Jeri Bowers was an Austin product designer at IBM Watson until she started her next adventure in Seattle. Learn a little about Jeri and how she got to be the fabulous designer she is today. Check out her LinkedIn for more details!
Tell us a little bit about who you are, and what you do.
I’m Jeri Bowers, most recently a product designer at IBM Watson in Austin, Texas. I worked with a fabulous team of designers that just launched an experimental version of a new conversational application. It utilized the power of Watson cognitive computing to help users build complex conversations.
However, in the last week, I sold my house, quit my job and travelled 32 hours across the country to Seattle, Washington! I love Austin and will miss it for many reasons (especially the queso!). I made some great friends there and learned a lot. The tech community is small though so I’m looking forward to running into some of them again.
How did you manage to get where you are now? What did you study, and how did you become interested in design?
I graduated from the University of Northern Iowa over 10 years ago and majored in studio art. (I can’t believe it was that long ago!) I also minored in graphic communications which covered the full spectrum from printmaking to web design.
“I’d always been passionate about art and becoming a graphic designer seemed like a logical career path for me.”
My original interest in pursuing graphic design as a profession started in my high school art class. It was career week and a graphic designer came in and shared with us what it was like working as a designer. I remember I was so impressed with how she was dressed and how professional she looked, that I knew right away that I wanted to become a graphic designer. I’d always been passionate about art and becoming a graphic designer seemed like a logical career path for me.
Getting experience as a graphic designer enabled me to transition into web and UI design and then eventually product design.
What are your top resources you use to keep up with the latest trend?
I use Feedly (RSS reader) to stay updated on my favorite design related blogs and sites. Some interesting sites I follow are Sidebar, Smashing Magazine, The UX Booth, Designer News Feed and Sketch Talk. I’m interested in learning about UX principles and best practices, the latest design trends and technologies and most recently the newest feature coming out for Sketch.
What makes a great work environment for you?
A place that has an amazing culture and smart people that are passionate about what they do. I’m very cognizant of the importance in cultivating a team atmosphere. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Transparency, collaboration and open communication need to be part of the company DNA. When building software, everyone’s in it together.
“You can’t always be “creative.” Your brain needs time to relax and unwind.”
The person that said, “Never be the smartest person in the room.” was spot on. I strive to surround myself with smart people that I can continually learn from. Be a sponge! Don’t just learn things that are directly associated with your job description. Exposure to other roles and disciplines will only make you a stronger, more well-rounded designer. On the flip side, it’s just as important to help mentor junior designers.
Lastly, a reasonable work-life balance is a must. You can’t always be “creative.” Your brain needs time to relax and unwind.
What would you recommend to other women/younger girls who are aspiring to work in web?
Entering the tech field as a designer, developer, or hybrid is a great profession to be in right now and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. But to be a successful designer, it’s more than just making a pretty website. You have to be able to solve a user need that fulfills a business problem.
Also, work on your soft skills such as leadership, communication, ability to work individually or as a team, flexibility and decision making. They’re just as important as knowing color theory or how to code.