Things you couldn't tell just by looking at me
I’m a self-starter who likes figuring out how things work
Thinking back on pre-Internet days, I'm amazed that I could find anything. In high school, my desire to conduct behavioral research on rats fueled my search for a Skinner Box (don't ask me why I cared more about that than fawning over Tiger Beat). The year before, I had built a T-maze, so I was determined to up my science fair game! I found a neuroscientist at a UT Medical Branch research lab, who not only let me use her Skinner boxes (I went as far as the state science fair with my experiments on caffeine and state-dependent learning), but hired me over the summer to work in her lab and fed my relentless pursuit of science until college.
Before cognitive science was a formalized discipline, I studied biopsychology, Artificial Intelligence, and Philosophy as an undergrad. After graduating, I wanted to be out in the world making things that would have a direct impact. I moved to San Francisco right before the dot com boom and worked my way towards design.
I have a knack for identifying pain points & a passion for problem-solving
When I see an issue that affects people, I can’t help but want to do something about it. In many of the places I’ve worked, I have gone beyond my job title.
In 2004, I taught myself to code, built a website, and got a design job at a boutique agency where I cut my teeth on product development. It was before the era of Wordpress and MailChimp. When I started, the agency was on version 1.0 of a product that functioned as part CMS, part lead and listings management, and part email marketing tool for building industry and luxury real estate clients. The tool helped to power custom-designed websites. The developer who built it left not long after I started, so I was lucky to get the chance to shape and develop the product.
Working closely with clients, I heard a lot of feedback—people are happy to complain about what’s not working. I pushed for regular bug fixes and product improvements. Then the iPhone came out and changed how people experience and use the Internet. Our product and websites, which featured elegantly designed Flash interfaces connected via Remoting to a PHP back-end, could no longer be viewed on iPhones. With usage data, I persuaded the owner to move away from Flash and use JQuery and PHP to achieve a better experience without losing customers. We worked on a major overhaul and redesign of the product before I moved to Chicago to get an MFA in Art & Technology Studies.
After graduate school, an agency hired me for my digital experience. They were running on a traditional waterfall process and, like many agencies running on waterfall, we faced challenges keeping to budgets, managing scope creep, and maintaining consensus internally and externally. Add to that the need to support an experience across devices.
I took an Agile workshop at Chicago Ideas Week and went to SXSW, where I collected information on process and tools. With the help of my boss, I put together a Keynote presentation and materials to get consensus on changing our digital process. I ran a workshop in which teams built Lego robots to understand the value of a collaborative, iterative process. We immediately saw the impact on the first project in which we used an adapted Agile process.