Speaker Feature Series: An Interview with Desiree Garcia, a Senior Product Designer with a Holistic Perspective On Design.

Desiree Garcia is a senior product designer, writer, and speaker who loves to solve problems through design. Fun fact: she also has a superpower at assembling IKEA furniture. Desiree currently lives in Austin, Texas, where she works remotely for Automattic. Throughout her career, she’s worked on solving a range of problems, from increasing transparency in the federal government, to creating some of the first applications that enable people to create artificial intelligence. She moonlights on the editorial team of A List Apart.

Desiree has a unique way of speaking about design. She focuses on encouraging people to work together and think in broad concepts to be able to produce a quality design.

Check out our interview with Desiree. Learn more about her speaking experience and her tips for how you can improve a product’s user experience this year.

What motivated you to become a speaker?

It initially started, and still is, a way for me to bring confidence to my work and deepen my craft. You don’t get in front of a group of people to just walk them through a wireframe. Single projects rarely produce eureka moments, but speaking gives you the space to step back and connect dots on more or less your own terms. 

Speaking also has become a form of paying it forward and re-connecting with my origin story. Podcasts and talks were instrumental in helping me discover design and become a designer. Now they’re a way for me to find community. I look forward to running into people at events to catch up and share notes.

When did you start speaking?

Five years ago! First, I did a panel for an off-SXSW event, and then a talk for Action Design. Both were nerve-racking, but very rewarding. It was valuable to learn first-hand that public speaking is not a mysterious gift, but a learnable skill. Anyone can do it.

What topics are you most excited to speak about right now?

Soft skills, or history. Not so many technical topics or trends. As design organizations get bigger and our work increasingly cross-functional, it will become harder and harder to produce quality design if we don’t know how to work well together. Likewise, people who have been around for a while tend to have good stories to tell, and it’s always a good idea to avoid repeating mistakes. I can’t remember any technical talks that have changed my life, but there are existential talks from ten years ago that still make me shudder.

How do you prepare for talks?

When I pitch talks, I start with the theme the event chooses. I tie it back to the theme as well as I can, because adding value to the overall event is not just rewarding, but holds me accountable. It’ll also help me when I will inevitably forget what to say in front of the crowd. For the rest, Scott Berkun’s Confessions of a Public Speaker is worth every penny. Do everything it says.

What do you want people to know about the way you approach your talks?

I do my homework on the event, the people who put it on, and the people they’ve put on the lineup. I think about the local design community where the event is held and what they might need. It’s important for me that people think the content is useful to them and worth their time and money more than how viral the thing might end up being or how many times I’ll get Pavel or Maxim to make quips about it. 

What type of events are you interested in speaking at?

Lately I’ve been moving towards panels and podcasts, actually. Big-stage events are exciting, but more freeform setups give audiences a way to see different points of view or even get some #RealTalk. Podcasts also help solve for inclusion, or for folks for whom travel or conferences are difficult.

What’s the best piece of advice you would like to give to an organizer who is looking to reach out to you to invite you to speak?

It’s great when someone reaches out and mentions something specific about my work and why it’ll add value to their event or the community they’re putting it on for. Diverse lineups are obviously very important to me, but I’m sensitive to tokenism. 

What are a few tips you can share on how to improve a product’s user experience in 2020? 

For 2020, I’ll be thinking a lot about the intangibles. When people say that good design is invisible, they’re often still talking about how something looks, but I’m thinking about systems.  

  • If you are designing something from scratch, regularly imagine ways a product or service can grow in ways that are not aligned with your intentions. You don’t need to design solutions for them now, but you also don’t want to design yourself into a corner.
  • If you’re fixing or optimizing, think about the broader system the product or service has become a part of. Literal integrations or handoffs from one product to another is one example. But there are a lot of nuanced ones too–an old email campaign you don’t know about might throw off a user, and it won’t have anything to do with your work.
  • People will keep expecting more from their digital products, but increasingly it’s about their privacy and data, or honest and sustainable business models. Those are really exciting design problems to have! Good-looking and easy to use is table-stakes (and so 2019).

We loved knowing more about Desiree as a speaker! Check out her full speaker profile on the Women Talk Design website, make sure you view her latest videos for her talks, and hear her latest podcast interview with Anthony Armendariz from Hustle Podcast. Listen to it here

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