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Charged Chats

Charged Chat with Frank Bach

Charged Chats is a series of interviews featuring inspiring voices from the pros. What motivates them, what inspires them, and what can we take away from their stories to charge ourselves up.

Frank Bach is a Lead Product Designer at Headspace in LA. He’s interested in the relationship between mindfulness and creativity: how meditation can empower you to be a stronger designer and more engaged contributor. His work spans product, growth, and brand design.

Tell us about your career path. How did you get to where you are now?

My career started in graphic design. Communication design, brand identity, that kind of stuff. The iPhone had just been released while I was in college, and while I gravitated toward designing for the web, the world changed and we were all eventually designing websites for small devices.

The wave of responsive web design was just starting, and I went all-in. I started an agency with Nico Taus called Bureau. We were one of the first boutique agencies in the north. I was also teaching part-time at Cambrian and volunteering on community boards. My career was a little scattered and unfocused.

I went back to school, mostly because the idea of getting a Master’s Degree in my craft felt “important” at the time. I signed up for Graphic Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design, which cost way too much, and I was convinced that I wasn’t getting much more than a piece of paper out of it… but alas, in my last term, I took a course in User Experience Design which changed my world and I was unexpectedly in a career-changing moment. I dipped my feet into the world of experience design and never looked back.

A friend recommended I interview at Facebook in California and I bombed the interview. I realized I had a lot to learn, but the dream persisted. My wife Terrie and I started planning how we’d shut down Bureau, pack up all our stuff, and make a move West (where much of the tech world is focused). We didn’t know if we’d end up in Vancouver, San Francisco, or LA.

From there, I got a job at Edenspiekermann working on Red Bull in LA. It was really tricky interviewing for a new job while wrapping up old projects with the Bureau clients. Chicken before the egg kind of situation. I also had a desire to work in-house and get away from client services, so the Espi thing wasn’t a perfect match, but I learned a lot and was able to get to LA. I’m grateful for that experience.

Next up was Headspace - which is where I’ve been for 3 years. Now living in California, I bumped into Andy (the voice of the app) at a café in Palm Springs while on vacation. Totally unexpected. It had always been a bit of a dream to work at Headspace, as the app was very helpful in my transition from Sudbury to LA and career change from graphic to product design. We got talking, and a few weeks later I was meeting up with their team.

What’s your current role at Headspace?

Leading feature design and growth initiatives on the Headspace core product, monetization, and global business development teams. Push the product experience, define process, tools we use, mentor and guide the team. Evangelizing Headspace and our design team inside and outside the company.

How do you stay motivated when you’re going through a rough patch?

Get a good night’s sleep. Go skateboarding. Do something that isn’t digital. I have biweekly therapy appointments, and those usually help me get my groove back.

Any words of wisdom for someone looking to get into product design?

Go all-in. Read articles, watch videos, listen to podcasts, sign up to newsletters, etc. Eventually it starts to make sense. Design your own app screens even if they never get coded. There’s so much value in exploration and the tools are cheap. Go to meet-ups and webinars. All of it. It’s so difficult to half-step into the industry.

Check out the list of resources on my website for more.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Not really advice, but a Buddhist saying I learned from Lama Yeshe Rinposhe:

No hope, no fear.

It’s the idea that suffering happens when we want things to be other than how they are, and that realizing this is step towards accepting life as it is.

Find Frank on Twitter, Instagram and at www.sunshineshop.la

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Charged Chats

Charged Chat with Andréa Crofts

Charged Chats is a series of interviews featuring inspiring voices from the pros. What motivates them, what inspires them, and what can we take away from their stories to charge ourselves up.

Andréa Crofts is a design leader and community builder. She is the Director of Product Design at League, a digital-first health benefits platform focused on preventative health.

With a deep love for creating exceptional and accessible human-centered experiences, Andréa’s work lives at the intersection of inclusivity, accessibility and design ethics. She has applied this mindset to her work for companies like Wealthsimple, RBC, and World Vision.

Tell us about your career path. How did you get to where you are now?

My career so far has been a winding road that has led me to roles in public relations, graphic design, front end development, e-commerce, product design, and finally to design leadership. Throughout all of these roles, I’ve had a subtle sense of discomfort in the unknown. But I’ve always held a strong belief that saying an enthusiastic “yes” now and figuring it out along the way is the best opportunity to learn.

In the early days, I viewed my career as an open field rather than a worn-down path. I set out to explore different facets of this field to figure out what resonated most with me. Eventually, though, more concrete paths formed around the things I enjoyed. These helped pave the way for my current career path in Design leadership.

Along this path (and field) of constant ambiguity, I’ve won awards for my work in e-commerce and fell in love with public speaking. This has led me to speak internationally, as far away as Amsterdam. Having the ability to throw my introverted self on-stage to share thoughts on topics I care deeply about has helped me develop the self-confidence I need to lead teams and drive product strategy in my day job, too.

At League, my work and design philosophy live at the intersection of design ethics, inclusivity, and accessibility. I lead a team of talented designers working to re-define the health insurance industry and help people gain access to better health resources and benefits plans.

Describe your current role? 

I’m currently the Director of Design at League. I support our brand and product design teams to tell the right story about our product and service offerings - to our clients, and our members.

Right now at League, our focus is on applying behavioural science and nudge theory with the goal of helping our members live happier, healthier lives. Our goal is to translate small nudges into long-term behaviour change, and enable our members to use their flexible health benefits to fuel healthy lifestyles.

Andréa Crofts

How do you stay motivated when you’re going through a rough patch?

I tend look both inward and outward for motivation when the path gets rocky. As an introvert, looking inward is second nature to me - morning pages help me write down what I’m feeling and make sense of it all. This involves free association writing (whatever comes to mind) and gratitude journaling. Sometimes, in the pace of life today, it’s easy to get tangled up in the stressors of everyday. Taking the occasional quiet moment to ourselves can help us acknowledge where we’re being pulled to, and whether or not we should follow those feelings or let them pass.

Looking outside the world of design and technology is also really valuable when I’m in a funk. Lately, I’ve been particularly interested in human psychology and anthropology - drawing connections to analogous industries and schools of thought really help me to see the big picture. Academia is a consistent reminder that there’s always so much more to learn.

Words of wisdom for anyone looking to get into product design?

Be infinitely curious. Ask plenty of questions. Get to the root of the problem. Spend 80% of your time asking questions, and the remaining time on the solution itself. Share what you’ve learned with others. Connect and care deeply about the people you’re building for, and the solution will come naturally.

Be sure to test it out in the wild to be sure it’s the right one. If not, you won’t be starting from scratch… you’ll be starting from experience. Love the problem and you’ll create things that are helpful to people.

(I also wrote an article about transitioning from graphic to product design, if you happen to find yourself at this specific fork in the road!)

Best piece of advice you’ve received?

I don’t know where I came across this, but it really resonated with me:

The hardest things in life are contradictory - like confidence and humility. Growth and stability. Vision and the ability to listen.

I love this ‘mystery’ advice because it highlights the delicate balance involved in being a leader, and a human being. This series of metaphorical see-saws are a driving factor in my adaptability in leadership - they shape how I show up at work, and in life, every day.

Some days call for confidence, while others require a well-balanced cocktail of confidence and humility. Some days call for dropping the armour altogether and showing up with 100% humility. The constant pursuit of balance is what makes the journey so invigorating.