Huaqi Zhang Behind the Screens: User Experience Wizard

Author: Melissa Sanchez
Melissa is a student employee with Technology Services and is a senior at Illinois majoring in Communications.


Huaqi laughing

Technology and innovation make the world go round. However, systems powerful enough to run our campus world and move digital mountains are oftentimes not the most userfriendly. That is where Huaqi Zhang, UX Designer Specialist at Technology Services, comes in. Whether she’s helping campus users directly or liaising with other members of the Web Hosting team, she spends her days working to keep campus systems usable and functional for all. 

Describe your role at Tech Services?

As a User Experience (UX) Design Specialist for the Web Hosting team at Technology Services, my role centers around providing expert consultation to ensure campus users effectively leverage website hosting and management services to achieve their objectives. I bridge the gap between non-technical campus users and the technical staff, facilitating communication and collaboration throughout the design and development processes to enhance user satisfaction. By providing expert consultation and acting as a UX liaison between the technical staff and campus users, I help to tailor digital services to the specific goals and requirements of different users.  

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day for me is a blend of meetings, problem-solving, project management, and sipping matcha tea. I usually start by checking emails and MS Teams messages for updates from technical teams or users. My day often includes a series of meetings—some focus on ongoing projects, while others are geared towards understanding new user needs and brainstorming potential solutions. We also have UX liaison meetings and sessions with developers to ensure alignment on current projects and problem-solving efforts. Additionally, I spend time consulting directly with campus users to address their website needs and troubleshoot any issues they may encounter. Part of my day is also devoted to planning and managing projects to ensure everything stays on schedule and meets deadlines. I typically end my day by planning the next day’s to-do list, which helps me maintain a clear focus on upcoming tasks.  

What’s the best thing about your current role?

Honestly, it’s the people. I’m super lucky to work with a bunch of colleagues who are all about support, hard work, and being proactive. We’re a cross-functional and remote team, which really brings a cool mix of perspectives and strengthens what we can achieve together. Even though our roles differ, we’re all pulling in the same direction toward shared goals. The supportive and engaging vibe truly is the best part of my role.  

What do you feel like has been one of your biggest accomplishments in this role?

I’ve only been in this role for a few months, so it’s challenging to pinpoint specific accomplishments. However, I’d love to share an experience that stands out as a particularly proud moment: my first client consulting meeting. The mix of excitement and nerves was palpable. In preparation, I crafted a detailed agenda and brainstormed engaging icebreaker questions. To bolster my confidence, I watched numerous YouTube tutorials on how to effectively facilitate consulting meetings. When the day finally arrived, despite my nerves, I adhered to my agenda and focused on calming my nerves. My primary goal was to deeply understand the clients’ needs and to devise appropriate plans and solutions for them. While it wasn’t flawless, the meeting ran smoothly—a promising debut in my UX / IT consulting career. I occasionally still feel nervous, but I am learning to manage it effectively, maintain the flow of meetings even under stress, and continually expand my knowledge base.  

What’s one piece of insight about technology you’ve learned?

One invaluable insight I’ve learned about technology is the importance of keeping things simple and user-friendly. No matter how advanced or powerful a piece of technology is, its success largely depends on how easily people can use it. This means designing technology that is intuitive, accessible, and addresses real-world problems. Simplifying technology not only enhances user engagement but also reduces learning curves and increases adoption rates, making technology more effective and impactful in everyday life.  

What’s one hobby you have outside of work and why do you like it?

Writing! I am somewhat of an introvert but a deep thinker. My Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is INFJ. I find joy in writing down everything that captures my interest—be it moments of happiness, sadness, or anxiety. Writing also aids me in processing and understanding new knowledge or concepts. Over the years, I’ve filled dozens of notebooks with my writings, although I’ve lost some during past moves. Nowadays, I prefer using GoodNotes with an Apple Pencil and iPad. It syncs seamlessly across all my devices, making it hard to lose anything.  

Huaqi smiling in front of sunflowers

Any person now or in history - fictional or not - that you’d want to share a meal with and why?

I’d choose Laozi, the ancient Chinese philosopher best known for writing the “Tao Te Ching”. His philosophy, Daoism, emphasizes the importance of living in harmony with the natural order of the universe and highlights values like simplicity and humility. A meal with him would offer a chance to delve into the concept of “effortless action,” which advocates achieving more by doing less and letting nature guide your actions.  

“Behind the Screens” is a series of stories highlighting a different member of Technology Services each month so that you can get to know who we are and what we do for our university.