Welcome and thank you for joining us, Katie!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a Graphic Designer turned Front-End Engineer. I like to identify as a Hybrid Designer: I love pure design work (primarily for the web) but I’m happiest if I can also code it up. I went to school thinking I would find a career in Visual Merchandising for retail, spending a great deal of time working in visuals for stores like J.Crew and Crate & Barrel, and interning at Anthropologie. But I ended up taking a more tech driven route dealing with User Experience in a different medium.
How did you get involved in the tech industry?
After I graduated I started taking on some freelance graphic design work. I ended up working with a developer designing a new site for a Boston real estate company. I was intrigued by his work, and he suggested I learn Bootstrap. With that knowledge, I built a static site for a new client, which turned into more clients. I eventually got the attention of Savenor’s Market and designed a whole new customer experience and web presence for them. After my hands-on work at Savenor’s, I had the opportunity to move into a more tech-related position as a Front-End Engineer at a startup, designing new features and perfecting my CSS skills.
What do you do now?
I recently started a new role as a UI Engineer at CarGurus in Cambridge. I still freelance on the side for fun, building websites and some branding work for small local businesses. Some of my main clients are Savenor’s Market, Veggie Galaxy and Broadsheet Coffee (also some of my tastiest clients!)
I’m also working on taking more time for my own stuff, playing around with UX design and some app ideas I have. I’m hoping to learn some interaction design/prototyping because those are my favorite things to look at on behance/dribbble!
How do you define UX in your current role?
My full time job is focused on data-driven design that makes the most sense for the user. We do a lot of A/B testing and check functionality across browsers and platforms. I’m currently working on new email templates, so I use Litmus to ensure the experience is consistent across IOS and Android.
UX is more broad for my freelance clients. I work with a lot of restaurants, so I’m contributing to a user experience that’s not strictly web based. I need to translate their in-person experience to their site as closely as possible for a seamless user journey. I want the customer who checked out the Veggie Galaxy menu online to feel a sense of familiarity when they sit down for their meal. This is one of my favorite parts of working on these projects, and I use my experience from my days in Visual Merchandising as a guide.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I’d love to move towards Product/UX Design with the flexibility to also touch a little code. I like utilizing a combination of both design and code to develop my concepts. I nerd out just as much over CSS magic as I do discovering a new feature in Adobe XD (hello repeat-grid!)
What’s the biggest career advice you’ve ever gotten?
Know your narrative. Sometimes you get comfortable in whatever role you’re doing 40 hours a week and forget how you got there and why it’s important for your career goals. I was interviewing for a role a few months ago, feeling really unsure of whether I would even be a good fit for it. I had coffee with a good friend and mentor, and she reminded me of the reasons why I WAS a good fit, and told me to figure out my whole story and tailor it depending on the role. I was offered that job!
Any tips for women who want to learn how to code?
There are so many online resources these days, there’s no reason you shouldn’t just go for it! Many of us don’t have Computer Science degrees and are self taught. Start small, learn basic HTML/CSS. Find a client (your mom, your cat, your BFF) and make them something. Sometimes the added stress of someone else’s involvement is all you need to push yourself!
How do you stay up to date on the latest trends in digital design?
I use feedly for most of my reading. I have different RSS feeds set up, like one for Front-End Dev, Design, Life (apartment therapy is relevant, right?) and whenever I need a break from work I pop over there and read whatever seems interesting. It’s usually really inspiring and sort of gives my coding brain some fuel.
How did you hear about Ladies That UX and how long have you been a member?
Last summer I realized I wanted to be more involved with tech or design related things in Boston, so I searched around on Meetup which eventually led me to find Ladies that UX!
What brought you to Boston and what do you love about Boston?
I came to Boston from Portland ME for undergrad at Simmons College. I never had trouble finding a job here - Boston is so full of creative opportunities and people! I was so excited to go to school in the city, take the T around and have access to so much more than I did growing up in a small town. I still get that magical feeling often, especially if I’m hanging around my old spots from college.
Favorite brunch spot in the area?
I’ll give Waltham some love since I live out there now. Hands down Gustazo’s for Cuban food. Get the Cubanisimos and their insane hot chocolate or drip coffee!
Thanks for sharing your inspiring story, Katie! And best of luck in your career journey.