Roll Call: Alexa + Taron + Lauren

Yelp’s Product Design team consists of 22 talented folks who work on all facets of Yelp products. We’ll talk to a few designers each month to share their stories.

Alexa Herasimchuk

Favorite Local Business on Yelp?
SC Sports Therapy in San Francisco, California

Where were you before Yelp?
Before Yelp, I was in school. I played two years of college basketball at a state school in Wisconsin before transferring to California College of the Arts to focus on my career and study Graphic Design.

What product do you work on and what challenges is your team up against?
I work on the Yelp for Business Owners product, and more specifically, I work on the Monetization Team. Our product, in particular, is quite interesting because it’s not the product you typically think of when you think about Yelp. Most of us think of our own experience as a customer searching for a business to go out to dinner at or to help us find service we need. Yelp for Business Owners needs to be designed for a very different type of person, especially if they’re a small, local business owner; because to them, their business is very personal. I think this poses a lot of challenges especially since our job is to help them understand the value of their business on Yelp but it’s also to help them generate more business through buying our advertising products.

Walk us through designing at Yelp
I joined the team when there were only five of us and I think we’ve really evolved in the last few years. We’ve hired a lot of really great people and we’ve completely restructured the way our team works. Now, each designer is dedicated to a specific feature team working on either our consumer or our business product. Because we are still a fairly small team, our team culture is very close and supportive. There’s also a lot of opportunity to effect change. If you have the energy and care about something enough, you’re invited to take time to explore that idea in between projects.

Who are the important mentors in your life?
I think I have many, but I want to call out two specifically. The first one would be one of my teachers from CCA, Kelly Murdoch-Kitt. It was in her class that I figured out that product design was what I really wanted to do. When you experience a full day of classes that go into the night and still feel completely energized to continue working, that’s when you know you’ve found your flow. Thank you Kelly for helping me find that.

The second person would be my dad, Andrei Herasimchuk, who is also a Designer. I have to thank him so much for all of the support and mentorship he gave me while I was in school. My dad was able to instill these really important lessons of design wisdom for me at just the right moments in time. I wouldn’t be where I’m at now if it weren’t for those lessons.

If you weren’t a Product Designer, what would you be doing?
I would love to try acting. I think actors are some of the most emotionally intelligent people on the planet. It’s quite fascinating to think about how actors can take on another human’s personality and perspectives so personally that they can affect how other people feel … I would love to help people better understand themselves and think reflectively about their own lives in this way.


Taron Ghazaryan

Favorite Local Business on Yelp?
Toyo Sushi in Walnut Creek, California

Where were you before Yelp?
Designing mobile games at a startup down in Los Angeles.

What product do you work on? What challenges is your team up against?
I work on the consumer Yelp product, specifically on the Reader Experience (ReaderX) team. Our most recent achievement is redesigning the home page on web. The biggest challenge when designing for a great reader experience is balancing between usability and business goals. Since our team works on pages that encompass a large number of features, we have to be mindful of those features and try to improve the user experience without hurting any one part of Yelp. That can be a bit of a challenge sometimes.

Walk us through designing at Yelp
We approach projects differently every time, but usually we start with a kickoff meeting involving product and engineering teams to generate ideas. After the initial kickoff, the designer will start iterating through ideas and with the help of a Product Manager, eventually narrowing them down to a select few. Finally, we test these ideas against one another and have our data science team analyze the results to see if the goals we had established have been met. It doesn’t always work as smoothly as described, but we’re flexible and iterate quite often.

Who are the important mentors in your life?
I don’t particularly have anyone in mind. The idea of a “master mentor” doesn’t resonate well with me because I see design as a team effort. The inspiration I get usually comes from browsing design sites and blogs, playing around with new apps or websites, and studying how other teams solve the design problems we all come across.

If you weren’t a Product Designer, what would you be doing?
Something car related. Either automotive design or tuning or machining. The cheesy stuff.


Lauren Connolly

Favorite Local Business on Yelp?
Kubus Photo in Brooklyn, New York

Where were you before Yelp?
I was at TripAdvisor and Mozilla.

What product do you work on? What challenges is your team up against?
During my first year and a half at Yelp, I worked in the Hamburg (Germany) office on the Yelp for Business Owners app. Initial challenges included navigating the learning curve of existing as a standalone office, and also remaining connected even with a nine hour time difference from San Francisco.

Yelp is great because we connect consumers with local businesses, and the Business Owners app connects local business owners to consumers. It allows them to maintain up-to-date business information, provides the tools necessary to reach out to their consumers, and puts a voice to their business.

I’ve spent the last nine months working on the Messaging team at Yelp. There’s a whole world of new avenues to explore within this team and I’m really excited to be a part of it!

Walk us through designing at Yelp
My favorite thing about working at Yelp is the fact that everyone has a seat at the table — no one is unqualified to present new ideas or discouraged from providing feedback based on hierarchy of roles. We’re a pretty flat organization and there’s a great balance of working hand-in-hand with engineers and product managers. I feel encouraged to ideate, work on passion projects and invest the time to make informed design decisions. When I was in the interview process, the ability to innovate was what stood out to me most. Two years later, that sentiment still stands.

Who are the important mentors in your life?
Initially, I went to college for photography. I nannied for one of my photo professors and as an extra benefit, he would review my work and provide feedback. We were going over my final portfolio review for the year and he stopped to say, “Don’t be a photographer.” Looking back, I can still feel how warm with anger my cheeks were. Here’s this thing that I had fully thrown myself into for the last year, in the hopes of making a career out of it, only to be told “Hey, don’t do this.” He followed up in that same half second with “You photograph like a designer, go to school to become a designer.” At the time, I didn’t really understand what that meant but I did take his advice and later realized that it was the better place for me. When it came to photography, I focused more in film versus digital. As I started to work in Photoshop and Illustrator, I had the realization of “Woah, I can take these photos and then build these other worlds from them!” My ability to create expanded and it’s been one of the best things that ever happened to me.

In conversations with friends and fellow designers, I realized very early in my career that I did not need to be a cookie-cutter designer. The world was my oyster and I could design beyond the status quo and available Photoshop tutorials. Design was my punk rock, it was my outlet — I wanted to create work that was raw and compelling.

There’s a handful of designers whose work I’ve followed throughout my education and career. The first design book I ever purchased was Things I’ve Learned in My Life So Far by Stefan Sagmeister. In his work, he explores a lot of the concepts that I hold close to my heart. For example, the concept of happiness and the insistence of such.

If you weren’t a Product Designer, what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t a product designer, I think I’d be a creative director. [laughs] I don’t think I’d stray too far from the creative field.


Feeling inspired to get to know us a little better? Look us up on Dribbble, and if you’ve got the design chops and are passionate about local businesses, check out current openings for the Yelp Product Design team at yelp.com/careers.

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