Whitney Hess is the author of Pleasure and Pain, and the founder and principal of Vicarious Partners, an independent user experience consultancy. Her life’s mission is to put humanity back into business.
Whitney joins forces with senior leadership teams to promote empathy throughout their organizations — for their customers and for one another. Known for her candor and pragmatism, Whitney’s techniques focus the product vision, prioritize development efforts, and eliminate turf wars that threaten the quality of work. She has a knack for uncovering the root of the problem.
An expert listener, Whitney has conducted psychographic research studies for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. She led the design of Seamless Food Delivery for iPad, a Top 10 Lifestyle app in the iTunes App Store. Her redesign of the Boxee beta was lauded by the press. Whitney is an advisor to RedMart, a household essentials delivery service in Singapore, and to Red Stamp, a personalized correspondence app.
Whitney graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a Master of Human-Computer Interaction and a BA in Professional Writing and HCI. Evangelizing user experience for the last decade has made her a favored mentor to practitioners and entrepreneurs. She has been invited to speak at conferences worldwide.
The Full Story
In August 2008, I quit my full-time job to become an independent user experience consultant. I had been freelancing on the side for three years, and it was finally time to take the plunge. Prior to that I had been on the design team at Liquidnet, an international financial software company that runs the leading electronic marketplace for wholesale stock-trading. I’ve also worked at interactive marketing agencies Digitas and Tribal DDB, where my clients included American Express, New York Times, Allstate, Claritin, Tropicana, and EarthLink. Most notably, I helped to conceive, design and test an innovative card search tool for American Express and am named as a co-inventor on its U.S. patent.
I got started as a computer scientist, but ended up graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), and soon after received a Master’s degree in HCI as well, all from Carnegie Mellon University. For the capstone project for my MHCI, I was one of five Masters students to develop Roadcasting, a system that allows drivers to create and share their music playlists with other cars on the road. The project received press from Wired, MIT Tech Review, Slashdot, BoingBoing and more.
When not trying to make the world a better place through technology, I try to make the world a better place through food. I consider myself a locavore, which means that I actively try to eat food that is grown and produced within a 100-mile radius of me. Food that travels only short distances is more nutritious and delicious — and is considerably better for the environment. I support the hard work of America’s family farms by fundraising for Farm Aid. I’m currently trying to raise $30K in honor of my 30th birthday. Thank you for your contribution.
I spend as much time off the computer as possible, choosing instead to connect with people, nature, and myself. I travel extensively and love taking photos of all the new things I see. I’m an only child, a lefty, a redhead, an ENFJ, a beer snob, and a pretty good rapper. A native Manhattanite, I now spend my time in the Florida Keys.