Wiki Chaves

Former Experience Designer at AirBnB

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.

What’s your immigration story? How did you get to where you are today?

My great grandparents migrated from Spain and Italy to Argentina at the beginning of the twentieth century. Argentina, like the rest of the American continent, was the land of opportunities. They left everything behind to start a new life.

I was born and raised in Buenos Aires and studied design there too, so I always lived in the same city. I always wondered what it would be like to live in another city. In 2010, I went to New York and spent 4 months there working as a freelancer. I loved the experience but sadly, I didn’t have a visa so I had to come back.

Back in Buenos Aires, I started looking for jobs who would be open to sponsor a visa, first in New York and later in San Francisco. I found a startup that was just starting called Lemon Wallet. After many interviews and two design exercises, I got hired! I moved to Palo Alto in June 2011 and then to San Francisco with my wife in early 2012.

After Lemon Wallet was acquired, I worked in a very diverse type of companies. I worked for LifeLock, an identity theft protection company; then in Xapo, a bitcoin wallet; then I partnered with Aerolab, a design agency; worked as a freelance for a while and finally at Airbnb.

Wiki’s commute

What does a day in your life look like?

I start the day very early, around 6:30 AM for my ashtanga yoga practice. Then I go back home and and have breakfast. Around nine-ish, I bike to the office. I usually spend my first hour catching up with emails, Slack, and organizing the day and deciding what I want to accomplish that day. I’m a big fan of the one big thing methodology so I try to have only one priority per day.

Daily work varies a lot. Some days I have more planning meetings, like Mondays. Some days are fully productive, like no-meeting Wednesdays. On Fridays we usually have a team stand-up, which is great because I have the opportunity to update the team with the status of what I’m working on and get feedback. Around 6pm I’m usually done.

Something very important to me is to shut down work after I leave the office. My Android phone has a very useful feature that turns off all work apps (mail, Slack, calendar, etc) with a single tap. I encourage everyone to do something similar. My personal life has improved dramatically since I stopped bringing work home.

After work I like having a beer with friends and then jamming or staying chill at home playing my own music. On the summer time, when we have extra light after work, I like going surfing in Pacifica with my wife Agustina.

Wiki’s workspace

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

Definitely when I applied to my visa. I applied to a EB-1 visa which requires you to demonstrate some kind of “extraordinary abilities”. I’m not a Nobel prize, but I do think I have an diverse and extensive background that helped me match the criteria needed.

As a designer, I have worked in different industries from Education, Advertising, Retail and Technology. I also have a background in music, art/exhibitions and photography. Having that diverse background helped me match many of the criteria needed for my visa application. Also having a good lawyer helps a lot!

What is something you wish designers focused more on?

I always advice designers to focus more in doing Quality Assurance (QA) and stress testing. Most designers think they are done when they deliver the final mockup/specs, and they forget there’s a lot of work to be done after that. ]At the end of the day, users will judge your design by the experience they are having and not by your beautiful Dribbble shot.

Talk to your engineers and ask them to add you to their alpha/beta releases, test as much as you can with different scenarios like viewport size, language or corner scenarios. Always be resourceful for your team if you find issues and report the bugs you find as detailed as possible.

Who are the people that inspire you?

Generally I admire doers. People that do more (and talk less) and I identify myself with those kinds of people. If you have and idea and you want to do it, just do it!

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

Something I love from languages is seeing its change over time. Sometimes I see adults horrified when kids type with “bad spelling” and instead of embracing that change (or mutation) in the language they want to fix it, as if languages were something fixed over time.

Going back to the subject, my favorite slang word these days is falopa, which means any type of drug in old Argentine slang but not really used much more. With some friends we recently started using it to refer to anything you can’t stop eating after you started, like parmesan cheese crisps, sesame honey cashews and saba banana chips.

Estas papitas son falopa!

I would love to see if this word can come back redefined and hopefully help evolve the language.

How can people find you online?

Twitter is where I’m most active. I tweet mostly about tech and design but recently also I’ve been using to self-promote my music project. If you are interested on my music you can follow me directly on Spotify, Apple Music or Soundcloud.