Career Paths

Tanner:
You and I have two very different backgrounds, and yet we both have been fairly successful product designers. The question I have for you, which we talked about before, if someone wanted to be a product designer today, would you recommend they take the same path to do that that you took?

Jasmine:
This question makes me smile and shake my head at the same time, because there's no good answer to that. It's like maybe. I don't know.

Tanner:
It depends.

Jasmine:
It totally depends.

Tanner:
Everyone's going to have their own context, history, resources, network.

Jasmine:
Yeah, and to clarify, we both come from some sort of relatively design-related background. When we think of coming from completely different backgrounds, they're not that different. They're still within the same industry, but I think the most notable difference between you and I, well I guess there's a few, but the one that comes to mind is really you are very self-taught, I am very education, I say tipping my hat. I think there's something interesting there. What does it take for someone to be successful in a design career in terms of education?

Jasmine:
The other thing that came to mind was you were mentioning how we both came to Facebook, and one of the things you had to do to get into Facebook is you actually had to interview. I didn't. I came through an acquisition. So there's a lot of different twists and turns in our career paths have put different obstacles in our paths and have made things a little bit easier in different ways. But I think it starts at the beginning with how we learned about design.

Tanner:
I love it. I'd love for us to really quickly summarize both our backgrounds so people can see where the differences are and where the similarities are. And then I'd really want us to dive into more specifically what kind of career paths, not even paths, but what kind of things should people do understand certain circumstances to achieve the career goals they have as a designer, right? It's [crosstalk 00:02:24]-

Jasmine:
Oh, step one you have to have career goals.

Tanner:
Do you, though?

Jasmine:
I don't know. Do you? I mean, sometimes.

Tanner:
All right, so let's pause. Let's back up. Let's quickly summarize our histories and then we'll start diving into some of the pros and cons of each, and some of the alternative paths we could have taken in our own careers, and what kind of person fits into which kind of pathway, if that makes sense?

Jasmine:
Yeah.

Tanner:
Why don't you go ahead and start us off? Quickly summarize.

Jasmine:
Sure. I have two degrees in graphic design. One, I have my BFA in Graphic Design from Iowa State University, which I just stumbled upon. I wanted to take an art class and ended up, in order to enroll in art class, I had to enroll in a program and I was like, "Sure, graphic design sounds good." And then a while later, almost a decade later, I ended up enrolling in a Master's program in graphic design at the Academy of Art University here in San Francisco.

Jasmine:
The reason that I chose those was because I didn't quite know what I wanted to do, but I know that art and design made me happy and I knew that I would need to have some scaffolding, or some sort of structure in order to achieve a goal, even if that goal wasn't completely mine. It might have been the program's goal.

Tanner:
We might dive a little more into this later, but I'd like to hear more on what point did you acknowledge that you needed that scaffolding? How did you learn that that was something that you, personally, need?

Jasmine:
I actually don't think I learned that until later in life, upon reflection. And it has to do with I've done a lot of work in design around education and learned a lot about cognitive skills and how children develop and learn and build good habits. I think that's something that I actually learned later, that I'm not a self-starter, but yeah man, I don't know.

Tanner:
It's kind of like a reflection point for you?

Jasmine:
Yeah, it's more of a reflection point, and seeing how other people learn and knowing how I learn now as an adult, a more seasoned adult.

Tanner:
Gotcha. My background's different where the way I got into design was I think I was 15-years-old and my friend's father ran a very successful design studio. I went into that studio one day and thought to myself, "This is really cool. This is what I want to do in my life." There were action figures, and colorers and all this really cool stuff, and so I think what happened was I ended up acquiring Photoshop, as most of us did at that time, kind of messed around with it a little bit and learned enough where I could design some logos and tee shirts and kind of some wacky stuff. I ended up actually getting clients and started freelancing that way.

Jasmine:
I mean, how cool for you at 15 to know what you enjoyed. I think I was still trying to figure out whether I was supposed to like Pearl Jam or Nirvana when I was 15.

Tanner:
Yeah, I guess that's a fair point. I was very drawn to it immediately. I don't know if it was necessarily the act of design that I liked, but I liked the creation. I liked being able to take something from nothing. I did that for a little while but my career path is actually not in design. Even though I was freelancing, I had a different thing going on at the same time which was my career. That started with market research, and then I moved on to online marketing and web development, doing things like SCO and online marketing for email campaigns and stuff like that.

Tanner:
I ended up getting a career in content strategy, which is a lot of writing, a lot of marketing-

Jasmine:
A lot of design peripheral kind of things.

Tanner:
Exactly, yeah. So my background hasn't really been, I wouldn't say, quote-unquote, in design. It wasn't until I went to Facebook that I said, "Oh, now I'm a designer. Now I'm designing things that are influencing and impacting millions of people's lives."

Jasmine:
Right. Which is different from me because I, I mean other than my really non-design jobs, I was either in design or out of design. As I put myself through grad school I was not working design until I got my first internship at Office in San Francisco, is Jason Schulte's company and worked as a brand packaging intern. Then moved onto Hot Studio where I tried out UX design and pivoted over to Facebook where I did product design too. And there I was able to put together sort of that visual design skills with those UX design skills and aha, we had a product designer.

Tanner:
Yeah. I don't want to harp too much on this, but that whole notion of what is a product designer, I think a lot of people have perceptions around that. There's a huge online debate over is there a product designer are you just UX designers? Or, you are designers.

Jasmine:
One is arguably based on some sort of skillsets, and the challenge is here that each company will value of a different set of core design skills, and we can talk about soft skills all day long. But what are the things that we imagine that a product designer does? For you and I at Facebook the definition was really to put together some combination of product thinking, that's sort of like what are we doing and why? The product strategy, the interaction design, which is most closely parallel to the UX, and then visual design, which is like your EUI, and you put that together and dun-dun, and then you're adding on these extra skills like can you prototype? Can you code? Can you write? All of those things.

Jasmine:
Essentially, that all bundles up into product design, but different roles and different companies are picking different little smaller groups of those skillsets.

Tanner:
Yeah, I'm glad you kind of drew that out for us because, as we're progressing this conversation, I think it's going to be really important that everyone, including ourselves, are on the same page with what we're talking about, right?

Jasmine:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), sure.

Tanner:
The career that you and I have built is very much that broad swath of design. We cover everything you just talked about, I think we're, if not experts we're certainly close, I would say. We have a lot of experience-

Jasmine:
We're pretty good at what we do. Yeah.

Tanner:
... we both worked on things that have not only impacted but then put in front of literally billions of people, right?

Jasmine:
Which is nuts.

Tanner:
No easy task.

Jasmine:
Right.

Tanner:
One thing I will add to what you've already outlined was research, right?

Jasmine:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tanner:
We both have a good perspective of what it takes to conduct research at any stage of the design process.

Jasmine:
Are you talking about market research or user research?

Tanner:
Both, right?

Jasmine:
Okay.

Tanner:
I think we both have a good perspective of that.

Jasmine:
Well, I think so.

Tanner:
With that ground covered, and with both of our backgrounds here being outlined, if someone wanted to design today or get to where we are in our careers, whether it's in your role leading a design team, or my role doing design for autonomous vehicles, our new space, what would it take to get there? And obvious, as-

Jasmine:
I like that, concrete goal. Be a Jasmine or a Tanner.

Tanner:
Please don't-

Jasmine:
Check. Don't write that down.

Tanner:
... please don't do that. Be yourself.

Jasmine:
Don't bring that to your boss.

Tanner:
But what helped us get where we are? Everything you just outlined is a lot of stuff. At least to my knowledge, maybe you can correct me, there's not actually a university course on that stuff, right?

Jasmine:
It's really hard to find good educational programs that will go in as deep as to build the skills and experience that we have. You'll get pockets of them. There's some schools that are better than others. Carnegie Mellon has a good program. I'm honestly not familiar. I think Simon Fraser has another one. Even the school I went to, Academy of Art, they had a new media program but it was more on the UX side and more on the coding side and less on the visual design side.

Jasmine:
So you would, essentially, at many schools have to build your own program to get this even range of skills. That's great because one thing I've learned, and everybody should know who's in school, and if you don't you're in for a rude awakening when you graduate, is when you're done with school you're not done with your learning, and so you're always continuously building on that education.

Jasmine:
I think you're just a great example of that because you've been doing that since you were 15. You've been crafting your own education and, ultimately, putting together your own design curriculum. Whether it's more of a life design curriculum or a school design curriculum, because I know you've taken a lot of Udacity courses that you love.

Jasmine:
But yeah, it's like you end up building on that so whatever the crafted curriculum that you get you're going to get something from that, but is it going to take where you want to be? And that goes back to having goals, and we just said, "Okay, if you want to where we are," that could be one sort of goal is to be somebody who's fairly senior and advanced in their career, and has built up a good set of skills where they can take on a role, like you, as a principle designer, or a role like me in lead design teams.

Tanner:
Yeah. It really is a question of what kind of individual should do what certain things to better increase the likelihood of them succeeding, right?

Jasmine:
Yes.

Tanner:
And I think you already touched on a few of these points, but maybe we can draw them out a little bit further. One is being handed a curriculum. How would you word this? It's kind of a frame of reference, a set ladder to success.

Jasmine:
I call it scaffolding.

Tanner:
Scaffolding, yeah.

Jasmine:
And I mean, it's a great educational term and you think of scaffolding that holds up something, and some people more of the scaffolding than others. I think you are someone who probably needs less scaffolding because you have the self-direction, you have the drive, you have the productivity that it takes. You're always tinkering, you're always going out there and learning more things.

Jasmine:
I, at least in my earlier years, tended to be more of a passive learner, and so if something wasn't easy for me I didn't want to learn it. It comes from one of those things where you're sort of naturally smart and you can read anything and take it on. I feel like I was growing up, even as a kid, was a really good generalist where I could pick up things really easy across all sorts of subjects. When I got to design if I had to work hard, I wasn't going to pursue anything. The rigor and the scaffolding that an educational institution will give you will help you along on that journey because, well, you're paying a lot of money for it.

Tanner:
It's kind of a little-

Jasmine:
You'd better work hard.

Tanner:
... motivation, right?

Jasmine:
Yeah, it is.

Tanner:
Motivation. It's also, would you say that it's helpful to pursue that line of education if you're the kind of person who just doesn't know where to start, maybe gets paralyzed by that?

Jasmine:
Yes.

Tanner:
And?

Jasmine:
Yes, and ... I think I need to think more about that.

Tanner:
Sure. We can come back to it.

Jasmine:
Yeah.

Tanner:
Because something that I think a lot about as someone who did not go to school. I actually think there are a lot of missed opportunities that I wish I could have had while, at the same time, I would highly recommend everyone, if possible, pursue the same route I did toward my career. Which is tinker, build things, pursue your curiosity, right?

Jasmine:
I think I would have failed in your career path though, because you can ask my mother. Actually, don't talk to my mother. But if you ask my mom this she would say that I was somebody that used to take on all these projects but I'd never finish anything.

Tanner:
Would you agree with that?

Jasmine:
Yes, absolutely. It's like I couldn't finish long-term games. I don't think we would ever get through a game of Risk. I have needlepoint projects that are probably still from the '80s unfinished. Any painting or art thing, I'd buy all this stuff ... You even know this about me. I've got all this beading materials in our closet where I'm some day going to become a great Etsy beading artist.

Tanner:
Bracelets, necklaces.

Jasmine:
Bracelets, necklaces, those sorts of things, and I've made maybe six or seven of them and now I'm kind of done with it. I think I'm a tinkerer in a way that I try thing, but I very quickly evaluate whether or not I want to pursue them. And so when you think about building deep skills in something you need to have some tenacity and some endurance, and those are things that you need to work up over time.

Jasmine:
I think, I mean there are things that are innate in kids as far as cognitive skills in their development that contributes to a lot of this. But if your curiosity and your ability to ask why and to experiment and think outside of the box, if that is not fostered and cultured as a kid I think it's really hard to continue that when those cognitive skills end up being more developed in your early 20s when you're in college and things like that.

Jasmine:
I think there's a lot of upbringing that contributes to whether you need that support along that way-

Tanner:
That scaffolding.

Jasmine:
That scaffolding, yeah.

Tanner:
Yeah. Yeah, I think that probably makes sense. I definitely can reflect on my life as growing up and the story I tell all the time is I would come home often from school and my dad would be out in the driveway with our family car, with the car literally in pieces on the sidewalk or the driveway. His pursuit was the window was broken and rather than paying $200 to get it fixed, he's going to fix it himself. Along the way he kind of learns about how the car works, right?

Tanner:
I think I had that part of my life growing up where I started believing that if you're curious about something enough, you can take apart, understand how it works, build your own version, but kind of along with what you're saying.

Jasmine:
Yeah, no. I'm just thinking about it. Curiosity. That was something that I don't think that I had much as a kid and I won't go too deep into it, but it comes from coming from a really religious background where you ask why and, "Oh, that's just because it is the way it is," and so you stop asking why because you are sort of told that this the way the world works without really asking about the science and the mechanics of everything.

Jasmine:
I think that's something that, for me, it just wasn't developed at a young age. It sounds like for you that was that curiosity, and I know curiosity is something that's very important to you. That's something that has been fostered and you've continued to foster throughout your life.

Tanner:
Yeah. It's interesting that you bring up that. We should definitely not talk too much on this, but I also grew up in a very religious household, and so to have that little contrast between your experience growing up and mine is really interesting. I'm not sure exactly how much of childhood shapes that. Certainly it plays a part, but I'm not sure how much it evolves as grow up.

Jasmine:
I think the people around you, and this could lead into mentorship and things like that, but the people around you are the people who inspire you. So if you see your dad out in the driveway taking apart the car until it's like, "Well, can we put this back together or not?" Or you see my family members just sitting on the couch watching TV. And don't get me wrong, I still like to sit on the couch and watch TV.

Tanner:
Every day.

Jasmine:
Every day. It's so good.

Tanner:
I think you're right. It's what you see around you exemplifies what you think is possible, or how you think about the world.

Jasmine:
Yeah, I remember when I started grad school having a teacher, his name was Michael Sainato. I think he still works for Design Within Reach. He was just saying, "You need to surround yourself with designers. You need to immerse yourself in design. Live with design. Live with designers. Breathe design. Do all the things so that you can really intake this design." At the time, that was not something that I wanted to do. I wanted separation between design and my life because I needed to be able to compartmentalize it because there was so much stress in my life at the time. That just comes I was trying to work full-time and do grad school full-time.

Jasmine:
It was hard, and so I chose not to immerse myself in design and that kind of came back to bite me probably in my second or third year at Facebook where I didn't have myself surrounded in this design community and I really had to build that back up. I think I missed out on probably years of learning from other designers, particularly other product designers in a way that I was like, "Oh, I don't want to go to events in the events in the evenings," or, "I don't want to hang out with other designers. I've got my core group. They're fine. This is great. I just want the job. I just want the job."

Jasmine:
But realizing that that's sort of like peripheral investment in other designers, or allowing them to invest back in me would have probably accelerated my own learning and understanding of the role and where it could take me.

Tanner:
I'm really glad you brought this up because I think this is a perception that it may have evolved over the last 10 years. The reason I'm bringing that up is because we all often hear in the design community that mentorship, or having somebody to look to or learn from and reach out to is really important. I'm not a big fan of real life meet-ups. I'm very-

Jasmine:
It's so hard.

Tanner:
It really is. I'm definitely an introvert. I get a lot of my energy from being alone.

Jasmine:
Yup, same.

Tanner:
I enjoy talking to people. I enjoy hearing their stories and things, but I get a lot of my energy from just being in my own space, right?

Jasmine:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tanner:
And the reason that I think that the perception's changed is because now we don't really have to go out in the world to be in this design environment, to be surrounded by great work you just log on. You check Instagram, you go to Behance, you go to Pinterest and you have that community there.

Jasmine:
You also have the benefit of a reputation that you've built up over time, which sort of means that community comes to you and it's natural to surround yourself with that. I think if you take yourself back to being a new designer, that's why students and younger, inexperienced designers end up going to meet-ups is because they're trying to find those people that they learn from, that they can be inspired from, that they can connect with.

Jasmine:
I think there's something, I mean, this has been talked about a lot, but the way that we approach mentorship is sort of like this duckling trying to find mama, where it's like, "Oh, will you be my mentor?" And really, it's just about ... I mean, sometimes it works that way, sometimes it doesn't, but really it ends up being about how do you find the people that you can be inspired from, and that could be somebody that you actually connect with on a phone call or a video conference, or it could just be somebody you like fall into it and you're like, "Wow, you're really awesome."

Tanner:
I just think that it has changed a lot. I remember when I was doing freelancing when I was growing up, I used a lot of online forums to try to help understand what the designers were doing, or how they were paying their bills. My community was very much online. I think part of why I've personally developed a good reputation is because I've been engaged in those communities online. I think if you're just starting out today you should absolutely go and network if that's the kind of thing that you do. You should go to real life meet-ups, get face-to-face time. Nothing can beat that.

Tanner:
But, at the same time, don't hesitate to look at the world that is online, whether it's Twitter, or Instagram or whatever else and really engage there as well.

Jasmine:
Yeah. And I mean, you're better at this than I am, but we both do engage pretty actively in design communities, which I think is great. I think it's easier to do that now when we ... Say we're pretty smart. We definitely know what we're talking about, most of the time. I think that's harder when you're a younger designer because you're afraid of being attacked, you're afraid of being wrong, there's a lot of fear to put yourself out there. And so there's two ways to learn in those communities. One is to be a fly on the wall and just listen, and that's okay. But another is how do you actually test what you do know and put that out there for feedback.

Jasmine:
It's sometimes hard to find the right environment to do that because there's I mean, some designers are great at giving feedback and some designers really struggle with it and there's a lot of different schools of thought on how to give feedback. But if you're able to, as a new designer, really put yourself out there, either an opinion or a piece of work or something, and give really context and ask really pointed questions, you can find that you can get folks to engage with you in all levels.

Jasmine:
Really this feedback is a gift is a really true thing, especially when we're talking about mentorship because mentorship or learning from others in the community, because you can get lot of great insight from sharing with other people. I think that's just a general theme of design is no one designer sits back and does everything in excellence without getting feedback from other people, from users, from designers, from design leaders, from stakeholders, all that good stuff.

Tanner:
Yeah, you absolutely cannot in a silo. You cannot design in your own room.

Jasmine:
You can, it's just not going to be good.

Tanner:
Right. It's not really design in that point. But I'm glad you brought this up because we're talking about getting online feedback, we're talking about going to communities, whether it's a Facebook group or a Spectrum or even GitHub and showing your work and trying to get feedback, or engaging with other designers. Now, if we talk about that, contrast it with the structured classroom format-

Jasmine:
Oh, man.

Tanner:
... where you are instructed to give feedback and that's part of job, right?

Jasmine:
I feel like design schools are the worst for how to give feedback, they really are. I thought I was a great feedback giver in school, both times, because I could rip people apart. I could find the problems their designs. But I didn't deliver it in a kind way, not saying designers have to be nice, but the goal of giving feedback and learning from each other is not to rip each other apart and make each other feel bad, which is a lot of what people ... People come out bruised from design school critique.

Tanner:
I don't know, obviously, because I didn't go. But my perception from the outside is very much that when you're in these structured learning environments and instructed to give feedback to one another, the intent is not really ever to level up anyone, the intent is always to okay, find the holes. Find where they need to improve.

Jasmine:
Right. And those holes are based on you're being taught fundamentals, right?

Tanner:
Right.

Jasmine:
You and I, an example we talk about a lot is you're like, "What's that line height thing called?" And I'm like, "That's leading," and I'm like, "What's that leading thing called?" And you're like, "Line height," so it's just a difference terms because I learned design for print, so I'm talking in points, you're talking in pixels. You sort of just figured that out and I had to relearn a whole new way of doing things. But they're all fundamental, so when you're in design school they're teaching you fundamentals and you're taught to poke holes in fundamentals. Those fundamentals build up into a bigger thing. The idea is still the same. You get feedback so that you can improve, and you learn to iterate, and iteration is part of the process.

Jasmine:
Design school is great because that's what they're doing is they're teaching you process. They're teaching you sort of a cookie cutter process that you can use over and over again. And as you build more skills, and as you build more what I like to call more tools that you can put into your bag of tricks, then you can modify and adapt that process as you go.

Jasmine:
But you walk out, and I can say this because I taught an interaction design course, I want my students to walk away with they can do end-to-end product design. But that's not usually going to get them a job as a product designer. What it's going to do is it's going to give them the experience where they can try it again and they can figure out what they need to differently next time, what they need to add, what they need to subtract and build that process. Because if you really take a good process into any sort of problem solving, and not the same process. When I say a good process I mean a really good, tried and true, flexible process. That's how you solve problems in product design is about solving problems.

Tanner:
Yeah. Yeah, that's really great. This brings up a point that I often reflect on. I have a very personal ... I'm not saying this in the way where I want to push it on anyone else, it really is my personal belief, and it may or may not work for other people, but when it comes to things like formalized education around design, or programming or anything. Or when it comes to you'll often see these books on Amazon that are trending, it's like, "How to Program Swift," or, "How to Program Job," or whatever. My problem with these things is that they are so fixated on covering the fundamentals in a very prescribed way, a very preset way, that if you are kind of like the person like I am where you can kind of overwhelm that stuff, you're bored, it's not really interested in ... It's doesn't help you achieve what you want to achieve.

Tanner:
All that stuff, just dump. It just gets in the way.

Jasmine:
Why do you get bored? What makes it gunk?

Tanner:
Yeah, yeah. Great question. I'll give you an example. When the iPhone first came out I was doing some web development at the time, I was doing design, my career was still in marketing but I knew what I wanted to try to build an iPhone app. That seems like the coolest thing, right? It's this little device, it's this really powerful computer. You're carrying it everywhere with you. There's no reason you shouldn't be able to do something.

Tanner:
I came up with an idea and I wanted to teach myself to program in Objective-C for the iPhone. The way that I think many people approach that situation is the same way they approach university, or critique or the design process, they say, "Okay, there's this defined set of things I need to know. I need to know how the iPhone manages memory. I need to know how the iPhone interprets certain types of data, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera." But for me, I didn't care about that stuff, I wanted to build an app, right?

Jasmine:
Yeah, those are different than fundamentals though. Those feel more like constraints to me than they do fundamentals.

Tanner:
Well, yes. Let's not focus too much on the fundamental part. What I'm trying to say is that when you go to a structured learning environment, or when you go and you pick up these books on how to design or whatever, often what they're trying to give you is the full comprehensive picture, when really all you may want is one small slice of it just to see if you're even interested in the thing. The example that I often tell people is, "If you want to hang a picture frame you don't need to understand how to architect a home. You don't need to know about everything that goes behind the wall. All you need to know is how to hammer a nail." Right?

Jasmine:
Yeah. I think when you're talking about this in the context of do you want to be a product designer, or what path should you take, the thing is there's so much there that the taking slices and bits and pieces of that to see what you like, it can be broken down but it's really hard to see the full picture. I think that's something that the class might do really well, but also you could do that on your own.

Jasmine:
I think my question for you is, you know, I talked a little bit about process and how design school gives you this end-to-end process and you might not be good at it, but at least you've experienced the whole thing. How did you build a process?

Tanner:
Yeah. The way that I learned the product design process really was trial and error. And I think the thing worth starring with my comments, and exactly what you pointed out, is my career path took a very long time. Much, much longer than if I had gone to school I would say. Because the way I learn that process was through trial and error. I had to go out and build actual products. I designed them, programmed them and put them out in the world and realized, "Oh, I didn't even think about translation. I didn't even think about orientation of the device. I didn't cover those things." Right?

Jasmine:
Right, which puts you in an interesting path though, because what you're actually talking about is the output of what you have, so you probably came out of your personal education, self-taught education with apps and maybe not fully understanding the constraints or requirements. I came out with, had I gone to a school that was more interaction designed, I came out with a portfolio of fake stuff that taught me the fundamentals, but I might have been more thoughtful or considerate of things that were handed to me of things to consider that were handed to me. A good example is accessibility, so when I teach I make sure that we go over accessibility and that people understand what that means in terms of color, and type size, and screen reading, all that good stuff, right?

Jasmine:
You might not have had that because that wasn't handed to you, but you're actually out with a different product, which is something that actually works, something that functions, and something that you tried. So they're two sort of different types of portfolios. When you're talking about career path, might go back to goals and objectives. What kind of place do you want to work at? Because if you come out with the design school portfolio that actually might not be enough because there's a lot that you aren't learning in design school that you might learn in the real world.

Jasmine:
One things is, especially with product design, how do you translate your design and how do you hand that off to a developer. In your case you do it yourself. There's a lot of understanding of the translation of your pixels to code. There's going to be trade-offs in both sides that sort of get at not only what you've learned, but also what you're walking away with and how is that going to fare in an interview, or in a recruiter screen, all that good stuff?

Tanner:
Yeah. I think this is a really, really interesting point. You've touched on this a few times. The way that I view it is anyone coming out of a fixed program for design, or anything else, they're all coming out of it with the same stuff, more or less.

Jasmine:
More or less.

Tanner:
And again, you talked about this. It's a consistent process. It's a good toolset, but everyone comes out of it with again, not always the same, but with more or less the same toolset, right? Some people will step up and go beyond. Some people will fall behind.

Jasmine:
And familiarity with the toolset. Some students are going to grasp it or are going to practice it while they're in school. Some students are just going to go through the motions and make it through. But then when you're looking at those projects side by side that where you see, "Did someone get the fundamentals or did someone not get the fundamentals?" But school are essentially creating many pools of great candidates. It's one of the reasons I wish we had more product design programs, or interaction design programs was to be able to get more great candidates.

Jasmine:
There's still some layer that's missing there that needs to be added on. I feel like if you would put our ... Oh, man, if you would put our paths together, ah, we'd be rad.

Tanner:
And there's so many people who do that, who go to through the formalized training, build that scaffolding, but also have the energy and the grit to just do their own thing at the same time on the side, right?

Jasmine:
I need more grit in my life.

Tanner:
It's a good thing. I've read about this a lot.

Jasmine:
Yeah.

Tanner:
Yeah, I agree with you. I think there is no ideal path. There is no right or best path. There is a path and it's going to be unique for every individual, so it would be different for you. I think that there are pros and cons to each path.

Jasmine:
Yeah. I think there's questions you ask yourself too. It's like, "Do you have a goal? Do you know where you're going?" Because it's probably easier to craft your own path if you know where you're going. If you don't, then school's actually a good way to explore, because you're going to take a lot of different classes and learn a lot about different design careers. An example is when teach the Interaction Design class, I co-wrote the curriculum with my friend, Paul Derby, who was a researcher. And so we spent a good amount of time making sure that our students understood both generative and evaluative research.

Jasmine:
We talked about user research is a legitimate career path. There's a lot of things you get exposed to, and you might say, "Oh, this feels right for me." So it's automatic exposure, which is great. You might not have that luxury being self-taught.

Tanner:
Yeah, completely. Really, that exposure has to come from the environment you put yourself in, [crosstalk 00:33:01]-

Jasmine:
And your curiosity, yeah.

Tanner:
Right, exactly. You have to be driven to pursue those things and to ... I mean, maybe this is the big star point I would put next to a self-taught pathway, which is you have to be willing to accept the fact that you're on the wrong path, or that you're completely wrong about something, right?

Jasmine:
Hmm.

Tanner:
I've had this happen to me many times.

Jasmine:
Like the [inaudible 00:33:21] piece?

Tanner:
Yeah. It can even just be internal, but you really have to be able to embrace the fact that things you're learning might be wrong or that they might be not the best for you. And the way that you get better is-

Jasmine:
What do you mean by wrong?

Tanner:
A real world example for me is when HTML5 came out, long, long, long time ago. Many people even listening to this might not even know what I'm talking about. But I remember at the time there was this great debate online for anyone doing web development. Should you learn HMTL5 or XHTML? This is super-nerdy. Those were two pretty different things. They were evolution of HTML and, as a web developer, I remember telling myself, "I'm never going to pick up HTML5. It's not going anywhere. Why would I do that?" So I invested months of my life trying to learn XHTML only to realize later on like, "Hmm, this isn't really going anywhere and I would be better off learning HTML5 or some other technology."

Tanner:
That's a large example, but I think there are things even related to process. There are things related to the question you ask as you're designing or developing and the path you might take when you make a decision. And if you're not willing to say, "I'm going to make this gamble and maybe the design is going to suck, or maybe it's not the right kind of question I should be asking." If you open yourself up to that you can do really well.

Tanner:
But, to kind of contrast with your point earlier, if you're in an formal education setting, that kind of stuff is given to you.

Jasmine:
Well, sort of. I mean, you're definitely going to take some wrong turns and learn from your mistakes.

Tanner:
We all do.

Jasmine:
I have a good story about changing the logo that I was supposed to have done in week three in week 11 of a class, getting a good talking to and then making it work. But yeah, there's still consequences in school. I think the difference is there the guardrails are on. You've got your-

Tanner:
Yeah, you had someone who was there who could say, "Hey, this is not the right thing," or, "This is not what we asked."

Jasmine:
Or like, "Hey, you've only got four weeks left so now isn't the time to be making any big changes."

Tanner:
Right, yeah. Yeah. But, yeah. That's a pretty big difference I would say. Another thing that I would really love to click on as we slowly start wrapping things up here, is the network itself. When you're going to a structured setting, whether it's online or in real life, you have this environment of people who are pursuing the same goals or can mentor, and guide you, and lead you and give you real time feedback. And when you're out on your own like I was, you don't have that. You kind of have to figure out where that environment is.

Jasmine:
Yeah. I mean, school gives you natural community, I think especially if you're in an undergrad, because that's the natural time when people are going to college and are meeting friends and rooming with other designers and things like that. It was a little bit different going to grad school in my late 20s because I wasn't going right after undergrad, I sort of had to build that community again, and again wasn't super-interested in investing in that community initially. But you do find your peers and that's something that's natural very helpful. You also find your peers at work. Meet-ups, I mean, I haven't been to ... Well, I've been to a couple of meet-ups this year, but mostly in support of folks.

Jasmine:
But yeah, it's hard, especially if you're coming in from a non-designing career or as a non-designer. You're coming into the design community and you're wanting to sort of dabble, experiment or figure this out what this is for you. It's hard to break in.

Tanner:
Yeah. I guess how I would like to end this is by saying that if you want to be a product designer today, your best bet is to just try something. If you find that you are really driven by ... not external factors, but the scaffolding. If you really find yourself needing that motivation or that extra oomph, or if you want to make sure you're getting the fundamentals right, a university program, try it out, right?

Tanner:
If you think that you might be on the other end of that line, go try things yourself. Go pick up a book, go try tinkering around, get Sketch, get Photoshop and mess around, and just start engaging with the community.

Jasmine:
Yeah. I'm still a maybe on that, and the on thing is design school is really expensive, so it's really hard to dabble. I mean, we've even looked at boot camps just to understand costs and what that is, and it's one of the reasons you and I care about building resources for designers. But I think the luxury of learning design now as opposed to 20 years ago was we have a thriving Internet. There's Twitter, there's these Facebook groups, there's YouTube, there's Skillshare, there's all kinds of places where you can go and learn about design, both in a non-scaffold and in a scaffolded way.

Tanner:
Yes, exactly.

Jasmine:
So being able to dabble in that way at a low cost, and I'm only super-concerned about cost because I'm still paying off those grad school loans. It takes a long time. But I think my big takeaway is you're always learning. I think the question is, "What are you learning?" I think something we didn't touch on but it might be worth mentioning now is the school environment does a lot more for you than just learning. It does teach you how to communicate. It teachers you how to give critique, even those it's sort of the rough and tough critique. It teaches towards deadlines, work at a certain pace, you hold yourself accountable whether it's to yourself, to your instructors, to your peers, maybe to your parents if they're paying for school.

Jasmine:
There's a lot of that rigor does for a learning environment that helps certain types of people. But I think the big takeaway is even kids who have gone to design school, myself included, you don't just walk out and say, "I'm ready. Give me a job. Here's my diploma," because it doesn't work like that. I think the same thing for you, even with your first apps. That might not have been enough, so what are the layers that you continue to build on over time?

Jasmine:
But I think the important thing is well, not everybody's going to have a goal or know where they want to be. Sometimes that really hard, especially when you're starting out because you don't know what the whole landscape of design might even offer for you. But I think when you start to take at least skills that you want to learn, and skills will build up into these bigger things like greater experiences, greater projects, jobs, roles, all that sort of stuff. I think if you can target specific skills that you want to learn and dabble in those, or add layers onto those, I think that's when you really start to understand A, what you enjoy, but B, how you learn best.

Tanner:
Yeah. I would agree with that. The only thing that I would change from my perspective is if you don't know what skills you want to learn, just figure out what kind of things you'd want to experiment with. Whether it's building an app, or starting a company, or learning to build a website-

Jasmine:
This is you being ambitious, though. If you say that to me when I was learning, it would be like, "It's too much. Can't do it. I'm not ready for that." I would probably do something like go to job listings on Glassdoor or LinkedIn or company websites and look at the skills that they're advertising for and being like, "I don't know what these are," and go dig into that. But for me is a very contained, targeted sort of learning where I can go and just say, "Hey, what is systems design?" Or I don't know, "What are patterns I should be looking into?" Say away from Dribbble, but understanding those little pockets of things and building those up into small projects. I couldn't design an Apple. Still can't do it.

Tanner:
Well, yeah. I think this a great point. This really underlines everything we're saying. Different backgrounds, different trajectories, different ways of learning, different ways of growing-

Jasmine:
Different motivations, yeah.

Tanner:
Yeah, different objectives even, right? It really depends. I think TLDR would be there's so many resources out there, whether it's paid and structured, unpaid and structured, unstructured, whatever. The world is really accessible and available to most of us these days, especially if someone's listening to this. You have Internet probably, you have some kind of device where you can look up these things, look at these resources and experiment, so I think it's a great time to learn design.

Jasmine:
And you've got folks like us who are just going to spout off everything we think we know, so you good.

Tanner:
Cheers to that.

Jasmine:
Cheers to that.

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