My name is Martini, and I'm a Product Designer. This is my story.
I began my career making physical products. After studying mechanical engineering and anthropology at MIT, and working with John Maeda in the MIT Media Lab, I worked on projects like Apple hardware, a composter for an inner-city youth program, and even a silent hair dryer. I learned how to build and ship a project built by cross-functional teams. I loved the satisfaction of shipping products, but I wanted more.
I wanted a chance to tell stories with my work. To connect with people immersively, with services that were both digital and physical. I wanted to do UX and Service Design.
So I went to the Stanford Design Program and learned about Design Thinking from David Kelly. My work there involved an 18-month project to design a museum exhibition and accompanying iPhone app, a digital way to interact with one's physical surroundings. An augmented reality of sorts. At Stanford, I also had my first taste of startup life, helping with apps for reading news and sending location-based messages.
Professionally, I was discovering the world of healthcare. During graduate school, I interned in IDEO's Health and Wellness team, and found that I loved the complexity of the problems and the human impact of the work. I was excited, then, when I found an opportunity to work at Palo Alto Investors, a public equity firm specializing in healthcare investments. In that role, I learned about the business aspects of healthcare, and got to see behind the curtain on investing. But ultimately, I yearned for two things: the ability to ship product, and a healthcare project that profited off of preventing illness rather than treating it.
At this time, I was also helping out seed stage startups at the Harrison Metal and Social + Capital incubators in Palo Alto, CA. The startup founders there gave me the feedback that I was great at assessing a very complex system or technical product, and simplifying it down to the essential elements. This made it easy to determine what features were nice-to-haves and which ones were need-to-haves. It also became simpler to filter feedback from users and tell their story on a website. I loved the impact just a few hours of design work could have at such an early company, but I wanted a place where I could have a full-time role.
Counsyl, which at the time was a 70-person health tech startup with a DNA testing lab, had a perfect blend of everything I was looking for: a combination of a technical product with a human component, a mission-driven company with a solid business, and an opportunity to ship meaningful product. The mission of using genetic information to keep people healthy also resonated with me, as I grew up with a sister who had a genetic disorder.
I was the second designer to join Counsyl, and together we were responsible for all of product and marketing – brand development, content and code for the website, UX for the online genetic counseling service, art directing videos, and even copy and photography for the print brochures. It was trial by fire, and I loved it.
As the company grew, so did my role. I shed the marketing and frontend engineering responsibilities, and got a chance to focus on my core interests of UX and User Research. After product managing a number of major company-wide product launches, I was promoted to Director of the Product Design team. In the past four years, Product Design has grown to seven UI, UX, IaD and User Researchers, supporting a company of nearly 500 people. In addition to communicating with the executive team and other parts of the company, I play an active role in design critiques with my team. These days, most of my design work is done at the strategic and wireframe level.
Although my work has become increasingly strategic, I will always love getting my hands dirty with everything from wireframing and rapid prototyping to production-grade products. My current side project is a bar cart made from reclaimed lumber to store a collection of rare bourbon. And since you're probably wondering: I don't actually drink very much, and I've never had a "real" martini.
My Design Philosophy
When it comes to corporate work, I believe that good design balances technology opportunities, human needs, and business requirements.
Design must work before it can be functional.