Tech Role Models: Chantel Zapata Pray, Senior Product Designer at WW

Today's Tech Role Model is Chantel Zapata Pray. Chantel is a senior product designer at WW.

Today’s Role Model is Chantel Zapata Pray. Chantel currently works as a Senior Product Designer at WW (Weight Watchers) where she enjoys bringing data-driven, user-centered solutions to complex problems. After graduating from Parsons School of Design, she started her career as an Art Director, working with clients such as Amazon, Marvel, and Scholastic Inc.

In 2016, Chantel studied at General Assembly and made the switch to User Experience Design. She loves to give back to the tech community and is a She+ Geeks Out Ambassador and a Founding Member of Tech Ladies. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging out with her loaf of a corgi, Pam, and her new cat, Duncan, geeking out at NYC Comic Con, taking a cooking class, or enjoying a new movie.

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

My official title is Senior Product Designer. I have been at WW since September of 2018 and I am loving it so far.

What attracted you to this senior product designer role?

When I was looking for a new job, one of my main goals was to work on a product that has a positive impact on people’s lives. As someone who has used the WW product in the past, I have seen first hand – and heard from fellow members – how transformative WW can be allowing members to do things like be more confident, have more energy to play with their children, and finally get off blood pressure medication.

Moreover, when I was interviewing everyone’s passion for their work and the members came through. I took this role because I was excited to work with people who cared so much about their users and because I was excited about the positive impact I could have.  

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?

My workday starts around 9:30am. I spend the morning checking email and catching up on Slack as I eat breakfast. WW follows an agile process and my crew has our daily stand-up at 10:45am. I just started a few months ago, but so far a typical day varies greatly depending on what I am working on and what phase of a project I am in.

For instance, if we are doing discovery work, the day could be filled with meetings with stakeholders. If we are testing designs, the day will consist of numerous user testing sessions. If we are working on a product roadmap, I’ll be syncing with my Product Manager and working with her on the roadmap and respective strategy. Right now, I am working on a big project and pair designing with another Product Designer so my current day is typically a mix of sketching and whiteboarding with her and alignment/review meetings with the rest of the team.

I tend to take lunch anytime between noon and 1:30pm. If the day is filled with meetings, I will eat lunch while I catch up on emails and Slacks. However, if it’s a lighter day I will take lunch with my coworkers or take a short walk around the neighborhood if the weather is nice.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

As a Product Designer and user advocate, it is very important for me to never feel precious about a design and to always strive to empathize with our user. WW is also a highly collaborative environment so it is important to be flexible and a strong team player.

In addition, since I am on two crews (one primary and one secondary), it is important to have good time management skills so that everything stays on track and I do not become a bottleneck. We also have product wide UX reviews so it’s important to understand the whole product and be able to give a constructive critique. And then, of course, there are the technical skills like knowing Sketch and how to rapidly prototype that are important as well.

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

The most fun so far has been collaborating with my colleagues. Everyone at WW is brilliant and just wants what’s best for our members and it’s been so great to be part of a team like this, working towards a common goal. The role is also a challenging one with complex problems to solve since we have a digital (e.g., our app) and a physical product (e.g., our Studios) and a member base that may or may not interact with both. Lastly, I really love watching a user test a feature that I worked on, “breaking” it, and then coming up with a solution that will work… and then continuing to learn and iterate once it’s gone live.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

For most of my career, I worked on the agency side. This is my first role product side, so I am still getting used to what it’s like to work on a segment of a larger product, dealing with so many stakeholders, and having legacy product constraints to work with. In addition, WW has just rebranded into a Wellness brand. As we continue to define what that will mean, it’s going to be vital to establish a balance between supporting our current power users who will always come to us for weight loss and learning how to support – and attract – new members who have a focus around cultivating healthy habits.  

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

The area of the product I am focusing on effects so much! At one point or another I will be working with our Engineering, Content, Brand, Studio, Studio Tech, Data Analytics, Food Database, Insights, Science, Marketing, and Global teams. In addition to the Product Designer, I am working with on this crew on a daily basis at WW. I collaborate the most with my Product Manager, Program Innovation Manager, Experience Researcher, Engineers, and Visual Designers.

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

Given my recent start at WW, I am still settling into some extent and I just started a really big project that I am very excited to work on. This project will give me a chance to grow my skills as a leader and designer. In general, I am also looking to expand my UX writing knowledge and bring more interactions/an even higher fidelity to my prototyping skillset.

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

The Senior Product Designer role at WW is a highly collaborative one, so aside from technical skills, I would say that being able to thrive in that type of environment, being a good team player, as well as being able to accept and give constructive critique are all very important. You should be open, curious, and empathetic. A positive attitude seems to be appreciated as well, especially as the company moves to be tech-focused as a whole. It’s also important not just to be able to understand the product and business goals but to use that knowledge when you’re advocating for the user.

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

As I just started a few months ago, I am still relatively new to this role. However, so far, I have seen an improvement in my ability to help prioritize bugs and product enhancements as we plan out each sprint. I have also grown in my workshop and brainstorm leading skills as we do those often here. WW and my manager are also very invested in our growth and I am looking forward to using my educational budget to expand and hone my skills.

In your senior product designer role, what metrics define success?

I am not at liberty to go into to much detail here, but as we have a subscription-based product, retention is naturally a huge metric for us. Being able to move the needle on retention will be important for me to try to do.

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