A two-hour exercise to begin prototyping your life

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If writing New Year’s resolutions feels futile during the pandemic, you are not alone. With the rollercoaster of 2020 behind us, it can feel strange to set goals for the next 12 months, when you can’t even predict what will happen next month. As someone who finds value in self-reflection and setting intentions, there’s a happy medium that has served me well: Quarterly Life Planning.

I started Quarterly Life Planning when a close friend introduced me to “The Wheel of Life” exercise, created by Paul Meyer. We used it to create New Year’s resolutions for 2016. Little did I know that 2016 would be one of those years where nothing goes according to plan; it included the breakup of an important romantic relationship, the end of my dream job, and the gut-wrenching experience of working on Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Life was changing too quickly. …

Two years ago, I transitioned from design to product management (PM). After 10 years as a designer, from interning to managing a team, I felt unexcited by the management path ahead of me. I missed the deep product work I used to do as an individual contributor. I also felt frustrated when I wasn’t involved with the “big decisions” PMs made, such as canceling a product line or choosing a new strategic direction.

I’ve always found “why” we’re building something as interesting as “how.” To put it another way, the problem-setting was as important to me as the problem-solving. …

Guidelines for lean, customer-centric startups

When I joined Informed K12 as their first and sole product manager, my first directive was:

Build relationships with customers.

Up to that point, my CEO Sarah had the best product intuition. She understood our users better than anyone else. It helped that before starting the company, she was a district administrator, our target user. But it was also because in the early days of the company, Sarah built deep relationships.

My first customer visit was to Chaffey Union High School District. Our client, the head of HR, welcomed Sarah in with a huge hug and a gift for her baby. Sarah had returned from maternity leave, and the client remembered this even though it was only informally mentioned to her. …

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Opower design team circa 2014

Who works on what, and why?

Note: This this an article I wrote a year ago while working at Opower, but didn’t get a chance to publish.

One of the responsibilities of a design manager is to decide what projects your designers work on. To be as collaborative and transparent as possible, I chose to share my staffing principles with my team, and now publicly as well.

I am currently the UX Design Manager at Opower, where we use behavioral science and user-centered design to nudge people to use less energy. I manage a team of 6 UX designers and 2 contractors. …

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Photo by “My Life Through A Lens

“71% of millennials report that meaningful work is among the three most important factors defining career success, while 30% believe it is the most critical factor.” *

If the most important thing is doing meaningful work, how does one go about finding that?

That’s one question I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about these past 12 months in my 2 job searches. The first started when my company Opower was bought by Oracle. After a multi-month job search I joined the Hillary campaign, which ended 4 months later in less than ideal circumstances. …

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Written by David Royer and Suelyn Yu

Have you ever left a design critique feeling defeated and less excited about your work? Or frustrated because you didn’t get the type of feedback you were looking for?

Learn how to run more effective design critiques that:

  1. Provide useful feedback to improve the design
  2. Leaves you feeling revitalized and excited to improve the design

3 critique roles

1. Presenter

The presenter is the primary designer who created the work. Her job is to provide the necessary context and content for the critique. Mike Monteiro has great books, articles, and workshops on effectively presenting work.

  • Share your goals for the critique session
    “My goal for the critique session is to get feedback on the overall flow so I can make improvements before user testing on Friday.”

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cc Alejandro Escamilla

A checklist for UX designers, recruiters, and hiring managers

A lot of people have written helpful articles on how make a great UX portfolio. Like this, this, and this.

It’s good to read sage advice from designers, but I think the most important thing to remember is this:

You have less than 2 minutes to make your impression.

Most hiring managers and recruiters fly through portfolios–spending less than 2 minutes per candidate. They glance through images, read a few paragraphs, and then jump to your Linkedin profile or resume. The best portfolios find a balance between thoroughness and scanability.

To optimize for this, I encourage using a classic design process: user-testing. …

Artist Statement

There was something mesmerizing about the Water in Lake Malawi and sitting in our little rocky boat, I got sucked into it. I wanted to capture the Water, and to keep at the top of my pile of memories. I had my iPhone and I knew this wouldn’t be enough. That’s when I knew I wanted to paint again.

The Water has endless depth, but is also transparent and doesn’t have any color of its own. The Water reflects all the colors around it–the expansive sky, the land in the distance, and my own reflection looking down. I think I see some fish gliding by. …

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Photo By Jens Lelie

A guide on how to get started

As a UX design manager at Opower, one of the most common questions I’m asked is:

How do I become a UX designer?

To help answer this question, I’ve been collecting online resources and stories — and now I’d like to share them with you.

My path to becoming a UX designer

In the past eight years, I’ve gone from design student, to intern, to job applicant, to full-time designer. Currently I lead a UX team at Opower, where we use design to motivate people to save energy. For the past two years, I’ve also taught interaction design to undergraduates at the California College of the Arts.

I started my journey as a mechanical engineering student interested in product design. When I applied for college, I had never heard of UX or interaction design (I’ll use those terms interchangeably in this article). …

It’s tough to evaluate UX designers. User experience encompasses a lot of different skills, and as a relatively new field, there isn’t a shared understanding.

Many interviewers just go with their gut instinct, and as with all subjective decision-making, our innate biases can unintentionally influence our choices. To counter this, researchers recommend developing structured criteria across all interviews to make more accurate evaluations.

At Opower, we strive to hire the best UX designers for our line of work, while providing a fair and unbiased interview process. …


Suelyn Yu

UX designer trying to slow climate change. Currently based in Berlin. www.suelynyu.com

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