Belén Pena's curriculum vitae

I have been a designer and researcher in the software industry since 2007. In 2017 I started my PhD in Human-Computer Interaction at the School of Design of Northumbria University. My research explored how we can design fairer and more inclusive financial technologies, in collaboration with people who have experienced mental illness and financial difficulty. I was awarded a doctorate (without corrections) in September 2021.

I am also an active contributor to the Free and Open Source Software community, and one of the founding members of Open Source Design, a volunteer group that advocates the importance of human-centred and participatory design approaches to Free and Open Source Software projects.

I have extensive experience in:

  • Planning, executing and analysing qualitative research studies.
  • Common quantitative research approaches in the software industry, such as surveys and analysis of system use data.
  • Engaging marginalised groups and people deemed “vulnerable” in research activities, as demonstrated by my academic, peer reviewed publications
  • Software requirements gathering, participatory design workshops and expert design 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, etc.).
  • Producing software design specifications and prototypes with both design (e.g. Figma, Sketch) and web development tools (HTML, CSS, JavaScript 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

Postgraduate Research Fellow - Queen Mary University London

From January 2022

I am currently a post-doctoral researcher with the Autistic Adults Online project, based at Queen Mary University London. We are exploring how to design more inclusive social media platforms, and how to improve the digital communication experience of autistic adults. In this project, I am responsible for all participatory design activities, which include a set of 12 co-design workshops.

Consulting - Service Design, Interaction Design and User Research

Since September 2017

I have been consulting on design and research since leaving my last full-time position at Intel in October 2016. I have done consulting work for the following companies and projects:

Digital Catapult

I supported the Digital Catapult on their research efforts with embedded computing engineers as part of the CHERI-Morello project, an open source collaboration between Arm, Cambridge University and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Red Associates

I was part of the team undertaking the biggest international, ethnographic study on living with Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria (PNH) carried out to date. I contributed field research in Spain.

GNU Taler

This free software project seeks to demonstrate the feasibility of a digital currency that preserves and respects citizens’ privacy, while protecting society from money laundering and tax evasion. I supported their design efforts from July to October 2021. Since Taler is a free software project, all design work was done in the open, with all design deliverables available in this Git repository:

Deontic Data

From December 2020 to December 2021, I supported this UK startup in research and design activities for a data rights management service.


During April and May 2020 I helped this Italian startup to redesign their product website and signup process.

UK Department for Education

During August and September 2017 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-centred digital projects, policy teams and management departments.


During July and August 2017 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.

Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)

From February to April 2017 I supported the digital transformation efforts underway at MHRA. As a senior user experience designer, I was responsible for ensuring that all actions were undertaken following user-centred design principles, as per the guidelines established by the Government Digital Service (GDS).

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

December 2011 to October 2016

During my time in the Yocto Project, I was tasked with introducing human-centred design processes, methods and activities to what had been until then an engineering-centric 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.

Interaction designer - Intel's Open Source Technology Center

May to December 2011

When I first joined Intel, I worked on the 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.

Lead User Experience Architect - LBi London

July 2010 to April 2011

I was a senior designer in LBi’s user experience team. At LBi I led the redesign of the truphone website, and worked on BriLsh Telecom’s e-commerce and self-service pladorms.

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.

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.

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.

Personal and community projects

  • Creator of the DIY Mobile Usability Testing project.
  • Main instigator of the design track at the Free and Open Source Software Developers' European Meeting (FOSDEM).
  • Founding member of the Open Source Design group.
  • Teaching mobile user experience at the Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona) from 2015 to 2018.
  • Teaching and mentoring designers with the UX Design Institute from September 2017 to March 2022.


  • PhD in Design, Northumbria University (2017 - 2021)
  • 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 20 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.


  • Belén Barros Pena, Bailey Kursar, Rachel E. Clarke and John Vines. 2022. Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Dissonances of Digitising Personal Finance. In DRS International Conference 2022, June 25th – July 3rd, Bilbao, Spain. (Forthcoming).
  • Belén Barros Pena, Rachel E. Clarke, Lars Erik Holmquist, and John Vines. 2021. Circumspect Users: Older Adults as Critical Adopters and Resistors of Technology. In CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’21), May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 14 pages.
  • Belén Barros Pena, Bailey Kursar, Rachel E. Clarke, Katie Alpin, Merlyn Holkar, and John Vines. 2021. Financial Technologies in the Cycle of Poor Mental Health and Financial Hardship: Towards Financial Citizenship. In CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’21), May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 16 pages.
  • Belén Barros Pena, Bailey Kursar, Rachel E. Clarke, Katie Alpin, Merlyn Holkar, and John Vines. 2020. "Pick Someone Who Can Kick Your Ass" - Moneywork in Financial Third Party Access. Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact. 4, CSCW3, Article 218 (December 2020), 28 pages. Honourable Mention Award at CSCW '20
  • Bran Knowles, Vicki L. Hanson, Yvonne Rogers, Anne Marie Piper, Jenny Waycott, Nigel Davies, Aloha Hufana Ambe, Robin N. Brewer, Debaleena Chattopadhyay, Marianne Dee, David Frohlich, Marisela Gutierrez-Lopez, Ben Jelen, Amanda Lazar, Radoslaw Nielek, Belén Barros Pena, Abi Roper, Mark Schlager, Britta Schulte, and Irene Ye Yuan. 2021. The harm in conflating aging with accessibility. Commun. ACM 64, 7 (July 2021), 66–71. DOI:
  • Chris Elsden, Tom Feltwell, Belén Barros Pena, Bettina Nissen, Inte Gloerich, Chris Speed, and John Vines. 2020. Designing Futures of Money and FinTech. In Companion Publication of the 2020 ACM Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS' 20 Companion). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 429–432. DOI:
  • Belén Barros Pena, Reem Talhouk, Bailey Kursar. 2020. Digital Finance & Money Collaboration [pdf] . Contribution to the Designing Futures of Money and Fintech workshop at the 2020 ACM Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS’ 20).
  • Belén Barros Pena. 2019. Contribution to the HCI and Aging: Beyond Accessibility workshop at the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI’ 19).