Agribiz geeks from UPLB and their first UXPH Conference experience

November 27, 2020

This article was originally published on Medium.

In our agriculture and agribusiness circles, my colleagues and I regularly talk about Agriculture 4.0, which is an application of the concepts behind Industry 4.0 in the field of agriculture. As someone who is interested in product and service innovation, I believe that such a technological push, although exciting, should be taken with caution. Without considering the human element and its complex relationship with technology, any effort to “digitize” agriculture may end up in vain. This is an opportunity where UX can help shape the future of Philippine agriculture and agribusiness. And for this same reason, I signed up to attend UXPH Conference 2020.

Truth be told, I originally planned on attending solo to explore the potential value that UX might add into my field of work. But when UXPH’s Managing Director, Aldrich Tan, shared that they were giving out scholarships for the conference, I got excited. It meant that I could potentially bring other people along for the ride! Eventually, all my eight nominees received scholarships. And thus, the DAME-UPLB delegation was born.

The DAME-UPLB delegation

The announcement of DAME’s recipients of scholarships for UXPH Conference 2020.

The eight scholars from the Department of Agribusiness Management and Entrepreneurship (DAME) at U.P. Los Baños (UPLB) were composed of seven students and one professor. They each have an eye for design and the skills to create impactful customer experiences. Early this year, the student scholars went through what I called App Week, which was a 10-day mini design bootcamp in my operations management course. During App Week, my students used the service design concepts they learned to create an agribusiness service and an app as the storefront. Ace Anatulan, Denielle Hernandez, Elmira Del Valle, Ira Josue, Scanner Malabanan, Soffiya Fano, and Vince Dominguiano took the helm as UI design leads in each of their teams. Prof. Chip De Guzman, the eighth of the scholars, is known at DAME for his graphic design skills and product ideation acumen.

Our key takeaways

***(Left) ***Aira felt LaDonna Witmer’s presentation was “better than retail therapy.” ***(Right) ***Scanner’s *fur baby*, Calli, seems to agree.

A popular favorite was LaDonna Witmer’s presentation, “Permission to Speak.” Her moving message of self-awareness and self-love was relevant and timely. Another favorite in our band of management majors was Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng’s “Lessons in Digital Transformation in a Corporate Setting.” It was heartening to see that the students had the chance to hear — directly from a business executive — a Filipino success story in using service blueprinting to improve business operations. We cover service blueprinting in the undergraduate operations management course at DAME. And it is satisfying to know that the sought-after skill is something that my students can highlight in their résumés.

The following are key takeaways by some of the scholars from our group:

Prof. Chip De Guzman

What I appreciate most from the conference was how it taught me to embrace the beauty of uncertainty, being a person comfortable with frameworks and structures. Different sessions during the UXPH Conference showed empirical evidence that embracing uncertainty leads to growth and innovation within organizations and institutions. And it was great to see a Filipino company, such as JG Summit, emerge as an example of an organization that found value in embracing uncertainty.

On a personal note, I was moved by the final presentation that talked about futures as it provided a different mindset about career mapping. This is a mindset that I hope the country would become more aware of, especially now with our current situation. Seeing evidence on what a change in mindset can do to empower dreamers while solving world problems is an impactful transformation that the country needs now.

(Prof. De Guzman is a faculty member at DAME, where he teaches a course entitled, “Product Ideation and Creation.”)

Vince Dominguiano

On the day my professor contacted me about the UXPH Conference, I was so stressed and swamped with schoolwork that I did not bother digesting his email right away. Finally absorbing it the following day, I felt so glad that I, an Agribusiness major, could participate in this kind of event. Before then, I had no idea about UXPH.

Fast forward to Day 1 of the conference, I found the session, “Permission to Speak” very therapeutic to listen to. It was unexpected for me to see such a presentation during a design conference. Yet, the timing was perfect, as the message was what I needed to hear since I was feeling burnt out by my work in design.

The Double Diamond framework presented by Trixie Pama was very insightful, and it showed a clear flow of the design process. The framework is something I would surely apply in my projects. I also like how Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng emphasized our responsibility to help top management see problems that could either inspire or scare them. Without it, there would be no organizational transformation to expect.

Overall, the event is packed with different perspectives in the UX industry. I am so glad that they did very well in organizing and even accommodating more scholars. In the future, I hope to see more programs like this, accessible locally in my university and involving both public and private sectors.

(Vince is graduating soon from the BS Agribusiness Management program at DAME. When not busy with school, he works as a freelance graphic designer. You may visit his portfolio at http://be.net/vincenate.)

Ace Anatulan

The UXPH Conference 2020 gave way to such an empowering and productive weekend with so much fun and learnings! In the “Leading by Design” session, the panel of successful professionals highlighted their experiences and values. They also shared what they did in their companies to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. The leaders gave tips on how to better lead by design: by valuing and celebrating every culture, developing honest point of views, having self-awareness, developing listening and understanding skills, forgetting oneself and unlearning everything, and much more!

Beyond new learnings about the UX and design industry, the conference also taught me how to engage with different people, professionals and students alike, while sharing different perspectives and knowledge on the technical and creative sides of designing. I also felt empowered and inspired by the session about understanding oneself and the psychology of emotions. It was so relatable, and it gave me a better sense of who we really are as humans.

Moreover, the conference helped me better appreciate the courses I took in UPLB. It also equipped me with new learnings I could use in future courses and, hopefully, in my future job.

(Ace is currently a junior in the BS Agribusiness Management and Entrepreneurship program at DAME. Currently, he is the Marketing Department Chair in the student organization, UP Society of Management and Economics Students.)

Ang kabataan ang kinabukasan ng UX at agrikultura

(English translation: “The youth are the future of UX and agriculture.”)

A quick group photo right after the conference ended. ***(Top row, from left) ***Aira, Ace, and Denielle. ***(Middle row, from left) ***Soffiya, Ira, and Prof. Chip. **(Bottom row, from left)** Myself and Vince.

Denielle, one of the scholars, shared that the conference was “eye-opening and helpful” in discovering the path she should take. She also aspires to relate what she learned about UX into agriculture. Hopefully, more students like Denielle and her fellow scholars would find inspiration from UX to help transform their chosen industries. Nevertheless, the future of UX in the Philippines is bright, especially with UXPH leading the way.

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