Inside Segment Design: Meet Dylan

Hareem Mannan
Jul 1, 2020 · 6 min read

Inside Segment Design is a series designed to shine the spotlight on the talented team of designers and researchers that make up the Segment design team. We’ll publish a series of articles that will follow each team member on their career path and journey to Segment. Read our previous piece in the series here!

Medium, meet Dylan— one of our amazing product designers at Segment. Dylan is one of those designers who only gets more and more impressive the more you get to know him. I remember interviewing him and being struck by how detail-oriented and thoughtful his work was. Fast forward almost one year later, and we are all better for Dylan’s sharp eye, attention to detail, and deep empathy and thoughtfulness that makes our design next level.

So Dylan, where are you from?

I was born and raised in the Bay Area Peninsula as the middle child in my family. I’m really lucky to call the Bay my home, and while I have few regrets in my life, if I had to name one, somewhat unfortunately, all of my schooling took place within a 3 mile radius.

How’d you get into design?

When I was a kid, I had something like 5 dream jobs: writer, marine biologist/naval adventurer (in the tradition of Jacques Cousteau), actor, filmmaker, and designer. As odd as it may sound, these 5 have a lot more in common than they may appear to at first glance. To me, all involve exploration with the aim of making something new, hopefully something that’s useful for other people.

Whether it was pottery and sculpture, doodles, stories, shoes, one acts, robots, or a chair, I loved making things. It always felt cathartic and thrilling to be able to make what was in my head real. That kind of dimension hopping was nothing short of magic for me growing up.

But I think the moment I truly fell in love with design as a professional discipline (rather than a passing fancy) was when I took ME 101, a class on design fundamentals and prototyping, at Stanford. Very much a learn-by-doing-and-failing-until-you-don’t kind of class, ME 101 required many late nights of research, collaboration, construction, testing, and constant iteration. It was a glorious quarter of my life which kickstarted my journey in design in earnest.

How did you make your way to Segment?

I was previously at Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center, designing applications for machine learning, voice UX, and the Internet of Things. I went to a talk back in April 2019 called Data x Design hosted at Segment by Hannah and Sophia. At the time I wasn’t actually looking for a new opportunity — the talk had just sounded like it would be very much my cup of soup.

Me: You mean cup of tea?

Dylan: ……Oops. Yes, cup of tea. Sorry, it’s close to lunch…

It was a great talk. While the problem Segment is trying to tackle really piqued my interest, I was blown away by the people I got to meet that night. So after that summer, when I began thinking about what’s next for me, Segment was very much top of mind.

What’s your role at Segment?

I lead design on Personas, Segment’s audience management platform, where I’ve had the privilege of working with 3 amazing teams: Integrations, Core, and Identity. Some of the projects I’ve worked on include designing and launching our first identity management solution, up-leveling audience build timing and status visibility, and a ground up redesign of our onboarding experience. As the design team has grown within Personas, I’ve also had the opportunity to set up new processes for collaboration, alignment, and critique. It’s been a blast — I truly couldn’t have asked for a better squad. We’ve got some incredibly neat things cooking, I’m really excited for where we’re taking the product next.

Why did you choose Segment?

The opportunity to work on challenging problems and to continue to grow as a designer were big draws for me. Designers at Segment are uniquely positioned to work on both the micro-level execution, as well as the macro-level strategy and systems thinking, alongside our counterparts in engineering and product. My time at Segment has been an education, perhaps most notably in scalability, process rigor, system design, and leading teams.

But what ultimately made my decision to join an easy one, was the people. Segment has, hands down, some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure of working with in my career thus far. Folks are tremendously intelligent, talented, conscientious, driven, and humble — it’s uncanny and wonderful. My friends and teammates make me proud to be a part of the tribe, and add much color to my life, even during these remote times.

What’s a recent project you’re working on?

Outside of Personas, I’ve been collaborating on the refresh of our design system Evergreen! Beyond updating the visual styling of our components to give them more “oomph”, we’ve been developing new patterns, and templates to create better affordances for both usability and accessibility. I’m also working with the team to develop a set of design principles that can reflect our new system, as well as inform future design decisions going forward.

I think one of the key challenges on my mind has been how to make the updated system more extensible and future proof. It would be huge if we can design Evergreen and the processes that support it such that it can grow systematically and organically long after this project’s end.

What has surprised you most about your time at Segment?

I was surprised by just how much everyone has a voice in the dialogue. From the outside, I think Segment comes off as a company that has things mostly figured out. The truth is, there is still so much that is undefined that we get to figure out together. This gives us the opportunity to exercise a great deal of freedom and autonomy when it comes to deciding what to build and how we should go about it. The extent to which we can own a problem and its solution, the opportunity we each have to help build out the future of data management makes the work engaging, and all the more worthwhile.

What’s one really good piece of advice that you’ve received recently?

A little while ago, my dad and I were talking about the philosophy of “good thoughts, good words, good deeds”, how my mom embodies this mantra, and how this mindset affects how we move through life. I’ve interpreted it to mean: what we put out into the world is a reflection of ourselves and what we’ve taken in.

I believe the products we build, like children, are a reflection of their parents. They tend to inherit and embody their thoughtfulness, preferences, biases, and aesthetics. A product and its details can tell you quite a lot about the people and culture behind it. As people who work on products, we have a responsibility to invest the time, care, and effort necessary to make sure that what we’re putting out into the world is good, and will not cause harm.

Conversely, what we take in and carry with us, whether it be memories from travel, ideas from a book or film, friendships, or lessons learned, has a significant influence on what we output in turn. We can improve not only the quality of our lives but also what we’re able to create by being mindful of what we consume. Virtuous and pernicious cycles, if you will.

What’s a guilty pleasure right now?

Recently, I’ve got 3: dancing in my backyard, struggling on the guitar, and replaying Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild. My brother also got me into Terrace House a while back, so there might be a #4 coming soon… please send help

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