Learn more about the life of a designer at Allovue.
What brought you to Allovue?
Jess and I met through our mutual friend Ted O’Meara, Allovue’s former CTO. Ted and I worked together previously, and he introduced me to Jess. I was enjoying the job I had at the time, but I worried about becoming complacent. I yearned for different coding experience and the chance to help craft a company. The idea of creating software for an underserved and usually disregarded market sounded exciting. Soon after I joined Allovue, I suggested leading our design efforts, and here I am, almost four years later.
So throughout your four years here, what do you love most about working at Allovue?
The people. It’s cliche, but working with a team who are good at their jobs, fearless enough to say “I don’t know,” and fun to hang out with while working, is really hard to find. Occasionally, I find myself on Slack, a collaboration and messaging tool we use at Allovue, so I can join the meetings for other teams; not because I’m explicitly needed, but because I like being “around” the team. Many times, someone will ask the group, “Hey can I get someone’s eyes on this?”, and as a group, we solve the problem. Being a remote employee, facetime with the team is precious to me.
What is a day in the life like for a remote Director of Design?
My day starts by catching up on Slack. One of the challenges of living on the west coast and working for a primarily east coast company is that I’m three hours behind before my day begins, so I have to catch up pretty quickly in the mornings. Once I head into the coworking office, I go over the day’s tasks with my fellow designers. My daily tasks usually consist of designing screens and changes for Allovue, writing front-end code, or working on the allovue.com website, all while juggling calls with our marketing team and meetings with the product team.
Do you also have a background in education?
I’m the son, grandson, and brother of teachers, but I don’t have a formal background in education. My limited teaching experiences include being a teacher’s assistant for freshman-level technology and media courses, and spending a year in Japan teaching English through the Japanese Exchange Teaching (JET) program. Teaching in JET was tough! The cultural and language barriers were difficult, and lesson planning did not come naturally to me. I was never confident that my students were learning from my attempts at instruction.
So if teaching isn't your passion, what is? What are you most excited to accomplish in your role this year?
My goal at Allovue has always been to make a piece of software that has the polish and usefulness of top tier software like Dropbox or Mint. I’m immensely proud of how far our product has come since I started at Allovue, but I’m also keenly aware of the things that we have yet to do. I’m also excited to work closer with Lolo and help her acquire more experience in product design. Her natural talent and abilities are so inspiring to me, so I’m anxious to see how she’ll thrive as she expands her capabilities.
What do you like most about the type of work you get to do?
My favorite part of my job is the cross-section of work I get to do. I’m in charge of design for marketing and product, but I contribute code as well. One friend described my role as a “Design Technologist” which resonated with me. It’s a rarity to not only design parts of a web application, but to then help put it into place, to have the autonomy to finesse it until it looks and feels right. At a small company like Allovue, it’s an excellent opportunity for me to have a position where I get to wear several hats and contribute to the greater good of the company.
Wearing several hats can sometimes be a double-edged sword. What are some of the challenges in your role?
I think one of the toughest challenges is that I’m not the target demographic for our product. I’m not an educator, and I don’t plan multi-million dollar budgets. Thankfully, I don't work on the product alone. Working alongside Jason Becker, our Chief Product Officer and Maggie Lubberts, our Director of Product helps me to put myself in the shoes of a principal or CFO and think through what questions they need answered and how they expect things to work.
Additionally, I have to navigate the challenges of our customers having varying district-issued computer hardware. Many of our users have older model computers at their sites, with smaller monitors and lower screen resolution. Nevertheless, it’s essential that I make sure the application is designed perfectly for them, ensuring that all of our users have the same experience.
Who is your hero and why?
Mr. Rogers. Who he was off-camera was precisely who he was on-camera: unfailingly kind, gentle, interested, curious, and at peace with himself. He wasn’t afraid to look silly or talk to kids about hard topics like death. (Watch a video of him here learning how to breakdance.) Every show was scored live by a jazz trio led by this incredible jazz pianist named Johnny Costa. When Fred (Rogers) asked Johnny to join the show, Johnny was worried he would have to simplify his music to make it palatable for kids. Fred loved his music as is and was confident that kids could appreciate it, so every episode Johnny was allowed to play his music to the full.
Fred Rogers also won two decisive battles for children and parents. First, he lobbied Congress not to defund PBS by proving how his show benefited both children and parents. Later in the 1980’s, he was a deciding factor in the case that allows us to tape TV shows by arguing that it allowed parents to record his program and watch it together with their children. VCRs, TiVO, and DVRs probably wouldn’t exist without him.
He’s my hero because what he brought to the world can be replicated by everyone, and right now I think we need as many of his kind as we can get. Finally, the image below is a totem I return to whenever I’m creating.
What would you like to be known for?
Being kind. It’s so simple and powerful, but it stings the most when I’m not and I think about it later. By kindness I mean being more than nice; kindness is offering empathy and resisting the urge to judge. It’s a fundamental thing that we can work on all the time, in any and every interaction. There’s a Maya Angelou quote that I think about a lot, often after it would’ve helped to remember: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jake is truly one of the hidden gems at Allovue and we're so grateful to have him on our team! Got questions? He's got answers. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org