Chloe Quinn is a graduate of the Nectarine Cohort. Prior to joining DESIGNATION she was an intern at National Geographic in DC as a cartographer.
Tell us briefly about your job.
Arity is a startup that utilizes Allstate’s incredible repository of data and models to help users/customers assess driving risk and draw insights from this data.
As a product designer with Arity, it’s my job to figure out how we can utilize Allstate’s data to provide meaningful information in a usable, intuitive, and friendly way. Everyday is a new challenge: data has so many facets and unlimited potential use cases.
What did you do professionally before you started at DESIGNATION?
I was a recent college graduate and briefly interned at National Geographic National Geographic in DC as a cartographer. I’ve always been drawn to the visual design component of mapping, and the process of distilling data into a story through a map. Following that internship, I thought I’d pursue coding since I really felt like I needed additional technical skills in such a niche field. However, I gravitated more towards the visual side and remembered learning about UX in a web mapping course. It seemed like the perfect combination of my interests: design, research, psychology, and more. From there I dedicated myself to finding a way into the design discipline.
How did you hear about DESIGNATION? And why did you decide to attend?
When I first looked into next steps for a programming career, I learned about the bootcamp education model. It made perfect sense from a commitment and financial perspective. Once I decided I didn’t want to go the coding route, I explored similar options in design. I came across a few programs, but DESIGNATION appealed to me most because of the small size of the program, the positive reviews, and the caliber of students that came out of the program.
What made your DESIGNATION experience unique?
My cohort (shout-out to the Nectarines) was fantastic. All of us came from very different backgrounds, which encouraged an open-minded environment. Every person wanted to be there and worked incredibly hard—a constant source of motivation. I still chat with many of my cohort friends and occasionally we’ll hang out as a group. Moreover, we truly supported one another and recognized that each and every person had something to contribute. There was always someone to help out and provide constructive feedback if needed.
My cohort-mates continue to inspire me and they definitely had a positive influence on my experience during the program. As designers, it’s rare these days that we work in silos. Our roles revolve around getting to know people and learning to work well with other disciplines and mindsets. This is a crucial component of empathy to cultivate during your professional growth. I certainly encourage anyone considering the program to get to know their cohort as much as possible. Your DESIGNATION peers will be great a resource for you during and after the program.
What did you find was the most useful skill, tool, or experience from your time in the program?
I can’t stress enough the importance of getting feedback and communicating with others—team members, stakeholders, and customers. Critique is a highly valuable tool you gain exposure to during the program and it provides a variety of perspectives you wouldn’t otherwise consider. It’s really beneficial to get comfortable with others’ input and get out of your own head, especially when you feel stuck on something. It can be really scary as a newer designer without a formal background to have fresh eyes review your work, but the sooner you come to terms with that fear, the better. It teaches you to not take things so personally or become too attached to your designs. Critique is one of the most valuable tools you can use. Willingly inviting feedback and input is a skill that takes time to develop and get comfortable with, but it will make you all the better.
How did DESIGNATION help prepare you for your job?
There’s so many ways DESIGNATION can help, regardless of whether you come from a traditional design background or not. The instructors present a balanced approach between understanding high-level concepts and applying what you learn to real-world projects. The hands-on approach throws you in from the start and you quickly learn to embrace the uncertainty and sometimes ambiguous chaos that comes with being a designer. There is always something to be learned or iterated upon no matter where you end up.
The client projects give you a taste of what it’s like to work with real stakeholders, customers, and users. It changes the game from designing with a “me-first” approach to mindfully taking into account the needs and goals of others.
Finally, the emphasis on building case studies for the portfolio is so crucial. Most employers these days will seriously evaluate your ability to explain your workflow and expect you to articulate why you make the decisions you do. Even if a project fails or never goes anywhere, people want to know that you can defend your designs and illustrate why it matters to be user-centric.
What’s your favorite thing about being a professional designer now?
I love being able to work with so many intelligent and unique individuals. Everyone I cross paths with teaches me something new and pushes me to consider new angles in my role. For example, before my current position I never worked directly with developers. Now there are times where I sit next to them, hear their perspectives, and actually talk through design decisions and how to best implement them.
Now more than ever, UX has a seat at the table, and I’m honored to be a part of it. I get to serve as a daily advocate for users and the things they want to achieve in their lives. I get to explore what makes people tick and then iterate and improve upon experiences with the aim of helping people meet their goals. It’s very fulfilling and fascinating work at the same time. Above all, I love that being a designer means being an effective problem solver. It’s not simply about creating a beautiful UI. That can absolutely be part of it, but it’s also about digging deeper to uncover issues and solve for them. To me, critical thinking is the greatest part of the gig.
“Now more than ever, UX has a seat at the table, and I’m honored to be a part of it. I get to serve as a daily advocate for users and explore what makes them tick. It’s very fulfilling and fascinating work at the same time.”
What advice can you give to someone trying to start in the design industry?
I know many before me have said this and I’ll say it again because it’s true: work it! Get yourself out there, go to Meetups, talk to people that come to DESIGNATION and present lectures, ask people you look up to if you can do informational interviews with them, and so on. Networking is a full-time job in and of itself, yet it’s so valuable to be connected with others in the industry. It’s pretty crazy how small the community really is — you’ll start to recognize folks the more events you attend.
The key to all of this, though, is to be authentic. By connecting with individuals and taking the time to get to know them, regardless of whether you have related professional interests or not, they are going to see your drive and sincerity. And believe me, that counts.
Second, embrace the fact that you have so much to learn following DESIGNATION. The program does an incredible job of helping you get your foot in the door, but it’s still on you to follow through. Yes, there are going to be times where you feel lost or uncertain, but push through that. Remember, you choose to join the program and commit to being a designer for a reason. You have the passion to succeed, so keep moving forward. If you make a mistake, land a job you don’t love, etc., don’t get discouraged. That’s all part of the learning process. You’ve got this!