A design team and UX round table discussing the latest in Internet design trends. Icons vs text, most popular frameworks, localization and personalization, mobile trends — and more!
This week’s panel: Allati El Henson - Lead Designer @ Cloudflare Fallon Blossom - Content Designer @ Cloudflare Nayaab Ahsan - Content Designer @ Cloudflare
Hello, hello everyone, and welcome to episode three of Style Guide, the show here on Cloudflare TV meant to talk about design UX and explore that world with each other and everyone out there.
First of all, thank you for watching. If you're catching the live stream, great to have you.
We will be taking questions this session.
Feel free to submit them at live studio at Cloudflare.tv. Today's topic is all about a career in design, getting one, keeping one.
So feel free to ask any questions related to careers.
And with that, I'll start with introductions of our panel.
I'm joined by Alati, Fallon, and Nayat. Alati, would you mind introducing yourself for the crowd?
Yeah, so my name is Alati L. Hinson. I'm a lead designer here at Cloudflare.
My focus is on core brand and design systems. And I'll let it go to my next colleague.
And Fallon, would you mind introducing yourself? Sure. I'm Fallon Blossom.
I'm a multimedia content designer working out of the Cloudflare Austin office and celebrating pride today.
Hello, I'm Nayat. I'm a content designer for UX writing at Cloudflare.
And I also work out of the San Francisco office. Awesome.
Well, I guess to kick things off, since our main theme is about careers, maybe you can lead with the question of what led you to a career in design personally?
I guess I can kick this off. So I had kind of an interesting sort of way into design.
I'm born and raised in East Oakland. And for lack of a better way to say it, it's the hood.
And so it's very like disenfranchised and very under -resourced.
And we didn't really like learn about design like as part of the curriculum in high school or, you know, any time before that.
And so my last year of high school, I was like trying to figure out what college to go to and what I wanted to do.
I was actually like a visual artist like way before then. So I would draw and paint like all the time.
Sorry, all the time. And I knew I wanted to be like some sort of artist, but I didn't know like which kind because coming from where I come from, like that whole starving artist thing was like very real.
And I was like already starving.
So I definitely didn't have like any more room to starve anymore.
And so in my last year, I actually had a teacher's assistant who went to the college I actually graduated from, which was California College of the Arts.
And she kind of saw my work and saw sort of like my drawing and things like that and was just like, whoa, like you should really consider going to art school.
And she gave me some sort of pamphlet of like the pre-college program that they had and talked to me about like this scholarship that, you know, they would be able to sponsor me for, you know, having the grades that I had and being somebody that was of a diverse background and wanting to kind of get me involved.
And so things kind of like started to line up in such a way where, you know, you kind of want to give yourself some credit, but also acknowledge that you got really, really lucky.
And I had kind of worked for a non-profit at the time, and the CEO or like the executive of it, you know, she kind of kind of gave me a ring and was like, hey, like I'm talking to this guy who works for California College of the Arts.
He's telling me about this 95% scholarship that you could be eligible for just having the grades that you have and, you know, your diverse background.
And if you could put together, you know, a portfolio of work and kind of like share it with them and see if they would accept you, then, you know, you could potentially like go to this school with a 95% scholarship, which is totally unheard of at a private design school.
And so, you know, with that opportunity like ahead of me, I just jumped right on it and did the pre-college program, decided to do graphic design because I was like, whoa, that sounds interesting.
Just kind of like read the profile of it.
And then, you know, did that three-week program like right as I graduated high school and like fell in love with it.
It was like literally every single facet of like what you could do as an artist was encapsulated in design.
And I thought that that was really interesting because I'm one of those people who get really bored really quickly and can, you know, my attention gets diverted.
And so, you know, being able to find this discipline and that was like, you know, visual arts and it was photography and it was film and it was also, you know, UX, UI, and it was also storytelling.
And it could be so many different things depending on like what that project was.
And I was super, super compelled by that. And so, you know, fell in love with it, immediately signed on to do my first, you know, semester, get accepted.
It literally was the only school that I applied to. That's how crazy I am.
Just like, oh, find the opportunity and go straight full steam ahead and that's it.
And so, talk about luck because that's kind of scary to think like, yeah, you just like applied to one school and got in and just did it and the rest was history.
But so, I got really lucky. And then, you know, claimed my major like my first semester, didn't even have to think about it.
And ever since then kind of have been going from there.
So, I would say, you know, a mixture of luck, a mixture of like working really hard and of sort of, you know, not being afraid to like blaze a trail, knowing that it was just a dirt path and that nobody else that really came from where I came from was doing that at that time.
And, you know, I would say like with the culture shock that it was to be in a space that was like completely different than what I was used to growing up in the hood.
It was one of those things where, you know, had you known any more about the experience, it would probably intimidated you too much to want to do it.
And so, not knowing exactly what was ahead of me, I think kind of worked in my favor because it's just kind of like you just find out as you go and you deal with it, you know, as it comes and you don't kind of let, you know, any sort of preconceived notions of people telling you that you, you know, you can't do it or you're never going to have enough money to continue to do it and follow through with it or, you know.
And so, I would say that's kind of how I got into the career of design.
Interesting. And Fallon, I guess, did you have a similar experience, a very different experience?
A little bit different.
So, when I talk about my career path, I'm like on my fourth professional life right now and it's my first design life because I didn't really think that this design career was an option.
So, I grew up in New Orleans, different from Oakland, but not so much.
And so, I actually started creating video content in high school.
So, my high school, Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans, Falcons, what's up?
Love my high school. We used to produce our announcements.
So, instead of just being like, okay, we're going to have a dance, we're going to have a fundraiser, the principal says this, we did a full-on newscast.
So, when you became a junior at my high school, that was the first year you were eligible to be involved in that.
So, that was kind of me getting my, that was the seed, junior year of high school.
And then I was like, I want to be a lawyer.
So, I did law stuff. I want to be a writer doing other stuff. I want to make TV.
And then that didn't really work out because when I graduated from Ithaca with my bachelor's in television and radio production in 08, that was a rough year for everybody.
So, I was just happy to get a job. And so, until I started working in education, after I left law, I realized that you could put, I could put all these experiences together and make it a career.
And that's when I started doing instructional design work.
So, helping train educators on how to film themselves teaching, teaching them how to set up cameras to film things.
I started by teaching them what I knew and realizing that I could use video as a medium to instruct.
And when Cloudflare was looking for a video person, I answered the call. And so, here we are.
Awesome. Thank you for that. And last but not least, how did you get started in your design journey?
Yeah. I mean, I think the one big difference from Olathe and Fallon is that I'm still very early on in my career.
This is my first job ever, and I'm still in my first year.
And I feel like I've always considered myself to be a writer.
And when I got to college, I was like the quintessential confused college student because I wanted to do something I liked, but I wanted it to be practical to be able to get a job and all of that good stuff.
And I went from like biology to applied math, and then finally settled on rhetoric, which is felt like what really aligned with what I liked and what I was good at.
And I didn't settle on that until my junior year, which is pretty late for deciding a major.
And I realized that a lot of the stuff I was doing in school had naturally aligned with writing.
I was writing for a campus publication, I was doing like marketing and communication stuff on campus, and all these things that still aligned with writing.
And I was also really interested in technology, and I got involved in a lot of those types of organizations.
And I knew that I wanted to be involved in technology, and I knew that I was good at writing, but I didn't really know how the two connected.
So I did a lot of research into like what I felt like would fit with what I was good at and what I liked.
And I stumbled upon like content strategy and UX writing, which is still a relatively like newish thing.
And it was really complicated because there are not a lot of entry-level roles, and it's something that a lot of people have come into with different backgrounds like marketing and communications.
So I just happened to stumble upon this opportunity at Cloudflare for an internship in content strategy and UX writing, which is one of the few that I could find.
And just kind of started from there, and I'm still here. Awesome.
And given your guys' very diverse backgrounds and entry points where you are in your careers, what are some traits do you think that make for a very good designer, be it product, brand, content, that really help to both get developed and apply to be a great designer?
I would say like one of the biggest ones, at least from my perspective, is being resilient and having thick skin and kind of understanding and realizing that it's not for you.
Like you create design for other people to understand.
And I feel like sometimes that gets a little lost because, you know, especially like the type of design that I do, it's like creative.
And sometimes when you're doing this creative work, you're like, this is a visual manifestation of my soul.
Like so, you know, you're hoping that everyone receives it in the same way that you're trying to put it out there.
And, you know, and I usually tell people that like want to do that.
It's like, well, go do fine art on your free time then, you know, like that's when you can kind of have that emotive state and have it only be kind of about you.
But when it's design and you're working for a company, it's like it's really about everyone else.
And it's about kind of being a little bit more service oriented in a way and being able to take feedback and implement it in a way that not only, you know, satisfies you as far as like making sure it's aligning with design principles and you're not kind of going against everything you've learned.
But, you know, but that also kind of accommodates whatever this issue is that, you know, this person is trying to give you to kind of give that feedback.
And so kind of having thick skin and like not taking things too personally and being able to sort of pivot and kind of change, you know, as soon as something comes in in the way and not getting so married to anything, which I think, you know, can kind of help keep people very flexible and keep your mind sort of being able to fire on all cylinders because as soon as you need to do something different, you can just kind of hotwire and be able to move in a way that is quite nimble and can get to effective design solutions quickly because that's the one thing that I would say, you know, back in the day when I was studying in design, like it took a really long time to get to solutions that I was satisfied with.
And then now that I'm, you know, older and a little bit more solid or a lot more, I would say a lot more solid in my craft.
It's like, you know, you can come to these decisions quite quickly and then you don't feel like they're so precious, you know, and you always kind of have this thing in your mind where you're like, will I ever come up with another good idea?
And it's kind of like this inner turmoil in, you know, artists or a designer that you're just like in fear of like not coming up with your next cool idea or not having the next piece of design that you do be like the best thing that you've done up to date.
And so really trying to like continue to have fun with it, continue to be resilient, have that thick skin, take feedback as it comes, like people are going to say whatever they're going to say and it shouldn't sort of, you know, impact your self-concept in such a way where you can't bounce back from it and do something that, you know, everybody can be proud of.
So. I would add on empathy to that. I think that some of the stuff that you were getting at, but like empathy, because ultimately, like, even if you are putting your heart and soul on whatever canvas you're painting, once it leaves you, it's not yours.
And one would hope you had someone or some people in mind when you were making it.
So keeping them at the forefront of your mind, which requires obviously thinking outside yourself.
Empathy, curiosity, I would say, is another one.
Because for me, especially in my work, I mean, Cloudflare has a bunch of products and features and amazing things.
And as much as I would love to be an expert on all of them, I'm not.
So I have to ask a lot of questions. I have to unearth assumptions.
It is my job to make sure that everybody here or who I'm working with is aware of why we're doing what we're doing, why we're showing this product, why we're positioning it this way, why we're showing these features and not the other features, all of those things.
So again, being curious, asking a bunch of questions, not making assumptions, and being super empathetic and aware of who you're doing this for and the why is everything.
Yeah, I would say pretty much the same things that Alati and Falun have said.
To take feedback, like Alati was saying, and not take it personally and be ready to incorporate it into whatever you did, but also know that some of your decisions are valid, too, and that you don't have to scrap everything you did, and to stand by the decisions that you feel like you made correctly.
And with content specifically, I would say, knowing what words mean, which sounds silly, but everyone approaches words differently.
And like Falun was saying, having the curiosity to understand how different people are going to understand what you've written or what's in the product.
Now, to that point, do you feel that you have to use simpler words to try to reach a broader audience?
Do you try to say the same thing in multiple ways to then try to make sure people are reaching that same conclusion or same sense of meaning?
What are some of your approaches there to increase the understanding for anything you might be designing?
I think at Cloudflare specifically, we put a lot of importance in being technically accurate, because we have very technical and complicated products.
And so if you're being technically accurate, then you're not being untrue, and you're not giving false information.
But also, like you said, saying it in the simplest way possible while still being true.
And we like to follow sort of, I mean, I like to think that you should stack complexity.
So starting with simplicity, and then building upon the context if it requires more complexity.
Yeah. I would also say I'd like to just kind of touch on another point that I think is important is, you know, kind of being like this world bridger in a way, or like this translator, because I know a lot of the times, like, I'll get feedback.
And the feedback that I would get is never like one to one as to like, what they actually want me to do.
And so being able to hear someone be like, I want the logo to be bigger.
It's like, okay, you don't really want it to be bigger.
But you want it to stand out a little more. And you probably, you know, there's other visual devices that you can use in order to make it call more attention to itself that don't require it to be honking, right.
And so, to really be able to like, sort of listen to what someone is saying and capture the essence of what that is without doing the literal one to one, like sort of translation of it, I think has been like something that has helped me become really successful in what I'm doing.
Because then you add more value, right? Like you're not just this, these pair of hands that are just going to like do what someone's asking you to do.
It's like you take it one step forward and kind of push the needle a little bit more.
And it also starts to help whoever it is that is communicating with you and giving you this feedback to start speaking, you know, more of that language of like really honing in on like, what is this thing that we are actually trying to accomplish?
And what are the different ways that we could do it?
Because there's always one more than one way to sort of wear a hat, so to speak.
And so to be able to kind of listen to what someone's saying and start to go through that in your mind as to like, okay, how can I accomplish these things, but without doing that exact thing?
So that's been like something that I think is super, super helpful.
And for me too, I just will say this to kind of piggyback off of what y'all have been saying.
So there's different visual ways you can also complement the text.
So like I use different visual devices to do different things.
Sometimes there's parts of the UI that you just have to see with your eyes working in order to understand it.
You can write and write and write all you want, but certain things actually just have to be visualized and have to be visualized in a certain way to get impact.
Because I mean, I think they say that you have to hear something seven times and maybe three different ways before it sticks.
So as designers, we have to have all those different tools in our toolkit to be able to say it in as many possible ways that are possible in order to make it stick.
In order for them to take that action, sign up for that account, turn that thing on, get excited about Cloudflare as a brand in our story.
Yeah. Yeah. In experience with customers, I found it's about five. You have to repeat yourself at least five times in a variety of ways, languages, PowerPoints.
And to your point, because you're trying to reach different levels of awareness and engagement with each time you're bringing it up.
And using different methods just helps it resonate more and more.
So with that in mind, highlighting specific traits that new candidates should be having as they're entering the design world, what are some roadblocks that you've ran into personally in your careers or things that you would advise people to avoid both mid-career and as you're starting out?
Yeah. Oh my god. Like I know I mentioned previously, being born and raised in East Oakland, which is the hood and super under-resourced and going to college and then into these spaces in my career where I'd be the only Black person there.
And a lot of the times when I'm hired at these companies, I always have that one person that runs up to me and is like, you're the first Black person that we've ever hired.
And I'm like, I can't tell if you're congratulating me or yourself or what.
And so I would say, I don't know if I would necessarily say it's a roadblock, but I definitely will say it's an obstacle because then it's almost like you're constantly at this deficit in a way where you definitely do get hired to do this job that you're obviously qualified to do, otherwise they wouldn't hire you.
But as soon as you get there, it's almost like you got to reprove that you deserve the job that you just got.
And you find yourself in your first year going hard in the paint, extremely sacrificing your whole social life and a lot of other things just to prove this point and be half-past incredible at delivering on your job.
And I know that even in school, the way that I was able to sustain myself through school is by interning in design competitions and then winning them and then reaping the benefits of whatever stipend or money that you get from that.
And then whenever I would be presented with these awards, it would usually be someone in some elite design agency or something that would award you with it.
And they would literally, as they're shaking my hand, be like, oh my goodness, you're the best black designer that we've ever seen.
And I'm just like, whoa, that's really a weird thing to say when you're congratulating someone about something that they're winning.
And so always having to sort of fight for your seat at the table and kind of prove and reprove that you are who you say you are and you are who you've shown that you are, even in the sort of interview phase of it.
And then also having to kind of, I wouldn't say augment yourself, because I know for me, I've kind of learned at a really younger age, like, oh, I shouldn't really code switch.
Because if I code switch, then that means that somebody coming from my background or talks like how I talk and is the type of person like me can't be in this space.
And I don't want to perpetuate that same sort of behavior or enforce that for anyone who's outside of that space.
So I've always, you know, talked with my slang and, you know, kind of had my personality and will present with my personality.
And, you know, while I'm definitely, you know, will never stop, I definitely had, you know, professors telling me like, oh, wait, when you get to thesis, you should probably like, clean up your language or like, you know, speak in this way.
And it's like, oh, interesting. I won't do that, as a matter of fact, and then would still kind of be myself and then get to that place and have this kind of older white professors still be like, whoa, you're incredible.
This is awesome. We've never met anyone like you, like, way to spice up the, you know, the whole field pretty much.
And so, you know, you'll always get people that will try to stifle you or dim your light or try to get you to assimilate more into like what they think is normal, but kind of going against that and just being kind of holding your ground and making sure that no matter what, you're not reinforcing any sort of preconceived notions about what a person from a certain place might be like and what level of talent or intellect they may have.
And so I've always thought it was like, really important to kind of turn that on its head and to demonstrate that like, yeah, no, I could be from the hood.
I could talk on my slang. I could, you know, laugh in the middle of my presentation and I'm still going to be smart.
I'm still going to be talented. I'm still going to be, you know, creative and I can still do the job just as good as anyone else that, you know, comes from a more conventional background, I guess I would say.
So, yeah, yeah. I'm like, I don't know what to say after that.
Yeah. So, I mean, definitely one thing I took away from that and as you're entering the design world is, you know, in many ways, a lot of those pieces of advice were just suggestions on the path to mediocrity.
Oh, here, stop doing what you're doing.
Here's what everyone else or the majority is doing, you know, and it almost is antithetical to the success you've had and some of the rewards you have received, which is you being yourself or you presenting kind of your view on a problem or a message or a story as opposed to someone's suggestion and, you know, although suggestions are all well and good and you can take them to, you know, as ultimately, what was the story I've heard?
You treat criticism like bubble gum, you know, you chew it, you get the flavor out of it and then you spit it out.
You move on. I love that. Yes, yes, 100%. And I guess, Fallon and Ayab, have you seen similar roadblocks or totally different roadblocks?
Well, I started off my whole spiel about how I got here saying that I didn't even know you could do this as a job.
Right. I was late to the design party, but if I had been told that was an option for me back when I was in high school or even sooner, it could have completely changed my path.
It could have completely changed the decisions that I made.
Maybe I would have gone to art school. I mean, granted, Ithaca College was amazing.
Harvard for my master's also, you know, no big deal. So I did all right still, but I think I probably would have gotten there sooner and been a lot more happier as a person walking in my purpose, spending my time doing things that felt good to do instead of being miserable, trying to fit myself into these positions or these industries that were not designed for me and that would not allow me to design my day or design my own experience, which is part of the reason why I'm super happy that I'm in design now.
And as a woman of color doing design, I want to talk about it more because as people of color, we have to be empathetic as we live and breathe.
Sometimes it means life or death for us if you can't access empathy. We are used to being under-resourced, so we have to be creative.
It's like, you know, that sixth sense, at least for me.
I can't speak for all people of color, and I won't, but those things are inherently in some of us.
So why not do this really cool, interesting thing that people tell you you can't do or shouldn't do because it doesn't make sense?
So yeah, access to opportunity and access to like visionaries and dreamers and people who allowed me and inspired me to dream was maybe the only and will probably be the only roadblock I might have because, you know, once you realize and you can self-determine and you have that confidence in yourself and your skills and what you have to offer, you can literally do anything.
Anything. I believe that fully, so.
Yeah, definitely, and I'm really lucky that I've been able to have Fallon and Alati be my friends and mentors here in my first year, and so they've given me a lot of confidence and just kind of, yeah, given me the confidence to do what I think is right because now I feel like I do deserve to be here.
So yeah, and yeah, I mean, in terms of roadblocks, I didn't, like Fallon was saying, like I didn't even know this was a job.
Like I had to find it on my own, and even now, like my family and my friends, none of them really understand what I do.
They know I write and I work at a different company, and that's about it, and I mean, that's accurate, but it's not all of it, and so just like having to build that network on my own, I like researched people who had the job, like tried to find their contact information, probably emailed about a hundred people just to get some of their time to find out more, and I talked to maybe a handful of people out of those hundred, and just like being persistent, and that really changed things for me.
Did you find success there? Is that an action you would recommend to those, you know, not just joining the design industry, but almost any industry, especially in today's environment where, you know, job seeking, and we're in a difficult kind of career situation.
Did you find success there, or what are your thoughts?
Yeah, I think if you just go and put the little bit of extra effort, it goes a long way.
I did a lot of digging online for people's emails, like they're not easy to find, but I did find them eventually, and I did a lot of following up.
I think even when I emailed someone and they didn't respond, I would follow up again, and then they would respond.
Even with the internship here at Cloudflare, I applied online, didn't get any response, and by some random chance, Cloudflare came to my school's career fair for the first time, but they were hiring for salespeople, but I like took my resume.
I was like, can you please help me find the hiring manager, and someone else actually like put me in contact with one of the recruiters.
I still wasn't getting a response, but I kept following up, and eventually I did get that call back, so I do think following up and being persistent in that and going a little bit of the extra mile does help.
If you don't think you're being, not being annoying, you're not doing enough, be annoying, because somebody else somewhere is.
Right, so like you gotta get used to getting told no and being like, I'll take that as a yes.
So what type can you meet? Exactly. It's like, I just so happen to be in the lobby.
I'm sorry, matter of fact. Yeah, networking is super, super key.
It's again, especially if you're trying to come in as a non-traditional candidate.
I had to sell Cloudflare on me, hard. I had to convince them that the problem they needed to solve was a problem that only Fallon Blossom could solve, and it worked.
You have to sell yourself, yeah. Yeah, I've seen all your videos.
I am always very impressed of the content that comes out, and of course, not just from you, but from my other guests as well.
With that, I'll do a quick reminder that we are taking questions, so if any of our current viewers would like to reach us, feel free to email questions to livestudio at Cloudflare.tv, and with that, I'm going to I'll take it back to the panel, and we've had some good conversations about resiliency, being able to take feedback, understanding your clients and your customers, both internal and external with empathy, and really, a lot of what success boils down to is that persistence.
So once you're aware the job exists or that these opportunities are available to you, just persisting towards that tract.
So do you guys have any specific examples of times you were persistent around either seeking a job opportunity or around pursuing an idea or a piece of design?
Oh my god.
I know, for instance, at Cloudflare, we were, at least from the moment that I've started, my kind of role is just centralized around the design system and this brand refresh work, and the process around that has been very, very interesting and definitely quite a story to tell, and because Cloudflare is just such a unique place, it's very specific, and I can understand why creating a design system and a refresh for it is this moment that is, you know, when it's done and defined, it's a very special moment, and there was a lot of, let me see, how can I put this?
There was just a lot that goes into the work before the work, I guess I would say, because a lot of the work that I do is very much foundational.
It's almost like, like I said, the work before the work. It's setting up what that DNA is, and a lot of the times, because, you know, the work that we do at Cloudflare is such a, it's a product that is really about that, the function of it, and the place that it sits in sort of, you know, anyone's life or in society, and because our product is so good, a lot of the times, you know, people can be like, oh, we don't need to redo this.
Like, we're making tons of money. Like, why would we need to, you know, redo this or, you know, change the way we do that, which I totally understand, but the way that, you know, I've always tried to position the role of design in a space that is very functional and technical, and we're almost like the behind the scenes of the behind the scenes of the behind the scenes man that sometimes you don't want people to know that it's us, you know, like, as soon as somebody knows whose security provider it is, like, that's a kind of a risk in and of itself, and so, you know, how do you create something that has this soul, that has a presence, but that also can be discreet sometimes, or that can kind of take on, you know, all these different forms and fashion, depending on like what that context is, and so, you know, there was a lot of times when, you know, either like funding will have to be reallocated, or priorities will be shifted as far as the company goes, and a lot of the times, it's always just about knowing that what you're doing is really important, even though others might not see it as important as you think it is, and if you believe that, then, you know, you got to go above and beyond to make sure that, you know, eventually they'll see it as you see it, and so I've definitely found myself, one, just for the love of it all, because I do like actually really love design, and it's one of the things that I've actually spent more of my time on than literally anything else, why I'm so awkward, even though you can't tell, I'm really awkward, and, you know, so I've spent a lot of time like working on, you know, this design system stuff on my free time, and on nights, and on weekends, and just like having these visions, because I'm one of those people who like space out like completely, like I literally fall into a trance while you're talking to me, and then people were like, what, is she having a stroke, or a seizure, or like what is exactly happening, but in actuality, I'm like having a vision of like what this, you know, whole grand design system is, and I'm like literally designing it in my mind, because if I could design it in my mind, by the time I have to like put it to pixel, or whatever, like it's already kind of, you know, halfway there, and so, you know, having people not necessarily see it in the same way, and wanting to focus more on the technical aspects of things, and, you know, not necessarily understand like, okay, the right brain will add to that left brain, and all of a sudden, we have one cohesive brain that works really, really well together, is something that I've, you know, brought to all the tech companies that I've worked for, because it kind of is very similar in other spaces, so, you know, if you believe in the work that you're doing, like do it until, do it into the ground, like honestly, and like do it until everyone else believes in it the same way you do, and I will say from, you know, the midway of this project into now, where it's like almost 100% complete, like everyone is behind it, and people are really, you know, loving the work that's coming out of it, and it's just a testament to like not losing hope, and like constantly putting the same amount of momentum as from when I started, to when it's completed, and like not losing that steam, and and just, you know, just working super hard on it, and loving it, and just putting as much of that love and soul into it as possible.
I was gonna say, you're starting to sound like an entrepreneur, like you're gonna quit tomorrow and start your own company, with the amount of passion.
Because I, like honestly, like I've had my own studio, like before I started working for like tech companies and stuff, and it's, it's hard, like working at Cloudflare is hard, y'all, like let me look at the camera, working at Cloudflare is hard, but it's like really, really rewarding.
Hey, hey, let me finish.
It's really, really rewarding though, because you know, and I mention this all the time, is like being a Black woman in this space, you kind of have to go after the things that are really difficult, in order to gain the credibility to be who you are, and so I've always wanted to go after like the most difficult projects possible, that I have to use like literally every fabric of my being, and intellect that I have in my soul, to like understand it, and break it down, and simplify it, and regurgitate it out to the public, or whatever, and so you know, like yeah, I've been there, my own project manager, my own account person, my own, you know, like have been literally everything in one, and that was exhausting, so to be able to like, you know, focus, even though the, the focus that I have is still quite wide, it is great, and yeah, that's why you know, Cloudflare is, while tough, very rewarding to be, because you can look back and be like, wow, I literally like have this breadth of work, and it's, you know, something that I can say, like what is a career-defining moment for me, so definitely.
I'm about to call you that, so Raven with your visions.
You'll see it one day, it's kind of like weird, actually, not that I think about it, like you just start staring up at the space, like I shouldn't have told anyone that, now they'll know like what it's too late now, I'm definitely gonna start looking now.
I don't know necessarily how to segue that, you guys have similar artistic styles, where you, you like to take that time to kind of envision the, the output first as you're, you're creating content, how does, how does that look for, for both of you, Fallon and Nyab?
Do you want to go, Nyab? I'm plugging my computer in, sorry.
Yeah, I, I mean, I just wanted to touch on one thing that Alati was saying about doing the hard things, like for me, that I found that to ring really true, because like wearing hijab, I stick out regardless, and I'm either gonna be like not good or really good, so I've always, like Alati, like tried to do the hard things, and I have a I want to be able to be on the really good side of that binary, so yeah, I can definitely relate to that as well.
Oh, and I want a tangential note, apparently we have to send some notes to the design team at Zoom for the virtual backgrounds, like in regards to having trouble with your hijab.
Yeah, I was saying earlier that I would love to use the backgrounds for Zoom, but it never works out, because it takes my scarf as the background, and so I'm just a floating face, so definitely bad user experience, but yes, that's why it's always important to have diverse teams and people of different backgrounds working on products, so that you don't have issues for people of diverse backgrounds.
This is also true from some of our more melanated Cloudflarians, their whole faces will disappear, so yeah, Zoom, what's up?
I know people have dark skin, and they're trying to use the sensor stuff to wash their hands, and it doesn't read them, their skin, so they can't use the sensor sort of thing, so yeah, technology, there's definitely room for inclusiveness there.
So to that end, and I guess I can start with you, Fallon, is in order to increase the amount of diversity in the design world, and we started talking about careers, how either would you recommend someone in your situation beginning that career and things that they could take, or just ways to increase diversity as a whole?
So for many of you, you mentioned you weren't even aware that this job was an option, so what are some ways that you can think of that would help increase awareness?
Shows like this on Cloudflare TV, any other means that we can really expand the interest level, as well as the pool of candidates that are applying?
So I have a lot of ideas.
I'm an 80s baby, so we didn't have social media back in my day.
So first and foremost, you have a camera.
Everyone has a camera. From a video perspective, we all have them.
So if you are a content creator type, I can only speak for my video folks, make video.
You're already doing it. You and your little friends, TikTok and Bebop and hip-hop and whatever you're doing, you're doing it already.
So you know, if you are the content creator type, or if you feel that in, you just do it, first and foremost.
I think, and in doing that, you will build an audience and folks will find you.
The good stuff tends to bubble up to the top. The first chunk of your stuff is going to suck.
Everybody goes through it. It's just bad. You just work your way through the bad until you find your voice, find your vision, find your lane, and you just hang in that lane and go hard to paint.
What companies could and should do, and I would also say design schools could and should do, is build pipelines.
I think all of us have struggled from lack of access to opportunity and awareness.
So if you do scroll on Instagram and you do see that video that you like, or a content creator or whatever, or if you're in a hiring role or decision-making position, constantly think about interesting different ways in which to find talent.
Be receptive to folks who might not have all the things on your list, but have a spark or just have a je ne sais quoi, je veux vivre something that works for you.
So yeah, everybody just needs to be a little bit more open and transparent, and more accepting, and yeah, that.
Yeah, and I think hiring managers and companies just need to be really more intentional about this.
I was reading an article about BoJack Horseman and how the entire cast ended up being white, and the creator didn't intend for that.
He was just, I was like hiring whoever I thought it was good for that role, and then in the end, he realized that everyone was white.
And if he had gone in, you know, thinking ahead of time, like, I'm going to make sure that we're going to have a diverse team or a cast, then it would have changed things, right?
And it's not that he was intentionally doing that, he just wasn't thinking, and we need to be thinking ahead of time about it.
Yeah, no, I definitely agree with both what you ladies are saying. I also think that like hiring managers and leadership and, you know, whoever else is at the helm of, you know, crafting and creating these teams and these companies, they need to start to be more aware and self-aware of their own internal biases, because, you know, you are going to choose the people who look most like you, who think most like you, who, you know, who you think are just more like you, and those are the people who you would associate with, you know, talent and intellect and whatever else the qualities are that, you know, you're looking for.
And so if you could kind of debunk that and kind of like understand that those are constructs that are abstract and that were created and, you know, have been seamlessly integrated into your DNA, basically, and to just start rethinking the way you think of a person and what you're actually looking for.
And then once you start to do it in that way, you do become inherently more intentional, right?
And then you do start to, you know, choose things that are more for the right purposes and not for the purposes of like your own opinion.
And so, you know, it kind of takes me back to what even Andre Iguodala said on the webinar that, or not webinar, but fireside chat that he did around, you know, having senior leadership also like have diversity in your senior leadership, because then you do have that person that can be there to say like, oh, and what about this?
Which I noticed, like, I mean, obviously I'm not senior leadership or anything like that, but whenever I'm working on a project and I have to kind of creative director, art director, whatever, and I'm like watching whatever video or looking at whatever piece of design and it has like people or something, the first thing I notice is like, oh, everyone is white.
Like, and so even if I'm that person to be like, wait, y'all, everybody's white, like we got to show more of this, then it's like, cool.
Like I could be that too. Like that's part of creative direction.
You want to make sure that, you know, you're showcasing what the world is, you know what I'm saying?
And because we are a global company, it's like even that much more important because I know, you know, even in, you know, in the field and me sort of being the only black person in most of the spaces that I've been in up until now, it's kind of like, it was such a huge letdown because I didn't know that that's what it was going to be like.
You know, first you just don't know that design exists and then you get to the space and you're like, holy crap, like no one looks like me at all.
Like, and in fact, like no one, like I thought I was speaking English, but apparently like even my English is not the same.
So they're like, what are you even saying? And so, you know, to have that representation and to see people that look like you in those places, like that's what gets diversity in the door.
And I know it's much harder to have a vision and fall into a trance and imagine yourself in these spaces without ever having seen anyone else in those spaces.
And I was fortunate enough to like, you know, have this like disposition that I have, but a lot of people don't necessarily have that.
And, you know, it's hard for them to feel confident enough or to see themselves as, you know, somebody that can trailblaze into these spaces and have enough, what would you even call it?
Like just, man, endurance and stamina to like, to take it all, you know what I'm saying?
And to just know like, oh, it might not be what it needs to be right now, but because I'm here, it's going to eventually be that way, you know?
And so trying to keep that, that steam to make sure that that is going to be the cases.
Yeah. And what's that? Grit? Yeah. Grit, perseverance.
And everything, all of it. All of the above. D, all of the above. And I mean, do you think diversity is particularly important in the design industry?
Since we did speak to the need for empathy, the need to collect multiple sides of feedback, you know, understand multiple opinions and perspectives.
Unlike some other organizations that might be a little bit more opic or be able to survive being a little bit more myopic, design really needs a lot of inputs on the table or really understanding who's the various audiences.
What would you agree with that? Or what are your thoughts?
Man, my fallback is that all spaces should be diverse, you know?
Like that's the way that you, you know, kind of capture all the variables and kind of create something that will be more long-lasting unless you are just going for like, no, we only want to sell to these people or we only want to engage with these people.
Then yeah, intentionally you'll be like, nope, that's who I'm talking to.
That's it. But if you, if you want to last forever, if you want to be timeless, then you need to adopt that way of thinking and you need to sort of be able to like come at something from all these different planes and all these different perspectives.
Because if you're always looking at things through a pinhole, it's almost like that Plato's cave thing, right?
Like you never have a full picture and it, you know, and things will be always be smaller than they could be.
And things are usually quite huge. And so when you're only looking at a very small piece of it, it's very limiting and it doesn't last very long.
So, you know, you want to be around for a moment, then fine.
But if you want to be around for a lifetime, then you might want to adapt and adopt for sure.
Yeah. And for me, it's not just diversity.
I feel like the equity and inclusion piece is just as important as that diversity piece.
And so, you know, when you think about design thinking, you can't create something without really looking at it from all angles, considering all options.
It's very difficult to do that when you have only one type of person at the table, or only one type of perspective, or only one type of training.
If we all went to design school, the same design school, then what's the likelihood that we will come up with something different?
But the fact that we didn't have very different paths means that when we work together and we combine our powers like Captain Planet style, whatever we can come up with is going to be totally better than the sum of its parts.
So I think naturally, if you can kind of think about like, where organically you can get more folks of color, more, you know, that in tech, design offers a nice, natural, I think, organic entryway, but it is not the only way.
Yeah, because I agree with Alati. I think we need to see more diversity.
And I'm talking not just race, I'm talking gender, I'm talking sexual orientation, religion, like everything.
But we also need to have some type of a framework for us to engage in each other, where respect is first and right.
Yeah, I mean, I don't really have anything to add to that, I think.
And with that in mind, particularly tech and getting into tech, what would your advice be for those that might be afraid to press the apply button or walk over to the Cloudflare table, because they don't know anything about the Internet, they don't know, they don't have a tech background, they think that's, you know, an anchor around their resume from the very beginning, what would your advice to them be?
Gosh, my most practical advice would be like, kind of comparing it to like, you know, you're in the first grade, and then you get out of the first grade, and then you start the second grade.
And then you get out of there, you start the third. And that's how it is, like with everything.
It's like, you know, one, you'll never know until you try to nothing is as hard as it seems.
And three, if you do it day by day, then it's doable, you know, and I think that sometimes people kind of overestimate the difficulty of something or underestimate themselves.
And that's a really kind of bad combination to kind of do things that you've never done before to take on things that are challenging.
And so I think that if people just take it on as like, just another thing that I should learn about, or, or something like that, and approach it as a, you know, if I take really small bites, then eventually I'll eat the whole cake.
And usually I'll leave the cake alone, because I definitely don't need no more cake.
But, you know, that's kind of a good way to think about it, right? Like, you know, if you if you want to take it, you know, boy, the ocean, that's kind of hard to do.
But if you know, you get it bit by bit, then, you know, you'll have a good starting point.
And before you know it, you'll, you'll capture the full net. So that's what I would say.
I would say like, Cloudflare is, is very technical, some of the work is very difficult.
But if you at least take the first step at trying to understand, then by the time you know it, you'll be, you know, really good at it.
And you'll understand it really well. And it'll become a lot easier, just like exercising.
So I come from a military family, and I'm gonna leave out one of the P's.
But what is it preparation proceed, or poor preparation precedes poor performance.
Prepare, prepare, prepare, prepare, be ready.
Don't come to no Cloudflare interview not having gone to our website, or read our documentation, or watched a video or checked out our YouTube channel, or set up an account.
We give stuff away for free people.
Just try it first. I can add to the suggestion. Before my Cloudflare interview, I went to YouTube, I found an interview of one of the previous customer success managers.
And I basically just took the next time someone interviewed me and asked what was Cloudflare, or, you know, to explain it, I pretty much just verbatim said what the employee said via the YouTube video.
No one's checking. I would I will double down on that. That's it. Yeah. And you have to have more than just the the model.
Come on now. We all know that you got to come a little harder than that.
Yeah, prepare. I went so far as to interview a Cloudflare user and record the interview and transcribe it.
So I was ready.
I'm also a very type A person clearly, but I got what I wanted. So judge me if you want.
Yeah, I would I mean, I would say like, if, if you prepare even a little bit like found saying, you'll be more prepared than at least one other person who's going for the same thing.
So just go for it. And even if I mean, I would I would say a lot of people are just pretending to be as confident as they seem to be.
So do the same thing.
Pretend to be confident. Yeah, take it till you make it. Yeah. You're giving away my secret.
Sorry. All right.
So on that note, let me do a quick check for questions. I know we already touched on on the tech one and we have about five minutes left.
So any, I guess, closing thoughts or closing piece of advice outside of, you know, perseverance, really finding your own voice, putting in that extra effort that the majority of the crowd, you know, that the mediocre folks probably are not.
Any other closing thoughts?
One, oh, have fun. Oh, my God. Like, if you're doing all of that stuff, and you are not having fun, my goodness, it's gonna be real tough, like, real tough to wake up on time.
I will say that you'd be late to literally everything.
So just like, make sure you're still having fun and that you are checking in and tapping into like, what your heart is feeling and that you're constantly doing what you love.
Because honestly, like, using that as the fuel to do the work makes the work that much better and kind of helps you continue to, you know, have the energy to persevere, because sometimes it's, you know, harder than others.
And to be moving from that space is usually a lot better to tread water with that.
I think if, like, once you get your foot in the door, find your people and stick with them.
So I think that's really important. Like Howland was saying, it's not enough to just be there.
It's also that you're enjoying it, like Alati was saying, and to feel welcome and like you belong somewhere.
So find your people wherever you are.
Yeah, design is a team sport. You really can't do it alone. You shouldn't try to do it alone.
You can't get to the point where your voice is the only voice that matters.
Be humble. Like what? Well, who just said that? Kendrick, be humble.
Sit down. Just be humble. Listen more than you speak. As a designer, that's going to be the key.
Really listen. Listen well. Because like Alati said, people will be like, I want bigger, but they really mean more prominent, more pronounced, more focused.
So really listen well, listen actively. Yes. Listen and ask questions to the point where it might seem like you look dumb or people think you're dumb, but you're just trying to understand.
Yeah. Over-communicate for sure.
Yeah. And wear rainbow wigs. I was muted.
Do you wear the wig to the interview or your first day at work just to set the tone?
No. So I'm a year in. Get in, get in good, and then wall out. No one's going to question you at that point.
She's good. Yeah. It actually matches the lava lamp situation you got back there.
I might be a designer.
Colors are my thing. Yeah, I agree. I agree. 100%. On brand. Always on brand.
Yes, ma'am. And with that in mind, I know it was very interesting you bringing up the fact that design's a team sport.
And we've brought up the idea that ultimately if you want to go far, it aligns with the quote of bring a team.
You go fast, go by yourself. You want to go far, bring a team.
To not have a niche perspective, to not just go in for that flashbang approach, but to really build something that will scale, that will reach multiple audiences, and in multiple languages, or in multiple methodologies, that they can understand that message.
So be it TV, written word, video, interpretive dance.
Well, I'm sure we'll get there soon. Episode four. Dan's on vacation.
I'm ready. Hey, look, I learned the Martha Graham method.
I'm a former little dancer. I could be a tree or a rock.
No, and I would say, like, hello, though.
I would say, always think like that, even if it's the harder decision to make at the time.
I think Nayab and I have experienced this a lot, where we might get brought in where some decisions have been made, but we still have to say, hey, friends, you need to change it anyway.
You really should think about changing it anyway, because these very, you know, real reasons, but being okay if you lose.
But raise the point. Raise the point, have proof to back up your point, but, you know, take your L's respectfully, because you will have to take them.
And with that, we're out of time. So I want to give a great thanks to all of my panelists.
Thank you guys for your time. And, you know, hopefully we had a lot of fun and a great conversation.
Thank you. All right. And for those watching either live or a recording, because you ran out of Netflix, feel free to join us for episode four, topic to be decided.
So we'll continue chatting with designers and design thinking and design theory.
Thank you very much, everyone.