4 UX designers explain what it’s like to work at their NYC tech company

by Liz Warren
May 30, 2019
design
image via shutterstock

When you were asked what you wanted to be when you grew up, “UX designer” probably wasn’t the answer. But now that UX designers are paid some of the highest entry-level salaries, according to e Comparably, it may be a good skill to learn.

We talked to four designers at NYC tech companies and asked when they knew this was what they wanted to do, and how it’s measured up since.

 

Sebas Ribas
Senior Product Designer

For some people, design is just in their blood. Senior Product Designer Sebas Ribas made his first website as a teenager and has followed that passion ever since. He explained how he got involved with website design platform Squarespace, and how he’s been able to utilize his creativity there.

 

How and why did you get into the field of UX and design?

I have been very passionate about the way we interact with screens and devices since early in my life. I designed my first websites when I was around 14 years old, and I was always curious about the way such things are built. I decided to pursue that eagerly, and I graduated as a product designer in 2011. In the midst of a financial crisis that crippled Spain’s manufacturing industry, I shifted my focus and got an internship at a design firm focusing on digital design. Fortunately for me, it turned out to be something that I loved doing.

 

Tell us about the most successful UX design project you’ve been a part of in your current position.

I am very happy with the work we have done for email campaigns. Composing a newsletter and ensuring that it works well across different devices and for a variety of clients is a complex task, so we focused on simplifying it by creating an approachable editing paradigm. Paired with a robust scaffolding that allowed our users to manage subscribers, connect their domains and schedule emails, we were able to bring Squarespace’s design-driven approach to emails. Our customers are now able to send or edit their campaigns directly from their phones, giving them complete control and peace of mind at all times.

 

Hannah Peckham
Senior Product Designer

Hannah Peckham found her true calling in college when she discovered there was an entire program devoted to combining art and technology. Now, as a senior product designer at edtech company Teachers Pay Teachers, she’s able to apply all that she learned and help educators in the process.

 

How and why did you get into the field of UX and design?

I’ve always been a creative person. When it came time to apply for college, I found the new media design program at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) that combined art with technology. This program sparked my interest into the field of UX and design, and opened my eyes to the careers that would be available to me. After spending some time in advertising in Boston, I moved to San Francisco to try my luck in the tech world working as a product designer at Evernote. Building products for people was truly inspiring and led me to join Teachers Pay Teachers, where I could use design to make a meaningful and positive impact on teachers’ lives.

 

Tell us about the most successful UX design project you’ve been a part of in your current position.

One of the projects I am most proud of during my time at Teachers Pay Teachers is our homepage port. Because the homepage was a legacy PHP page (compared to some of our newer React pages), we were unable to quickly test and run experiments on it. I led design efforts to move over all of the homepage elements to React using our component styles, and made new designs for elements that didn’t already exist.

By the end of the project, we created the first responsive components, worked on building out our design system, and launched the first fully responsive page on the site. I was able to collaborate with our growth and web platform teams to get this page launched; a great example of cross functional teamwork! Finally, I worked closely with Sharell Bryant, our tech lead, to document our process and learnings from the experience so the next team to take on similar work wouldn’t have to start from scratch.

 

Han Byul Ru
Senior Manager, User Experience

Yext helps companies manage their presence across the entire digital universe, and as such needs to provide customers with a solid user experience. Senior Manager of User Experience Han Byul Ru leads the UX design team and calls upon her background in both brand strategy and design on a daily basis.

 

How and why did you get into the field of UX and design?

My career started in brand strategy, in which I consulted retail, hospitality, and real estate brands to define their corporate identity and positioning, and map out their end-to-end customer journey. As part of that work, I increasingly helped brands architect their digital touch points as a way of interacting with and integrating into the life of their customers. That’s when I saw a huge overlap of disciplines between brand strategy and user experience, and began to pivot and merge those two worlds of mine as one.

 

Tell us about the most successful UX design project you’ve been a part of in your current position.

It’s been an incredible journey being a part of this rocketship called Yext, going from a startup to a global public company. One of the many ways this growth has played out is our rapidly widened range of customers — from small businesses to large enterprise companies across all verticals with customers who have unique needs, behaviors and motivations.

From the perspective of user advocacy, we saw an opportunity to research, understand, and align the whole company on our customers’ journey. After more than six months of research and synthesis, we identified five main user archetypes, mapped out the highs and lows of their journeys, and socialized those findings across various teams for next steps. Our initiative to make every step of the customer journey a five-star experience is ongoing, and this project was a major step forward for the organization.

 

Krista Plano
Experience Researcher

Krista Plano landed in the world of UX after studying art history and graphic design. She’s now an experience researcher at productivity platform Asana, where she works with many different departments to launch solutions that drive value to customers.

 

How and why did you get into the field of UX and design?

I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up until I got a taste of UX. By way of art history and graphic design studies, I started to think about digital experiences and how people understand and interact with them to solve problems. In my first product role, I wore many hats — I wrote specs, designed user flows and led my first research project. I remember analyzing the data from customer interviews and a card sorting exercise, and I didn’t look up from my spreadsheet until I got to insights. It was invigorating. The rest is history.

 

Tell us about the most successful UXR project you’ve been a part of in your current position.

Our UXR team is a key pillar within our product team, and we are seen as an instrumental part of the product development process, from discovery to launch. One of the projects I’m most passionate about has been leading research for Asana’s upcoming resource management solution from discovery to launch. Research started with exploratory interviews with participatory design and moved to concept testing, then to a closed beta program. Our conversation with target customers is ongoing, so there were no surprises when we launched beta. Early themes and continued validation informed two tracks of research related to the biggest customer problems. Strategic planning and coordination of research, design and engineering gave us the opportunity to launch a solution that delivers value to our customers with fast follow additions that will increase that value.

 

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