Humans of TODAIT : 미국에서 날아든 인연, Lisa 를 만나다
‘Humans of TODAIT’의 세번째 주인공, 리사를 만나봤습니다. 투데잇과 함께 하기 위해 한국으로 날아온 그녀의 이야기를 함께 들어볼까요?
Q. Hi Lisa, 투데잇 인턴을 위해 미국에서 왔다고 들었어요. 투데잇에서 인턴을 시작하게 된 이유와 과정이 궁금해요.
I got an internship position at Todait while looking for Korean startups to work at over my summer break. During my spring term at Dartmouth College, I took a course called Design Thinking, in which I learned that good design can solve all sorts of problems. Through various projects, we developed skills such as getting user feedback and rapid prototyping based on that feedback. Because of this class, I became interested in startup culture, and the feedback-prototyping design process that is all the rage amongst startups.
When I first began looking for internships, I was more interested in doing something related to artificial intelligence or engineering than developing mobile apps. However, after downloading and using the app, I thought the idea was really unique and interesting. I also fell in love with the design and aesthetics of the app, but I thought there were definitely parts of it that were confusing and could be improved with a more intuitive and logical user interface. So, it was only after I began using the app that I became interested in how the prototyping process might be used by such a startup, which led me to submit my resume to the company. Interestingly enough, the company was also looking for someone who could help out with translations and global customer support, which was perfect for me because I could speak both English and Korean. Luckily, I was offered the internship, and was able to spend eight weeks of my summer working for Todait.
Q. 한국 기업이 처음이라 긴장했을 것 같아요~ 팀 투데잇의 분위기는 어땠나요?
“my first impression of the company was that everyone was friendly and enjoyed having fun while working.”
Coming into the job I didn’t really know what to expect, but I knew of Korean culture to be really hierarchical and non-confrontational, so I thought some of this would rub off into the company culture as well. I thought it would be hard to talk to some of the upper-level managers, and that the lower-level employees wouldn’t really get a chance to get their voices heard. However, I think the CEO and upper-level managers perceived this and actively tried hard to create an inclusive company culture where everyone would feel comfortable voicing their opinions.
So, every month the company held a Communication Day, where each employee would get a chance to pitch in his/her own idea. Upper-level managers would also inform other employees about new directions the company would be taking, and we’d all get a chance to voice our doubts along with our praises. At the start of every week, we’d have meetings where each employee would share what they would be working on for that week.
And at the end of each day, we scrummed and informed the rest of the employees what we got done, as well as shared our highs and lows. On top of having all these meetings for effective intercompany communication, all the employees were super tight-knit and friendly with one another. The employees actively helped me feel comfortable in the company. For example, whenever I didn’t understand a joke, they’d all try to explain and translate for me. So, my first impression of the company was that everyone was friendly and enjoyed having fun while working.
“Everyone has a chance to voice his/her opinions and question different aspects of the design to make sure the user interface is as intuitive as possible.”
However, as time passed I began to see that the company was much more than just friendly. Inevitably while working, conflicts would come up between the employees. For example, during one of our meetings, the CTO informed the designer that he felt the current design process led to a lot of miscommunication and dropped balls. So, we began to discuss how we could develop a better design process that would be more efficient and effective. Now, the company has a design process where the designer presents the app’s design and flow to the rest of the company. Everyone has a chance to voice his/her opinions and question different aspects of the design to make sure the user interface is as intuitive as possible. And only after everyone understands the design and is satisfied with it does the programming team actually begin to program the new design. Seeing how the employees would address these internal issues and work together to find a solution made me realize the company culture was not just one of friendliness but also one of maturity.
Q. 벌써 투데잇에서의 인턴 기간이 끝이 났어요. 제일 기억에 남는 특별한 경험이 있다면? (두근)
One of the greatest experiences I had while working at Todait was when we held an off-line event with our users. We all got to show off some of the new features we were working on. We were also able to listen to the hardships our users had studying on their own. Not only was the event a lot of fun, but it was also really insightful.
Some of the users shared their experiences, and almost all of them mentioned how it was not the app itself but the online community that helped and encouraged them the most. The company has this website where users can share various aspects of their studying, such as the time they woke up, what they plan to work on, and how much work they accomplished, by uploading screenshots of our app. As one of the managers of the site, I was responsible for communicating with these users and encouraging them throughout the day. It was really interesting and validating to hear that it was the encouragement of the managers that motivated these students to keep studying hard and get through such a difficult time.
Because of what we heard and felt from our users during this event, we realized that our app itself still wasn’t helping our users feel less lonely while studying on their own. So, the company decided to make a change in the app’s concept and incorporate this online community into the app itself. Now, the company is working on allowing users to see how fellow students are studying, comment on each others’ updates, and get statistical feedback on their own studying directly from the app. It was interesting to see how by being compassionate and by empathizing with the pains of our users, we were able to pinpoint what was lacking in our app and come up with ideas to improve it.
The event was also so enjoyable because we got to show off how friendly we all were with each other and showed users our fun company culture. After the event, some of the users joined us to grab a beer, and we all had a great time bonding with our users.
Q. 2개월의 인턴 생활동안 스스로 얼마나 성장한 것 같나요?
Working at Todait was my first real experience working for a company in the real world, so I think I really got a lot out from the experience. Coming into the job I was really interested in design and the prototyping process, and working at Todait helped me to experience hands-on what that was really like. One of the jobs I had was to create a document to give weekly feedback to users, showing them such statistics as which users spent the most time studying and which users accomplished the most goals.
In the beginning, I just had some basic statistics in a simple, straightforward layout. But after talking it over with the marketing team, I tried to come up with a way to make the document not only more intuitive, but also more playful and fun. After some deliberation, I came up with an idea to make the layout resemble someone’s notes, because our whole concept was centered around studying. We also talked about how we could improve the way we presented the statistics to make it even easier for our users to understand. So, for example, when presenting users’ rankings, I used a 1st, 2nd, 3rd place layout like Olympics rankings, instead of just listing them. By using icons and characters and by color-coding different statistics, I made a document that was both playful and intuitive.
Through this process, I realized that I needed to be more detailed because I tended to overlook many elements that could be further improved to be even more intuitive and understandable. This is something I hope to keep in mind as I continue to pursue my interest in design. Something I struggled the most with while working at Todait was communicating with and confronting other employees. It was also often a struggle to convey what I felt or wanted in Korean, which sometimes discouraged me from voicing an opinion.
Before working at Todait, I was really used to just working on my own, and wasn’t comfortable with showing others’ my work and getting help from other people. However, through my work experience at Todait, I realized that in order to be successful I had to depend on other people and could not just try to do everything on my own. I learned to ask questions and get feedback on my work often, and to use that feedback to better my own work. Simply watching how other employees dealt with conflict in the work place was also a great learning experience for me. It was interesting to see how employees maturely brought up issues with one another or with the company and worked together to find a solution, and this mature behavior is something I’d like to emulate in my personal and professional life.
Q. 투데잇을 사용하면서 그리고 투데잇 사용자를 만나면서 느낀 점?
“So, I think Todait is and will continue to provide a great service to students not only in Korea, but all over the world, and I can’t wait to see what else it has in store.”
My favorite thing about Todait is that it’s a really compassionate company. The employees are constantly thinking of ways to create an even greater study experience for its users. Especially now that the company has realized that it needs to give its users a community to help them feel less lonely and more motivated, I’m really excited for what the app has in store. My greatest complaint with using the app was that it was hard to understand how to use it at first. I had to study the app and try using it for a couple days before I felt fully comfortable with it. I think the app had a lot it wanted to accomplish, and it was hard for the company to figure out a simple way to combine all of those functions.
However, with Todait’s new direction of providing an encouraging community for its users, I think Todait has found a clear sense of direction. Of course there’s still a lot of work to do to streamline the app and make it easier to use, but I believe the app still has a lot of potential waiting to be unlocked. Coming from America, it was hard for me at first to empathize with our users because the studying culture in America and in Korea is so different. Even while communicating with and encouraging our users, I didn’t really understand why they were so thankful and encouraged by my words. But after meeting our users and listening to their experiences, I realized how lonely and difficult being a student in Korea was.
According to my experiences, success in America isn’t centered as much around getting good grades as it is in Korea. But still, as a student, I knew how hard studying could be, because it’s difficult to feel validated while in the process of studying. I can only imagine how much more difficult it must be studying on your own and under so much pressure. So, I think Todait is and will continue to provide a great service to students not only in Korea, but all over the world, and I can’t wait to see what else it has in store.