How She Got There: Amy Kim, Head of Design at Squad

Name: Amy Soyeon Kim
Age: 25
Job Title and Description: Head of Design and founding team member at Squad
College Name/Major: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill/Double major in Math and Studio Art
Website: www.getsquad.co and www.miscellaneousmischief.com
Twitter Handle: @amysoyeonkim and @getsquadapp

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Amy Kim: Great question – I wear many hats, but primarily I'm responsible for everything design-related at Squad, which is a social networking app for groups. This includes product design (mobile and web, UX and UI) as well as visual design work for marketing and branding. It’s a small, early-stage startup though, so I get involved in many other areas – including project managing our product development cycles with the developers and the product manager, running our all-hands meetings, ideating effective and creative ways for Squad to grow and tracking and managing our core data analytics. The data one is a bit odd, but I love data and understand the entire UX flow the best, so I inevitably became the point person. On a given day I'm focusing on any or all of these in varying proportions, unless there are other tasks that come up my way.

What is the best part of your job?

AK: I'm a renaissance woman at heart – so it's exhilarating for me to be involved with so many different facets of developing Squad and helping change the way people go out. I'm constantly thinking about our product, our users and our growth, among many things. I also love the fact that we are so agile – in my previous job in finance, creating a pitch deck sometimes would take almost a month, consisting at many times of inefficient and repetitive iterations. At Squad, our biggest rebranding happened over the course of 48 hours. The difference in magnitude is so tangible, and I love it!

It’s also great to hear the feedback from our users. People are using Squad to go out with their friends and meet new people, either romantically or just as friends, and that has been very exciting to see.

What advice do you have for college women interested in going into design, especially product or app design?

​AK: If you're interested in getting into design, talk to people in the field. Try working somewhere that prioritizes design as part of its core business. One of the best things I've done was an internship at an architecture firm when I was in college – where my dream of becoming an architect was put on a hold after experiencing what it was like to be a professional architect. (I still have a soft spot for architecture, of course, but there is a difference between being a professional and an enthusiast.)

Find a mentor to help guide you along. Look around your daily life and identify poor experiences – and design a better solution yourself. Stay inspired by learning about and experiencing great designs. Remember, design is problem-solving – it is getting excited about identifying a problem and crafting the most intuitive, effective and delightful solution. Good design reduces clutter and poor experiences in everyday life. If the thought of crafting great experiences is exciting to you, you're onto something!

What is one thing you wish you knew about the tech industry when you first started out that you know now?

​AK: For people outside, the tech industry can be a bit mysterious: Tons of jargon, the seemingly extreme stories and personas depicted in Silicon Valley, for example – it seems like a giant frat culture. And it is true, to an extent, but don't let this intimidate you. The tech industry is smaller than it seems and everyone is going through similar things, so the community is, in general, very helpful and receptive. Also, there are a lot of amazing women in tech, and being at Squad has enabled me to connect with that community, which is one of the best I've encountered.

Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?

​AK: Gabriel Whaley – when we first met and he told me about his idea for Wingman, an app that helps you connect to other travelers around you when you fly, it quickly became the turning point in my career; I quit my job in investment banking in a month and joined him in building a company, Miscellaneous Mischief. At Miscellaneous Mischief, I transitioned into a role of a founder and a product designer in the tech industry. After about a year of working together, all of the members at MM were brought onto Squad as founding members, and now I'm designing a new way for people to discover and hang out with new people, with the help of technology. It's been fun.

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

​AK: It's never too late. You only live once – oh yes, YOLO. Always choose the path you will learn the most, even if it's the riskiest. Don't be afraid to fail. Stay hungry.

When I was in banking, I saw my future ahead of me – good salary, good life, moving up the corporate ladder. But I didn't want that. I knew I wanted to make the most of my 20s, learning and absorbing new experiences. When I left banking, so many came up to me and said, “I wish I could do that – but it's too late, I have a family.” But the truth is, it's not too late – and you are the only one holding you back. Don't be afraid to try something else, especially if you're not happy where you are. The most important things I've learned in life are from my failures, and you can't fail unless you try something new.

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

​AK: One (giant) mistake we made at Miscellaneous Mischief was overbuilding and not shipping fast enough. We were afraid to ship a seemingly incomplete project, which is always the case regardless of the number of hours spent working on it. So we went through three iterations of the product without launching any. In the end, we were making a product for us (and potential investors), not for our users – and this is a common, and sad, rookie mistake. Looking back, I've learned so much from it and now at Squad I implement those lessons.

  1. Ship fast and get users. Angry users are better than none.
  2. User tells you what they want, not you, and definitely not investors.
  3. The product will always be imperfect and incomplete. Accept it. Detach your personal ego and always think first of the product and the company.
  4. Communicate, communicate, communicate. It's all about expectations, and make sure the entire team is crystal clear of them.

What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

​AK: Genuineness, hunger for growth, ability to get shit done without complaining, professionalism, and a certain level of self-awareness. And, of course, talent. What I didn't know in college is how much the fit matters – even if you've got the best resume, if I can't work with you, I will not hire you.

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

​AK: It's okay if you don't find your passion in your 20s – just make sure whatever you do, you're learning. Stay hungry. Use your 20s to your advantage: Try out different fields, cultivate your own brand and establish your network. If you can do at least two of those, you'll be just fine. Oh, and don't forget to relax. Step out of your own bubble once in a while (I love reading stories on HONY) and spend time with people who are important to you. 

 
Fill out my online form.