Role Models: Sam Provenza, Product Designer

samprovenza

Sam Provenza began her career in graphic design, but today she builds intuitive and beautiful user interfaces for digital products. She’s currently a Product Designer for Tailwind, a SaaS start-up producing Pinterest and Instagram marketing tools. In spite of her busy schedule, she is also the NYC chapter lead of Girl Develop It, a group that organizes coding classes and career workshops for women.

What’s your official title and how long have you been in this role?

Product Designer. I’ve been in this role at my current company for a little over a year and a half, but I’ve been in this role for other companies since 2014.

What attracted you to this role?

My background is in design. I started out in graphic design but was always really interested in designing for the web. When I started working as a web designer at a SaaS product company back in 2013, I was instantly drawn to the product side of things because of how much it involved working directly with users. I started out with small projects on the product side and eventually switched full time to the product side. I have been doing that ever since.

Walk me through a typical day in your role. What activities do you engage in? What types of meetings do you join? When’s lunch?

I work for a small SaaS start-up, so my day to day varies greatly depending what we are focusing on that sprint. Because of the small size of our team, my day is part Design, part Coder and part Project Manager. I spend a lot of my focus scoping out new features or user flows for our web application and then I work with the engineering team to implement them. I am also involved with some of the UX research and spend time conducting user interviews with our users on video calls. I work with users to discover the root of the problem we are trying to solve so I can help craft a user experience that will solve their frustrations. I’m often an advocate for the user and I need to ensure that the products we are making are understandable and accessible for our user base.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

Some of the skills that are helpful is knowing how to use design tools like Sketch, Photoshop, Figma, Invision, Adobe XD, Illustrator (there are so many now!) to create mock-ups and prototypes of web and mobile applications. I also know HTML/CSS and JavaScript, which isn’t necessarily required but it’s been really helpful for my success. I can design experiences that I know can be built and I can just jump into a project and make changes if needed without relying on the engineering team.

What’s the most fun or creative part of your role?

Brainstorming is one of my favorite parts of the process. When we are kicking off new projects or features, the product team will collaborate to define the problem we are trying to solve, brainstorm solutions that we can implement, and figure out how to measure if they are successful or not. I love getting in front of a whiteboard, tossing around ideas and sketching solutions.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

In my current company, I am the sole Product Designer on the team. It’s often challenging for me to be juggling multiple projects across different parts of the product.

What teams/individuals do you work with cross-functionally? Can you give an example of a time when you collaborated with another group/individual?

I work with our Product Managers and Engineers on a day-to-day basis. The PMs and I will often collaborate on the initial kick-off of new projects. We work together to define requirements needed, brainstorm ideas, and I’ll present designs to them for feedback along the way. They are also really helpful to figure out how to measure the success of the designs and defining what metrics we are trying to move with any new experience.

What’s an area where you’re trying to grow in your role?

I really want to become more informed about the Product side of my role. I would like to learn more about collecting data to measure and track design decisions as well as use the data to define requirements for new features and requests.

In your role, what metrics define success?

The most important measure of success comes from customer feedback and the overall user experience you are crafting. It can be difficult to figure how to measure this, so making sure you are making data-driven decisions in your design choices really helps you measure how successful your output is.

What skills (tech/non-tech) have you improved as a result of working in this role?

100% my communication skills. Being able to present designs and educate the team on the “why” behind them has helped me better articulate my design-thinking skills. Also talking with users has significantly helped me from an interviewee standpoint.

Aside from technical skills, what personality traits/characteristics make for an ideal candidate in your role?

Problem solving and empathy are probably the two most important skills. There are often complex features that we need to build, and it’s my job to find a solution that will resonate with our users and present the most important information in the simplest way possible. You need to be empathetic, be eager to talk and listen to users, and be able to figure out what makes them tick.

 

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