Saying goodbye isn’t easy, but saying thank you is.

I really don’t even know where to begin. For the past 7 years, I’ve had the privilege of working for the same company.

There have been countless friendships, meaningful memories and unforgettable experiences that have invoked growth in me as a person and professional.

If I thanked everyone that deserved it, this article would be 100+ pages. As I ready for the exciting next step in my journey, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for everyone that crossed paths with me for the past few years. I did want to take the time to highlight a few that have inspired me more than they know.

Grabbing some sushi at a local spot

The first of whom is the best manager of people that I’ve ever met, Denise Hardman. I’ve never felt more safe to speak my mind, more encouraged to push myself forward or witnessed more of a champion of people. I know that I speak for everyone that has ever worked for Denise in saying that she is truly unique and special in the best ways possible. Without her, I wouldn’t be nearly the person or designer that I am today.

The second is my previous mentor, Kevin Voller. The day that I found out what the term “UX” meant was the day that I started looking up to Kevin. I’ve yet to meet anyone that matches his attention to detail and willingness to learn. He was meticulous, measured and always held me accountable. I want him to know that even though we don’t work together currently, he is still the standard that I try and hold myself to (fashion choices aside of course).

The third and fourth kudos that I have are for my best friends, Zack Pontious and Jessica Schneekloth. Our friendship means infinitely more to me than the awesome work that we collaborated on. I will never order a “Chef’s Sushi Bowl” without cracking a smile or be capable of parking worse in Sewickley than Zack did in his Subaru. Our passionate lunch debates, peanut butter preferences and personality test analyses will forever make me laugh.

Christmas parties and blue cheese stuffed dates

Lastly, thank you to everyone in the design org at DSG. It was a joy to learn from all of you and to create these connections that will permeate past our times as co-workers. Looking back, these past few years with all of you were some of the happiest of my life, so from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

In-Store Marketing Team

Signage Made Simple

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How Design Found Me

It was June of 2016.

I had recently started a role as an eCommerce Coordinator, a stop-gap in a career that thus far hadn’t yielded what I had wanted. There was some challenging work and hours dedicated to passion projects, but no feeling of clarity yet.

As I made my way from my desk on the 2nd floor to the downstairs auditorium, I audibly groaned as I thought “how is a presentation on UX relevant to me?”. I just wanted to learn the ins and outs of this new role so that I could focus on web design. Since this auditorium session was mandatory for associates and being new in a role, I wasn’t going to miss anything required.

As the auditorium filled up, there were legos, pens and paper being passed out. Interesting, I thought, but oh if I only had known in that moment just how interested I would become.

A team of designers took the stage and one by one introduced themselves. “Denise, Kevin, Tricia, Zack”. A seemingly cool, trendy bunch that clearly enjoyed the work that they did.

Later came a honeycomb graphic (similar to the one above) that explained what user experience design is and how it connects to everything that we interact with.

Before I knew it, I was participating in an exercise with legos where we were tasked to build something without seeing the design ourselves. Every step that we took had to be audibly communicated from the person to our right. It was then that I started to understand the communication breakdowns that can occur when products are made; and how valuable it is for a team to have balance.

By the end of the session I was grinning from ear to ear. A passion that I had lacked thus far in my professional life was all of a sudden present. I felt empowered and ready to take on whatever obstacles were between a career in UX and me. I had only felt such an immediate sense of clarity once before, when I had met my eventual wife a few months prior.

I was so overcome with excitement that I quickly wrestled my iPhone out of my pocket and called her from the auditorium. Before she could get a word out, I blurted:

“Rachel, I know exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

In hindsight, she probably thought I was going to propose. After a small delay came the clarification:

“I want to be a user experience designer.”

After a notable sigh of relief and more than a few encouraging words from her, I mustered up the courage to grab coffee with one of the speakers a few days later. It’s been nearly four years since that cup of coffee.

Little did I know that it would lead to another diploma on the wall, a new career and some amazing friends. Breakthroughs and impactful life moments can happen when you least expect it. Always stay ready and when your opportunity comes, make the most of it.