We’re here today with Anastasia Maslov, a rock-climbing, energetic UX Designer. She currently works at Loopio, a Toronto startup, and she will be sharing some great advice, stories, and general insights about UX in the startup world with us today. You can find her at @productgal_to on Twitter.
Your twitter bio says you studied psychology, followed by interaction design and UX, and are now working at Loopio as a UX Designer. How has your education in psychology informed your design work?
The fundamentals of UX are research and learning about people and how they react to things, which is all based on psychology. In psychology, you learn the fundamentals of research, like statistical analysis and how to back your hypotheses with facts. Much of the time, you’re making assumptions and validating them, much like you do in UX. It’s very applicable to creating great user experiences because things like colour theory and understanding cultural perceptions are also rooted in psych, alongside proving your hypotheses. All I was missing after my undergrad was the background in design, so I went back to school to earn my diploma. I still use much of what I learned from school in my practice.
How big is Loopio, and in contrast, how large is your UX team? What is your team working on currently?
We’re currently a team of about 60 but we’re growing really rapidly. I would say about two new people a week! By December we want to grow to 100 people across the company, so we’re growing pretty fast! On my team, we currently have a Director of UX, a Senior UX Designer, and me. There’s a potential we might hire at least one more person in the future, but right now it’s just the three of us.
As for what we’re working on right now, we’re looking at a lot of feedback we get from clients, especially when they mention what features they’re looking for. We want to make sure everything we design is of value. Bells and whistles are nice, but we need the core features to be everything the clients need. Our overarching mission is to create services that keep our clients coming back, as well as bringing in new people with what we offer.
Loopio strives to save businesses time on the RFPs and RFIs – how does this overall goal affect your decisions as a UX designer?
We inherited our software from the founders who are software engineers, so we are always focused on improving the current software while adding valuable features. We don’t want to make the experience more tedious and time-consuming. We’re focused on making it faster, smarter, and more efficient to stay in line with our mission to save businesses time. One of the ways we do this is through our rating and feedback prompts. Much like an app on your phone, our software will prompt users to give us quick feedback about a specific area of the software, which is all catalogued and read by our team. Yes, we read every request! We find patterns in the feedback we receive, and use that to approach users to learn more.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your work at Loopio? What are some good things you’ve experienced while working there?
I’ll start with the good things! There is a high amount of transparency and communication, which is really great. There’s a quarterly “honesty hour” where the founders answer any questions that employees might have with complete honesty. There’s a culture of giving good, constructive feedback to people when they are comfortable hearing it, which we teach during onboarding. The company also allows for failure as a learning mechanism, as long as your mistakes don’t hurt the company in a huge way. As for challenges, there’s always growing pains with scaling. Especially at the rate we’re doing it. Fortunately, we’re very mindful and passionate about our culture, so we’ve been able to hang onto our culture pretty well. The largest challenge is needing more senior people to join our team and help us formulate our roadmaps for the future of the company.
What made you choose to work in a small company?
I came from a larger company and what I was really looking for was a company that was product and culture focused. I decided to move to Loopio because I would be more hands-on with the product, gain that experience, and learn more about this role at a smaller company. Because I’m on such a small team, my ideas are heard by my team members and I have a lot of influence when it comes to the project outcome, which I love.
Do you have any advice for people looking to work in a similar sized company?
Be ready to go with the flow and embrace the idea of constant change. Every startup and team is going to have a different way of doing things, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Be confident in trying new things and excited about changes that are happening. From my experience, it’s like having another family. Everyone is happy to be there and excited to build and grow this company because they believe in it and the people around them.
In a rapidly changing industry such as UX, we have to keep ourselves sharp while not getting overwhelmed. What are some good ways you keep yourself fresh on your skills / learn new things?
I use quite a few different things. I read a lot of books and follow a lot of product and UX designers on Medium which is another great resource. I use a plugin for my browser called Muzli, which shows you top trends in things like Behance, fashion, politics, etc.
Something that people tend to overlook is professional & affordable online courses. The Interaction Design Foundation has professional classes you can take at your own pace for certificates on their website which are really great. It’s $14 / month for a membership and really worth it, in my opinion. Well known companies such as Accenture, General Electrics and Adobe back the company so you know they’re quality courses.
What made you interested in UX after completing your undergrad in psychology?
I actually ended up in UX by accident – I didn’t know it even existed when I was in university for my Psychology undergrad. My best friend and I, soon after graduating, started rock climbing at a local club. There, we met and befriended a developer and an engineer, and met more people in the field through them. When they heard about my background they said: “Why don’t you study UX and product design?” I looked into it and realized that psych translates really well into UX. I said to myself “I know how to do a lot of that already, I just need a background in design!” That’s how I ended up getting my certificate and landing in this field.
Where do you think the UX industry is headed?
Businesses across industries are starting to understand the importance of UX. I can see the industry continuing to grow. Users are more likely to switch companies because of a better product and experience, which means the companies falling behind are realizing the importance of UX quickly. I think we will see a rise of UX being important in not just websites and apps, but in physical products and experiences.
How do you start?
Utilize all of the tools you have! LinkedIn and Twitter are great resources. You have to curate your social media and your connections; don’t be afraid to reach out to people and try to meet them. It’s through connections that you’ll find your next great job and build friendships with people. Once I messaged the director of a company and met for coffee with him soon after to talk about an open position at his company. You have to put yourself out there and be fearless!