I recently sat down with Chelsea Van Beurden, a product designer here at Snapdocs. We talked about banner ads, becoming a rockstar, and wearing many hats at a startup.
So what is it you say… you do here?
I make sure that our products and tools are usable for all of our end users.
Most of my time is spent enhancing our newest product, Closings. Closings streamlines all of the tasks and back and forth communication that occurs between a lender, settlement agent, and consumer when purchasing a home. Because every lender can have their own set of specific requirements when taking out a loan, it can be tricky to manage all of their preferences while maintaining a seamless and clear experience. It’s really important to me that every design and flow is validated through user feedback, because what is obvious to me may not be so obvious to the person who is actually using the product each day.
What’s your story? How did you get into design?
I used to draw and paint when I was younger and I always knew that I wanted a career in something creative. Initially, I wanted to be an animator but when I was in college I took graphic design classes and really liked them. I thought I would work for a magazine like Nylon or Kinfolk, creating beautiful layouts for interesting articles but… when was the last time you purchased a physical magazine? So, I got my first job as a graphic designer supporting the sales team at a radio station. I worked at that company for about 5 years and always felt like I wasn’t doing exactly what I wanted to but stuck with it because it was fun and I loved my co-workers. Eventually, I took an immersive course in UX Design and never looked back. I love what I do today and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
What’s something a mentor or role model said that’s really stuck with you?
I’ve been so lucky and have always had amazing managers who have supported me and my professional growth. I wouldn’t say there is one thing that someone has said to me in particular that has stuck with me. It’s more of the support system I was lucky enough to have and the encouragement to be creative by my superiors even when my job was feeling stale. I keep in touch with former colleagues and bosses because those people and relationships are important to me. They helped me find my way and guided me to grow into a better colleague and designer.
What advice would you give someone who was considering product design at a small startup?
Expect to wear many hats. You won’t just be designing the product. You will be a project manager and a product manager and the go-to person when someone wants you to help make a slide deck look better. You’ll need to manage your time and push back on things that realistically won’t be able to get done in tight timelines. And make sure you ask for what you want. If you want tools to help you do your job more efficiently, ask for those resources in order to get what you need.
Where do you find inspiration? What do you do when you get stuck?
I get inspiration from all kinds of things but mostly through conversations with people that end in fits of laughter. When I am in a great mood I feel like there are no obstacles, only solutions. I can come up with tons of ideas (bad and good) and it’s just free flowing. But specifically, I love looking at magazine layouts and banner ads. I enjoy admiring the way designers have thought about solutions for small spaces.
When I get stuck, I like to take a break and unplug for a minute. I will pull a team member over and ask for advice or guidance. From that, I generally get unstuck. If it’s really bad, I leave it alone for the day and something usually comes to me in the shower when I’m most relaxed.
What’s the most interesting or challenging project you’ve worked on at Snapdocs?
We are introducing the ability for a borrower to sign their promissory note electronically. There are a handful of things that we needed to be mindful of but the most important was the fact that the note could not be signed more than once, under any circumstances. It forced us to think creatively and introduce new logic and guardrails. I really enjoyed this project because I was able to speak directly with settlement agents who would be using this feature. I also made some design enhancements to the product that I had been wanting to for a while but could never figure out where they fit. All in all, it’s been a challenging project but I think it will be rewarding once it is released.
Why Real Estate?
My husband and I purchased our home about four years ago and it was a whirlwind experience. Once our offer was accepted, I can’t even remember all of the things we were asked to do. No one really preps you for that and if I can work somewhere that’s working toward making that really exciting time in your life stress-free, I think that’s a good thing.
If you weren’t a product designer, what would you be doing instead?
I’d be a painter or a docent at an art museum. Or a rockstar.