The String and Key Crew: John Leidl

Jasmin H
Jasmin H
Aug 4, 2020 · 6 min read

As part of our ongoing employee spotlight series, we’ll be profiling colleagues who inspire us. Today, meet John Leidl.

Company Role: UX Designer

Most likely to: Set reminders for everything

Secret talent: If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret

Our UX Designer, John, is all about growth. A later-in-life career changer, he started his professional journey as a tech recruiter but never thought he’d be where he is today (to quote one of his favorite artists, Drake, he went from “0 to 100 real quick”). After spending a few years helping developers and designers find their dream jobs, he quickly realized he was more interested in being on the other side of the phone himself. So he waved au revoir to the staffing world and hello to a new field. He enrolled in a user experience course, and well, the rest is history.

Born and raised in Long Island, NY, John spent five years away from the city living in North Carolina but eventually moved back to his home state (he can attest to the fact that all roads do indeed lead back to NYC). Now living in Brooklyn, his workdays consist of creatively brainstorming and delivering impactful and effective UX design as part of our creative team. So read on as he talks about life UX-ing at String and Key, and the importance of carving out some me-time to learn and grow, especially in the face of an unprecedented pandemic.

What does your typical workday look like?
As someone who values routine, there was definitely some need for adjustment after going fully remote back in March. I’m a morning person, and I always start my day by listening to a podcast (or three) while enjoying my morning coffee. The workday is usually kicked off by hopping on a daily standup call with the creative team. From there, the headphones go on, the coffee gets refilled, and I dive into my work. There’s always a nice balance between heads down and collaborative work. Most days involve a lot of collaboration with the other UX Designers. Whether we’re working together or independently, they’re always available to talk through a problem or provide feedback on my work. I always like to end my day by making sure I have a solid game plan for the next day. This is so that I can confidently unplug knowing that I’ll hit the ground running tomorrow.

What’s your favorite part about working at String and Key?
At String and Key, everyone has a voice. If you have a suggestion or if you see an opportunity, you will always have the chance to be heard. We have a “doors always open” type of environment, and that goes for everybody at the company. I don’t think many people can say that they can casually reach out to their CEO or CTO on Slack as simply as we can.

What excites you about your job?
The challenges. There’ll always be more to learn. Most recently, it has been exciting to work with our development team. It’s helping me learn how to make smarter decisions as a designer. It’s also opened my eyes to how a developer thinks about building something and forced me to look at design through a different lens.

What do you find most challenging about your role?
I find it challenging, at times, to not get caught up thinking about the UI and visual design. As a UX Designer, my job is to understand the user journey and architect an experience with zero friction. But, as designers, we also inherently want to make things beautiful. We all have such unique styles and tastes, and there’s always that temptation to tweak your wireframes or type size or CTAs, just a little (if I start rounding the edges of that CTA, I know it’s time to move on). Thankfully, working with a design system has helped me focus on the usability of the product without getting caught up in minute details that will ultimately be handled by the UI Designer.

How do you stay on top of your game?
Podcasts. I have a core rotation of podcasts that keep me informed on anything from design to the upcoming election — plus, some improv ones for a few laughs. Podcasts give you easy access to information, and I love how openly people talk during the interviews. I’ve recently started listening to one called Design Details, which is hosted by two designers from YouTube and Github. As someone new to the field, it’s nice to know that no matter your level of experience, we’re all facing the same challenges. I highly recommend checking out a recent episode titled “Getting Unstuck.” It’s one that really resonated with me.

What drew you to tech, and what excites you about the industry?
Regardless of your job or the industry you work in, you most likely have some sort of interaction with a digital interface daily. Whether you work in retail and are ringing a sale with a POS system or work in finance and use a tool to track the movement of stock prices. It all falls under the tech umbrella. Due to the events over the past few months, I think some interesting problems are being worked on in the design space, especially in areas like healthcare, entertainment, e-commerce, and even government. Design thinking is now something that you have to consider in the post COVID world, and I am excited to see the solutions to these problems in the coming years.

What’s one thing — either industry-related or not — that you’ve learned in the last month?
Since the pandemic hit in March, I’ve been learning how to skateboard. It has been fun and an excellent way to get some exercise. My original thought was to find an alternative method for commuting to the office once things open back up. However, I think I still have a ways to go before I get there. I mostly try to find secluded places to practice, but I am slowly working up the courage to go to the local skatepark.

If you could swap places with anyone at String and Key, who would it be and why?
I would love to swap places with Soong or Luis, our 2 brilliant UI Designers. They both have such strong visual design skills and truly bring our work to life. I have had a chance to work with both of them, and I’m always amazed when I hand them something and see what they come back with. It ALWAYS exceeds expectations. I find it so fascinating to learn about why they make certain choices and the thought and intent behind them.

What unexpected subject could you give a one-hour presentation on with no advance prep?
It would most likely be something about Sneakers, and I don’t think that would shock anyone who knows me. I could talk about anything from the history of sneakers to marketing campaigns to the resale market, and even something as simple as how to clean or restore old sneakers. I’ve had a love for sneakers and have been collecting them since I was in high school, so It’s impressive to see how this has evolved over the past few years. There’ve been so many exciting collaborations between brands that you would never expect to be talking about in the same sentence. One of my favorites over the past few years was between Nike and General Mills, yes, the people who make cereal.

What keeps you busy outside of work?
Recently I’ve found the dream routine for a multitasker: listening to a podcast and working on a puzzle. I also love to read. On Saturdays, I hit up my local comic book shop to pick up titles that range from classics like Batman and the Walking Dead to indie titles like Paper Girls (which recently came to an epic conclusion). I am currently catching up on past volumes of a book called Saga, it has been described as a “Space Opera/Fantasy.” Think Game of Thrones meets Star Wars — doesn’t that sound amazing?

Can you list five hashtags that describe your personality?#ImWorkingOnIt, #SneakerHead, #Curious, #KnowledgeSeeker, #Caring

Lighting Round:

Spring or Fall?
Fall. (From a fashion standpoint, you just have so many more options).

Stability or surprises?

Strategy or puzzle?

Domestic or international?

Air Conditioning or Heating?
AC all Day! I’m a homebody.

Interested in working at String and Key? Join us!

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