Belén Pena's curriculum vitae

Interaction designer and user researcher since 2007 with extensive experience in:

  • Planning, execution and analysis of qualitative user studies and quantitative research methods.
  • Requirements gathering activities, participatory design workshops and expert evaluations.
  • Design for websites, web applications, native applications and operating systems, for desktop, tablet and mobile, and across numerous verticals (retail and investment banking, telecommunications, education, government, enterprise applications, software development tools, open source software).
  • Producing specifications and prototypes with both design (Figma, Omnigraffle, Sketch, Axure, Photoshop, etc.) and web development tools (HTML, CSS, jQuery and Git).
  • Implementation work and collaboration with software engineering teams within agile and open source environments.
  • Training and public speaking at design and development conferences.

More about me on the web:

Professional experience

PhD candidate - School of Design, Northumbria University

From October 2017 to April 2021

I spend most of the time these days pursuing my design PhD at Northumbria University, where I am supervised by Prof. John Vines.

I research financial innovation for later life in collaboration with the Vulnerable Customers team at Santander UK, all thanks to a generous grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

User Experience Trainer - UX Training

Since September 2017

In September 2017 I joined the UX Training team. Once a month, they fly me to some corner of the world to teach about the user experience process and some of its core techniques.

Senior Design Researcher (contract) - Department for Education

August - September 2017

During my 8 weeks at the Department for Education I led a research initiative on organisational change. We planned, scheduled, executed and analysed more than 30 interviews to uncover collaboration issues between agile and user-centered digital projects, policy teams and management departments.

Our interviews higlighted the tensions between the agile development processes applied to digital services, and more "traditional" management approaches applied to planning, budgeting and policymaking.

Recommendations included the introduction of participatory design processes across organisational boundaries, and the identification and planning of participatory design pilot initiatives.

Design Researcher (contract) - WeDigitalGarden

July - August 2017

In this 2-week contract, I worked as a field researcher in an international ethnographic study for a retail software business. I carried out and documented field research sessions in the Barcelona area, which involved shadowing sales representatives as they worked in stores, followed by semi-structured interviews.

Senior User Experience Designer (contract) - Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)

February - April 2017

MHRA is going through a digital transformation project to replace many of the software systems that interact with citizens, medical and pharmaceutical industries.

As a senior user experience designer, I was responsible for ensuring that all actions were undertaken following user-centered design principles, as per the guidelines established by the Government Digital Service (GDS).

The position involved:

  • Producing prototypes and design specifications.
  • Planning, moderating and analysing user research activities.
  • Advising on user-centered design practices within agile development processes.

Yocto Project Design Lead - Intel's Open Source Technology Center

December 2011 to October 2016

Responsible for introducing user-centred design processes and activities to an engineering-led project.

The position involved:

  • Defining and implementing a suitable design process compatible with open source philosophy and practices.
  • Planning and executing a continuous user research programme, under heavy resource constraints and mostly with remote participants.
  • Designing and building a set of web applications to ease the steep learning curve, improve user perception and increase adoption of Yocto Project tools.
  • Supporting project management, front-end development, quality assurance, technical documentation, marketing and community engagement efforts.

Tools: Omnigraffle, Sketch, Silverback, Screenflow, Twitter Bootstrap, jQuery, Git, Bugzilla, MediaWiki, Drupal.

Research: Surveys, semi-structured interviews, moderated usability testing (both face to face and remote), web traffic analysis, digital ethnography.

Interaction designer - Intel's Open Source Technology Center

May to December 2011

Interaction design for the mobile and tablet versions of the Meego and Tizen operating systems.

The position involved:

  • Designing operating system components such as navigation, home screen, multitasking interaction, status indicators and notifications system.
  • Designing the user interface toolkit for native applications (equivalent to the Material design system in Android).
  • Designing core applications such as contacts, dialler, e-mail and gallery.
  • Planning, moderating and analysing usability studies.

Tools: Omnigraffle, InDesign, Silverback.

Research: Usability testing, benchmarking, expert evaluations.

Lead User Experience Architect - LBi London

July 2010 to April 2011

Senior member of LBi’s user experience team. At LBi I led the redesign of the truphone website, and work on British Telecom’s e-commerce and self-service platforms.

The position involved:

  • Information architecture, interaction design, wireframing, prototyping and production of design specifications.
  • Liaising with clients and stakeholders, facilitating design workshops and presenting design solutions.
  • Preparing and presenting user experience sales pitches.
  • Supporting user research activities
  • Collaborating with branding, visual design and development teams.
  • Supervising and mentoring junior user experience team members.

Tools: Omnigraffle, Axure, web-based prototyping (HTML, CSS and jQuery).

Research: Usability testing.

Interaction designer - Lab49

January to July 2010

Lab49 is an agile development house specialised in investment banking. In close collaboration with a graphic designer, I worked on a concept for a new risk management application commissioned by UBS.

The position involved:

  • Requirements gathering via stakeholder interviews and design reviews.
  • Wireframing and prototyping.
  • Usability testing with both paper and interactive prototypes. Some of the test sessions were carried out in the trading floor, where our users worked.

Tools: Omnigraffle, Silverback, paper prototyping.

Research: Usability testing, persona development.

Interaction designer - iQ Content

May 2007 to December 2009

I joined iQ Content as a trainee interaction designer, and moved my way up until becoming responsible for delivering client work.

At iQ Content I designed mainly websites and web applications. In my almost 3 years there, I worked for, between others, Vodafone Ireland, Eircom, Permanent TSB, University College Dublin and SAP.

Tools: Visio, Omnigraffle, web-based prototyping, Silverback, Morae, Sifter.

Research: Semi-structured interviews, usability testing (both in laboratory and in the field), contextual enquiry, benchmarking studies, heuristic evaluations, expert reviews, persona development, surveys and web traffic analysis.

Personal and community projects


  • PhD in Design, Northumbria University (from October 2017)
  • MSc in Social Anthropology, London School of Economics (2013 - 2015)
  • BSc Honours (First Class) in Information Systems and Information Technology, Dublin Institute of Technology (2005 - 2009)
  • Degree in Journalism, University of Navarra (Spain) (1994 - 1998)


I am native Spanish speaker, although after 16 years abroad in Ireland and the UK I suspect English may now be my first language. My Portuguese was fluent, but currently a bit rusty.