Yelp’s Product Design team consists of many talented folks who work on all facets of Yelp products. Each month, we’re sharing their stories.
Favorite business on Yelp:
Arabella Park in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
How did you end up here?
In middle school, I spent a good chunk of my time on a website called Neopets. Sincerely without trying to overcompensate for the confession I just dropped, this virtual pet site is where I learned how to draw illustrations using a mouse (and eventually a tablet), and HTML and CSS to make websites. Fast forward to university, I found myself in engineering, thinking if I went into anything art-related I would be backing the wrong conceptual horse.
However, Systems Design Engineering actually led me to discovering product design as a career. In school we used the design process to solve engineering problems, and this allowed for a seamless shift in getting into product design. Instead of drafting physical products on CAD, I learned to design software interfaces on Sketch. Instead of utilizing anthropometric data, I learned to analyze app usage trends. The principles remained the same — understand the need, gather requirements, design, test, and evaluate.
So, rusty from creating websites for virtual pets many years ago, I found myself creating a website to showcase side projects which were done hackathon-style during a week of Christmas dinners in 2015. Since then, I’ve conducted numerous user research projects and designed new and old features founded from said research — all while getting involved with other design and tech communities in and outside of school.
What’s a day in the life like for you at Yelp?
I usually come in around 9:30 AM and eat my go-to breakfast, which is a banana and a Rip Van Wafel, or a cup of greek yogurt. Then I open up Spotify and decide whether to flex music from bands with obscure names (have you heard of Cyberbully Mom Club?) or good ol’ punk rock because it never is just a phase. I go ahead and check my design tickets and prioritize my to-do list for the day.
My day becomes a ritual of designing, getting feedback from my PM and engineers, and going to about 2–3 meetings a day — either with my ReaderX team, or a design critique with our other designers from Hamburg and New York. At lunch, I use Yelp to find the nearest spot for good eats and eat at Yelp HQ or Yerba Buena Gardens. Then by afternoon, I grab a nitro with my weekly coffee match at Yelp Cafe or at SFMOMA (we get in for free!) If it’s a Friday, I end my day with happy hour with the rest of the Yelpers.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
I’d really love to design more physical products in the future. One thing that has inspired me lately is this brewery in Toronto called Bellwoods Brewery whose bottles have the edgiest beer label illustrations I’ve ever seen. It think it would be so sick to be a beer label illustrator (and part-time cicerone).
I also like making crafts whether it be sewing, pottery, or leather working. So I think I’d be interested in designing clothes or making furniture. (That’s what all the hip stores are doing nowadays right? Clothing store on your left, and adjacent to it is said clothing store’s second-rate attempt at engulfing your home’s aesthetic because let’s face it, your minimalist fit needs to match your kettles and trivets.)
What advice do you have for a younger self?
The success of your career doesn’t entirely depend on applying Dijkstra’s algorithm or finding the shortest path to get to your destination. Being a student, I know the pressures of “not making it” or not making it to wherever one thinks they should be “fast enough”. Take your time. Take that small startup job that will give you big responsibilities. Switch programs. Do another program after your current one. Take a year off and explore what you want. Work on projects and make art with people. Learn something outside of school because you’re interested in it, not just because it would look cool on your resume.
To console any anxiety you have, I’ve learned that what matters is that you’re chasing yourself, overcoming every infinitesimal increment and setback you face — and in that vein, you’re always on the shortest path.
Where were you before Yelp?
As a 4th-year co-op student coming from the University of Waterloo, I was given the opportunity to test-drive various roles in tech before arriving to Yelp as a product designer. The first half of my co-op journey primarily composed of software engineering work where I wrote an internal data tools for an EDM record label, prototyped a website redesign for Facebook, and crafted HTML emails for a digital agency in Toronto. With these experiences mostly focused on development, it wasn’t until this year that I bridged over to product design, helping bring product features to life with a small health startup in New York. All of these placements helped me navigate to an ideal career that bridges engineering thinking and visual design, and I think the big challenges Yelp are solving makes it the perfect place to close my co-op experience.
What product do you work on? What challenges is your team up against?
I’m working on Yelp’s Search UX team that focuses on the core search service across all platforms. As a designer, my goal is to leverage our metrics and research insights to create a better searching experience for users to discover and engage with the local businesses around them.
One problem we are currently investigating is how to personalize the search journey to be context-specific to a user’s query. For example, a user searching for restaurants nearby would look for a set of key information to help them choose a business that would differ from a search for a home service. Our goal then is to surface relevant information to their search results dependent on their needs, and we are constantly iterating on our product’s UI through user experiments to achieve this.
What makes a company great to work at / what do you like about working at Yelp?
As an intern, I think it’s awesome that the I am treated no differently than a full-time designer, allowing me to deliver work with real impact on the product experience. Designing for such a core feature at Yelp challenges me to think every decision to its slightest detail, but I’m also thankful to be surrounded by a talented team of designers who are always eager to help when I’m stuck on a problem! The weekly design critiques prove to be a great resource to make sure your work is the best it can be.
Besides work, I find the intern program to be very exceptional with a dedicated team of folks ensuring that I have a good time while I’m here. If exploring San Francisco wasn’t enough to do in the city, the program invites me to weekly outings like baseball games and mini golfing that I get to enjoy with the other interns. Shout outs to Sarah and Matt for doing a great job!
Another Yelp perk: all the La Croix.
When you’re not designing you are…
…watching Broad City re-runs over Chinese takeout food, carefully composing my next Instagram post, and obsessing about Sasha Velour. I can probably name as many Rupaul’s Drag Race queens as I can name Google typefaces.