This month we’re featuring musician, Richmond-native, and CarMax’s first UX Writer, Kate Lawton!
Tell us a little bit about yourself! How did you get to where you are today?
I am a native Richmonder who grew up in the neighborhoods around University of Richmond, spent summers riding horses at overnight camp, and after a couple of years of college in Raleigh, NC, finished up at VCU with a degree in Anthropology. I decided to pursue Anthropology, by the way, at the age of 9 after seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark on the big screen.
Since then, I’ve worked in agency, corporate, and nonprofit settings, and the common thread throughout my career has been writing – in a multitude of styles and formats. For many years, my spare time was filled with writing, performing, and producing original music with a wonderful group of local musicians. And one day I’ll finish that novel.
Just last year I moved from the near west end to Ashland, VA. I live with my husband, Joel, and the dog that everybody loves and wants to clone, Knugget.
What do you do? How did you get involved in your industry?
I am a UX Writer at CarMax. The UX Writer role is one that’s only existed in the world for a few years, so the roadmap for becoming one and being one is being created – at least for me – right now in real time. I work with digital product teams to ensure the words we use online are clear from a user perspective, inspire forward progression, and reflect the CarMax brand and voice. The product teams are highly focused on industry research, customer research, and their individual products, which is why they are so good at what they do. But sometimes when you’re immersed in something, it can be difficult to see it from the outside. I approach their work from the point of view of a customer with no background on CarMax, the automobile industry, or our digital products – and assess whether the conversation we’re trying to have makes sense and is consistent across the entire web experience.
It surprises me that I’ve ended up in the digital product world, because it is not an industry that I purposely worked towards. I had not been looking to get into UX, but a friend made me aware of the role, and when I read the job description, I felt like it was written specifically for me. It was like finding a message in a bottle, opening it up, and reading a note that began, “Dear Kate Lawton…”.
What’s your favorite part or your job? Least favorite part?
I love writing, but I really love editing other people’s work, so my favorite part of my job is that I get to obsess over and strategize about words with people who genuinely want the words to make their work better. I am also extremely lucky to work in an environment where everyone, without exception, is dedicated to doing good work. I’ve only been in this role for four months, and I’m annoyingly happy about it, so I’ve yet to find a least favorite part of my job. There are a lot of meetings, but I’ve yet to attend one that didn’t do something to inform my work or a project in some way.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for other women trying to be leaders in their community and/or organization?
My biggest piece of advice is extremely simple: let go of negativity – in all of its forms. Without fail, the women I admire and want to work with are kind, positive people who focus on solutions, highlight the good in others, and refuse to create or participate in drama. It just doesn’t matter how smart we are or how hard we work if the wake we leave behind us is filled with negativity.
What brought you to Richmond? What do you love about RVA?
I was born and raised in Richmond, and I am thrilled with how RVA has realized its recreational and artistic potential over the past few decades – especially along the James River. The canal walk, hiking and biking trails, paddling, bike parks, mural projects, and the wide variety of events and festivals. There is also a wealth of nonprofits in Richmond. It is a city full of people who want to make a difference in their community, and there are thousands of ways for people to do that.
What do you do in your free time?
My newest love is cranking my favorite tunes and cooking. I’ve only just begun to experience cooking as an opportunity to be creative. But once the meal is cooked, you’ll find me outside with Joel and Knugget. Walks, hikes, bike rides, gardening, camping trips, and good tunes around a bonfire are my favorite ways to spend my free time.