– Hi, I’m Joe Welinske, and I’m the program manager for ConveyUX, and that’s Seattle’s annual user experience conference. We’re going into our eighth year, it’s gonna be March third, fourth, and fifth in downtown Seattle at the Westin. It’s produced by Blink, and Blink has its headquarters on the waterfront in downtown Seattle and one of the fun things I get to do is talk with the many speakers that will be at our conference. We’ll have almost 60 speakers at our event when it comes up in March. So today I am talking with Moneta Ho Kushner. Hello Moneta, how are you doing today?
– Good, thanks for having me.
– Well, it’s great to have you in the program. I mentioned I’m at Blink’s Seattle office. Where are you talking to us from?
– From Facebook in Seattle.
– And for people that may not be familiar with where Facebook’s located, what neighborhood are you in?
– So we actually have multiple buildings across the Seattle area now, but I’m based out of our building in South Lake Union.
– Well it’ll be a nice, easy trip for you to get to your conference session. Why don’t we start with you just talking a little bit about yourself, maybe a little bit about your background and the things that you do at Facebook.
– Okay, great. Yeah, so I’ve been at Facebook for two years now, and I’m a design manager on the Facebook Groups team. So we’re building a community platform for billions of users across the world, which is really exciting. I’m really excited about my team and the work we’re doing at Facebook to help connect people and help them build communities. And so a little bit about how I got into UX, I think that was one part of your question, right? So I’ve been working in user experience as a designer for 15 years now. I moved to Seattle 15 years ago upon graduation and I got my first job as a product designer at Microsoft. Time went really fast and I ended up spending almost ten years at Microsoft. So I worked on everything from developer tools to Surface, the giant table first version of Surface, to Windows. It was during my time at Windows that I also transitioned to becoming a design manager. And so I’ve been a design manager now for several years. At Microsoft then I moved over to Google, where I worked on search ads. I did the startup for a bit since I wanted to try that out. Actually one of the big startups in Seattle, OfferUp, I was their first head of design. And then now I’m here at Facebook in Seattle where I helped to grow the Groups team into the presence that it has now in Seattle, which is a pretty sizable presence here, so pretty exciting to be a part of seeing that team grow.
– That is exciting, and you mentioned you’re specifically in the Facebook Groups area. I was just curious if it’s something that you’re able to talk about. How is Facebook set up with respect to their research and design for something like that? Is it that you grow your own team within that Groups area, and people may come from other parts of Facebook into that, or do you just kind of set it up from scratch with finding people from outside of the company?
– Well, I think that it really depends. We hire both internally and externally, and one of the things I like about working at Facebook is we work very collaboratively as a UX team. So as a design manager, I’m supporting designers, but I have peers in content strategy and research and engineering, product management, and data science that I work with closely and so, they’re all responsible for building their teams for their disciplines, but then we all work very closely together. As the scope of our team has grown over the years that I’ve been here, then teams have grown accordingly, right? If there’s a new initiative coming up and we need people to work on it, then we’ll start to put together a team and we’ll look at people both inside and outside the company.
– Well I’m sure you always have plenty of things to do every day. Do you ever get a chance to just take some time off from specific work tasks and think about new things?
– Oh, yeah. Of course! I think that as a designer it’s really important to stay inspired… It’s really my fear of working as a designer within one of these large tech companies. It’s very easy to have that take over all your attention, but I think it’s good to keep track of what’s going on, go to conferences, read books, do side projects, et cetera.
– And any new books you’ve been spending time with?
– Yeah, so there’s actually a couple books that I’d love to take a shout-out to, so our VP of Design, Julie Zhuo, published a book earlier this year called “Making of a Manager”. And as I am a design manager on her team and also a manager of a growing team, her book has been really insightful. Not just because it’s Julie’s story, which is pretty impressive, but also it’s got really good practical tips about how to be a design manager, and how to scale, and how to support your people and get the best out of people. I think it’s a great read not just for managers, but also people who are individual contributors on a team, so that they can understand the issues that their managers are going through. And I actually have gotten a copy of that book for everyone on my team, so that’s gone over really well. Another book where I’m reading it but I also was involved with it as a technical reviewer is “Strategic Writing for UX” by Torrey Podmajersky. So Torrey and I are previous coworkers. She’s a really rock star content strategist of Seattle, and so she wrote the first book published by a major publisher on UX writing and I think one of the core messages of Torrey’s book, which I try to also follow in my day-to-day, how I work with content strategists, is that content strategy should be a strategic part of your product development process. So it’s bringing content in from the very beginning, and talking about how it plays a role in determining what your product should be. So that’s another really great book.
– Well, lets talk a little bit about the topic that you’re gonna be presenting at the conference. So, the title is “Turning Your Design-Led Product Vision into a Reality”. So talk to us a little bit about how you came around to that topic idea and what we can expect from it.
– So having worked in UX for like 15 years, I’ve been a part of many design visioning efforts, and some of them have been successful, and some of them have not been successful. So I’ve done a lot of thinking about what are the conditions that are required to go from a successful design vision but actually make it a real thing. I’ve seen a lot of cases where designers may go off and they create this amazing vision. There’s a motion prototype, and almost like a broadcast quality vision of the product, and people see it and they’re like oh that’s cool, but then nothing ever becomes of it. And so I thought that it would be great to have a talk about what it takes to make your vision actually come true. And then the reason why I wanted to do a talk this year is because we just had a great, successful example of that at Facebook. So Facebook Groups recently launched a new experience. We launched it at the Facebook Developers Conference, F8, in end of April, early May of this year. So we, in a pretty short period of time, were able to redesign the Facebook app to put communities and groups front and center so that was a whole process that I was part of, from the initial visioning to actually getting it on roadmaps, making a plan, to launching. And so it’s been a really great journey, and actually a career highlight of mine, to be able to see something that goes from that design vision to something that’s actually real, that Mark Zuckerberg announced as part of his keynote and that people are using every day.
– Yeah, that’s so exciting on so many levels, to be able to have that work and follow it all the way through to it actually being used by people. That’ll be a great story to have at the conference, so we’ll look forward to having you here to do that. And thanks again for taking the time to do this short profile with me.
– All right, great.