The String and Key Crew: Megan Lighty
As part of our ongoing employee spotlight series, we’ll be profiling colleagues who inspire us. Today, meet Megan Lighty.
Company Role: User Experience Designer
Most likely to: Be over-prepared (I was made fun of for bringing a sweatshirt to the beach once)
Secret talent: Sudoku
How many of us can say we were career scouted while working at a farmer’s market? Not a lot of us. But, you know who was? Our very own UX designer, Megan! What started as a typical day doing usual farmer’s market things turned into the beginning of a fruitful career with us here at String and Key. She bumped into our Senior UX designer, Esther (they both have the same degree from Pratt), who mentioned we were hiring, which led to an interview. The clincher? We’d bet it was those delicious apple cider donuts that you could only get at Megan’s stall.
Lucky donuts aside, after getting her degree in Industrial Design from Pratt Institute, Megan started working in a mix of design and community spaces. From teaching young students to spending time in Botswana designing with a diverse group of folks to working with a social impact studio rooted in community work (talk about doing it all). But ultimately, working with people from many different backgrounds in both the design space and the service industry is what fueled her interest in engaging with and observing human interactions — hence the whole user experience thing.
A curious mind, we’re fortunate to have Megan on our UX team dissecting what makes people tick (or, more accurately, what makes them click). So read on to learn more of her story.
What do you do, and what does your typical workday look like?
I am one of three UX designers. Every morning we check in with the wider creative team, giving me a nice glimpse into other moving pieces before jumping in. More often than not, the UX team follows this with our own check-in since we work most closely with each other. We typically start off on some tangent about the news or culture. Once we get past the conversation’s initial excitement, we refocus and update each other on specific UX to-dos. Most days, we use this as a critique session for the features we’ve been independently designing. Our team has a nice balance of strengths, so coming together and critiquing each other’s work means that we can effectively see the product from multiple lenses and identify all use cases. The process of designing a feature involves many perspectives, meaning I am probably having conversations with the creative, strategy, and engineering teams often. It really is a beautiful and collaborative effort. I usually finish off my day by taking notes to prep me for the next day.
What’s your favorite part about working at String and Key?
We’ve evolved quite a bit over the past year — from working remote full-time to hiring more people and growing quite exponentially. Despite the uprooting of the way things used to be, everyone continues to do their work and be a strong support system for everyone else. And this is across all teams and departments! The String and Key team has managed to hit the sweet spot between “get sh*t done” and “let’s chill for a second and get to know each other.” That balance is what enables us to continually produce genuinely good work.
What excites you about your job?
I love the chaos that comes with design. It’s truly about exploring, finding a solution, having it picked apart, and then going through that process about five times. It’s about constantly challenging your team but also inviting others to challenge you. In this space, vulnerability and accepting failure is where we find our most brilliant solutions. What’s also exciting is that I literally help bring the product to life! It’s cool to think of myself as a bridge between information and digital reality. Most days, I’m figuring out how to turn a document of needs into something we can visualize (sounds a bit boring when put that way, but I’ve come to realize just how powerful it is). We’re figuring out how to make complex information accessible and understood by the general public.
What do you find most challenging about your role?
Right now, the most challenging thing is not being able to work in the office together. I am so grateful we’ve been safe and able to work from home, BUT I miss seeing everyone and being able to sit down and have a genuine, face-to-face conversation. And I want to meet all our new hires in person! I can’t imagine starting a position without physically meeting your teammates. Also, brainstorming as a group on a whiteboard with different colors and post-it notes everywhere is so much more fun than through a computer screen. Let’s just say I’m looking forward to when we can safely return.
What are the values that drive you?
Curiosity to learn. Also, to be challenged and be the challenger. I think it’s important for creatives in an ever-evolving world to continuously learn. Whether that’s from each other, from our mistakes, or from the industry. We should always push ourselves for not just a solution, but for the solution that makes the most sense on all accounts.
How do you stay on top of your game?
By taking care of myself! Seriously. For me, having a healthy balance is what keeps me going. I can be heads down working for a few hours, but at some point, I need to get up and look away from the screen. I work so much better when I can come back to my work with a fresh perspective. Or when I’ve been influenced by something I saw outside. Or something I read while I was eating lunch. The same goes for my design process. I work in a constant loop from detail to bird’s-eye view. It keeps me aware of everything going on and also keeps my mind sharp.
What’s one thing — either industry-related or not — that you’ve learned in the last month?
I learned how to perfect my grandma’s biscotti! I made a total of about 50 biscotti for friends recently and learned some helpful tricks through multiple batches of trial and error. For all future biscotti bakers: using anise extract rather than anise seeds to create a stronger taste. Also, using chopped whole almonds creates a nice chunky texture. And always know that the second bake is key (but don’t let them get too brown, or they’ll be too hard).
If you could swap places with anyone at String and Key, who would it be and why?
Any of the developers. I am very much a beginner in understanding their language, but I would love to sit down for a day and work through a problem. I am a true problem solver at heart. I used to love working in SolidWorks (a 3D modeling program). It was all about learning the tool well enough that you were able to create within its boundaries. I see a lot of creativity shine through in how developers solve problems.
What unexpected subject could you give a one-hour presentation on with no advance prep?
Different varieties of apples, what they taste like, when they are in season, how to store them, and how to best use them. This is all from my days at the farmer’s market. We were known for our apples.
What keeps you busy outside of work?
This past year has obviously changed quite a few things. But, pre-pandemic, I took full advantage of opportunities to keep myself active. After work, I’d either go play in a soccer match, attend a dance class, go to the climbing gym, or see a movie or some music. Now that I spend most of my time at home, I find relief in being forced to slow down. I can still fulfill my urge for activity with a long bike ride or by heading upstate to climb. I’ve also been a frequent visitor of Green-Wood Cemetery. Sounds eerie, but it’s actually quite a beautiful public space! I’ve become more aware of the beautiful subtleties surrounding me now that I’m not distracted by running from one thing to the other — that’s nice.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always thought I was going to be a mechanical engineer. My mom is an engineer, so growing up, we used to build robots and take things apart and then put them back together — I loved it! I spent a lot of my time when I was young building complex and functional structures out of duct tape and cardboard.
Breakfast or no breakfast?
Music or podcast?
Definitely music. Spotify told me I spent 39,846 minutes listening this past year.
Soup or sandwich?
Soup! Any time of the year. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the middle of summer. I love soup.
Fan or air conditioner?
Roller coasters or bumper cars?
Interested in working at String and Key? Join us