– Hi, I’m Joe Welinske. And I’m the Program Manager for Convey UX. And that is the annual user experience conference that’s been held in Seattle for the past seven years. We’re going into our eighth year. It’s produced by Blink UX and I work for Blink. And we’re really happy to be putting on this conference. So once again, and one of the fun things that I get to do is to talk with our many interesting personalities that’ll be speakers at the conference. And so today I am speaking with Stephen John Ellis. Hello Stephen, how are you today?
– Oh, doing well, thanks for having me.
– Well I’m at Blink’s Seattle headquarters office in downtown Seattle, having a great day here. Where are you speaking to us from?
– Uh, downtown Portland in Oregon.
– Well you’ll have pretty quick trip, well not necessarily ’cause you might drive.
– Oh yeah a stone’s throw for sure.
– You’re in the northwest neighborhood. So it’s good to have you in the program and we’ll talk a little bit about your session. But maybe just start with talking about your background and the types of things you’re involved in for work.
– Sure, so my background is mostly in digital design. My undergrad was kind of focused on design and web development. My masters was mostly on digital arts. So I started to do more game design. And then I was teaching at Stetson University for three years basically web design, game development, and a few other digital design related things. So I’ve been back in Portland now for a number of years. Worked in healthcare, ecommerce agency space and so now I’m working at Avinode which is the private charter aviation platform.
– And, when you first brought the proposal to me you mentioned Avinode which is in the aviation industry. It’s a part of it that I had never really thought to must about. Or considered, so maybe talk a bit about who your organization supports and how that is setup.
– So it’s a little different than the tradition airlines like Delta, or Southwest. Where, they have thousands of aircraft. Private charter aviation is thousands of different operators each with an aircraft of maybe one fleet size to literally hundreds. And they kind of service that market to individuals who basically want to fly privately. So them and their family and friends from one location to the next. It certainly is a higher price tag but for those in that income bracket it’s small pennies on the dollar.
– And so for your organization and how it supports it’s client airlines, are there is there a one large scale system that you deal with or is there a vertical of different types of things?
– Yeah, so we have a number of different products that we support. The first one being the marketplace itself. Which is essentially where brokers who are direct clients will go to search for trips in the same way that you or I might search for trips on Kayak, from those larger providers, they will try to find those flights from individual operators. So that is our main one and there is an accompanying IOS app which also allows individuals to search for those trips. The one that I am primarily focused on is SchedAero, which is our fleet operation software. That is where these operators can manage the schedule for their aircraft, their crew. They can log their flight times and track maintenance, so it’s kind of a full suite of all things operations for those operators. And then the third branch is PayNode which is our payment platform. We kind of span those three products and then SchedAero just recently released its crew app which is where pilots and crew members can see their schedule, all their trip details, and then log their flight and duty times.
– All right, well that’s a lot of stuff. It’s a lot more than I would have thought about in our initial conversation. A lot going on. Are there any particular challenges you are encountering now, or any things that you are passionate about in terms of things you’re working on?
– Sure, the biggest challenges are scaling as always. So I was brought on as the first dedicated UX/UI Designer, so we’ve started to scale the team out. My challenge has been the fact that we’re across three different locations. We have our office in Portland, our sales and support team in Miami, and then our office in Gothenburg, Sweden which supports the marketplace. So we’re kind of across nine different time zones. Trying to stay in-sync on process and projects. Each of us is kind of working in our own individual products, and then my role as the UX/UI manager is to kind of oversee a lot of that ongoing work to make sure we’re staying consistent, in terms of the things that we’re building. Certainly, time different and traveling back and forth between offices is one of the bigger challenges.
– I think that relates to the topic that you’re going to be presenting which is “Scaling UX/UI Design for Continuous Deployment”. We haven’t talked about the continuous deployment part but maybe give people an idea of the types of things that you’ll be talking about and that they’ll be learning about in this session.
– It’s mainly focused on that. Kind of building out that initial process. Introducing UX research, you know to a company that didn’t previously have it. How do you move a company to be more user driven? And then as you see that success, then scale that out to more and more team members. And especially the remote aspect of it. That’s really the focus there is: What’s the process? How do you build it out? How do you scale it? And how do you pivot the business to be more user focused?
– And continuous or very frequent deployment is more and more the default for most of the products and services we work with. So how does that manifest itself in your particular industry? In the things that you’re involved in?
– Past experience was large organizations where you may be a little bit more waterfall or kind of slowly transitioning to a more formal agile process. Here, we do continuous release so we could have three to four releases a day. Dozens over the course of a week and hundreds over the course of a year. So the challenge there is how do you stay nimble enough in your research practice and also fast enough in your design iteration to keep up with that much development work that is ongoing, at various different stages. And how to continuously integrate with the QA and testing process. Your product owners and product managers, and just keeping all of those things finely tuned and able to support that.
– I would imagine also that being part of aviation world puts a lot of pressure in terms of the accuracy and efficiency of doing that deployment on a regular, day by day basis without any hiccups.
– Oh, totally, yeah. Cause absolutely, you’re supporting operations where they have, you know, flights going out every single day, and so making sure that the system is working efficiently, that they’re able to get the latest information. There is a lot of safety issues. There is a lot of regulation around that industry as well so many of us, when we are kind of introduced to the industry we spend a lot of time just learning the ins-and-outs of what it is to be a pilot. Or what are the legal ramifications of releasing a trip for for this? Things that when you work in other industries you just never really encounter. So it is a little bit of a steep learning curve and an interesting niche market to work with.
– Well I agree it’s really interesting and I’m glad we were able to get you in the program. I look forward to seeing you in Seattle in March.
– Yep. I’m very excited, thank you so much.