We’re thrilled to introduce our Woman Crush June, Jenn Atkins. Jenn is a product designer with a passion for discovery and field research. We hear it’s her birthday month, so learn a little more about Jenn and wish her a happy birthday!
Tell us about yourself. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up in a small town (well, small back in the 90’s), La Plata, Maryland. I spent most of my high school years in theater as a lighting designer. Looking back, my passion for creating user experiences started with stage lighting. I loved the technical aspect of it, along with setting the tone for scenes, drawing the audience in and creating emotion with light.
After switching my major a few times in college, I pursued my passion for design in a different medium–print and web. The web world fascinated me because of its fluidity. I loved that you could easily iterate and measure results. I had my own freelance business for a few years (before kids) and really loved talking to my customers, understanding their needs and designing and coding their websites. I’ve also been employed in different industries including healthcare, government and non-profit.
When I’m not at work you can find me in the burbs of Mechanicsville, hanging out with my husband, two energetic kiddos and two fur babies (we keep things even in this household). I love crafting, making wreaths, hand-lettering and pretending to be my own interior designer. People who know me would say I’m optimistic (we don’t fail, we learn) and that my spirit decade is the 80’s.
What do you do? How did you get involved in the industry?
I’m a product designer at Snag, formerly known as Snagajob. I work on a squad with talented engineers and an amazing product manager. We’re all equally passionate about understanding the journey of the hiring manager and job seekers, and building a product that helps them find a hire or get hired.
My work days are spent in discovery, talking to customers, sharing their stories with the team, prototyping and validating experiences, usability testing and shedding a happy tear or two when we launch the features and customers adopt and habitually use them.
When I first came to Snag as a visual designer about three years ago, I had a vague understanding of what UX was. Once at Snag I saw in action what a product designer does and I realized THAT was my dream job. Just like lighting design, it’s a perfect mix of tech, setting the tone with workflows, drawing the audience in, and creating emotion with words and visuals. What’s great about Snag is the culture and how supportive your co-workers are. I had a mentor who encouraged me to make the move to product design and took me under his wing to teach me the basics (thank you, CB). Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to go through product training with Jeff Patton, SVPG, and most recently Teresa Torres. Their teachings paired with an amazing product team and open customers have made my growth in this industry soar beyond my hopes and expectations.
How do you define UX in your role?
My role in UX is as a facilitator, strategist, communicator, collaborator, customer interpreter/advocate, and designer.
I’m a firm believer that UX should not be considered one person or a specific team’s responsibility within an organization. UX is everyone who impacts the user journey. It’s product, engineering, design, sales, customer service, operations, etc. We all have the potential to make or break the user experience. So the more we collaborate together, the better the user experience becomes, which ultimately impacts our business outcomes.
What’s your favorite part of your job? Least favorite part?
Hands down, my favorite part of my job is field research, talking to hiring managers and job seekers, and sharing their stories with the team. I get to explain how meaningful the team’s work is and how it will impact the lives of our customers. In return, the team is more motivated and driven to deliver a quality product and they feel invested in the outcomes.
This exchange between our QA and front-end engineer says it all:
My least favorite part is feeling overwhelmed at times. There is so much opportunity for improvement, and even though we’re moving fast, I see the vision in my head and it feels so far away. I’m pretty sure this describes every creative’s state of mind. Our wheels never stop turning and we’re always dreaming about the next project/iteration. The key is to focus on one opportunity at a time and don’t let the scope creep get you.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for other women in technology?
If you want something, go for it. Let your passion guide you and be persistent. Learn something new every day–ask questions, listen to podcasts, read articles and books. The instinct to nurture is our superpower in tech, it’s what makes the product human-centered. And as Baz Luhrmann said to the class of ‘99, wear sunscreen.
What brought you to Richmond? What do you love about RVA?
My husband was born and raised here and we moved from NOVA about 11 years ago to put down roots.
I love so many things about RVA:
- My commute time to work doesn’t make me want to cry as it did in NOVA.
- It’s a city with a small-town feel. Family friendly and also perfect for date nights and fun with friends.
- We are in such a sweet spot when it comes to travel. Go hiking in the mountains or walk on the beach in under two hours. Or, stay close to home and enjoy the local parks and watch the fireworks at a Squirrels game.
- This place has grown into an amazing community of artists, foodies, craft breweries, distilleries and cideries.
- It’s my home.
Thank you for participating, Jenn!