WWCode Podcast #39: Crystal Goade, Creative Director, UX, Shutterstock
Written by Nia Cortes
Women Who Code Podcast 39 | Spotify — iTunes — Google — YouTube — Podcast Page
Nia Cortes, Network Director at Women Who Code Monterrey interviews Crystal Goade, Creative Director, User Experience at Shutterstock. They discuss Crystal’s management experience, improving hiring, promotion, and retention of women in tech, and the role of designers as technology evolves.
Tell us more about your career journey.
I think I have been a designer since before I can remember. I was an artist from the age of two and had a real passion for it. I was encouraged in my early years to pursue it. I was lucky enough to have people around me that didn’t discourage me from being an artist or a designer. In high school, I had a really amazing mentor/teacher who laid a really amazing foundation for me to get into the design industry. They exposed me to a more inclusive and diverse set of people in the industry around me in Seattle where I grew up. That drove my career choices in a lot of really positive ways. I spent a lot of my early career meandering through where I really wanted to be. I started out in design when it was kind of like an everything designer. I did visual design, branding, web design, front-end dev work, research sometimes, and SEO. It was all over the place.
I got burned out, so I went back to school and got an oil painting degree. I went from there to an ad agency where I was exposed to many different kinds of clients, large and small. I still was doing a lot of those wear-your-own-hat things, but in a way that was helping a lot of small businesses. I was lucky enough to come across a company called PicMonkey which was a design and photo editing tool. I was working a dream job, being a creative director at a creative software company. We were acquired by Shutterstock in September last year.
Can you tell us more about your first days as a manager, how was that experience?
I fell into management very early on. I like managing and encouraging people. When you’re in your early career, don’t be afraid to just do weird stuff. I was able to build a team at PicMonkey, basically from the ground up. The agency that we worked with had interns. We had a cross-team managing different projects and client relations. This was the first big moment where I could expand in a real way.
I like to lead, manage, think big, and look at data and strategy. I will never forget when I was promoted to creative director. It was a moment of opportunity for me to step up and show up. Now, I manage a team at Shutterstock that is diverse. We’re managing the design system, doing copywriting, visual design, project management and strategy, and really diving into some marketing materials. It’s a cool spot to be.
Tell us more about your leadership style and what you do daily that makes you a cheerleader?
I was a cheerleader when I was in second grade, and then in high school, I was a competitive cheerleader. It taught me about teamwork, lifting each other up, and encouragement. I had strong female leaders around me. That ingrained the better together mentality in me. I try to be very encouraging and bring people together. I play to win. I’ve gotten better results out of people and teams that I’ve worked with where it’s been more positive, more human, more rah-rah… Let’s do this together.
Data would suggest an issue in retaining, promoting, and nurturing female designers. What do you think we can do in this industry to improve this?
It’s important to look at the environment around you. Don’t be afraid to reach out for mentorship or for advice. As a leader, I think it’s really important to mentor, shape, and encourage more junior designers or engineers in any way you can. Make sure you’re championing the people on your team. I think that’s important.
How do you think the role of designers in technology will change in the future?
Design is integral in any technological advance at any time, especially exciting in artificial intelligence. People are looking for predictive results. People are looking for better experiences, more human-centered design. It’s not just about the code that goes behind it, it’s about the whole experience. It’s about how it looks, feels, behaves, talks to you, and what you can pull out of it. Shutterstock’s digging into that technology in really cool ways. The research and planning that comes from a design perspective are just so important.
What are some of the lessons that you have learned during your career that you think would be helpful for working in tech and design?
Do not be afraid to be yourself. Show up as who you are. Don’t be afraid to take up space. Empower other women in the room. Don’t be afraid if you’re the only woman in the room. You’re supposed to be there.
What are you passionate about outside of work?
I spend my mornings reading. I catch up with tech industry news. I run for therapy, I walk for sanity. I have a really amazing dog that loves walking.
Have your hobbies changed during this covid era?
I am alone a lot. I have friends that moved away early before covid. I was pretty used to virtual catch-ups, virtual happy hours, and virtual ladies’ nights. I have a really supportive group that I’ve tried to cultivate over the years.
I think play is important. I like sketching, doodling, or learning something new. At Shutterstock, we have LinkedIn learnings. We have some facilitated skills labs. I also go through Women Who Code or somewhere that has free courses. It’s important to stay relevant.
What is your go-to pro-tip?
Keep track of what you have done. I just keep a running Google Doc of what I’ve accomplished for the week. If someone has said something good to me, I’ll screenshot it and save it. Keep a record to both remind yourself, but also share and show up with what you’ve done. I’m guilty of not representing all the work that I’ve done. Also, find things that spark joy in your day-to-day work. You don’t have to love it all the time, but find little moments where you’re finding something that gives you purpose or passion.