CASE STUDY - Global Hackaton Competition





Weekend Hackathon


UX Researcher

UX Methods:

Proto-Persona, Empathy Map, User Journey Map, Icon Design

Design Tools:


AngelHack is the world’s largest and most diverse global hacker community, helping to drive open innovation of tech products, platforms, and brands with extraordinary smarts, scale, and speed. With a team of 3 developers, we decided to help skilled refugees land jobs related to the careers they previously had and loved.


Our solution was to engage professional refugees through Facebook, identify their qualifications with a chatbot, and match them with job opportunities and hiring companies who wanted to diversify their workforce.

 Problem Statement:

Over 65 million people worldwide had been forced to leave their home countries by persecution, violence or human rights violations. Many are high-skilled professionals such as doctors, dentists, lawyers, and engineers. When they arrive in a new country, they don’t know where to begin as their credentials and professional licenses are not valid or recognized. Many don’t know what opportunities are available tied to their previous professions. Consequently, they settle for the jobs in service industries.

Online Research:

With a single day to produce a product, my team was ready to develop but I felt it was important to first determine if there was a problem to solve and there was.

"Refugees frequently find work in low-skilled jobs, like hotel services and manufacturing. They interview and go through a job-application process just as anyone else would." - US News

"There were nearly 2 million highly skilled, well-educated immigrants in the U.S. that were either underemployed (meaning, working in low-skill jobs) or unemployed, according to a December 2016 report from the Migration Policy Institute." - International Business Times

"The skill underutilization of college-educated immigrants in the United States who are either stuck in low-skilled work or cannot find jobs imposes significant costs on immigrant families, government, and the broader U.S. economy. How much? Providing the first-ever estimates of this skill underutilization, also known as brain waste, MPI researchers find the tab runs to the billions of dollars in forgone earnings and resulting unrealized tax payments for federal, state, and local governments." - Migration Policy Institute, MPI


Our target audience was professional refugees. As the user advocate, I facilitated a discussion to determine their stories, personalities, goals, motivations, and frustrations.


I created a proto-persona and named him Mahmoud Elksheikh. Mahmoud was a Syrian lawyer who fled his hometown Raqqa when his house city was destroyed during the Syrian Civil War.

Empathy Map:

I generated an empathy map to capture what Mahmoud was thinking, feeling, seeing, hearing, doing, and saying.


Within a couple of hours, we knew who Mahmoud was. He was a successful lawyer who worked as a waiter and felt stuck in a job he did not like. We saw the challenges he faced through the proto-persona. We felt his frustrations through the empathy map.

Naming Challenge:

It was time to name our product. We wrote on a piece of paper all of the names we can think of.  I entered 'Refujob'. We asked our fellow hackers to votes on the name entries and within 15 minutes, we were officially called Refujob.

User Journey Map:

We all thought it was a great engage our users through chatbot. As they brainstorm on the technical implementation, I focus on making a journey map to capture   Mahmoud's experience through the different stages. 

Chatbot Design:

We knew who we were designing for and how we wanted the bot to behave. We walked through various dialogue flows. We had three goals in mind. 

  1. Reliability - simple and operable

  2. Usability - direct buttons (ex. Yes, No), alternative flows, help

  3. Functionality - mapped capabilities, system response and prompts.

It was challenging to identify the natural language. We used our imaginations figure out the possible conversations. We wrote them on the whiteboard and spoke them out loud until we intuitively felt it was right.

Icon Design:

I created icons while my team coded. I made them look chat boxes to be consistent with our chatbot solution.


Before we knew it, it was time to pitch Refujob and highlight its:

  • User interaction and engagement through chatbot

  • Ease of use with simple conversations

  • Functionality to present jobs to professional refugee candidates based on their qualifications and interest

  • Feature to prefill job application online


A panel of judges selected us as one of the Top 10 Finalists and we won the Radix Challenge Prize!

Refujob Bot through Facebook Messenger:

AngelHack was my first hackathon. I was one of the few participating designers so I was outside of my comfort zone. 

We had less than 24 hours to deliver. My team was ready to code.  I felt user research was vital to the project's success and well worth the investment. I wanted us to empathize with professional refugees in order to create a viable product. I was the user advocate and I created stories from my proto-persona, empathy map, and journey map to generate valuable insights. 

The research paid off and we won the Radix Challenge Prize winner and received recognition as a semi-finalist.  We created a product that fitted our professional refugees because we invested the time to define our users' problem and needs up front. 

The hackathon was intense, hard work, and exhilarating!  I appreciated my team's willingness to get to know Mahmoud, our user. 


'Great target audience because of current events. Nice use of Facebook's messenger platform. Nice conversational UI. Impressive use case used in demo and compelling market fit explanation.' 


Kevin Hawkins, Head of Design


© 2019 Anna Canicosa. All Rights Reserved.