We’re proud of the team members that make up Slide UX and want to give you a chance to meet them. Our Meet a Slider series continues with Hanna O’Brien, Senior Producer.
Name: Hanna O'Brien
Specialty: New business, project management
Start Date: July 5, 2014
You’re unique in that you don’t have a formal background in UX. What drew you to this field?
I kinda fell into it. My professional background started with software sales, then project management for a development company, and finally to my current position, Senior Producer. When I was a Project Manager I took a course in Business Analysis and found it very interesting. Also, my job at the time required me to act as a UX designer at times to help define and illustrate certain product features.
What one piece of advice would you want to give to aspiring UX designers?
My advice would be to hone an incredible work ethic. Most experiences in my career have required non-technical skills (not that you shouldn’t possess [technical] skills). But to truly stand out from the field you need to have the qualities that employers want to hire and foster in their employees. Be someone people want to work with. Be someone who shows up on time and pulls their weight on projects. Do what you say you’ll do when you say you’ll do it and to the best of your ability. Oh, and this one is important – always be learning and refining your craft!
What's the biggest challenge we face as an industry?
The talent pool! As a contributor to the hiring team at Slide UX, it’s been interesting to hear about the difficulties companies face finding and hiring quality candidates. Perhaps it’s because much of what we do has a vein of customer service and the wisdom of experience running through it, right? For example, we’re always thinking of how to present a product or company that will delight our client’s customers and bring them back time and time again. We do this through designing killer experiences. We anticipate needs. We give information at the right time and place. If you think of the best non-digital experiences you’ve had, I’ll bet wonderful customer service and an experienced, knowledgeable representative factored heavily into it. We have to find talent that not only understands these concepts but knows how to put them into digital experiences. Not everyone has these skills and the ones that do are rare little gems.
What's new in the industry that's catching your eye?
I’m not sure how “new” it is, but it’s super interesting to me to see how many disciplines and specialties the industry has (visual design, researchers, information architecture, business analysis, etc.) and how they need to meld and intermingle to provide the best user experience possible. It’s funny to me sometimes browsing through job postings of companies looking for that hybrid unicorn/purple squirrel in a single individual. No man can build a mountain… I'm sure that’s a saying.
What are the most challenging parts of your job?
We don’t have a typical project here at Slide UX. Playing Tetris (did I just show my age?) and putting together the right set of project components to solve our client’s challenges can be daunting. We approach every potential project as a unique engagement and provide a custom proposal. You could call us the Liam Neeson of UX Agencies - we don’t have a very large team, but what we do have are a very particular set of skills. Only we won’t try to kill you. Promise.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your job, and how did you learn it?
“Full hands in; Full hands out” - This was something I learned when training to be a waiter in college. At the time the lesson was about how to handle a large section during dinner rushes: have full hands of food out of the kitchen and full hands of dirty dishes going in. It’s morphed along the way, but has been a fundamental piece of advice I’ve leaned on in every job since.
At Slide UX, it means using all the tools at my disposal all the time. It speaks to efficiency and planning ahead. By thinking of the next 5 steps I have to take, I’m more prepared for my job and helping my teammates. If we combine a certain number of steps, we are able to consolidate tasks and reduce timeline and budget impacts.
At home, it means fewer trips up and down the stairs with kid paraphernalia and a “cleaner” house.
What makes Slide UX different?
I feel a little Fried Green Tomato when I say this, but “secret's in the sauce!” I truly believe that the team at Slide UX provides our clients with the perfect blend of talent, experience, and desire to get the job done. We have an excellent reputation because, like our production work, we put people first. Erin and Brant have created a company that employs happy people who are amazing at their job. Everyone has a thirst to learn and a desire to get it right. We believe in allowing user insights to inform our work. We strive to understand a problem from all angles. We create solutions that marry customers needs with business goals. And we’re extremely easy to work with!
Describe the ideal client or project?
To me, the ideal project is one where we can truly make a difference. Bring us your problem or challenge and we’ll do our all to create a logical, objective, and informed solution. We bring the best team in at the right time for the duration of a project. What I like about our team is that we don’t measure a potential project by the publicity or status it could provide us, but by how far we as a cohesive team can move the mark. The impact and improvements we can make are more important to us than the glory and praise. We do the work because we love it.
Our ideal client is one that appreciates and participates in the process. We love clients that understand the value of their users and then make it a goal to include them in the project as well.
What's the most powerful part of our design process?
Iteration, research, and sharing learnings with the team. To me, the magic of working with Slide UX is that we’re highly collaborative both as an internal unit and with our customers. While we have strong convictions about our work, we value different input streams. We’re constantly learning from our research (even across projects) and applying those findings to the work we produce. Starting with an idea and refining it until it accomplishes the goals and measurements of success through an iterative process make us an extremely powerful partner.
Clients in different sectors, with different objectives and goals, brings up a lot of learning opportunities for our team. Weekly company meetings with all the team members give us the opportunity to not only share knowledge but also to offer resolutions and creative solutions across disciplines. It’s been an incredible tool for me.
I dig being on a team that understands the power of iteration and also provides a service that truly helps people and businesses.
What's your typical day look like?
Ha! There really is no typical day for me. Doing a lot of the behind-the-scenes things at Slide UX, my days are pretty different from one to the next. Commonalities are daily scrum emails, project meetings, schedule creation, and meetings with potential clients. I help the team by setting up project workspaces and by trying to stay one step ahead of their needs across multiple clients and projects. It’s difficult at times, but I truly love the challenge.
What tools do you use for your job that you could not live without?
The list is long, my friends. This year, we've moved more heavily into using Asana for tasks — I LOVE checklists. We use AirTable to store our company contacts and project details. Instagantt for project schedules and resource planning. EverHour for time tracking. Harvest Forecast for planning team allocations. Google Calendar and Drive for the things. Gmail for email. MixMax for automating scheduling. Box for file storage. Quip for notes. We also created an internal tool, The Flume, that aggregates data in different sources, pulls them together, and provides us with detailed estimates (based on Asana project schedules) and project status reporting. It's been a major improvement in our process and helps me get more done each week.
And Spotify to keep it all on the beat.
How do you stay inspired and creative?
I’m a little lucky in that I’m surrounded by creative people but I’m not necessarily considered one. Imagine a “creative” invoice or project schedule. I shudder. I’ll flip your question and say that I stay motivated and energized by a shocking amount of caffeine. Unplugging and hanging out with the family (primarily running around a three year old who loves being outside and dirt) and breathing my country air. I surround myself with awesome people. I read, color, and watch TV; mostly at a toddler level but every now and then I expand. I garden and dig in the dirt; I cook!
Do you have any hidden talents? A few. I’m an excellent self-congratulator (Great job, so far, Hanna! Keep this up and you'll have the BEST Meet a Slider ever), I can juggle, I can do this hand whistle thingie, I can hypnotize live crawfish and am VERY fast at shelling boiled crawfish, and I can shoot a gun. Do you want me to stop or keep going? I’ll stop.
Cat or Dog? Dog.
BBQ: sauce or no sauce? Sauce! On the side.
Hot Dog Toppings: Mustard, raw onion, jalapeños, dill relish, and cheese.
Favorite coffee shop? I’m partial to a couple: Opa!, Cherrywood, and Epoch are a few of the ones you’ll find me at.
How do you like your coffee? Cuban Con Leche at Cherrywood, OMG it’s so delicious! Want to go get one? Like right now? If I’m NOT at Cherrywood, I’ll get coffee with soy milk and a little sugar.
Who on the team would you want to be stuck on an island with and why? Brant. I think he would document possible escape plans with me and we could make a joint decision and get off the island. If we *couldn’t* get off the island, he’s pretty easy to get along with, he’s logical, AND he can cook.