The Humans of smrtPhone

Our “smrtie of the Month” for June is the person who is taking our product interface to the next level: our UX Designer, Maria!


Maria-Victoria Hodorogea, but most people call me simply Maria.

Title / Role in the Company

I’m a UX designer. UX stands for User Experience, and it’s all about how our users navigate our products.

My primary focus is understanding our users and aligning their needs with our business goals.  It’s my job to make sure they have a satisfying experience and a happy journey through our platform.

How long have you worked for smrtPhone?

8 Months, but I swear it feels like much longer. Actually, it’s like a combination of it hasn’t been enough and it feels like a lot. It’s been really fun. 

What’s your background? 

I studied computer science. Initially I wanted to be a developer. But in the first year I worked on a project that captivated me, where I had to build an animation with 3D rendering. I was so excited I even bought a new computer so I could complete it. Before then, I didn’t know much about UX design. After, I was so inspired, I spent a lot of time looking for how I could use my artsy skills combined with my software and coding knowledge.

Before joining smrtPhone, my boyfriend and I ran an agency doing developer/designer projects. We took on all kinds of freelance projects, websites, stock apps, a little bit of everything. I did a lot of front end development in addition to UX design.

Maria Hodorogea smrtPhone UX designer

What was your first job? 

I first tried going straight to university from high school. Having studied literature and English, I decided to attend a university focused on PR and communications. I knew almost immediately that it was the wrong fit for me, so I took a gap year. 

During that time off from school, I had my first job which was data entry. I would edit or upload Amazon and Ebay listings. I was really good at it and quite fast. But, it was a lot of the same and it became boring after a while. 

My next position was working on WordPress websites. It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. Plus, it was a great job to allow me to balance working and going to school at the same time. 

After my year off, I enrolled in a computer science major to challenge myself. And it was a big challenge! I had no knowledge in the field and since I had studied literature I hadn’t even completed a math course since my first year in high school. Most of my classmates had some experience, although not all. I think I gained my first few gray hairs from that initial experience. 

What do you like about working for smrtPhone? 

smrtPhone’s culture is awesome. I loved [our CEO] Jordan’s presentation about the whole company at the most recent team building. smrtPhone is everything that Vlad [our CTO] told me about in our first interviews.  A lot of companies will say how great their culture is, but it’s actually true here. 

At smrtPhone, we are always focused on improving ourselves – not just professionally, but also personally. Improving yourself isn’t an afterthought after advancing the company’s needs. It’s a constant balance. It’s about being good professionally and personally. From every member to every department. 

Plus, everyone adapts so fast. I joined the team when there had been no previous hands-on designer. I was nervous that it would be hard to accept the change. But everyone was on board and excited, and willing to adjust how things were done. We improved our work flow and we’re still improving it. 

Describe smrtPhone in 3 words. 

United. Because it’s like family  – but everyone says family, so I wanted something different. 

Freedom. We have a lot of freedom and I like it. As long as the work gets done, it can be from anywhere, at any time.  

Caring. Everybody really cares about each other and supports each other. 

Is there a particular moment/project at smrtPhone that stands out and makes you feel proud?  

So far, I’m proud of all of the releases and improvements that we’ve made.

I personally am excited to finalize the design system, which will take a few more months. That is a toolbox that will help us tremendously and will ease things, making design and development go faster. 

Plus, I really enjoyed our time at the team building. Being together with everyone – many for the first time –  made me feel proud that I am a part of this team, a part of smrtPhone. 

maria hodorogea and her puppy

What do you like to do in your free time? 

I’m either at home in the city or out and about in the mountains. At home, we have a puppy that we love to hang out with and spend time with. 

In the mountains where we have a little cabin that my dad built. We go there a lot. I didn’t like it as a kid, but now I love it. 

I spend a lot of time in nature – and we most often go by motorcycle. I don’t drive it, so I joke I’m a professional backpack. I’ll get my license in October, to have it as back up. But I don’t think I’ll be retiring from being a backpack any time soon. 

Maria Hodorogea professional backpack

Name something that is on your “bucket list”

The first thing that comes to mind is motorcycle related: going on a long motorcycle trip on the Trans Euro Trail. It’s 51,000 kilometers of dirt road through some of Europe’s most remote and beautiful landscapes. 

I also want to go rock climbing outside, on actual cliffs. I used to rock climb in climbing gyms a lot, up until the pandemic. I want to get back into it and get good enough to go climbing outside. 

What is a fun fact people might not know about you? 

I’m 26 and I’ve never been to the beach before. Like, ever. But we’re planning to go to Montenegro – with the motorcycle, of course.