Maggie Lamas is a graduate of the Topaz Cohort. Prior to joining DESIGNATION she worked in the restaurant management and operations industry all across the country.
Where do you work, and what’s your job title?
I’m a Product Designer at Front.
Tell us briefly about your company.
Front was founded in France three years ago and is now a fast-growing startup with 35+ employees based in San Francisco. We’re a multi-channel email client —a shared inbox for businesses. Front is an innovative tool built on top of the platforms teams are already using. It powers high-growth companies and startups by driving efficiency, collaboration, and better communication.
Tell us briefly about your job.
As their Product Designer, I can honestly say I collaborate with everyone on my team in order to design and ship new features with our users in mind. I’m responsible for every step of the design process partnering with our product and engineering team to oversee the Front’s UX from conception until launch.
My day-to-day can range from designing simple user flows to doing customer interviews to dabbling in illustration and branding. My initial project at Front was a mass redesign of our desktop/mobile app, while also designing entering new features. This quarter, I’ll also work on unifying and defining our branding and visual language.
What did you do professionally before you started at DESIGNATION?
Before DESIGNATION, I worked for Hillstone Restaurant Group managing and operating upscale, high-volume restaurants across the country. I lived in New York City, East Hampton, Dallas, and Denver. It was an amazing and memorable culinary adventure in my life.
How did you hear about DESIGNATION? And why did you decide to attend?
After three years at Hillstone, I realized I needed a change of pace and a new creative outlet. Many of my friends already worked in the tech scene, and frequently asked for my design help. I knew very little about the industry, but had an “eye for it.” I began to search for design grad programs and bootcamps. I quickly realized I didn’t want to do two more years of school and its student loans, so it came down to Bloc and DESIGNATION. It was a fairly easy decision to make from there, as I knew myself and my ideal working environment; I needed the immersive, in-person experience from DESIGNATION if I was going to be serious about this career change. I was contacted by Will, the program director, and discovered we had similar backgrounds in hospitality. My biggest roadblock, in my mind at least, was convincing others the transition was possible. One interview with Will was all it took for me to truly see how possible it really was.
What was your favorite part of the DESIGNATION experience?
Like I mentioned earlier, I knew I needed the in-person, hands-on experience. It truly made all the difference, The structured lectures, assignments, and projects were a great way to learn more about the industry as a whole and my personal workflow, but what really shaped me into the designer I am today was being able to witness the many other workflows of my peers. I became more productive after seeing how they used design software, tackled design problems, approached user interviews, and more. They weren’t just amazing designers, but amazing people and lifelong friends.
What did you find was the most useful skill, tool, or experience from your time in the program?
Confidence. I know it’s such an intangible thing to say, but I can spend hours on Sketch refining my visual skills or doing user research/interviews honing my design strategy, but the confidence in my decisions and is what helps convince others.
All the practice I had and knowledge I acquired showed that I knew exactly what I was getting myself into.
How did DESIGNATION help prepare you for your job?
DESIGNATION put me in an actual design process with real companies. The constant feedback from our instructors and peers helped me improve my design skills in a short period of time. Aside from my personal design skills, I also learned to think and talk like a designer. The combination of skills and perspective prepared me well for both getting interviews and performing well on the job.
How did you stand out from the competition in applying for, interviewing for, or getting this job?
I think the hardest part about applying to roles out of DESIGNATION is getting the interview. The market is competitive in SF and it’s really hard to stand out on paper. I eventually realized I had to tap into my own network to get interviews and found someone to refer me at Front. Once I was in the door, my training at DESIGNATION kicked in. All the practice I had and knowledge I acquired showed that I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. My portfolio definitely impressed interviewers and was enough for them to take a chance on someone new to the field.
What advice can you give to someone trying to start in the design industry?
Don’t get discouraged. Once you get over the initial hump, things get really fun. Design is not easy; it requires constant thinking and problem solving. It was hard to constantly be creative at first, but after doing it for a bit, I started to have fun with it!