Hey Ryan, care to share a little bit about yourself?
Howdy! I'm Ryan Gonzales, the Director of Design at Shine Bathroom and I'm also a Venture Advisor and Entrepreneur. Yeah, it's a lot, but I love managing all the irons in the various fires. When it comes to having fun it depends on the time of the year. I spend a lot of time at car shows, automotive events, and I enjoy going on PCH cruises.
Can you tell us what you do as the Director of Design at Shine Bathroom for those who are unfamiliar?
So "Director of Design" at our startup pretty much includes everything under the standard "Product" umbrella. I curate design systems, manage user-centered design initiatives, and lead the teams and processes that drive them. I'm also responsible for product management and overseeing the product roadmap alongside our CEO. Essentially, if a customer interacts with it, I'm generally accountable for it.
How did you decide to pursue your specific career? What pivotal moments pushed you to where you are now?
I always loved technology, design, and business as a kid. I remember reading business books by Bill Gates at 12 and highlighting passages. My mom recalls me wanting to take my VTech laptop on a trip when I was 10 because I wanted to be like all the other businessmen on the plane. In junior high, I had begun making money selling custom shirts and cracked PC games to my classmates. We're outside the statute of limitations, right? I taught myself HTML, PHP, and CSS and began to work on projects for local businesses at about 14.
I began my career as a front-end developer working on projects for a small website called MySpace while I was still in high school. Skipping over my time with MySpace and barely graduating high school, I launched and sold my first startup right after high school, and then I ended up dropping out of college to accept a role as a web designer at Guitar Center. It was at the Guitar Center where the "designer" portion of my web designer title was given extra importance. I was introduced to things like Google Analytics and how it could be used to really dive in and test experiences. I learned how to use that data to create the best possible user flows and navigation structures. It was through my time at GC that I realized my passion was really about creating and tuning experiences. From that point on I began to focus on user experience.
What made you interested in your field?
I have always had a desire to create things that people love and want to use. As a kid, I used to sketch out solutions to problems I would encounter. I joke with my parents about missing the opportunity, but there are rough sketches I have from when I was maybe 10 of a restaurant ordering system that included tablets for servers and built-in screens at the table. The iPhone had just come out and my mind just kept going wild with the possibilities that new technology made possible. I'm driven by the excitement of happy customers and there's just something exciting knowing that at any given moment, tens of millions of people are interacting with something I helped create.
Any advice on how to stand out and get hired for those starting off?
For the aspiring entrepreneurs out there: persevere and adapt. Your first idea may not be your big winner, be ready to accept that. For those looking to stand out and get hired: tell stories. Storytelling and presentation skills are a real differentiator. If you can articulate your decisions, show an ability to reflect, and express a desire to improve, you'll be miles ahead of much of your peers. Take some time to tell your story to friends and family. Be honest about who you are and what you're capable of and interested in. Are you chasing a paycheck or looking for work that fulfills you? Good managers can see the difference when you interview.
3 Character traits that would make someone excel in your field
As trite as it may be: empathy--curiosity, and courage.
Most difficult thing about your job?
Keeping the design process intact. It's very easy to let "small things" slip through the cracks because they're "obvious"--I don't believe in that. Getting the teams and people I work with to see the design process the same way I do is a lot of what my job really ends up being about. Forever teaching and refining.
What would you like to say to your younger self?
Every time I get this question in an interview it stops me in my tracks. The things I want to say to my younger self are almost never anything relating to work or business. The one thing I want to say to my younger self is: check in on your friends and family and better manage your relationships.
Best advice you've received/heard?
"Someday is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you... If it's important to you and you want to do it 'eventually,' just do it and correct course along the way." - Tim Ferriss
Any last thoughts, advice, or recommendations for someone who wants to be a Director of Design?
Get used to being wrong. Wrong about solutions. Wrong about people. Wrong about products. It's a part of the process, and it's what you do after being proven wrong that separates you from your peers.
Learn the business. What we do is not "art" in the traditional sense. We create with the purpose to achieve goals for our customers and our business.
Reach out to peers. I'm personally available to anyone that has the time or interest to connect over a call or video chat. The things you can learn from creatives and entrepreneurs at various levels may amaze you.