Product Design and User Experience Podcast

Product Design- The Skills of the Trade!

Deliver Better Podcast Episode 5



designers, devops, product, people, design, ux, sketching, process, part, work, exciting, feel, solving, team, harness, job, sketches, instincts, run, bit


Tiffany Jachja, Michelle Koike


TiffanyJachja  00:00

Okay, and 321. Hi everyone and welcome to this week's deliver better podcast. I'm your host Tiffany Jachja and today we have avery exciting guest here. Michelle Koike.


MichelleKoike  00:21

Sure. Hi everyone, my name is Michelle Koike. I am a product designer at harness and I am working on the continuous verification design. Which is so exciting.

Tiffany Jachja  00:37
I cannot. You guys always blow my mind over at the product team like every time even from my standpoint. Like I remember just talking to some of you guys and yeah, the slide deck and everything and I was like, Oh my gosh, I've never seen this done so well.

Michelle Koike  00:52
That's really nice of you. And you know, I think yeah, I think our team here at harness everyone here is very impressive. And you know, is very good at their job. So I'm sure they'd be really happy to hear you say that about all the all the hard work it takes to kind of make everything kind of look and feel like an actual product.

Tiffany Jachja  01:14
Yeah, yeah. So do you want to share sort of how you got, you know, on how you got to the role that you're in currently?

Michelle Koike  01:23
Sure. Um, so I started off in UX, my very first job was Visual Studio Team Services. And for all the, I guess DevOps people may have heard of it formerly as TFS and is now as your DevOps. I started there, working on the dashboards team. And then from there, I kind of made my way to office where I worked with the Office team with OneDrive and SharePoint. So I was at Microsoft for about five years. And then decided to make my way back down to the Bay Area. I took a job at Facebook. And, you know, Ken decided that I wanted something new and different. And that's when the opportunity presented itself for me to come to harness. And I think the appeal there was, you know, it was a startup. I got my experience started at big at a very big company, which I think is normally the opposite way of how designers kind of work. So I felt like I needed that startup experience, you know, kind of in my portfolio and just, you know, as a, as a designer, a new project to kind of push myself into unknown territory.

Tiffany Jachja  02:46
Very cool. How has it been different the past couple months.

Michelle Koike  02:50
Um, I think, first off, just the pace in which you know, startups operate. And then also just like, as a designer, I think it's just your ability to run with your instincts immediately. I think at larger companies, you can definitely do that, but there's a lot more validation that happens just to ensure those, those instincts will make sense to the masses. And so I think, definitely, you know, working a lot faster, a lot harder to be able to get something out to market a lot quicker.

Tiffany Jachja  03:35
Yeah, I experienced this similar similar things coming from a consulting background where, you know, like, things came in ebbs and flows, like you, you would have like a lot of work and then not so much and then like, a lot, a lot of work and then not so much but here, it's like it's, it's, it's consistent. You know, you have you have like, things that you're trying to accomplish. And so you can just, you know, very straightforwardly go for those things.

Michelle Koike  04:00
Yeah, and I think that's kind of the exciting part, right? Like, you know, if you have a new idea, or if you have something that's a little bit outside the box, like you're kind of free to experiment, because our product team, you know, we're coming out with next gen, right. So here's the time to kind of like really kind of put our values and what we believe in as a design team into something new and different, which is, which is, frankly, pretty exciting. I don't think I've ever been a part of that process before.

Tiffany Jachja  04:30
Yeah, how often do you as like a designer get to work on like, Greenfield products. This does not happen often.

Michelle Koike  04:40
It doesn't happen super often. At least coming from my particular background. So it is an exciting time for designer and I think most designers will agree that iterating on an existing design at times is a lot harder than creating something from scratch. So it is It is exciting to be able to do.

Tiffany Jachja  05:06
So for our listeners here on the deliver better podcasts. Do you want to talk a little bit more about, you know, what is user experience design? What is, you know, what are? What are the aspects that go into designing, you know, a new product or a new project?

Michelle Koike  05:22
Yeah, I think, you know, especially with harness and some of the other complex projects I've worked on, I think UX is really just trying to simplify things for people. A lot of the DevOps, tooling and software that's out there can be very difficult at times, because the technology is is very advanced, it's constantly changing. So our job as designers is to simplify things so people can, you know, use these new technologies that we are putting out in front of them and they can understand what it is that the technology is doing for them and also, how they can you know, use it online. A day to day and really just simplifying large complex problems and big new, like new technologies, for example, like the ML part of TV is something that I'm still trying to wrap my head around. And something that, you know, I feel like once I get it and can kind of take it down from the complexity level that it is now, hopefully other people will also be able to understand it. And so I think, you know, in large part, it's helping make users successful.

Tiffany Jachja  06:38
That's really interesting. Like, how do you how do you even measure that?

Michelle Koike  06:43
That's a good question. Well, we run a couple usability tests when we are, you know, unsure of a hypothesis or an idea and then, you know, when we actually put it out there, you know, hopefully we can use some telemetry to You know, see how the how the blur losing the product, and if they're using the product in a way that we expect them to. And then, you know, also verbatim feedback is something that we take into consideration as well. And I think, and then like, it's just like the numbers like if people are buying CV or they're buying, you know, our product because they understand the need for it. I think at a very high level, that's, that's our goal right now,

Tiffany Jachja  07:31
to be able to convey that meaning, that purpose.

Michelle Koike  07:34
Yeah, that meaning, the purpose through, you know, our, our mocks and our drawings and things like that. But then, you know, when a product is actually out there in people's hands, you know, how are they using it? And I think that like that particular part of the process becomes a little bit more granular in measuring success.

Tiffany Jachja  07:57
How did you know that you know what are some parts of designing that you really enjoy? Because I mean, it seems like you work with a lot of different people from, you know, you mentioned usability, so users and customers, even UI folks, front end, folks, right?

Michelle Koike  08:19
Yeah. I, I frankly, enjoy all parts of the process. Probably there, there are some probably more than others. You know, sometimes the research portion can can be somewhat time consuming, because that's usually the part where, you know, we're setting up that first meeting, we're kind of getting all the requirements out of talking to what features we want to build and why. So that part is, you know, that's that's a lot of the big, the big problem solving part, right. But I particularly like, you know, the middle portion like once that's kind of done, you kind of get all these ideas going in your head engravable to, you know, be creative in the way that you might think about solving this problem once you fully understand what it is. And so I think that I think that part's fun, like the sketching, the wireframing, the interaction design. And then the handoff is always really exciting. You know, it's like finally coming to lie.

Tiffany Jachja  09:21
I cannot get from my life, I apologize to any of any of my anyone who has to see any of my sketches. I apologize to Aoife.

Michelle Koike  09:31
I think sketching is just, it's, it's one of those things that if you can talk through and your sketch makes sense to you, and then you can kind of convey it to, to, you know, to designers, because, you know, I think all designers, we all have various levels of sketching and I I definitely am not an expert sketcher by any means.

Yeah, we ended up on this call you were saying how you're sketching. But yeah, I definitely lean on like, explaining it. I'm like, Yes, you understand this right? What it looks like, right?

Michelle Koike  10:07
And they're like, yeah, yeah.

Tiffany Jachja  10:11
Everyone's so awesome to work with, but I'm sorry you had to see that.

Michelle Koike  10:16
Yeah, no, I mean, I think I think particularly at harness like we're we're not sketching like crazy things. It's mostly just boxes and shapes and lines. So I feel like you I feel like you could do it if you really wanted to

Tiffany Jachja  10:31
help me. And then I'm over here, like, how do you draw you know how you jog governance in an image? Please help.

Michelle Koike  10:38
Oh, I think that part even is, it's particularly challenging when I was looking into like in product illustrations, like how do I draw how this all works, without making it look like a diagram, right? Like that's, that that's like, that's the challenging part. But that's when wireframes kind of help in the process. Maybe I don't know. Yeah, I really think that's particularly when like engineers can really vocalize what the technology is doing. And like how it works and kind of like break it down. And then I think you can, you know, read it, and then kind of like draw parallels or conclusions when you think of, like, a shape or something. Right, or like, what this means, in the visual world. That's been helpful as well. But yeah, I mean, to your point, it's pretty hard.

Tiffany Jachja  11:30
What does that process like when you're when you're working with like, maybe the UI team and trying to share like sort of your findings, you know, cross, you know, maybe like, even after you've, you know, spoken to a customer kind of how do you take that back to, to the product?

Michelle Koike  11:48
Yeah, so I think you know, some of our our you to our UI Guys, if they're really smart, they have a lot of ideas on their own, right. So they you know, think something should be better should look like this, for whatever reason, you know that that's always something that we take into consideration as well. And I think sharing customer calls and letting them know that, you know, people actually really kind of had the same like mindset that you did and the way that they should work and like, let's kind of talk through that. And then there's also, you know, times of confusion, where they may not have been in the room while we were, you know, kind of ID ating on this design and like, why and how it looks the way that it does. And then you kind of, you know, share maybe sketches or, you know, inspiration kind of things that got you to this point of how this design has come to where it is. And I think really walking them through the story of how that how you've kind of gotten to where you've gotten is really kind of bring them kind of like gets buy off and then also kind of helps them understand just the thought process. That went through this design. Hmm. Yeah. So half of our team, I think, is in India. And then we have a couple folks here in the Bay Area. So we always try or I was trying to involve them as much as possible. Yeah. So important. Yeah. They feel like they, you know, are a part and can, you know, be a part of the design process as well, because I feel like they are an extension of our team in a lot of senses. Mm hmm.

Tiffany Jachja  13:32
Yeah, so you mentioned, you mentioned a couple of things. They're like, some, like important skills to have, right, being able to walk people through a story, being able to, you know, fully invest in the ideation process when you're in it, right. So what are some, some other fundamental skills that people should have if they are interested in getting into product design?

Michelle Koike  13:55
Yeah, I think fundamentally, just like, Think for yourself. Like a personality that is, like you have to be pretty empathetic, designed to some extent is subjective. So you have to also be thick skinned. You know, and I think from just the mindset of kind of continuously wanting to solve problems, I think most design always starts with a problem, right? So you want to be able to kind of have that in you to be able to solve a problem. And then I think, you know, just being interested in technology and art, I think goes a long way. As a former teacher, I guess I wouldn't call myself a teacher, it was more of an instructor to help students get involved in UX, I think, you know, you had a lot of people who are excited about the field and the potential to work at no big companies, which is great. But I think, you know, you also have to have that information. All drive to also make things look good. Yeah.

Tiffany Jachja  15:06
A little bit of perfectionism never hurts.

Yeah, a little bit of perfectionism, you know, just kind of the eye for color, you know, in your day to day if you're like looking around for something, you know, like assign, you know, I feel like designers always like looking at things and like critiquing them

Tiffany Jachja  15:24
How did you learn a lot of those skills?

Michelle Koike  15:28
so a lot of my background is in Film Editing, and film in photography, which is like kind of like a unique entrance into the world of UX. So, you know, just growing up always having like a camera and like editing photos and manipulating color and speed and you know, and then you know, taking that into film, you know, you have to create graphics to put on top of you know, video and then you have to edit it in a way where, you know, it all comes together with sound. And, you know, I think of every keyframe like a pixel where you're like constantly obsessing over should it go there should go here. So I think early on, it's kind of like where the more creative aesthetic kind of came in. And then going back to school to learn a little bit more of the fundamentals of UX as far as the user research, what it means what the intent is. And so that that whole process probably took about, like 80 hours. And by no means was I ready to like jump into the UX world, but luckily, at my first job, I had a lot of people there kind of helping me, you know, learn UX, as it was working. So you see, you're on projects with them and maybe, like, sort of the equivalent of pair programming. Yeah, I was definitely an Like a novice, but had enough skills visually and could learn and had enough like technology skills where I could use all the software. But as far as you know, like navigating these, like more difficult conversations, being able to explain why a design, which is the way that it is and explain your process, that's something that I don't know can be taught so much. In a big company, but luckily, like I said, like the first team of designers I was with they definitely took me under their wing. And, you know, I was in meetings with them, I listen to them speak, I would, you know, look through their decks and kind of like, absorb. yeah, absorb it all really. But so that's, you know, that that was definitely the first year of my my career and I think after that I finally felt like I was I didn't have like imposter syndrome, I guess. You call it and like really Like working through that and just kind of believing in yourself throughout the whole time. Even though you may not have all the answers, you just kind of faked it a little bit.

Tiffany Jachja  18:09
Yeah, like believing sort of that you will come to the right answers.

Michelle Koike  18:14
Yeah. And like, you know, and it's okay. If If you don't right away, you know, I think our careers a long road. And I think sometimes you learn through failure faster than you would learn to not. So definitely a couple failed designs there in the very beginning. And I think a lot of it just came from, like the lack of a process that I just didn't have. Hmm. So, but you, you know, you definitely kind of hone in what works for you. I don't think there's any particular process that it's like a one size fits all for all designers. So kind of taking what works for you and then knowing that that's kind of in your wheelhouse when you approach the next project.

Tiffany Jachja  19:00
Yeah, awesome. I love that advice. Like, I feel like it speaks to so many different roles as well. You know, it's like, Yeah, when you're first starting out, you don't exactly have a bird's eye view on everything, right. So you can only really waddle through the things that come as they come, right. And until you start seeing a more often is when you can finally kind of stitch together to pieces and then have like, some type of process for solving, you know, things that you've seen before.

Michelle Koike  19:31
Yeah, yeah. And I think, you know, I think also the appeal of Harris was to, you know, go back into the DevOps world. There's, there's a lot of problems to be solved, and there was a lot of problems, you know, that I had been working on prior to harness. So, you know, you know, I think, I think in a good way, it was good that that was my first job in DevOps. And you know, now I'm making the run back into it.

Tiffany Jachja  19:55
Yeah, yeah. It's complicated enough. As is.

Michelle Koike  20:02
I know. But every day I'm like, thankful that I did have that experience prior to this, because I don't know how I would be. It would like the ramp up time would have taken a lot longer.

Tiffany Jachja  20:12
Mm hmm. I love that. So we're running out of time here. So, thank you so much, Michelle, for joining us on this week's podcast episode. Do you have any final advice for any of our listeners?

Michelle Koike  20:28
Um, I don't know. stay humble, work hard. And yeah, if you know anyone wants to explore the world of UX, I mean, there's tons of classes and resources out there for you to do so. You know, can't afford to go to a four year university to get that degree. There's still plenty of jobs and plenty of companies that are willing to hire people who are excited about the about the role.

Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Michelle, for joining us today. Yeah, thank you for having me. All righty. Well, you can subscribe to the deliver better. newsletter. We have something every week. We'll be back with another podcast episode sometime soon, Everybody stay safe. Thank you.