Tell me about your early years and where you come from.
I was born in the Mississippi Delta (shout-out to BB King!) and spent my formative years throughout Mississippi, Indiana, and Virginia. However, I consider Mississippi my home; all my immediate family lives there now. I received my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Hampton University in 2008 and Masters of Arts in General Psychology with a concentration in Human Factors from the University of North Florida in 2010.
I got my start in user experience as a User Experience Researcher working in the healthcare industry at Premier Inc. In the Fall of 2013, I moved to the Bay Area to work for Salesforce developing enterprise software. During this time I saw myself develop into the designer I am today. This was a rewarding experience because I had the opportunity to learn from the best in enterprise design and contribute to the development of Salesforce Lightning, which was the company's biggest product overhaul in 10+ years.
Now I’m designing the future of Facebook’s campaign planning and buying experience for large media agencies who service big brands (e.g., Pepsi, Apple, Toyota, etc.).
How did you first get interested in design?
During my first year in grad school, I enrolled in a class called “Human Factors and Ergonomics.” By the end of that class, I knew I found my passion in life. I was fascinated by the body of research related to in-vehicle warning systems and stimulus and response compatibility in complex systems. I soon become more interested in the development of these systems using the user-centered design process; enter user experience. Without this class, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.
After grad school, I started my career as a User Experience Researcher. As a researcher, the one challenge I always face was communicating insights in a way that's consumable and actionable to development teams. I remember getting frustrated seeing research reports go unread and not seeing insights influence product development as I hoped. One day I decided to try something different. I started to make my research reports more visual and use infographics to communicate insights. To my surprise, it worked! This eventually led me to wireframing solutions based on those insights. Little did I know this was the beginning of my design career.
Tell me about the work you've done?
UAs a Product Designer at Facebook, I led design efforts for Facebook’s Campaign Planner. Campaign Planner is a standalone product for media planners to draft, compare, share, and reserve media plans across Facebook and Instagram. In the past, media planners had no way to view different targeting options and reach estimates for a given audience without going through the buying process. With Campaign Planner, media planners can create multiple versions of a campaign with different targeting options, budgets, flight dates, and reach estimates. Our goal with Campaign Planner is to help media planners make more informed buying decisions and understand the tradeoffs between different targeting options for a given audience. I’m currently leading design efforts to improve the user experience and incorporate new features.
Before Facebook, I was at Salesforce where I redesigned their enterprise social network product, Chatter. I also led redesign efforts for Chatter News Feed, Salesforce Files (e.g., content management system), and direct messaging.
What are your proudest accomplishments of your career?
Salesforce’s Equality initiative. It all started with a post I made on Salesforce's enterprise social network, Chatter. There’s a set of horrible murals in their Rincon building that made it uncomfortable to work there as an African American. The murals were painted by a Russian artist named Anton Refregier. They currently live in the Rincon Annex Post Office in San Francisco. One mural, in particular, displayed a man being lynched among a crowd of white men. The person being lynched in the mural was not an African American, but as a black man from Mississippi, it made it hard for me to work and feel positive there.
Unfortunately, this mural still hangs. However, the Chatter post set off a chain of events that led to Salesforce's Equality and Inclusion movement. This led to a series of discussions with senior executives related to how they can create an environment where everyone feels welcomed and supported. I saw an opportunity to use my craft to contribute to this movement by redesigning Salesforce's Equality public page. The old Salesforce Equality page focused on grim diversity statistics rather than sending a positive message of inclusivity and improvement. The new experience now communicates Salesforce is a place for all through employee stories and testimonies. The page also describes Salesforce’s efforts and initiatives in improving gender and ethnic equality in tech. This was my proudest accomplishment because this led to cultural change throughout Salesforce. When I tell people this story, people always ask me how did I have the courage to speak up. It was simple; I thought about the next generation.
What have been your biggest struggles of your career?
Letting my light shine. I come from a place where shining too bright calls attention to yourself from those who may not have your best interest at heart. Growing up, I remember having to protect my dreams and goals from these types people by not letting people get too close. After moving to the Bay Area, I learned this strategy does more harm than good. The saying ‘What got you here, won't get you there’ rings true here. I had to adapt. I had to learn how to trust. I had to learn how to be comfortable with being more open with my dreams and goals because there are people here who want to help you succeed.
What are you doing that's special that sets you apart from your peers?
I’m designing the future of Facebook’s campaign planning and buying experience for large media agencies. When it comes to Facebook, everyday is Super Bowl Sunday to our advertisers. Shaping that experience is a challenge I’m up for.
What have your experience been as a person of color in the design industry?
Hard. I’ve been in situations where an ex-co-worker referred to their mistreatment of me as “hazing,” and it's something everyone goes through when they join!? I know it can be hard to keep your head up, but if you’re reading this, please know you’re not alone and your time will come. Stay positive and keep seeking out positive people with good energy.
What are your biggest motivators?
The village that protected and raised me.
How do your friends and family feel about the work you've done?
My friends and family are proud of me. They’re excited to see me thrive in the world and be a positive example for the next generation.
What do you love most about working in design?
The ability to shape the future and create tools for people.
What would you like to see changed about the design field?
More black men and women in middle management. Hiring someone from an underrepresented population as an executive is great, but day-to-day hiring and recruitment is in the hands of middle management.
How can design be more accommodating to underrepresented populations of people?
I wish there were more design managers who were aware of the level of micro-aggressions underrepresented populations face daily. If you want to be more accommodating to someone from an underrepresented population, always ask yourself, “How would I feel/act if I was the only [race/gender] in this [group/room/company]?” I think it would help you have empathy for what that person needs at that given moment.
What are you working on right now, either for work or for yourself?
Living my best life and improving my craft.
Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years? Do you think you'll stay in design?
Head of Design in a new industry. Augmented reality, blockchain and autonomous vehicles seems interesting to me. I also wouldn’t mind getting into policy work related to regulating tech and automation. I refuse to have my children live in a Black Mirror episode.
What advice would you give to folks from similar backgrounds who are in design or hoping to get into it?
It’s okay if you don’t like Star Wars or didn't play with Legos as a kid. It’s also okay if you don’t have a degree from a design school. These things do not make you a designer. If you’re good at lateral thinking and are curious about the world around you, then you’re off to a good start. The rest is learning the user-centered design process and mastering design tools.
Lastly, I’d encourage people to work on as many diverse projects early on in their career. The experience gain from solving different problems from different industries will pay off dividends later on in their career.