My Summer at Zappos
Pursue Growth and Learning
This past summer I had the once in a lifetime opportunity of working at Zappos as a UX design intern. Each of the ten floors at Zappos are represented by one of the organization’s ten core values. Every day I’d walk to the office, grab some breakfast at the Bistro (interns live off of the company’s free food), and then head to floor 5. The doors would slowly open and a big mural reading “Pursue Growth and Learning” would appear. It was pretty fitting as an intern and budding designer to sit alongside this floor’s core value (floor 3’s “Create Fun and A Little Weirdness” could’ve also worked).
Fast forward to a few days ago when Zappos released my summer-long design project. It’s an impressive Apple TV shopping app. You should definitely check it out!
As I sat with excitement and opened the app on my TV for the first time yesterday, I thought back to all the lessons I learned over the summer. The list is too long for any one blog post, but I wanted to make sure I touched on a few:
1. Relationships are everything.
I learned the importance of relationships the moment I arrived at the Zappos campus to interview. Zappos is a family. You want to meet and get to know as many people as you can. Learning from mentors, from people across the organization, and from the other interns made this experience the most valuable.
It was particularly important for me to work with the engineers. I had the opportunity to work with extraordinarily talented and thoughtful IOS, Android, and web developers. I learned a ton from them and together we made some awesome products. As a UX designer, building a relationship with everyone in an organization is the key to success.
2. Be yourself at work.
Typically you walk into your office and throw on a mask of sorts. You have your work self and then your non-work self. Zappos broke down this wall. It was encouraged to bring your complete self to work every day. I found myself discussing things I would never have talked about before with co-workers. My personal life came up often in conversations. It was weird. But it allowed teams to work more efficiently because people began to feel more comfortable with each other and could be honest about how they felt.
It led to a true empathetic view of your co-workers. And most importantly, it made people happy at work. We are happier when we are ourselves.
3. Failing forward is a real thing.
We ran into quite the roadblock when designing the Android TV app (coming soon). I remember on my last day seeing “V23” on an Artboard in Sketch and thinking about how far I had come. Iterative design is no joke. The advice I’ve gotten is just keep on designing. Make stuff that isn’t great. Make it again. Make it again. Make it 23 times if you have to — keep getting feedback and keep making it better. It’s amazing to see how great a design can turn out when you allow other people on your team to make it better — seek critique.
4. Great onboarding makes all the difference.
I’m not talking about user onboarding. There are already plenty of UX articles on that topic. I’m talking about employee onboarding. The one-of-a-kind Zappos college recruiting team spent an entire week with all of the new interns. We learned all about the organization, the people, the values, and how these components work together to form the unique culture at Zappos. It was incredible. I’ve never seen such an in-depth onboarding experience and they intentionally did this for employees who were leaving in a few short months.
The onboarding also included outings with your team before you started doing any of the work you were brought to Las Vegas for. So I was able to chat with my coworkers at a pool party, eat sushi with them for lunch, and really get to know them as people before I ever logged into my computer. This made it much easier to ask questions and learn from them in the months following.
5. MRSA is pretty serious.
I had a wild run in with a bacterial infection from a spider bite I got hiking Mt. Charleston. Wow, MRSA is for real. Long story short, don’t try to tough it out and go to work with MRSA. It hurts and is highly contagious.
6. Creating things is my passion.
Finally, I learned that I love creating things. I designed a product that just went live to users. It’s a wondrous feeling. I want to keep doing that. I want to keep creating. This was the first app I’ve ever worked on that shipped. It’s amazing!
I’d like to apologize in advance to my roommates who will have to deal with me hogging the TV while I spend hours browsing for a fresh pair of Keds on the new Zappos app.