In part two of our Perspectives of Women in Technology series, Lullabots, Ana Barcelona, Senior UX Designer, Cristina Chumillas, Front-end Developer, and Marissa Epstein, Senior UX Designer share their journeys into technology, which tools they regularly use, the skills they're learning, and advice they'd share with their younger selves.
Tell us about your journey into technology.
Ana: My passion for web design began in 1997 during my last semester of college at Virginia Commonwealth University. They were offering a new course called "Intro to Web Design." All of my studies in design came to light, and at that moment, I knew I wanted to work in the industry.
Since then, I've worked at many design firms in the metro DC area, including Iconixx (now EPAM), Sapient (now SapientNitro), Threespot, and EightShapes, to name a few. Since the birth of my daughter, I had a long freelancing stint working with amazing clients like The Washington Post, The World Bank, and Halsbrook, a fashion e-commerce shop based in NYC.
My advice to those looking to work in the industry is to find work that inspires you and keep doing it. No matter what, keep pushing forward. Don't let anyone tell you can't do something or that you're not good enough. Keep pushing forward. Also, look to others for inspiration. This inspiration was what drew me to Lullabot.
Cristina: I spent several years working in the graphic design and media industries, but when I went freelance and had to make my designs a reality, I started to take coding seriously. I got involved in the local Drupal community, helping out with the organization of one of the most significant events in Europe: Drupal Dev Days. After some time, and thanks to the people I met in the community, I started working at a Barcelona Drupal agency as a front-end developer. I kept attending Drupal events and got more involved in organizing community events, contributing to core, and speaking. Thanks to that, I've traveled a lot, gotten to know a lot of people, connected with Lullabot.
Marissa: My first experience building for the web was making an HTML page for my Neopet. Like Jen Witkowski, my background is in graphic design and psychology (from UC's DAAP college). I went to work in packaging design firms but soon wanted to shift my career to a new design discipline. So I taught myself more about coding and web design, eventually landing a web job as a Visual Designer at a software development and design company in New England. I moved my life to a new company and a new city without ever visiting either, but I am so glad I did. Spoiler: I still live in Providence today.
From this job, I moved to a smaller design agency, and soon after that, became their Art Director. Like Spider-Man says, with great power comes great responsibility! This role kick-started a new wave of learning that prepared me for whatever work might come into the studio. That's how I ended up at a local UX meetup, then a local UX conference. At the conference, I heard Jared Ponchot, Lullabot's Creative Director, give a talk (read: blow my mind with his thoughtful presentation). I was also introduced to Jeff Robbins, one of Lullabot's co-founders.
The timing was perfect. I met Lullabot when I was searching for a remote career, and their culture seemed balanced in general and perfect for me. After I applied, had several interviews, and completed a short freelance project over one weekend, I got the email: I was invited to “Come Rock with Lullabot!" You can actually learn more about my hiring experience.
Which tools do you use on a regular basis in your work, and what types of skills are you currently learning?
Ana: Figma is my tool of choice these days. There are so many design tools out there. I think it's good to be well-versed in many so you can quickly adapt to project needs. I never stop learning, whether it's a new design tool or exploring a design process or technology.
Cristina: I mainly use Visual Studio Code (and testing PhpStorm!), iTerm, Github, and SourceTree when doing front-end work and Figma when I do design-related things. I mainly use Slack, Zoom, and Google Docs for communication.
Marissa: I use a lot of tools. Too many tools. I use Slack for most communication. The Google Suite offers Mail, Calendar, Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Meet. Dropbox Paper is my favorite collaborative note-taking tool. I found Microsoft To-Do best for tracking my tasks. Regarding design tools specifically, we primarily use Figma, but I still open Illustrator, Photoshop, Sketch, and InVision often. Also, I use a Remarkable tablet for digital sketching. There are more specialized tools that we pull off the shelf as we need them, like Omnigraffle or Typeform.
I am always trying to improve my soft skills, such as communicating with clients and leading workshop activities. One specific skill of interest for me in the last year or so has been content strategy and how to apply my knowledge of research and Drupal to that discipline with the goal of improving both editorial experiences and the overall user experience for visitors.
What’s important to you when you build, create, and use technology?
Ana: That it helps people in their day to day lives, I strive for creating simple, thoughtful, and intuitive designs.
Cristina: I love to see that the work I do has some positive impact, either for the project itself or on a social level. And Drupal being Open Source plays an important role in this. I also like to be in projects where you can learn new things and collaborate with other people.
Marissa: Everything! I think this is the crux of the challenge of being a successful UX designer. One needs to carefully consider content hierarchy and relationships, audience needs and user research, business goals, existing branding, how designs adapt across devices, accessibility concerns, editorial needs, language and shared vocabularies, technological requirements, creative inspiration, project restraints, aesthetics and other best practices, and overall usability...to name a few things. 🙃
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Ana: You have time. Don't be in such a rush. Enjoy life!
Cristina: Believe in what you've done and don't be afraid of big changes.
Marissa: I was wowed in 2014 when I learned the statistic that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. And on top of that, when women do apply for a job, they are 16% more likely than men to get hired. I also heard similar statistics about salary suggesting that part of the gender wage gap was due to men simply asking for more money for themselves more often. So I wish "Future Me" had pushed "Younger Me" to be more confident in trying to close this gap and put myself out there by pursuing more opportunities.
What’s a fun fact, favorite hobby, secret talent, or big goal you’d like to share?
Ana: My dad was apart of the Apollo 11 team which landed the first man on the moon!
Cristina: I love illustration. I spent entire days drawing when I was young. Although I've been more focused on work for the past several years, I recently got an iPad Pro with the pencil. I plan to spend some of my free time illustrating again.
Marissa: My most unique hobby would be collecting designer toys for the last decade, mostly American vinyl and Japanese kaiju. Now there are toys in almost every room of the house.
Do you have perspectives to share? We'd love to hear them as we're all learning, growing, and getting better at our craft. Leave us a comment or tweet us @Lullabot.