Meet Jas Shukla, Principal UX Designer at Freshbooks, and Lead Instructor at HackerYou. Jas' upcoming Part-Time UX Design program kicks off on April 23rd.
Why are you passionate about UX?
I stumbled into UX through psychology. In university I took psychology courses for fun because I’m fascinated by the human brain and want to understand why people do what they do. When I discovered UX, it felt like a natural fit because it combined the art of understanding people with a scientific approach for validating and testing ideas. It’s also a space where I get to be creative, and be proven wrong many times over! I love this field because I’m always learning and growing.
What are a few highlights of your work in UX to date?
I’ve spent my career primarily in the B2B space, or business applications and services. I know it sounds boring, but it’s got some of the most complex and fun design challenges in my opinion :) I started my career at Microsoft on the SharePoint team. It was early days for that product, and it’s grown a lot since, but back then we were building out core functionality such as employee profiles, blog templates, and basic collaboration tools. It was a fun time to be part of that team, and I feel lucky that I got to work with a smart mix of people there.
After that, I switched gears and went into consulting. That was very different - instead of designing software used by millions of people, I worked closely with clients to build custom applications. I worked with organizations such as Vancity, Vancouver Coastal Health, Enbridge, College of Nurses, Ritchie Brothers, Rogers, Pattison Sign Group and school districts. I designed an app for schools to help them communicate with parents, a tool for Alzheimer’s patients to track symptoms daily, a workflow to assess new nurses so that they can work in a province, a site to improve the heavy equipment auction experience, and collaboration apps for people to be safer, more productive and happier at work. I love what I do because improving the systems people interact with at work are critical to overall satisfaction and engagement in life. This field requires taking on challenges where your app might be the thing that stands in the way of someone working late and missing dinner with their family. We spend most of our waking lives at work, yet we put up with tools that are often poorly designed or executed. I feel a sense of responsibility working in this space and I’m driven to improve these experiences in any way I can.
What are your core responsibilities at Freshbooks?
At FreshBooks, we design for small business owners and their teams. Small businesses use FreshBooks to manage accounting, but our goal is to design an experience where people don’t have to learn accounting. We try to get out of the way so small business owners can focus on doing what they love - whether it’s their craft, trade or growing their business. It’s a fun design challenge! I lead a team of designers, and work with other people such as product managers, tech leads, marketing and analytics experts to execute our vision. I spend much of my day in meetings and design critiques, talking to customers and helping to paint a picture of where we believe small business cloud accounting is headed.
What is the most important quality of a successful UX designer?
An inquisitive mindset and a drive to deeply understand a problem. I sometimes think of myself as a detective who is constantly asking questions, digging deeper and working to find patterns among different people. A great UX designer works relentlessly to ask questions, clarify assumptions, and peel back the layers of a problem. I think natural curiosity and inquisitiveness is hard to teach, but I believe that anyone can be a designer by practicing the UX techniques that help validate their understanding of a problem. The other thing I’ll add is that a great designer has the discipline to work through a ton of bad ideas to get to a good one. I often say, it takes 10 ideas to get to a bad one! It takes great patience and hard work to design well.
Tell us something you’ve learned during your career that you wish you knew when you were starting out.
Influence what you can, and don’t lose sleep over what you can’t.
Much of my design career has relied on learning on how to communicate clearly, how to pitch my ideas and how to let go of the things that I can’t change. In my early days, I didn’t realize that communication is such a critical part of design, and I learned the hard way that beautiful design doesn’t sell it itself. Through design critiques, presentations and collaborative workshops I learned the art of facilitation and influence. I also learned how to tell stories, how to focus a message for different audiences and how to share work early and often. All those experiences taught me that design is a journey where you bring people along, and design and communication go hand-in-hand.
I recommend to any young designer to first work on the hard skills of design, but don’t forget that the soft skills of communication are just as important when working with teams. It’s a lifelong skill, and gets more critical as you grow in your career. So read about it, take courses in communication (or for fun, improv!) and find people that inspire you and learn from them.
Want to learn UX Design with Jas? Start your application today.