Interview with Jacob Heer,
UX Designer at HighGround

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Jacob Heer is a graduate of the Quartz Cohort. Prior to joining DESIGNATION he was an art director at Leo Burnett.

Where do you work, and what’s your job title?
I’m a UX Designer at I work at HighGround as a UX designer

“Jacob

Tell us briefly about your company. What do they specialize in? What does your team look like?
HighGround is a tech startup, less than five years old, and currently with about 50 people. We offer a software platform (SaaS platform) that modernizes performance management; improving employee performance and engagement is the goal. HighGround offers software that changes the way employees and managers develop, recognize, and reward one another. I work on a 7-person product team of one product director, three product managers, and 3 UX designers.

Jacob Heer is a graduate of the Quartz Cohort

Tell us briefly about your job.
It’s interesting and exciting to work on a product team, since it’s really different from an agency (see below). I’m responsible for designing within and onto a single platform instead of for multiple clients on a revolving basis. I work to build HighGround’s product into the best possible experience that it can be, a little at time. My job offers huge opportunities for each individual to have a huge impact. In a company of 50, I can and do communicate with almost every other employee at the company, including the CEO.

Jacob Heer is a graduate of the Quartz Cohort

What did you do professionally before you started at DESIGNATION?
I began my design career in 2007 as an industrial designer. I interned at Trek Bicycles and Milwaukee Tool and got hired full-time in Chicago at a small studio called Streng Design in 2008. That position was followed by five years as an art director at Leo Burnett, a large advertising and marketing agency in Chicago. When I decided I wanted a career change, it made a lot of sense for me to combine my experience in product design, graphic design, and communication into one supercareer in UX/UI.

Jacob Heer is a graduate of the Quartz Cohort

How did you hear about DESIGNATION? And why did you decide to attend?
I was looking for UX opportunities even before I was really even qualified. I spoke with the UX director of another growing tech startup in Chicago and he told me he hired a designer from DESIGNATION and he was impressed with his abilities. That was a big endorsement from a designer that I respected, so it was only natural for me to look into the program after that conversation.

Jacob Heer is a graduate of the Quartz Cohort

What was your favorite part of the DESIGNATION experience
I love to learn. It’s really gratifying to feel my mind grow and expand quickly and to look backward and acknowledge that I clearly have more knowledge than I did before. DESIGNATION is nothing but raw learning, not only through books and lectures but also through doing, which is the most valuable part. The new knowledge gained is clear and tangible. I’m a different and more educated person than I was before the program, and it feels great that I can see and feel it in my confidence as a designer.

Jacob Heer is a graduate of the Quartz Cohort

What are the people at DESIGNATION like?
They’re smart and friendly. They’re instructors that have a sense of humor and care about you and your learning. They’re classmates that share the experience. And several months out, I still think about these people. They’re friends now, and that’s very cool because they were strangers a few months ago.

Jacob Heer is a graduate of the Quartz Cohort

How did DESIGNATION help prepare you for your job?
The experience at DESIGNATION is real. It’s practice. And that experience starts at the beginning of the process. There is ambiguity; the next steps aren’t always evident but with some practice and experience, I can now navigate ambiguity and be confident in my abilities to move in the direction of thoughtful solutions. DESIGNATION is a high quality education, plain and simple. The knowledge gained from the program is real and valuable.

Jacob Heer is a graduate of the Quartz Cohort

How did you stand out from the competition in applying for, interviewing for, or getting this job at HighGround?
I’m always transparent about what I know and what I don’t know, about what I have to offer and what I have to learn. I don’t have all the answers but I like to ask plenty of questions. I’m a critical voice but with no ego. I want to see design solutions in the most successful manifestation not for myself but for my team and for my end users, and I think I was able to clearly communicate that in a way that my future boss saw was genuine.

“DESIGNATION is nothing but raw learning, not only through books and lectures but also through doing, which is the most valuable part. The new knowledge gained is clear and tangible.”

What advice can you give to someone trying to start in the design industry?
Never stop learning. Be genuine in your conversations and in your desire to learn.

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