015

There’s a lot of magic happening at Center Centre.

We’re lining up partner companies, interviewing student applicants, and further developing assessment criteria, grading procedures, and learning experiences.

We look forward to the rest of the magic that 2015 has in store.