The Startup for STEAM education
I joined Skyrock Projects in their 3rd or 4th year: based in Taipei, the STEAM education program for after school, weekend, and holiday camps + courses was still iterating on their course and camp offerings for progressive, project-based experiential learning curriculum for young kids. Originally, they wanted to build a scalable technological software solution to support schools and organizations for running modern, tech and engineer-oriented curriculum.
I was meant to help them design and manage this product— a simultaneous school operations system and parent portal. However, as COVID-19 hit, the direction of Skyrock took a turn towards a lean, online and on campus course offerings for kids K2 - 7+ and plans for the digital product gave way.
Design as a Discipline
While at first glance my position at Skyrock at first glance might not seem to be exemplary experiences of a career UX/UI designer, I strongly feel my experience at Skyrock exercises a deeper type of design discipline: real, tangible constraints in human resources, improving user experiences for team members through internal tools (like internal rollouts, templates for product one pagers, creating post mortem meetings to assess interdepartmental collaboration), and the awesome experience of executing improvements and seeing the tangible rewards (happier team members, increased conversions and sales, and increased clarity and communications across departments).
The ability to make these thoughtful design decisions separates digital asset graphic design with higher-level / product design.
Examples of abstract, high-level design challenges that face me include:
- What kinds of user experiences can we make consistent across the board that reinforces our values, missions, and emphasize the unique value of our products?
- Which ‘look and feel’ decisions can we make to make these user experiences obvious, and our (re)design work invisible — as in, how do we make conversions more effortless?
- Considering technological or resource constraints, how do I optimize workflows/UX for our existing customers to feel excited about next semester’s Skyrock offerings while considering existing operations/administrative workflows?
- With a variety of stakeholders (digital ops, sales, new customers, current Skyrockers), how do I design a digital user experience across different channels/platforms that are consistent, clear, and easy to follow?
I also juggle design execution on a daily basis:
- Through my front end development experience, very quickly picking up Webflow and training creative on Webflow workflow using CMS and eCommerce
- Designing graphics, iconography, supervising user interaction design on the website
- Drafting UX copy, email templates, social media posts
- Supervising updates and edits to the website
Due to the startup nature of the company, I stepped into a Digital Directorship role, which had me working closely with all departments (curriculum development, product designer leads, digital operations, and sales) to straighten out their digital presence, redesign their web UX and guide UI to a clear, concise conversion funnel, which used my background in marketing.
I worked closely with marketing-minded CEO Simon Thomas and creative designer Chris Hubbard in re-hauling the website; as summer 2021 loomed, Taiwan was still relatively ‘safe’ from COVID-19, and I had architected and designed a lot of our in-person themed STEAM camps collateral and conversion funnel.
\ \ This covered weeks of research in navigating the technological constraints of Taiwan’s archaic banking system : a huge roadblock in fulfilling the convenient and slick “Stripe” model of online payment processing; I designed and connected an online payments system and workflow that would make the UX for parents easy to book an online camp for their preferred summer theme and grade level, which moved a huge amount of manual payment processing workload from our sales team (allowing them to focus on customer service rather than previous models for outbound sales). Our sales numbers outperformed projections for the season by 1000%… that is, until COVID-19 finally locked us into level 2 and 3 lockdown.
The Real Treasure Was the Friends We Made Along The Way
COVID-19 continues to challenge Skyrock Projects; as a startup and an after-school/weekend/camps program, we faced extraordinary circumstances. However, these were also opportunities: chances to practice the kind of empathy and communication we save for ‘converting customers’ with our team members, our coworkers, and our managers or CEOs. \ \ For some, this might seem like an emotional or superfluous type of assessment; however, I strongly feel like the best type of designs and iterations come from the push and pull from team collaboration, embracing complexities of various users or stakeholders. Surviving the pandemic as a startup heavily affected by lockdowns proves to rely on the trust, communication, and thorough consideration of the people on the team— just as much as designers seek to ply empathy and understanding of our users.