Hello Gates Foundation!

If you are looking for the results that UX can bring, you must have the foundation of user research – which comes down to listening. If you are designing in a vacuum and not putting yourself into someone else’s shoes, you are trying to solve a problem with your hands tied behind your back. Let me help. I can untie you. I can help listen to employees and teach them the fundamentals of UX for their work, so that the end user feels the positive impact.

My favorite type of projects consist of those where I get to build relationships with stakeholders and users over time. This can consist of one on one interviews, workshops, cognitive walk throughs and other forms of qualitative research. My favorite area to work within is the open ended space of exploratory research. Here, I get to ask people questions to help them dig deep down into what they really want. I am a facilitator for self reflection or sharing ideas within a group. I find joy in the space where I’m able to read between the lines of what multiple people want and create a solution that they didn’t know was possible.

Process with UX Clients

I start with interviews and design workshops with stakeholders. After gathering all of that data, I create a solid UX Strategy as a foundation for each project I work on. Here’s an example with a startup from California.

Wifi in South Africa

I saved Xpertek money, on investing in a new revenue source, by testing an in person flow and finding a flaw. This demographic owned 2 phones – one for text and one for data.

IA & Site Redesign

Information Architecture is the foundation in which we can build a website. Here I used card sorting to create a new structure that reduced calls to the Wine Commission.

A Presidential Choice

I worked for Howard Schultz’s on his potential run for President. I led the research and design for a volunteer app that would collect data of potential voters. It’s under NDA, so please request a presentation.

Branding and Site Design

I collaborate with business owners to create brands that are modern, professional, and unique. Here’s my most recent website design that resulted in my client’s first online coaching sale.

Mobile Design

Here’s an end to end design process I completed for Retrofit, a wellness company in Chicago, which increased the program’s lesson completion rate by 12%.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
– Peter Drucker

Spreading the UX way of thinking

When you bring UX and design thinking practices into a business or elevate them into new parts of an organization you must be careful. You should first focus on understanding how things are currently working and where people are hurting. Your first goal should be to own trust of the people you want to introduce new process and practices to, so that you can help them.

I’m so passionate about UX that I created a youtube channel to help business owners to understand what User Experience is and how it works. I decrease the intimidation factor by breaking the concepts down into easily digestible chunks and avoiding jargon.

I meet people where they are at, so they can feel empowered to take these principles – such as listening to end users – and incorporate them into their company culture. Teaching internal employees this type of two way relationship is what brings long term sustainability to an organization. It creates trust and loyalty with the people you serve, so that a competitor can’t swoop in and take over your market.

If your employees understand the process is about trial and error from the beginning, it will be easier to learn quickly, prioritize user needs, and stay relevant in the market.

Research – My favorite type

I am passionate about research and strategy. UI is just a veneer, we can always reskin a well crafted project as the trends change, but long lasting architecture is part of my drive. Sometimes slowing down a little at the beginning can save us lots of time and money later. I believe it starts with getting on the same page with each stakeholder. Then getting on the same page of the people you are trying to serve. This requires a lot of listening. You can do this through many methods, but here’s my two cents on my favorite type (qualitative).

What about exploratory research?

If you’re building a new product, don’t forget this step! The businesses that stick around are ones that solve a problem for people. Make sure you are finding a problem and coming up with the right solution before investing more money into your product. The worst case scenario, if you skip this step, is to build a usable product that no one wants or needs.

If the only research you are doing is usability testing, you might be wasting time and money.  For example, you could build a salt shaker that is wifi enabled, but is that the best use of time? Probably not. This might seem obvious to you from an outsider’s perspective, but it wasn’t to SMALT.

Running an organization is about prioritizing, because we don’t have unlimited resources. Research helps us prioritize and exploratory research helps us pick the right problem from the start to solve.

My current favorite podcast

When I heard Indi Young on the Design Thinking 101 podcast, I felt like she was speaking to my soul. She talks about a bigger picture approach to research. One that is focused on the problem space instead of testing a solution. Research that is more thorough and dives deeper into people’s experiences. A type of broader research that is more ever green, because it can be used for multiple projects within a space.

She talks about the bias we bring to our products and how important it is to get past this to find the “inner thinking” of the people we are serving. She refers to popping the bubble of Dave Gray’s “Liminal Thinking.” If you haven’t seen his whiteboard description of this, I’d give it a listen too.

Listening

Through a combination of natural instinct, experiences, and training throughout my life, I have become a strong communicator. Friends have referred to me as “a therapist” and I often get a surprised “you are a great listener” when I’m talking to someone about their concerns one on one.

This type of training started back in high school when I was accepted to the Peer Assistance & Leadership (PAL) program. I was taught conflict resolution, decision making and other leadership skills.

Once I got to college, I continued down this path by becoming a community advisor (CA) and eventually being promoted to one of the 4 Senior CAs on campus. I helped lead the yearly training and mentored other CAs throughout the year.

For the past 15 years my reading list has consistent mostly of non-fiction books centered around psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, behavior change and relationship building.

A year ago I decided to become a matchmaker part-time because I thought it sounded fun. I was able to help people reflect on where they were being blocked by fear and how they could become open to a new relationship.

Teaching UX and running workshops with clients have a lot of similarities. Often there are competing viewpoints and a bit of a struggle to feel heard at times. This can come through different communication styles or seeing “the problem” as other people, instead of seeing oneself on a team faced by an external problem.

In all of these instances, my duty is to make each individual feel safe by suspending any judgements and actively listening and reflecting what I understand back to the person. I don’t see myself a fixer in these situations, because most people can come up with solutions when they’ve identified the problem. I see myself as more of a facilitator, either mirroring parts of someone back to themselves or surfacing the core problem a group is facing or highlighting the common ground to diffuse tension.

This trust building takes time, but it’s well worth it. This solid foundation can create the bed for innovation within a company. People will bring their ideas forward and take risks when they feel safe, so I strive to create a space that people feel comfortable in.

I’m someone who is more concerned with identifying a problem first, before brainstorming a solution That way we know we are tackling the right issue and using our time wisely.

“Change is the only constant in life, so why not build processes into your organization that adapt?”

My Ideal Process

Every organization runs differently, and that’s ok. This is my ideal process that I think would be the most effective way to build a product.

First, I’d help all the stakeholders in the organization come together to decide what to focus on. I do this by first interviewing people independently to get unbiased answers, and then bringing them together to work as a team using the user’s journey as a backdrop for the discussion. In my experience, there is not one right answer for what should be the top priority, there are many good answers to pick from. The most important part is consensus.

From that basic road map of epics (which is not set in stone, because things change over time), I start with research and eventually visualize an end result incorporating user motivations. In my ideal world, I would hand off my research and whiteboards to a visual designer who understood how their choices affected the UX. Developers would be involved in my white boards from the beginning which would save money and time later by no having to redo work.

Note: Even though I’d like to focus my career on strategy, research, and leadership, my skills encompass anything from the start point up until hi-fi mock ups. The most important thing for me is to work with an organization that I align with and can grow in.

Conversations with designers

If you are a current design leader and want to know if I would be a good fit for your team, check out this interview. It’ll give you some insight into how I interact with another creative – Matt Diamanti. It’s over an hour, so I’ve put topic time stamps in the description on YouTube.

I’ve been in the UX field since 2013 and love to nerd out with other designers – especially when it comes to the intersection of business strategy, research, and design.

Most of my videos on this page are to help start ups and businesses that are new to UX research and design, but this one digs a little deeper into the soft skills of design such as partnering with other departments or the future of the design industry.

 

Investment.

When you hire someone to work on your product, you are hiring more than a skill set. You are hiring a person. Along with that person, you are hiring a philosophy.

When you hire me, you hire someone who wants to deeply listen to find the pain points. It’s in my core. I want to highlight them, help you prioritize them, then fix them. 

I’m a long-term problem solver. I’m a vision clarifier. I want to make your organization more efficient and support a cause we can all believe in – making people’s lives better.

I want to create a fluid customer journey from the very first interaction to the last moment, because I passionately believe in businesses who care about the people they serve.

I want to be the catalyst that up-levels your team.