New technologies like Virtual Reality are changing the way we interact with computers. Fast.
How can we keep up to date with the new innovation in this sector? Will we one day not use keyboards and use virtual reality instead?
Cecilia Lejeune is an expert in her field and has combined international experience with her academic background meaning she is at the very forefront of this new and exciting area. What does she enjoy in her role and what training and skills did she need to get to where she is today? Find out as we interview a Rakutenian.
“My life as a Rakutenian Human-Computer Interfaces (HCI) and Virtual Reality Research Engineer”: Cecilia Lejeune
The HCI Research Engineer´s job is to propose, design and develop new ways to interact with digital. It goes from mobile apps, website interfaces for innovative services, through virtual reality experiences, 360° movies, and even in-store installations using sensors and large screens.
The “research” part of my job consists in doing technology watch to always be aware of the state of the art in my field, and in testing our proposed solutions with real users to see how they feel about it.
The “development” part of my job is all about creation, from rough sketches of the idea, to the actual prototype up until deployment. As I am specialized in virtual reality, I spend most of my time exploring the potential of this innovative technology. Our ultimate goal is to make innovation useful for Rakuten members.
What’s your typical daily task?
I work on several projects as the same time, with different levels of innovation. I have what we could call “side-projects”, for example, providing interfaces and use cases for cutting edge algorithms produced by the machine learning experts of the team. And I have a “main project”, which can go from several weeks to several months. I usually design and prototype through an iterative process which allows me to refine the core features as soon as I get people feedback. Developing and testing are most of my day, but I also spend some time interviewing candidates for my team, and I do technology daily watch to, among other things, see progress in the Virtual Reality field.
According to you, what’s exciting about your job?
The exploration of newest technologies is a very exciting part of our job. We get to know what is being created, or we use latest thinking methods to extract new ideas from existing technologies. The best part of the job is to watch a simple idea grow, become a real project and reach final users!
What are the perks of working in a global electronic commerce and Internet Company such as the Rakuten Group in terms of job opportunities and projects to work on?
For my job, Rakuten is a really large playground because it has so many different services, with different products, from entertainment to insurance, to sports, and also Kobo, Viber and Viki! And we can collaborate between every Rakuten business. As part of an international team, I have the chance to work with people from so many different cultures than my own. I think it makes us more open-minded than traditional national companies. I often travel to meet my colleagues and I welcome other Rakutenians to our office in Paris, for long-term work exchange or just for one week. Last year, I stayed 6 weeks in Tokyo to discuss directly with Rakuten businesses about new collaborations leveraging virtual reality technology. It was a unique experience!
According to you, what’s most difficult or challenging?
We have to learn, quickly, new languages and API, and to be able to self-learn, as we often need to try new technologies like Virtual Reality. It is challenging to always go into the unknown!
However, to me, the most difficult part is to convince the businesses to integrate some innovation into their service or product. Indeed, most of the time they didn’t ask anything from us, they have a roadmap planned, priorities assigned, so they love our proposals but can’t integrate them, and I, sure, can understand that! Our real challenge is to improve the way we collaborate together and be more agile.
What kind of training and skills do you need to become Human-Computer Interfaces and Virtual Reality Research Engineer?
The core skills are development skills: before anything else, you need to be a solid software engineer. Ideally, a good HCI research engineer has a PhD, but it’s not my case. The best training for me is to create by yourself many different projects, personal or professional. The more varied are your projects, the easier and quicker you will master new technologies in the future.
On top of those development skills, a creative spirit is definitely a bonus to come with new ideas to try. And of course, a sense of empathy, a user-centered thinking process and good communication skills!
How do you think your job will evolve in the future?
My job is evolving at the pace human-computer interfaces are. As machines are more and more integrated into our everyday life, paradoxically our job is to make them less and less visible. Technology can be good and help us, and I think that it is our job to provide good and useful technology to people.
What makes a Human-Computer Interfaces and Virtual Reality Research Engineer laugh?
Creating interfaces between machines and … animals!
Did you know some mobile apps exists specifically for cats and dogs?
If you liked this article, please have a look at our launching post of the article series “My life as a Rakutenian…”: QA Manager.
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