Convocation Spotlight: Elene Wanner

June 22, 2021

About Elene

My SIAT journey began in the Fall of 2016. When I started, I didn’t have a specific career in mind, but I quickly developed a love for experience design.

While in SIAT, I was a graphic designer for Enactus SFU and later took my skills into an 11-month UX/UI Design internship at Safe Software. This involvement allowed me to gain valuable hands-on experience that helped me develop professional communication skills and understand what I enjoyed doing.

Beyond SIAT, I love playing soccer, hiking, and spending time at the beach.

Why did you choose SIAT for your studies?

I wanted to find a degree program that would be valuable in the future, so I was looking specifically for a degree where I could explore technology. From what I read, SIAT could provide me some flexibility as well as a broad set of skills ranging from computer science to app design and mixed media. I moved from Saskatchewan specifically to be part of SIAT and I’m really glad I did because it exceeded my expectations.

What was your favourite SIAT course or instructor?

It’s hard to narrow it down, but the top two courses for me were Interactive Objects and Environments (IAT 438) with Russell Taylor and Paul Brokenshire and Speculative Design (IAT 431) with William Odom and Nico Brand. First of all, these two courses had amazing professors/teachers that were passionate and consistently provided formative critique. These courses allowed me to form lasting bonds with other designers while pushing me to create industry quality design projects.

What was the highlight of your undergraduate career or your best learning experience?

The highlight of my SFU career was an intensive 15 credit course called a Semester in Alternate Realities (SiAR). The course had about 25 students from various degree programs and we spent Monday to Friday motivating each other and rapidly prototyping virtual reality experiences. I thought I was in way over my head when I was accepted into the course, but I was able to explore and excel in various roles I hadn’t been exposed to previously including project manager, art director, scrum master, and so much more. Following this course, I constantly utilized my agile development, design and team management skills to push my school projects further and this made a big difference when I landed my first co-op job.

What did you enjoy most about the SIAT community?

I was involved in the 2019 FCAT Undergraduate Conference where I showcased a VR experience about climate change that I created with two other students. I was also one of the graphic designers for Enactus SFU and thanks to Patrick Pennefather I spent some time collaborating with Masters students at the Centre for Digital Media.

Through my involvement in events, intensive courses, and collaborative design projects, I gained some extremely talented life-long friends. The SIAT community is inclusive and full of energy, which is very evident in the SIAT design studios. While working on projects, teams often spent a great deal of time collaborating, designing, user testing, and laughing together in close quarters. SIAT students are supportive of each other and form a very welcoming community.

What is next on the horizon for you after graduating?

I’m currently working as a UX/UI Designer at an awesome company called Safe Software based in Surrey, BC. I’m also polishing up my online design portfolio to try out some freelance design work on the side for fun. Other than that, I’m looking forward to spending some time away from my computer when it’s safe to travel internationally again.

Any advice for incoming students considering SIAT?

Although this may sound cheesy, my advice is to try new things and take the road less travelled. One thing that made my SIAT experience memorable was the unusual courses I took. I tried to seize every opportunity to take courses that were intensive or required an application. These less common courses motivated me and resulted in me learning more through interdisciplinary experiences. This included Business of Design, Semester in Alternate Realities, Directed Studies, and a Proposal Writing course with Cheryl Geisler. Having classmates and teachers with different areas of study expanded my worldview, eased the transition into my career, and positively impacted my design work.