Hi there, please tell us a little bit about yourself! Who are you? What do you like to do for fun?
I'm a California kid, born and raised, except for the three years I spent living in Columbus, Ohio. I've spent my career designing interfaces for mobile and web apps, from social networks, to dating apps, to Disney theme parks. Aside from work, I spend my time at my kids' baseball games, watching my beloved Dodgers and Ohio State Buckeyes, playing tennis, and frequenting Disney theme parks and various tiki bars.
Can you tell us what you do as a Product Design Lead at the Walt Disney Company for those who are unfamiliar?
I'm a Product Design lead for Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products (DPEP). This means I'm responsible for leading the design effort on mobile and web apps for things like dining & lodging reservations, cruise line bookings, and other experiences inside our theme parks and resorts. I focus much of my time on strategizing with our product and tech teams to ensure the requirements we're designing against offer us the best opportunity to deliver world-class products. I also work with our talented designers to help them level up their game and work towards their own career goals.
How did you decide to pursue your specific career? What pivotal moments pushed you to where you are now?
I've always been somewhat of a perfectionist and enjoyed creating experiences that surprise and delight. Growing up together with the personal computing era and the beginning of the Internet led me to pursue a career where I could design for these emerging technologies. After becoming a casualty of the dot-com bubble, I went to fine tune my skills at graduate school before going back to work. This solidified my love for imagining and designing delightful and functional experiences. I have always held a special place in my heart for Disney Parks, having grown up just a few miles from Disneyland in Anaheim. So getting the chance (3rd time's a charm!) to work for DPEP has been a literal dream come true.
What programs & tools do you use everyday for your work? What do you like/dislike about these programs?
Sketch and Figma are the workhorse applications, far and away. I use both of these daily for executing designs and prototypes, and for sharing with our partners. Keynote is another indispensable tool for creating elegant presentations, and also for some rudimentary prototyping. Supporting roles are played by the usual suspects: Adobe Creative Suite, as well as Google Docs/MS OneDrive, Box, and where would we be without Zoom?
Any advice on how to stand out and get hired for those starting off?
It took me 3 separate applications over a number of years to land my dream job. Sending out resumes and filling out applications is necessary, but in all likelihood it's not going to land you a job. Networking is your ticket. If you're not working, then find out who in your network IS working at places you're interested in. Contact them and ask for an introduction.
If you are working, use your current colleagues to help expand your network for when you find yourself hunting for a new gig. Take time and care with your resume: it's not just a bunch of words; the entire design is a reflection of who you are as a candidate. Also, bigger is not better; remove anything that is irrelevant for what role you're seeking, but ensure that what remains tells a cogent story of you as a professional. Same goes for your portfolio: make it reflect the role you want, not everything you've ever done.
Attention to detail is extremely important. The difference between a good and great design is often in the details that may seem inconsequential. Being eternally curious is also a crucial component, since it will lead you to discover new ways to solve problems and sustain you amidst those frustrating moments. Don Norman may well be the godfather of design thinking, so his writings are the best place to start. Same with Jakob Nielsen. There are a number of design podcasts out there, but 99% Invisible is probably the canonical choice. I like it because it's not focused on digital product design, so it allows me to explore design principles as they apply to other industries (i.e. architecture)
What are 3 character traits that would make someone excel in your field?
Curiosity, empathy, and organization.
Most satisfying & difficult thing about your job?
Working through a seemingly intractable problem and fighting through to a truly exceptional and elegant solution that you never thought you'd achieve. These are the moments that make it all worth it.
What would you like to say to your younger self?
Don't fall for the myth that you're not as smart as others just because they have more experience. Trust your instincts, but learn from your mistakes. When you're looking for a job, don't ingratiate yourself to your interviewers. Interview them as much as they interview you, and don't compromise on your morals. Do your job with enthusiasm and passion. You won't do your best work if you don't give it your best. Also, don't forget how your privilege has given you advantages, and be sure to lift up those around you who have been less fortunate.
Best advice you've received/heard?
From Steve Jobs: Find what you love. The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.