Design Chats

Inside the Design Team at TheLadders

4 min read
Conor O’Driscoll
  •  Oct 22, 2014
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We’re tracking down InVision users inside the world’s most amazing companies to discover their favorite tools, inspirations, workspace must-haves, and the philosophy behind what makes them so awesome. Today, we’re talking to Juan Rafael Lopez & Courtney O’Connell, designers at TheLadders, a job-matching and career improvement platform. We chatted with Juan and Courtney about being inspired by new experiences, success, and pushing boundaries in design.

Hey Juan and Courtney! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Tell us a little bit about TheLadders and your roles there.

Courtney: TheLadders is focused on improving people’s careers through our job-matching platform providing information and access. We’re not simply a place to look for a job opening. I’ve been at TheLadders for almost a year and a half as an Art Director. And this is Juan, my partner in crime. He’s the UX guru.

Juan: Well, my official title is “UX Designer”, but sure, let’s go with guru. I like guru. I’ve only been here four months, but I’ve been loving the experience. It’s very different from other companies I’ve worked at, in that we’re very agile and use lean methodologies in our processes.

Where, outside of the design sphere, do you find inspiration for your work?

Courtney: Outside of design? That’s so hard, because design is in everything we encounter.Twitter Logo I probably feel most inspired when I’m traveling. I love going somewhere in which I’m a total foreigner and immersing myself in that culture, so that when I return to my regular American life, I see everything with a different lens. Experiencing somewhere new makes everything seem a little bit more colorful.Twitter Logo

Juan: There’s something about — to echo what Courtney said—

Courtney: Quit copying me.

Juan: [Laughs] Echoing! I’m echoing you. That’s different than copying. I think there’s something very inspiring about putting yourself in a different place, even if that’s just somewhere else in the city. A lot of my inspiration and ideas come from how I perceive the world as I walk around – people on the train or walking on the street. Take the time to look at how people interact with each other & the things around them.Twitter Logo You’ll see patterns start to emerge.

Walk us through your process for crafting new features at TheLadders and how InVision fits into that.

Juan: At the start of any project, the Product and UX teams work together to really define what the problem we’re trying to solve is. There’s no point in just adding features for the sake of adding features. Then, generally, we’ll do an exercise called a Design Studio. We’ll get everyone in a room and have them share their solutions to the problem and iterate so the team can build off of others’ ideas.

Once we’ve decided on a route to go down, I’ll start sketching out the flow, trying to understand how the entire process is going to look, rather than just individual screens. I might then build it into a wireframe, and at that point hand it off to Courtney. Well, I say hand it off; I turn around and talk to her.

Courtney: And then I poke holes in it.

Juan: That’s definitely true. We disagree on most things, but I think that’s actually why we’re so strong together. Ultimately, we’re working towards the same thing: A great product.

So before we hand the designs off to the development team, we do user testing – usually two or three rounds. This is where InVision comes in for me. We’ll put the comps into InVision, so we can put real designs in front of the users and have them fully experience the product as it should look.

Courtney: InVision is just dynamite for when you’re trying to paint a picture of an experience to non-technical people. We find it’s perfect for presenting work.

How would you define success? Do you think you’ve found it yet?

Juan: To me, success is simply happiness. I don’t feel this need to strive for something I’ll never reach. I’d rather just continue to improve my life incrementally, knowing that I’m successful now and that I’ll continue to be that way.

Courtney: We have this award at TheLadders called the DNA Award, in which you’re nominated by your team members for working really hard or just being awesome. I’ve been nominated twice. That means a lot to me, because it’s not coming from my managers, who only see a tiny fraction of the work I do, but it’s coming from the people I’m actually jamming with every day. So that kind of recognition, that makes me feel really successful.

Juan: Yeah, next year, if I get nominated for that award, that’ll be my answer too.

And what traits or habits do you feel have most contributed to your success?

Courtney: I’ve found that the ability to leave my ego out of things has been very beneficial to my career. The best ideas don’t come from any one person, but from everyone putting their heads together.Twitter Logo And also, I think being curious is incredibly important too.

Juan: Yeah, I think curiosity, is the number one thing. People always remark about how small the world is, but to me it’s a giant world. There are so many things in this world to see and experience. Be curious enough to discover them.Twitter Logo Try whatever there is to try, read whatever there is to read. If you don’t, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of life.

To borrow a question from Cameron Moll: Do you believe designers are really changing things for the better, or are we just creating new forms of chaos?

Juan: I think design, first and foremost, is about solving problems and making things better for people. But at the same time, we need designers who’ll create chaos, push boundaries, and see where we can take society.Twitter Logo

Courtney: Design provides a platform for chaos, for playing and exploring.Twitter Logo

Juan: Right, there’s a place for it all. We need that balance.

And finally, what advice would you give to those starting out in design?

Courtney: Just because it’s the first job that’s offered to you doesn’t mean you have to take it.Twitter Logo That was something I saw a lot when I was starting out in my career. Some of my peers panicked after graduation, like “Oh my God, I have a design degree, what do I do with this?” So some ended up at crummy jobs, which may build character but not really your portfolio. Starting your career on the right foot is so important, because it shapes the rest of it.Twitter Logo

Juan: I would say that you should make sure you’re learning at any given moment, because UX and design are changing so rapidly. In this field, if you’re not learning, you’re moving backward, and you’re hurting your career.Twitter Logo

“Take the time to look. You’ll see patterns start to emerge.”

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“Disagreeing on most things actually makes you strong together.”

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“The ability to leave your ego out of things can be very beneficial to a career.”

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“People always remark about how small the world is, but to me it’s a giant world.”

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