Meet a Mentor:
Nastasia Tebeck, UX Designer at Amazon

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Nastasia Tebeck is an amazingly talented designer that has been involved with DESIGNATION almost from the very start. A mentor to several of our alums, she recently made the move out west to go work for Amazon in Seattle.

 

Please tell us a little bit about yourself! Where do you work and what is your title?
Hi there! I’m Nastasia. I’m a UX and Interaction Designer at Amazon working on the Digital Products team in Seattle, WA. I’m also an illustrator and fine artist. I recently moved to Seattle from Chicago where I had resided for the past 11 years. Previously I worked as a UX and Interaction Designer for United Airlines and began my UX Design career at Coyote Logistics.

I have a penchant for tattoos, technology and travel. I’m a lover of coffee and conversation, a total bookworm and concert junkie. I strive to constantly learn more, see more, do more. I am a total sucker for typography, architecture, clean UI, utilitarian apps, behavioral science and form design.

What does a typical day for you look like?
I work in a very dynamic department where we get the beauty of designing a variety of digital products across the Amazon ecosystem like tablets, FireTV, & Echo just to name a few.

My morning consists of daily stand-ups with my team to check in on the progress of our work, followed by some heads-down design time. Every afternoon the entire team meets again for daily critiques and syncs.

The bulk of my to-do’s are usually interaction design based, however due to the nature of our team it’s really easy to turn around and see other projects and products being worked on and provide (or receive) some impromptu swarming sessions with peers. Amazon has provided a really great space filled with extremely talented individuals where you are constantly learning, staying curious, and being empowered.

The STACKHOUSE building at Amazon HQ.

What was your path to becoming a designer?
My break into the technology and UX design world was with Coyote Logistics. While I was going through training at Coyote, we were instructed to create a presentation about ourselves that we had to present to our executive team, including the CEO. Instead of doing a basic powerpoint slide I decided to show my artistic side and drew a 4 panel storyboard comic book slideshow representing who I was. In that moment the executive team realized I had visual art talent.

So less than a month into my job, the CEO pulled me aside because he wanted me to be part of a project where they needed someone to help “visualize big ideas” for their B2B software within the IT department. I said yes even though I knew full well I wasn’t tech savvy at all nor did I own a computer until college. However I knew that I would do whatever it took to learn, expand my skillset and do the best job I could. Being within IT on the development team was amazing. I went through Agile Scrum Development training and got certified, I was given the creative freedom, and got to build a career path from the ground up.

I was quickly chosen to lead the entire design direction and product creation of Coyote’s first mobile app, CoyoteGO, which was designed around 3 goals: to be simple, efficient, and smart. I didn’t even own a smart phone at the time and had very little knowledge of the mobile marketplace but really appreciated the trust Coyote had given me to champion their product. I wasn’t going to let them down.

While at Coyote, I truly did full stack UX & Product Design for CoyoteGO from research & ideation to information architecture, wireframing to prototyping, user testing, visual design, & supporting my developers by helping with full regression testing, maintaining the copy & content on the app stores, and helping manage the marketing campaigns & post release responsibilities. In the end Coyote was the perfect gateway into UX in less than 3 years at Coyote I went from knowing nothing about tech & the industry to leading the entire UX practice for our development team, championing a successful mobile app, leading lunch & learns, and working on a variety of B2B web apps.

How did you first get involved with DESIGNATION?
I had been going to a lot of meetups around tech and design. I originally signed up for all of them just to gain exposure to the design community and build a support system and resources as I was growing into my career.

Due to this I decided to put on my meetup.com profile that if anyone was interested in chatting about UX over coffee to reach out and I left my twitter handle there. It was then that my good friend (now) and DESIGNATION student (at the time), Angelina Cole, reached out to me via twitter asking if I wanted to meet up for coffee and design chats. It was something I had never randomly done before and it was all new to me so I was a little hesitant. However I agreed and instantly bonded with Angelina over Intelligentsia coffee. She bought me my coffee and repeatedly thanked me for my time.

It was then I discovered Angelina was attending DESIGNATION. I became friends with everyone and hung out at events because I wanted to be part of the energy that was happening under its roof. The cohorts were inspiring and the staff was leading a school and a program I could really get behind.

Fast forward a few months later and Aaron, co-founder of DESIGNATION, was asking me to become a mentor. I was one of the very first mentors for DESIGNATION and helped shape the beginning of the program. Eventually more mentors were added. I continued providing feedback, listening to my mentees and passing along information to the staff in order to make the DESIGNATION mentor program the best it could be.

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How many mentees have you had so far?
I have had 4 mentees through DESIGNATION and a few additional ones along the way outside of the program.

My first mentee was Zoe Sinner. She and I clicked right away and it was nice to have my first mentee be really awesome as we were both discovering this process together. She is currently a UX Designer working at TaskRabbit in San Francisco.

My second mentee was Donte Buckmire who I enjoyed bonding with and sharing stories about how we came to be where we were at today. He is currently a UX Designer in DC working at Armature Corporation and also doing a variety of other awesome projects on the side.

I also mentored Zoe Slutsky who radiates passion and positive energy for design and learning. Her curiosity with interaction design and information architecture really allowed us to dive into those pieces of the design process. She is currently an Interaction Designer in Chicago at IA Collaborative.

Finally, through DESIGNATION I had the pleasure of mentoring Kim LaGesse who has got to be one of the sweetest people you could ever meet. She was truly excited to be jumping into UX and learning everything she could. She currently in Chicago and just accepted a job at One North Interactive as a UX Strategist.

The great part about my mentees is that even though they have graduated out of the program, they continue to reach out for advice, best practices, tips on their portfolios or interview advice and to simply just say hello. They are all a great group of eager, intelligent, fresh designers and have been super fortunate to have worked with them. I am beyond proud of everything they have accomplished so far.

“The great part about my mentees is that even though they have graduated out of the program, they continue to reach out for advice and to simply just say hello.”

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Have you had any really surprising or memorable experience with any of your mentees?
My mentees have all surprised and impressed me with how they think, how they speak, the questions they bring to the table, the way they talk about design, what they build, and the genuine kindness they all have in their hearts. They are such good people!

I did find it funny because I had actually met Kim LaGesse randomly at the DoDivision street festival a year prior to me mentoring her. I just remembered her being the nicest person and inviting myself and the others over to hang out and enjoy the food her and her (now fiance) made on the grill. She had a very open, welcoming nature about herself that lit up a room.

Fast forward to when I was introduced to her as my mentee we both had a “hey it’s you!” moment. haha. Working with her was really great and the way she carried herself, her kindness and natural empathetic nature really shown through in how she went about getting into the UX field and making connections so that she could learn more and excel within the space. The design world feels so small sometimes and it’s great to know how many people out there are interconnected with so many others I know. We are all just one big community!

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What does mentorship mean to you, and why is it so important?
Mentorship is important because it gives you a support system, a community, empowers inclusivity, and provides an exchange of knowledge and resources for eager individuals looking for inspiration and improvement within the current stage of their career. For the most part, my entire design career was very DIY. I never truly had a mentor to help guide me into what UX was or how to excel within the UX design space. However I understand how vital it can be and it is a major reason why I agreed to mentor design for DESIGNATION when Aaron asked me if I was interested.

Having a mentorship program available and ready is important to me and a factor into why I personally chose Amazon at this point in my career. I have also talked with fellow design professionals across the U.S. that had obtained traditional design degrees within academia that also mentioned how valuable it would have been to have a mentor when building their portfolio, giving a more hands on critique as well as tips on how to interview, how to sell yourself and break into the workforce. These comments came from seasoned designers in the field so I knew that what DESIGNATION had was special, valuable and an experience that many of us in the design world wish we had.

It makes me beyond happy when I can help others in some way, shape or form whether that is inspiring someone through conversation, leading by example, telling a story, or simply listening empathetically, all of which aids in nurturing fresh new design mind and helps give them assurance and builds confidence over time. Plus it’s really satisfying! There is that one saying that you don’t know what you know until you have to teach it, and I believe it’s true. As lifelong learners, teaching is just another way of deepening what you know and expanding on areas that need more focus. In the end everyone benefits.

Obviously your role as a mentor is to teach and instruct your mentee. But what if anything have they taught you?
Mentoring humbles you. It also brings awareness about what you actually know, and if you don’t know something it drives you to find the answer and share it. Kenya Hara said, “Verbalizing design is another act of design.”

As I started mentoring and began digging deep in what I did know and what I needed to still learn I found myself finding great pleasure in discussing these things to other eager passionate people. I love talking about design, problem solving and helping motivate people within the space. My mentees have given me courage to keep pursuing my love for design and truly made me believe I was making a difference in their lives. We go through life so fast sometimes and don’t realize the positive effect we can have on someone despite the size of the interaction. Whether it’s through a story, a listening ear, an open mind, a laugh, a smile, an encouraging piece of advice etc. My mentees have taught me how fulfilling life can be to share what you love and how amazing it feels to inspire someone in the process.

“My mentees have taught me how fulfilling life can be to share what you love and how amazing it feels to inspire someone in the process.”

And finally, what do you think is the future of UX design?
I believe the future of UX design is going to be how we incorporate human centered design thinking into areas outside of just the traditional digital interface experience. An example would be the rise in the VUI (voice user interface) experience.

As technology continues to evolve we are seeing more and more products that allow you to do things via voice as your primary action and touch as your secondary. With the wave of products that include voice already like Amazon Echo, Apple Watch, Siri, etc, to apps that have been created across the world to handle voice commands over text based interactions bring forth a new set of patterns.

I believe that the integration of VUI into more products will not only open doors to a wider audience across the world but the first and most obvious benefit that comes to mind when dealing with voice is the endless possibilities of how products and daily productivity can be optimized for accessibility. As the years go by and we continue walking into a world with smarter devices that allow you to simply turn off the lights via voice command, the opportunities to reach a much wider user base is more probable.

I also believe Service Design will really make an impact into how people understand what UX is really all about. For me it has always been about the entire journey from start to finish regardless of touchpoint. User experience encompasses that and service design has been a really great vehicle of communication to help people outside of the design world to understand, solve problems together, and create solutions for the greater good. Whether that be a digital product, a new system, or a program or process that brings the community together; Service design pushes forward a new kind of empathy that UX design can stand behind because, to me, they are very similar.

When thinking about our ecosystem of everything we do on a daily basis… our wants, our needs, our means for connection and community etc., there are so many opportunities within every industry across the world to blossom into being more mindful, intentional and all encompassing when delivering a message, a product, a service, a space etc.

This is user experience & human centered design.

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