I've been a geek since my Commodore 64 days, and a professional geek at organizations from the
Fortune 100 to the non-profit space. I've also worked agency and freelance. Why does this matter? Because
being a UX designer isn't about pixels, it's about people. And understanding them is something I am born to do.
Also, my work is my play: inspiration from things like my love of Disney Theme Parks, PIXAR, animal behavior, and the space program all make their way into my work.
There's plenty that I don't know how to do...yet. But not for long. From the time I first touched technology, or a musical instrument, I never let a question become a stopping point. I'm extraordinarily good at research. If I don't know how to do it, I'm going to find out and learn before you know it. Learning is a passion of mine, matched only by teaching. I carry that passion into leadership, art direction, and pure UX. UX is culture and process, and a good UX designer is a good teacher.
User-Centered Design and Empathy are words that get thrown around a lot in the tech industry. Translating buzz-words into pleasant, usable, learnable experiences requires testing and connection with the user. It also requires flexibility to be surprised. I have significant experience in designing and administering user tests and translating those tests into experiences across mobile, web, and brands.
One fateful Christmas, I received my big wish: A Commodore 64 home computer. I was hooked. From faithfully copying lines of BASIC (trying to understand what those lines meant), to my "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (R.I.P., Douglas Adams...) text-based adventure game, to Sid Meier's "Pirates!": from the moment I read "Press Play on Tape", I was hooked. Next was my NES. Super Mario Brothers, Duck Hunt, Legend of Zelda - I had found a new passion! I reveled in technology, felt the possibilities, even designed mini catalogs where I drew and wrote specifications for computers, devices, and games. I loved design (and maybe even UX) before I had any idea at all what either was: from my Crayola marker set, to inventing elaborate games, with logical rules, carefully drawn on paper...I was a designer in the making.
In high school (Danbury High School, Danbury CT - Go Hatters!) I found another passion. I'd played clarinet in band since 4th grade, but my
high school band teacher, a guy by the name of Jack Zamary, connected me with a teacher named Mary Jane Rodgers - a teacher who was part of the Visiting Artist Program.
To make a long story short, I began lessons and within a year had made Connecticut's competitive All-State Band. By graduation, I had played at Carnegie Hall, NYC,
been ranked the 5th clarinetist out of more than 1,000 who auditioned for CT's All-State Band, and been a finalist in several concerto competitions.
I auditioned and was accepted at UConn, HARTT School of Music, but ultimately chose an academic and music scholarship at The University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I went on to graduate with a degree in Clarinet + Music Education and performed with the University Wind Ensemble, including releasing CD's such as "Tears".
I also bought my first computer in years: an Apple Performa 6214CD. And logged on to the Internet.
I taught clarinet and elementary classroom music for a while. I've always enjoyed teaching - it's a central
part of the work I do today (I often say that UXDs must be teachers - UX is as much a culture as it is an area of subject matter expertise!) But teaching wasn't quite the right fit.
I found a home at The Yankee Candle Company in South Deerfield, MA. Working within the wholesale division, I worked my way from being a data entry temp (through an employment agency)
to Wholesale Research Manager. What's more, I put together the company's first research methodology for approving new wholesale retailers (from small
Mom & Pop shops to large Hallmark chains of 200 or more stores.) In my final quarter there alone, the wholesale business grew by over $1.25 million,
and having learned and adopted any and all tech tools I could get my hands on to create a research program (from Excel forms and complex functions,
to a GIS mapping program) - I was once again sure that tech was my thing.
I moved on from Yankee Candle to spend several years at the Hampshire Educational Collaborative (now Collaborative for Educational Services) in Northampton, MA. I did technical support and some network admin work, but I also began training programs across Mac & PC, started learning some HTML and realized that this was thing thing...however: I was just as certain I wasn't quite there, yet.
I had the gut instinct that I needed to unite my creative past with my tech skills and instincts. I headed over to Greenfield Community College, a local program known for placing Foundation art students at the 4-year universities and art programs in the US: RISD, SAIC, and MASSArt to name a few.
I talked to a professor about taking a Photoshop course in the evening, and left enrolled as a full-time art student after he saw my sketches and photo work.
Fun Fact: During my first months at Yankee Candle, I was asked to test a major ERP software suite in development. I learned the keyboard commands (on Windows 95...) for Cut, Copy, and Paste.
I took to art school like a fish to water. I studied traditional foundation art, which I believe all designers should study:
Drawing, Color, Art History, 2D and 3D design. I also began courses in Flash, Web Design, and Photography.
Perhaps more importantly, I began consuming design. I ate and slept every form of design, and art, I could get my hands on. From trips to galleries and museums in NYC and Massachusetts, to magazines, to web collections and sites and books, my desire to learn about everything from web design to the history of typography was insatiable. I also met Frederick Schneider, my first Design Professor, mentor, and now dear friend. An accomplished Illustrator and Creative Director, Rick guided me toward beginning my own career. Within a few months I was working as a respected freelance designer across print and web serving local clients. I also deepened my study of photography, winning a number of artists' grants, publishing work in magazines, and taking part in group gallery shows.
After graduating art school, I navigated through a number of personal changes, moved locally, and landed a job at local NPR affiliate WFCR & WNNZ.
At the station, I wore a number of design & tech hats: web designer, graphic designer, web master, trainer...and more. (This type of role is very typical of
design in smaller communities.) During my time at the station, in retrospect, I became a UX Designer: I was at the helm of a project to completely overhaul
the station's public-facing web properties. Guided by instinct and a research ability that I'm proud of, I made wireframes, held interviews with all stakeholders and constituents,
and endeavored not to start with a pretty design, but rather to solve problems the station had with engagement. An example was launching a Classical Music blog
for admired longtime music hosts Peter Reney and John Montanari. John found a voice in blogging and carried the habit through in his retirement!
At this time, a number of forces in my life came together to emphasize to me that it was time to move to a larger metro area, and I chose DC. I'm glad I did.
In DC, I found the inspiration and job opportunities to extend my work. From a web design gig that got me
established in the area, I began attending every event and meetup I could. When I wasn't working or having fun with friends or family,
I was reading, sketching, and developing skills. Those skills were recognized when I was offered a contract position on a newly-forming design team
at Capital One in Vienna, VA. The 3rd Designer in on the new IxD team under Mick Winters, I was embedded on projects that stretched me to
work across mobile (iOS, Android prototype), web, and concept-strategy. I took on all that was offered and expanded my responsibility
across UX: from supporting 3rd party off-site development teams in an Agile Scrum Environment, to taking part in strategy sessions,
I made work for C-Suite presentations and, critically, began focusing on user testing.
During this time, I began to comprehend the incredible number of moving pieces that go into UX, UI, Product Design, and Design Strategy. I took a Stanford Course online at this time and discovered Design Thinking. Call it by any name you wish: Design Thinking gave me language to put to teaching and advocating for an iterative design process that encouraged a Test & Learn philosophy, making room for distinct ideation and defining success by meeting user's needs. Using Design Thinking Methods, I began and led the growing design studio's first every Studio critiques, and went from assisting with testing to developing, leading, and conducting user research methods. I was beyond hooked and found that I enjoy the entire spectrum of the design process: concept generation and strategy being all the more rewarding when you're shipping wireframes, user flows, and conducting test with paper prototypes. I followed several major projects throughout lifecycle including creating an iOS demo that was presented to Rich Fairbanks, Capital One Founder & CEO - leading to full funding of a major new small business banking platform.
When my contract period ended at Capital One, I began a careful career search while doing Agency contract work with RP3 in Bethesda. My search led to my current role as UX/UI Designer at LastPass, the world's leading Password Management startup. My work at LastPass spans mobile (iOS, Android), desktop (Mac OS), and browser plug-ins that solve a significant need: users require our product to not only manage and store their passwords, but guide them through an increasingly complex online life. Working with Founding and Senior developers (as the first UXD on staff, and first designer on the dev team!) offers the challenge of delivering lightening fast UX deliverables and solutions. I am particularly proud of launching a full usability testing program, and initiatives to simplify a feature-rich and complex UX to make users more able than ever to eliminate password pain. In addition, I've helped guide an emphasis on brand standardization across product and marketing, and contributed not only design improvements, but also importantly, gathered user insights to help guide new feature development as well as improvement and standardization of existing solutions.