SEGD Staff Introductions Nadia Adona, Director of Membership and Media

SEGD Staff Introducations: Nadia Adona, Director of Membership and Media

Read Time: 7 minutes

“I want to see SEGD on all continents and to see how, as an organization, we can not only move outwards, but take that message of experience design as a way of communicating peoples’ needs.” -- Nadia Adona, Director of Membership & Media, SEGD

It takes a lot of coordination among staff members to keep SEGD running smoothly—and each one is dedicated to you, the 2,200 SEGD members from 35 different countries who gather in 34 local chapters. During February, we would like to introduce you to each of the four SEGD staff. Last week we spoke with Sarah Miorelli, SEGD’s Communications Manager. This week contributor Franck Mercurio speaks with Nadia Adona, Director of Membership and Media.

FMM
Hi Nadia! Hey, I hear you’ve been with SEGD longer than any of your other fellow staff members. Is that true?

NLA
Are you ready for this? I started in March 2000—over 20 years ago! (laughs)

FMM
Wow! That is indeed a long time! What were you doing for SEGD when you first started?

NLA
I started as a temp … but just a quick backstory on that. I had joined the Marine Corps, and during training my knee blew out—ACL tear—and after a few months waiting to get discharged, I didn’t know what else to do with my life. So, my best friend got me into temping. I told the temp agency “I want to be in something creative, something art-ish.” They said “Well, there’s an organization that’s looking for some assistance. You won’t be making art, but you’ll be around a lot of creative people.” And that organization was SEGD.

FMM
Wait, wait, wait … that’s a lot to take in! So, you went from a promising military career to temping at SEGD because of its creative atmosphere?

NLA
What’s funny is that I was always an artist. I went to Prince George’s Community College focusing heavily on photography and fine arts. I then joined the Marines because I wanted to be a combat photographer. I just needed to get through bootcamp … which didn’t work … so, even when I was in the military, I always had a creative background.

FMM
That must have been difficult going from military service back to civilian life.

NLA
Actually, I found it kind of peaceful, because no one was yelling at me. (laughs)

FMM
So, you started as a temp, but then SEGD eventually hired you full time, right?

NLA
Yes, so, when my temp agency found SEGD, I was like “Well, I’ll give it a try,” even though I wasn’t doing the creative work. But it was interesting because I had no idea this kind of design even existed. It was an education for me. I didn’t know if this was where I wanted to go, I just knew that I enjoyed being around it.

So, I started out as an office admin. Then SEGD’s executive director at the time, Leslie Gallery Dllworth, hired me full-time as an office manager. And I was also assisting with membership renewals and benefits at that time. Simultaneously, as digital gradually replaced print, I was learning all the new technology used to create digital assets.

FMM
And today, what is your role at SEGD?

NLA
My official title is Director of Membership and Media.

The membership part includes taking care of SEGD member needs, providing member benefits, and just keeping Membership active. Our members are what will keep SEGD alive, and SEGD’s goals will be met when our members’ needs are met. And that is my goal, to make sure this is done. So, listening to what our members say they need—what they’re looking for—and being able to provide that.

Media encompasses the SEGD website, programming, videos, other digital media needs—and taking care of a lot of the technology needed to run the online aspect of things.

FMM
So, your photography skills must be of great help in the area of Media at SEGD. Are you still doing photography on your own, outside of SEGD?

NLA
I am heavy into photography. I have my own label: Enelay Creative (“Enelay” is my initials spelled out), and I’ve done all kinds of photography, from portraits and weddings to my own nature photography and artistic stuff.

And this is my favorite part: I love photographing big events. I’m a photographer for Katsucon, an annual anime convention in DC. I have my badge, and I’m photographing all up and down the convention, including everybody in costume and capturing the experience of being there. It’s a skill that carries over into photographing the SEGD conference.

I also photograph for the Asian Heritage Foundation through their Fiesta Asia and Dance Asia festivals. At these events I’ve connected with other people, and I have photographed the DC Funk Parade. And I’ve photographed twice for DC Art All Night. You’ve got everything from dancers to drag queens. (laughs)

I love festivals; I love art; I love performance. In my way, it’s taking that energy I wanted to put into combat photography. It’s still action, but it shows life.

FMM
And you also channel some of that creative energy into your work at SEGD?

NLA
Yes, I started bringing my camera to the SEGD conferences and taking pictures while working at the registration desk and moving round the expo floor. Eventually, I was assigned as SEGD’s main photographer! The job got more interesting and a lot more exhausting, but I loved it. I later brought my studio lights for better lighting while photographing our Global Design Awards winners. Imagine our delight when SEGD members came up to have their pictures taken, too! 

I have my interactive design degree, my BFA, through the Art Institute of Washington. What I learned there helps me to think about how to present SEGD photos to our website and other digital media. You have the user interface, and so you think “Someone is going to be looking at this.” When I shoot, I have that in mind. “What’s the story I’m telling?”

FMM
What else do you like about SEGD and its work culture? I’m assuming you must like it, since you’ve been here so long. (both laugh)

NLA
That’s actually something I’ve been thinking about recently. “Why have I been with SEGD for so long?” It’s really because it’s a culture that understands the work/life balance. It’s understood that we do have a life outside SEGD. But also, the camaraderie within has been more family-like. We watch out for each other, support each other. You’re a contributor to the team, and your skills are appreciated.

I used to hate meetings, but now I look forward to the “every morning meeting” that our crew has because (1) we’re trying to get all our ducks in a row, and (2) I miss my peeps! Even though we’re no longer in the same room [because of COVID], I feel like we’re more cohesive now than we’ve ever been, because we’ve made it a priority to talk to each other every day. “Who needs help? How can I help you?” These are questions that are encouraged. And you have the opportunity to say, “Here’s what I think we really could do.” And that’s encouraged.

FMM
And what about SEGD’s future? What do you see?

NLA
I’m excited for SEGD’s future because we have leadership not only in Cybelle Jones (CEO), but in our Board and our Chapter Chairs. As this pandemic is happening, I feel like we’ve had to make some hard sacrifices and strip away some things we don’t need, but then what’s left is going to be so freakin’ cool. We can take all this energy and all this need to make the world better, and we can actually do that when we’re all connected again.

FMM
And what about the future expansion of SEGD membership?

NLA
I want to see that member page, and I want to see all kinds of people. I want to see all generations, all ethnic backgrounds; I want to see different countries. I want to see SEGD on all continents, and to see how, as an organization, we can not only move outwards, beyond North America, but take that message of experience design as a way of communicating peoples’ needs—and that does include accessibility, wayfinding, whatever. All these are public needs, so bring that message out and to remember this all makes a society better.

FMM
Anything else you’d like to say to SEGD members as the SEGD Director of Members and Media?

NLA
If you’ve been negatively impacted by the pandemic, and membership is something you need right now, talk to us. We’ll work something out. But as the world gets back to a pseudo-normal—a new normal—we still want to be here, better than ever, because we rode it out with you. And that’s the best thing about our members: they are there for each other, too.

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