My journey is quite untraditional! From the age of five, my life centered almost exclusively around ballet and at 16, I became a professional dancer and found myself dancing with several different ballet companies. It wasn’t until I was between contracts at 26, that I took some classes at the San Francisco Community College. I got completely hooked on academia, chose to leave ballet behind, and transferred into UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
Wanting to apply my acquired business knowledge in a creative space after I graduated, I became a Program Manager in an architecture firm’s innovation studio. We created new products and managed experimental projects centered around how humans relate to the built environment. The designers I worked with daily introduced to design thinking, and I knew I had to learn more. I started an MBA in Design Strategy (DMBA) program at California College of the Arts, the perfect blend of my skills and passions.
I found myself continually balancing the two sides of myself - the creative, artistic, design side, with the logistical, analytical, operational business side. I knew I wanted to find a place where I could hone and lean into both sides.
The rest of my journey is about finding my way to Design Operations, a burgeoning practice that combined my skills and interests. I joined Adaptive Path at Capital One as a Design Manager, where I managed large scale service design projects; and defined and scaled the practice of Design Management and Operations. From there, I went on to stand up and lead Design and Research Operations at Uber Eats. As the first person in the team doing this kind of thing, I created necessary foundational processes and systems, improving collaboration and consistency across teams, and growing the Design and Research Ops team. More recently, I moved over to Salesforce’s UX Ops team to lead a new unit within UX Ops called Team Ops. I joined right as COVID was hitting, making it a pretty surreal time to join a new company. I still haven’t met anyone in person but somehow feel the team’s warmth and fantastic culture.
How does UX Ops work at Salesforce?
Salesforce gives businesses tools to build stronger and more authentic relationships with their customers on a single customer relationship management (CRM) platform. At Salesforce, our UX teams aspire to make products that people love–products that make a salesperson’s day more productive, a marketer’s campaign more impactful, and a retailer’s website more beautiful.
Behind our incredible products are fantastic teams of UX designers and engineers. Working hand-in-hand with those teams is a talented group of professionals that help make it all happen, Salesforce UX Ops. We’re the scaling engine behind our UX organization, enabling teams of practitioners to deliver customer and business success while they achieve personal and professional growth.
We are systems designers who look up, down, and sideways to identify and share best practices, connect dots across teams, and facilitate cross-team collaboration and alignment.
Our UX Ops group consists of two separate but connected teams. The UX Product Operations team goes deep and optimizes for large product design teams. The design program managers are strategic partners for design leaders from each product verticals. Their focus is driving delivery, ensuring quality, and facilitating cross-organizational productivity through expert product and program support. My team, UX Team Operations, goes wide and optimizes for the entire UX function. We focus on community and culture building events and programs, team learning, and growth initiatives. We also look at how to scale systems, tools, and best practices across the UX organization.
What are some of the challenges you’re facing?
I’m laser-focused on understanding how to make it easier to do great work, and while it seems simple, it’s very involved. The first step is finding and accessing all available resources that could equip us because, like most large organizations, we face the challenge of things getting lost in the noise. We have so much rich content and exciting activities to support our UX team, but they’re often hard to find across all the tools, folders, and various owners. Unless you know who to ask and what to ask for, you mightn’t know a resource exists, and then the value is not broadly shared or utilized. We’re trying to solve that with some new initiatives like:
A UX team site: A team hub acting as a front to door, enabling discovery and access to information, announcements, and resources across UX.
UX playbooks: Easily digestible guides to help teams understand specific processes or best practices to take action.
UX newsletter: A monthly update featuring any relevant announcements.
What’s changing about UX Ops?
We’re at a point across the design industry where Design and UX Ops is finally understood and valued, at least in larger tech companies and design consultancies. Rather than negotiating for headcount and explaining the value of roles, I’ve seen an incredible change with the demand coming directly from design teams. The practice is evolving from the initial building-out of UX Ops teams to the scaling of those teams.
As an established and mature UX Ops team, we’re in the exciting position of carving a path forward and establishing organizational models to scale the value of UX Ops. We can’t look to other companies for inspiration because a standard way of scaling UX Ops doesn’t currently exist. For us, creating a dedicated horizontal team in UX Ops made sense, but an operations function for a UX team is a relatively nascent practice, so anything is possible.
One of the many reasons I joined Salesforce was to be part of the tipping point of growth for the evolving practice and define the future for UX Ops.
Why do you do what you do?
I am super passionate about Design and UX Ops, and I feel like I’ve been doing it before the design industry even aligned on its name. I love what I do because I see the value and impact of it every day. I’ve heard some version of “how did we survive without you?” on every design team I’ve worked with, and it feels good. On a personal note, I get to flex my service and systems design skills, solve big messy problems, and get to think strategically while also getting dirty in the details when I want. Most importantly, I get to help people. My work makes it easier for designers to focus on designing great products that improve our customer’s lives. I love creating the best working environments for people to grow, connect and thrive as humans.