Leadership in Design ; Erica & Chris
Leadership Speaker Series is one of the activities we have as part of the Design Associates Program. This quarter’s event was planned by Zoe and Tiffany.
The aim of this event is for experienced designers to help pass on their knowledge and insights to younger designers in a casual format. Erica Loh Jones and Chris Royer have been with Yahoo for 5-6 years and are currently design managers of their respective teams. Erica bringing her outgoing and passionate personality in Sports/Fantasy Sports. Chris leads Yahoo Mail as its design manager (and previously Gemini, an Ad Platform) with a patient and analytical eye.
The Creative Spark
Erica has always been drawn to art, but she also had an interest in sociology and language and that comes through in her work. She got a degree in graphic design from CCA and initially started out in editorial design, working on print layouts for agencies.
During a project with Wired Magazine, Jones was tasked to digitalize the magazine and transform the medium from paper to electronic. This leads her to study concepts like interactive visual and graphic mediums that work well with tablets. This transition also marked her shift in focus to product design.
Chris enjoyed creative writing and public speaking in high school and ended up getting an undergrad in journalism. For a moment, he thought he would study engineering but the visual side of journalism like print design for newspapers ultimately helped him segway into design.
Royer saw the writing on the wall and felt both the print industry and his interest in it was declining. The intersection of taking print into digital space through interactive presentations became his new focus. This opened up different forms of design thinking to empower delivering a narrative and helped him jump into the digital space.
From Designer to Manager
Erica was an independent and filled an opening on Fantasy Sports as she welcomed the challenge that came with it. Feeling like she had a lot of catching up to do, some of the proactive steps she took was building a mentor relationship with Kelly Hirano (VP of Engineering) and looking outside the company at management styles employed in different businesses. She credits her team for much of her success and to this day listens to leadership podcasts and looks for ways to help women grow in leadership roles.
“ If I can give my team what they need to succeed then I know I’m doing a good job ” - Erica
Chris grew into management more gradually and stresses that although there’s overlap in both the design and management role like a Venn diagram, they are still distinct and that it’s a new skill. His trajectory benefited from first starting small, (initially managing the messaging team). Slowly, as he jumped teams, more and more people reported to him. This gradual build-up aided his transition and he emphasized having people to talk to about decisions to gain perspective or use as sounding boards being vital to his success.
Motivations and Inspirations
It’s hard not to be motivated, sports is an exciting scope to be in! Erica adds that knowing the product (Yahoo Sports / Fantasy Sports) are utilities to provide entertainment, being the one to enable people’s daily escape is very fulfilling!
To Chris, seeing the product he’s working on steadily improve is his motivation. Time is a limited resource and he stressed that people should be selective with allocating it, find a project that you believe in to spend it on! He believes in email as an important communication tool, and it’s his mission to continuously make email better for end users.
“Be willing to put in hard work for delayed gratification.” - Chris
In Another Life
Erica finds people and diverse cultures fascinating and would be an inquisitive Sociologist.
Chis enjoys being surrounded by nature and would be a fearless Forest Ranger.
Word of the Wise
Some advice from our Design Managers to younger designers starting out.
Mentors are important.
Observe, be curious, don’t be afraid to dig in deep.
Take little things and try them out, keep experimenting and iterating.
Communication is key.
Be proactive about the right windows of opportunity.
Be engaged, don’t let whatever’s happening around you just happen and be a part of it.
Lack of patience and commitment can show as unwillingness to do hard work.
Give yourself time, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.