Mona Gabr, alumni of MDS co-founded non-profit organisation Āhua Wellbeing

Bachelor of Media Design

Mona finished her studies in 2018 & snapped up an internship at Air NZ before she'd even graduated. She has since co-founded non-profit organisation Āhua Wellbeing in early 2020 that helps working mothers to achieve holistic balance and has worked as a UX Designer for Visa.


Tell us a little about your end of year project ‘Pick’:

“Pick” is a prototype tag system which helps people with disabilities make the most of public transport.

I had the idea for “Pick” in 2017, when I was doing my internship with Xero. I would ride the outer link bus every day. And one day I noticed a visually impaired woman struggling through her journey. She was struggling with something most of us take for granted, and it encouraged me to do something about it.

In my capstone 2018 project, I decided to develop this idea further. I started exploring the problems that people with disabilities face within the public transportation system.

Using my skills as a UX/UI designer, my goal was to find a solution to help kiwis with disabilities use public transport with ease, helping them to get the right bus safely.

According to Statistics NZ, 35% of people with disabilities are over the age of 65 and may not have access to a smartphone. For that reason, this prototype uses a tag system, rather than a mobile app.

The system allows for communication between the passenger and the bus driver by using near field communication (NFC). This NFC system ensures that the passenger gets safely onto the correct bus.

You had great success with ‘Pick’ at the Best Awards; how was the evening & how did it feel to have success in 3 different categories? [Mona's project, Pick, won Gold in Student Interactive, Silver in Student Public Good and Bronze for Student Product in 2019's Best Awards.]

I was thrilled that evening! It was one of the best moments in my life. It was so good getting to celebrate our hard work and success with my lecturers and friends.

Winning Gold, Silver and Bronze with Pick was more than I expected!

I was ecstatic seeing my hard work pay off! And now, ‘Pick’ has the chance to be more than an idea. It can be used everywhere.

What are your plans for ‘Pick’ next?

I have been talking with a few different stack holders: NZTA innovation team, Auckland Transport, Auckland Council, Blind Foundation and Blind Citizen.

They’re all excited about the idea, and agree with the research and results. I’m looking forward to seeing where they’ll take it.

Tell us about your journey since leaving Media Design School – Where are you working now? What is your role?

After finishing my course I worked with Air NZ for a three month internship, followed by a full time UX/UI with a satellite media company.

Now, I’ve partnered up with Sharla Watene to co-found a not-for-profit organisation, Āhua Wellbeing. The goal of Āhua Wellbeing is to help working mothers achieve balance in all aspects of their lives.

Based on the concept of hauora (Māori philosophy of holistic wellbeing), we created the concept of Āhua Wellbeing to empower women to reach their potential and live a life that aligns with their values and priorities.

The organisation will be active and live from the new year 2020.

What do you enjoy most about your career?

The heart behind everything I do is people.

I love using my creativity to produce user-friendly experiences that are catered towards those it’s made for, with a human-centric approach.

What tips would you give to someone wanting to pursue a career in the world of UX design?

UX is a combination of psychology, creativity and skills. You need to understand your target audience, their needs and pain points. Then you’ve got to creatively find solutions for these pain points before implementing them into prototypes.

To be successful in any career you have to step back and ask yourself ‘why’?

Why am I doing this?

Why should I study that in that field?

Why should I work in this company?

Why do I want to become a manager? Etc.

You need to identify the ‘why’ and be clear about the reason behind your work/study. Life is rough and there will always be obstacles and challenges. If there isn’t a good reason or a passion behind what you’re doing, you’ll lose your enthusiasm quickly.

But you also need to know that your ‘why’ will change over time. Your values will change, your passions will change and your perspective will change. We’re always discovering new things about ourselves, so we need to evaluate these things and ask ourselves ‘why’.

How has Media Design School helped to pave the path that you are currently on?

Media Design School was the best decision I ever made.

They focus on keeping you up to date with the industry standards with real work experience. They’re constantly teaching us new trends and tools that help us be ready and successful after graduation.

Also, I love the small community and the fantastic relationship between lecturers and students. They improve our skills through communication and understanding each student’s mind-set.

Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years’ time?

I’d love to see Āhua having a far reach throughout New Zealand. Helping women in the workforce and changing their lives for the better. This way, the whole community will benefit.

Pick by Mona Gabr