Tech Role Models: Annabelle Kim, UX Designer at Pond5

Today's Tech Role Model is Annabelle Kim. Annabelle is a UX designer at Pond5.

Today’s Tech Role Model is Annabelle Kim. Annabelle is a UX designer from Toronto, Canada who currently is based in New York. For the past eight years, she has worked in many different areas in design and loves learning new design techniques and styles, pushing herself to see what she can create. On her free time, she’ll be snowboarding in the winter, watching cartoons (mainly the old Simpsons), working on her illustrations, or reading.

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

I am a UI/UX Designer at Pond5 and I’ve been with the company a little over 2 years now.

What attracted you to this role?

It started with curiosity. For a while, I felt that I wasn’t growing with what I was doing and needed a challenge. An old co-worker at a previous job is a Product Designer and I was so intrigued by everything she was doing. So, I started researching and reading up on UX, and I knew this was the path I wanted to take.

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

My day to day changes depending on my projects at the moment. I usually come to work at 8:30 (before the rush that starts around 9), have a quiet morning making coffee and eat breakfast while I check emails, Slack messages, and make a checklist of what I need to tackle for the day. It also doesn’t hurt to start my morning checking what’s been posted on BoredPanda and Reddit.  

If I’m on an earlier stage of a project, I’ll research and look into our data. Once I have a clear direction on the approach, I’ll create user flows, wireframes, and prototypes. Hopefully, by then, we’re also able to get designs in front of users and test what works/doesn’t work. During this time, we also make sure to have multiple conversations with the developers so they’re in the loop with our approach. We’ll have meetings set up with the Product Manager and Developers to check-in on our status and discuss anything that needs attention.

What skills/technologies help you to succeed?

User research and testing have been the biggest help in my role to succeed. This isn’t a regular practice for us and is often overlooked as a priority. But once we devoted our time and energy into user research and testing, we’ve learned so much. Google Analytics, UserTesting, UsabilityHub, Full Story, and old-fashioned phone interviews/surveys are a few approaches we take.   

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

Collaborating with the great people I work with. We find solutions and go through the successes and frustrations together.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this UX designer role?

I’m fairly shy so it’s a struggle to be confident and speak up when I should because I’m afraid of looking stupid. But I’ve learned that there is nothing to be afraid. We shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves, after all, we’re all reaching the same goal.

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 great thing about where I work, our projects involve a lot of different teams. Depending on which project I’m assigned to. It’s a constant shift but it keeps my job exciting. I work closely with multiple Product Managers, Project Managers within the Market Growth team, and Developers on a daily basis. We work cross-functionally with other teams but we come together to build and improve.    

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

Implementing best practices in UX process. I’ve mentioned in the earlier question that user research and testing isn’t our top priority, but we’re trying our hardest to change that. I think this is a practice we need to really push for and put prototypes in front of users. We have a lot to learn from our users, and we should take more advantage of that. So my goal is to implement this step to my process.

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

Being a good listener and a great communicator.  

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

My presentation skills have improved a lot over the years. The more I did it, the better I got. 

In your UX designer role, what metrics define success?

Hmm, this is a tough question. There are different aspects to view success, the main driver is revenue, conversions, and new/returning users. But personally, happy customers and users enjoying their overall experience on our site is a big win. I want to eliminate as many pain points as I can for them.

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