Ioana Vacaru (UX Researcher)
What’s your story so far?
I grew up in Timisoara, a diverse and multi-cultural city in western Romania. After high school, I chose to move over 500 km away to the capital of Romania, Bucharest, to pursue my dream of studying psychology. I fell in love with psychology throughout the years and I felt that my purpose in life was working along and for people.
My career prospects changed in the years of study, and after getting my bachelor’s degree, I decided the next step would be training to become a psychotherapist, which I planned to do after obtaining my master’s degree. While I postponed that dream for now, it is still in my bag of prospects for a later point in life.
Still, part of the work I do now takes heavy inspiration from psychology, so I’m not that far away from my initial dream. I’m grateful that my work still involves talks and interviews with other people, and it’s something that I find meaningful – creating better products that solve real needs.
Could you name a passion of yours that’s impacted your life?
I view myself as a “multi-potentialite”, a person with multiple interests and creative pursuits, meaning I have and had multiple passions throughout the years.
My curiosity brought me to places where learned a multitude of skills, from writing blogs, dipping my toe in graphic design and book cover art, sewing, knitting, photography, scrapbooking, drawing, keeping neatly organized bullet journals, crafting of all kinds and so on. I have also deeply loved reading since I was 7 and learning about anything, but mostly psychology and about other people.
Maybe my biggest passion is learning everything and anything I can, especially in creative fields. My curiosity and love of learning opened many doors for me throughout my life, from meeting amazing people to getting opportunities such this, where I got to work as a user experience (UX) Researcher for FintechOS.
Can you describe your journey to FintechOS?
I was in the UX field for almost three years, where I worked mostly as a UX designer for a big corporation. While I loved the project I was working on, there was a missing link and I felt that most of my work lacked depth and meaning.
I was building products with requirements from business consultants, but I rarely actually had the opportunity to talk to actual users, to discover their needs and validate the solutions we proposed.
So, I wanted to focus more and more on that aspect of UX, and started learning more about how empathizing and discovery should really be done. I followed courses from industry-recognized providers and tried applying what I learned bit by bit in my projects.
Soon came a moment when I realized I outgrew the box I was in, and it was time to move on to the next step in my career, this time focusing solely on UX research. As a wonderful coincidence (or something written in the stars, who knows), FintechOS was also looking for a UX Researcher.
I already had people I knew and appreciated working for FintechOS, so I had a glimpse of what working here meant, and how happy and fulfilled they all were.
The recruitment process was smooth and exciting and I’m grateful for Ana and Florin for making my onboarding such a wonderful experience. Not to mention that the offer came just in time for my birthday – best birthday present ever.
What’s your favorite thing to do?
Besides reading, one of my favorite things to do is spending quality time with my fiancé and close friends. I also enjoy watching movies, playing boardgames (my collection of boardgames is ever-growing), putting together 1000-piece puzzles, occasionally going on beginner-friendly hikes in the Carpathian Mountains and cooking.
The cooking part is a hobby I recently started, and so far, my favorite thing to make is Shakshuka, a one-pot dish original from North Africa and Middle East, which is absolutely delicious and really easy to cook.
If you had another job for the day, what would it be?
Although I don’t have a green thumb, I would love to try gardening. I imagine there is a great satisfaction that comes from the being able to provide your own food.
I love the idea of being self-sufficient one day and having my own homestead somewhere in the countryside. Being out in nature is one of the best feelings ever, and some of my fondest memories came from helping my grandparents with work in their beautiful and seemingly evergreen vegetable garden.
What are your thoughts on taking risks?
I believe risks are necessary for growth, however powerful the temptation of staying in the comfort zone may be. Taking risks means being vulnerable and showing strength at the same time.
I especially love Brené Brown’s take on vulnerability and courage. She has a wonderful Netflix special I encourage everyone to watch.
She talks about how vulnerability is risk, uncertainty and emotional exposure, and that vulnerability is necessary to experience and create connections. I resonate so much with that, and I advocate for the demythization of the idea that showing vulnerability is a weakness, when it’s the opposite of that.