People of Bakken & Bæck: Silja

In our digital world, it’s still about the people. In these blog posts, we’ve gone behind the scenes and invited the people of B&B to share their personal stories.

Designer Silja Langebraaten is busy designing a new role for herself as our brand new UX Lead. She always keeps her notebook at hand and an ear to the ground for what’s new, be it a new episode of Planet Money or ways to save the world with UX.

What did you talk about during lunch today?

Today was Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, so I wore the sweater I made during our Christmas workshop in 2015. That’s always a conversation piece. Other than that we mostly talked about Christmas songs. There was a discussion about whether or not “The Christmas Song” was the name of the song playing during lunch, and whether it’s a song at all. Colin suggested it got confused with “The Winter Song”. I forgot where we left the conversation. Maybe we’ll pick it up again next year.

How did you end up at Bakken & Bæck?

Co-founder Tobias actually approached me on LinkedIn. I was a little apprehensive at first because I’d never heard of B&B. When I went in for my interview, I got a very strong garage startup feeling: two crazy ambitious guys crammed up in an old stable with a couple of desks, a couch and a coffee press — and some really talented people already. They didn’t even have a projector, and Tobias’ daughter was running around during the interview. I was looking into other offers as well at the time, but there was just something weirdly charming about B&B that made me curious enough to jump onboard. It was a leap of faith for sure, but one that I’m really happy I made. When I did, I was the eighth hire and the first female full-time employee.

Breakfast at the new office back in 2014

How’s design life at B&B?

A surprising amount of business meetings right now. It’s fun to discuss business models and KPIs, but working out logistics and figuring out all the states, statuses and the ifs and buts of every flow are closest to my heart. Also prepping for design sprints and user tests. It can be a meticulous job to get the insight you need to figure out which pain points to solve first, or how to phrase a user test question in order to see if the users understand a new concept with a completely new mental model.

Designing is almost like solving Sudoku or playing Tetris. You need to find the missing pieces and do it so that they match the ones you’ve already put in place.

I like that we don’t have one way of doing things at B&B, no standard method. It all depends on the client, what problem we’re trying to solve and how close we are to a brief. Working with a specific method each time might fast-track the process, but I don’t think you’ll generate that many interesting solutions if you do. One size usually doesn’t fit all.

Designing is almost like solving Sudoku or playing Tetris. You need to find the missing pieces and do it so that they match the ones you’ve already put in place

What projects do you work on?

Since I joined, I’ve been thrown into a world of new things. But I think jumping in at the deep end is the best way of learning and growing. For instance, I didn’t have that much experience with app design before B&B, and now it’s almost exclusively what I do. I’ve both jumped onto projects late in the process and been part of those that start off with a kernel of an idea that later launched as a finished product, like Morgenlevering. More recently, I’ve expanded into working with AI through Orbit and designing chatbots for Oslo Kommune.

When Gunnar (CTO) asked for help with training one of his robots, I got to learn a lot about linguistics and machine learning. It was a semi brain dead job that involved classifying words and phrases, but actually a lot of fun. It’s great how we can learn from each other across fields. It’s definitely making me a better designer. The communication is better because of it, and you get a broader understanding of the product you’re designing. Now I can tell the difference between NLP and NLG, and explain what a pool model is. It’s not what Google first suggests.

What are your thoughts about becoming UX Lead?

I’m really excited and humbled by the opportunity. I hope I can inspire others to love UX and design strategy as much as I do, and provide support for my team. I won’t be someone they need to report to for evaluation or approval, but someone they can come to for input and help whenever they need it.

What’s your best memory from your time at B&B?

It’s been one big rollercoaster ride, so it’s hard to pick just one. We’ve had so many great parties and trips these past five years, and I have some incredible memories from all of them. But I think the best is when the first version of Morgenlevering launched. I think it’s because in the beginning, it felt like this crazy idea that we didn’t really imagine would be possible to launch.

I also got a wonderful reception when I came back from maternity leave. But the most heartwarming is from the Christmas party in 2016 when Tobias and Johan joined me on the snail route from Oslo to Berlin because of my fear of flying. There is a lot of love in this company, it really does feel like a family. At times even a little cult-y.

Oktoberfest 2014, Spacefest 2016, Halloween 2017

Quick ones:

What is the difference between NLP and NLG?
NLP is the process of making sense of natural language by training a machine to break down the text into understandable units. NLG uses this collected data, systemises it, and generates human-like text/responses.

You’re one of the few people who still use a notebook. Why?
I love my notebook, I use it all the time. If I write things down I never forget them, even if I don’t look at my notes again. It’s a way of glueing things to my memory.

How did you crack your screen?
I’ve actually never broken the screen of a phone or a laptop. I’ve poured coffee over my Mac a few times, but it still runs.

What app did you last delete from your phone?
I try to keep a good amount of apps on my phone as a library of user interactions, states and flows, so I rarely delete any. The last one I deleted was a Norwegian travel app that didn’t update. I kept seeing this annoying red dot in the top right corner of the folder it was in. When I went to delete it, it was already gone from App Store.

What app did you last download?
To Go, I think it’s called. A public transit app I used while on vacation in Gothenburg.

Pro tip?
Listen to podcasts! You can learn an insane amount of things in no time. Planet Money is one of my current favourites.

Most recently streamed song?
Moses Sumney — Lonely World

Who should we interview next?
Johan