Michelle Morrison

Senior Design Producer at Intercom

About this series —

Impostores is a series that explores the perspectives of diverse folks— outsiders, immigrants, and minorities—who reclaim the word from the Imposter Syndrome and wield it with pride every day.

How did you get to where you are today?

My grandmother immigrated to the US in the ’50s. She came from a farm town in Sinaloa, Mexico. She relocated to Las Vegas where she worked as a nanny. She met my grandfather through a friend who would translate their love letters to each other. They married within a year of meeting and moved to National City, where my family now lives. It’s just 15 minutes north of Tijuana, so they were never too far from Mexico.

I grew up where my mother grew up. I had the same elementary school teachers as my mom. When I decided to move away for college, it was a big shock to my family. I was the first in three generations who wanted to move away. In 2006 I relocated to San Francisco where I took up Industrial Design at San Francisco State University.

Since then, I’ve had the honor of working at some of the world’s best tech companies: Apple, Square, IDEO.org, Facebook, and now Intercom. This industry has opened doors I never imagined possible.

Michelle’s dog, Pintxo

What does a day in your life look like?

I am never not working. My day starts early with a walk along the Oakland waterfront with my dogs. Once I head to the office, I spend the day with my team and collaborators. Lots of email and meetings, that’s the life of a producer.

Michelle’s workspace

After work I’m tinkering with Designers + Geeks or other creative projects. I also volunteer at a local high school in Oakland. If I’m not doing those things, I’m working on a new business venture that I’ll be launching in early 2019.

I’d be lying if I didn’t account for regular cocktails and coffees with friends and co-conspirators.

Michelle’s Desktop at 12PM

Tell us about a time when you used your background to your advantage.

I grew up poor, so money has always been on my mind. When I worked at Square and IDEO.org, I was able to represent the perspective of the community I came from when making product or marketing decisions for financial services. I have also been an advocate for Spanish localization in the projects that I’ve managed over the years. I understand why people, like my family members, prefer making financial decisions when information is presented in their native language. Speaking up for them has given me a sense of pride and an additional layer of impact in my work.

What is something you wish designers focused more on?

We jump so quickly to solutions sometimes. Working to deeply understand people and their situations will bring more meaning to our work. There is no silver bullet for this, but there are habits and practices you can cultivate in your design work to bring you closer to other people.

Working with researchers to understand both people and problems is one way to approach it. Another would be to work to understand your own privileges and bias to mitigate it in your own work. Another way to think about who you are designing for is to ensure that your team, community and collaborators reflect your potential end customers.

These are all tactics to improve learning and listen habits that can lead to empathizing with the people you are designing for before you start to push pixels.

Michelle’s apartment

Who are the people that inspire you?

Sonya Yu — She is a self-made serial entrepreneur, artist, mother, and friend. I’m amazed by her drive to understand people. She balances warmth and strength is a way that I really admire.

Francoise Brougher — She was head of business at Square and now is the COO at Pinterest. She is an amazing business woman, strong leader, and straight shooter who I admire deeply. I learned so much working with her and suggest everyone keep an eye on this powerful woman.

Danielle Barnes — Danielle is the CEO at Women Talk Design, where she dedicates her time to helping more women get on stage at conferences. She does everything from coaching to placement and single handedly is changing the ratio at major conferences in Design.

Mom — I wouldn’t be a good daughter if I didn’t name my Mom. She is the angel who answers 911 calls and make sure that help gets to you as soon as possible. She works harder than anyone I know, 60 hours a week for the past 20 years!

What’s your favorite slang word in Spanish and why?

It’s a tie between wacala and fuchi! My mom says both all the time. They are really funny words to me.

How can people find you online?

I’m @michelephant on Twitter or visit michellemorrison.co for full details.