I try to be the change I want to see and encourage diversity as a tool for strength, and actively seek out ways to help causes I believe in. I believe small steps add up, so I try to take those small steps and help other people along the path as well when I can.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Kate Garrigan. She is the Lead UX Designer at Ideas by Nature in Colorado, where she works on designing front-end interfaces for blockchain-related programs and dApps. Kate fell in love with the world-changing possibilities of blockchain technology in 2014 and started working full-time in the industry in 2017.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story of how you decided to pursue this career path? What lessons can others learn from your story?
Reaching this spot in my career path was a long and winding road — I have a degree in English and Linguistics, and originally wanted to be a professor. When I realized that wasn’t the life for me, I used each job after that realization to learn about what I liked and what I was good at — I started off volunteering as a production editor for a local literary magazine and gradually worked my way from that to a production management handling and creating digital assets, to finally, user experience design. I had admired blockchain technology and cryptocurrency as a hobbyist, and after moving to Denver in 2017, I found a full-time job in the industry.
Lessons I would like to share: Your career path is not set in stone. You write your own story, and you tell it in the way that will help you towards your goal. There’s always time to change — it might not be quick, but little steps add up. I found a lot of help along the way from friends, mentors, and free online tutorials. Being able to volunteer for some work that was related to my interests helped — it was only a few hours a year but it launched me on the path to where I am today.
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
Working at an agency means that I get to work on a ton of interesting projects — some I can talk about and some I can’t. Right now, I’m working on a cryptocurrency wallet + learning tool that will help people store their crypto, and might also have the ability to learn more about deploying blockchains and what goes on behind the scenes. I’m excited because it’s involved some research into what people are expecting from these tools, and what neat technological feats we can achieve to meet those expectations to make some really great products.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are many people who helped me get to where I am today — from the supervisors who let me learn my own thing when I had downtime at work, to the ones that let me shape my job responsibilities and continue to learn on the job. My husband, also a UX designer, never hesitated to share tips and recommendations to help me gain a foothold on the UX career path. (And since then, I have tried to pay back these mentors by offering my advice and support to others on a similar journey.)
One person, however, gave me the courage and conviction to stick with what I’m doing when I expressed my concerns that I didn’t and would never know enough, that I felt like I was making things up as I went along. They said, “Stop. You’ve got imposter syndrome,” and reassured me that I was doing just fine. Many people, especially women, suffer from imposter syndrome — the idea that we’re faking our knowledge and in a position we don’t deserve to be in. Being told that that is nonsense and that we deserve our success is 1) the truth and 2) the firm earth we need to grow tall.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
- Improving knowledge of where our goods come from, and who they come from — Especially logistics companies that are focusing on getting a clear record of the path food takes from farm to table. This could help us stem public health concerns like E. Coli outbreaks by tracing problems to the source much more quickly and accurately.
- Crypto could allow charities across the world to quickly receive funds and use them without having to work through third-parties or possibly corrupt agents. Hopefully this would allow funds to reach the people who know where the funds need to go to reach the people that need it the most more quickly, with less overhead and off the top skimming.
- Maintaining your identity — people can lose birth certificates, college records, all sorts of important documents in house fires, disasters, bad luck and more. Many refugees flee with little more than the clothes on their back and have no access to evidence of their previous life. Identity information on the blockchain can allow a secure way to save and restore evidence of who you are.
- Sort of piggybacking on the above — blockchains offer us security and control over our identities and other important information. No system can be 100% safe, but how many times do millions of people need to have their private information exposed in a hack before we find a better way?
- The community surrounding the blockchain is inspiring — so many great ideas in a space that wants everyone to succeed. I’m excited every time I attend a meetup or see a speaker or go to a hackathon.
What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
- Market volatility turning people off of the tech — it’s hard to make long term plans with funds that may vary widely in value from hour to hour, nevermind on a year over year basis.
- Government legislation hampering the tech before it’s fully understood or realized — some places have stated cryptocurrency is a security, other places are not so clear and, like the first reason above, it makes it hard to plan for the long term.
- Crypto remaining as a “get-rich-quick” tech — there’s definitely a theme here. All of these reasons combined give the impression of ephemeral tech, not something that can have long-lasting change in our society.
- Perception of the technology as a tool used by bad actors — there are pervasive stories about how Bitcoin is for criminals, and this just isn’t true. Less than 1% of transactions are linked to criminal activities — a number I imagine is far less than the percentage of cash involved in criminal activities!
- Scalability — This is an issue a bit outside my scope, but unless we can properly scale up blockchains to serve billions, it may not reach its full potential.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
That’s a pretty heavy question! My honest answer is — I don’t know if I have. I try to help those who ask my advice and dole out encouragement. I try to remember that my success is certainly in part because of my hard work, but also luck — so I try to be that ‘luck’ for other people striving to join a new industry, whether it’s networking, sharing tools, volunteering or just lending an ear. I try to be the change I want to see and encourage diversity as a tool for strength, and actively seek out ways to help causes I believe in. I believe small steps add up, so I try to take those small steps and help other people along the path as well when I can.
As you know there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other women in the blockchain space to thrive?
- Demand a seat at the table because you deserve to be here
- Be resolute in who you are and do not change just to fit in
- Be the change you want to see in the world
Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the blockchain industry?
The blockchain industry, at least from a community perspective, actively talks about the need to increase diversity and ensure that the space is elegatarian and harassment-free. But more than just stating this, I think we need to actively encourage women to join and pull out a seat at the table. Mentoring women, reaching out to women who have the skills and/or interest, supporting places like Girl Develop It — these are all helpful first steps.
What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?
The quote I use to keep myself going is actually from Harry Potter — when Professor Dumbledore is consoling Hagrid after he gets nasty letters in the mail.
“Really Hagrid, if you are holding out for universal popularity, I’m afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time…”
Not everyone is going to be your biggest fan, and that’s okay. Doing what you think is right and can defend is always the best course of action. As long as I’ve done the best I can, in a way I am happy with, means I’m proud of my work and I will stand by it. You can never hold out for approval from every single person, that’s just going to never happen. You’ve got to live your life for you, first off, and be happy with that life in order to be in a strong place to shake things up.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Something that affects every breathing person on the planet is the quality of the air we breathe — this affects your health and life and the health and lives of everyone. I would love to start a “Clean Air for All” movement to ensure that no matter where you are, the air you breath is clean and good for your lungs. If we can do that with blockchain technology that would be awesome — but I’d take clean air anyway we can get it!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
@ekgarrigan on Twitter, @katedesignsthings on Dribbble, and I am on LinkedIn as well.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!