Talk to a Tykling: Emma Campbell, UX Designer

Talk to a Tykling – getting to know Emma Campbell, UX Designer

Tyk’s product isn’t made of fairy dust – it’s the result of plenty of hard work on the part of our talented team, who hail from all corners of the Earth.

How do we make such a technical product so user-friendly? In part, through the ongoing hard work of our user experience (UX) team.

That’s why we called upon UX Designer Emma Campbell for the next in our series of ‘Talk to a Tykling’ interviews. Emma shares her insights into what makes Tyk’s product intuitive to use, as well as delving into everything from the benefits of remote working to the charms of the island of Ireland.

What do you do at Tyk?

I’m a User Experience (UX) Designer, so my job is to improve the user experience – to make our product easier to use and ensure that when someone’s using it, it’s simple and enjoyable. The tasks should be effortless for the user to complete and our product should be like an extension of themselves.

At the moment I spend a lot of my time doing diagrams and working through flows. I’m looking at what we have now and trying to figure out what can be optimised. For new customers, it’s a case of ensuring that it’s straightforward for them to figure out what to do. For current customers, it’s a question of showing them what they can do faster or more simply, or whether they can learn something new that will help them to improve their business.

It’s fun because every day is different – some days I’ll be doing visual work like wireframes and UI, others it might be brainstorming and architecture diagrams.

Tyk is very complex. The UX team is here to make it as simple as possible. It can be difficult! Tyk has been a steep learning curve for me. You can’t design an experience for someone if you don’t know how to use the product, so I’ve had to learn a lot about how Tyk works.

How have you tackled learning about such a technical product?

I ask a LOT of questions! One of Tyk’s philosophies is that there is no such thing as a stupid question. I work closely with the technical team, who are all super smart and are great at helping me when I need it.

Funnily enough, my immense question-asking has sometimes helped the people around me understand the product better. As a UX designer, we have to think about all the user edge cases and there are some that haven’t been considered before. So when I’m problem-solving with other teams, it can end up being a great learning experience for all sides.

Can you share a bit about your background and what led you to Tyk?

I’m from New Zealand but living in Belfast, Northern Ireland at the moment. I went to university in Auckland, graduating with a Bachelor of Design and majoring in Graphic Design. I always thought that I would be working in graphic design – designing logos, printed materials.

I’ve always wanted to travel and work, so a few months after I graduated, I went to America for a year. I worked for a small software company there, doing graphic design work – branding, art publications and 3D printing. The team were all coders and just being around them, even though I wasn’t coding, awakened my interest in all things digital.

I began learning how to code and entertained the idea of being a web developer for a short while. But I loved design and didn’t want to give it up completely.

When I arrived back in New Zealand after my year in America, I struggled to find a job in digital because of my lack of experience in that particular field. I was lucky to find somewhere where they could see that I was really keen to learn and I ended up doing digital in New Zealand for three-ish years, working mainly for agencies and doing web design and user interface (UI) design.

I didn’t really know what UX design was at that point, but in my last role before I came to the UK, I started to naturally progress into it, so I took some UX courses.

I fully immersed myself in UX when I moved to the UK. I worked at a startup here in Belfast before finding the job with Tyk. I’ve been here for almost a year now.

Do you travel much as part of your role or do you work remotely from Belfast all the time?

I predominantly work from Belfast but I’ve been lucky enough to head over to London a couple of times – for my induction, for the Christmas party and then for a one-day user research course, so I spent some time in the office then as well.

My first week, I worked entirely from home. By the end of day two I realised I hadn’t left the house in 48 hours. I live in an apartment, so we don’t have any outdoor space. I didn’t think it was bad, but I felt if I told people I hadn’t left the house for two days they would wonder what was wrong with me!

After that, I found a shared workspace in Belfast city centre. It’s only a 20-minute bus ride away and it’s really cool. It’s all open plan and it has a café and a good buzz about it. I know a couple of people who also work in the building. You kind of get the perks of working in an office – like at Halloween they put on a free lunch for everyone, there were snacks on Valentine’s Day and pancakes on Pancake Day. You still get the fun perks of being in an office environment.

Do you find you’re more productive when working from home or from the shared workspace?

When I’d work from home I would literally wait until the last minute and then get out of bed and sit in front of the computer, but with the shared workspace where I have to catch a bus to get there, I have more of a routine. I get up earlier and leave the house before 8.00 to catch the bus. I’m usually in the shared workspace for 8.30. I think having that routine in place is good.

I also think it’s good to have distractions. When you work from home, you almost feel bad for having distractions but if you were in an office environment you would have them anyway.

It depends on what kind of work I’m doing really. Sometimes I feel I’m super productive in the workspace but other times I find I’m way more productive at home. It’s nice to be able to get out of the house and have a routine, but it’s also nice to mix that up with working from home sometimes and be able to put on a load of washing or vacuum and do life admin tasks!

Is there a particular pain point in the UX design sector that you would like to fix?

For me when it comes to Tyk, the whole focus is on improving the user’s workflow. I had a bit of an epiphany at the user research session recently. I realised that Tyk is an API management software, but it’s also a product that improves people’s workflows. What we’re trying to do is make users’ lives easier. If we can optimise their daily or weekly tasks, they can concentrate their attention somewhere else. So we allow them to enhance their business workflow.

What do you like about working at Tyk?

With Tyk I feel extra proud to tell people that I work for them. I don’t usually like posting on social media, but when Tyk has something happening I don’t mind sharing it or liking it and showing that I’m a part of the team. You feel really valued as a person – like people actually care about you. I don’t feel like just another number at Tyk, I know I’m an appreciated person with thoughts and opinions that people really care about listening to.

Do you join the twice-weekly Tyk Cafés?

The Tyk Cafés are a great way to see what people are doing and hear about their experiences. There have been a lot of people who have started recently who I’ve never met, but it feels like I have! We message each other on Slack to see how things are going, even though we’ve never met in person and it’s great to have that connection with teammates.

I met some people when I first joined and had my induction in London. Then when I went to London again for the Christmas party, it was weird because I recognised people’s voices more than their faces. When they talked, I realised who they were, rather than based on what they looked like, which was a unique experience.

What are your tips for someone new to get the best out of working in a remote-first organisation?

It’s weird, I still feel like I’m a new starter, but there are about 20 people who have joined since I did. I would say don’t be afraid to ask questions because everyone wants to help you. It’s better to ask and find out the answer straight away than to worry about asking or making mistakes.

Everyone’s really willing to help and I think people don’t realise how supportive everyone is. If you’re feeling swamped, don’t worry that it will imply something negative about you, just say you’re struggling, and someone will help you. Overall, I think it makes you feel a lot better about things because everyone’s so open. So just don’t be afraid to talk.

I guess that’s a key point about being part of a remote company. If you don’t say anything, no-one will ever know, because you’re not seeing people in real life.

Our recruitment manager looks out for certain qualities in people and I think that’s why we’ve got such a great group at people at Tyk, because they already are willing to open up and ask questions and not be afraid.

What are the values that drive you personally? What’s important to you and how does it fit within Tyk?

Most important to me is being honest. Especially with my job, being a UX Designer, I need people to give me their honest opinions so that I can see the problems and work out solutions. If everyone agreed with me all the time, I wouldn’t get anywhere! When people are honest and they challenge me, that’s what I like. Some people are like, “Sorry but I think this…” and I have to tell them not to be sorry – I need to know exactly what they are thinking and feeling because that will help me in the long-run.

What are your three favourite books and/or podcasts?

I’ve been so bad recently! I used to read heaps, but when I started university, I had to ban myself from reading because once I start a book I can’t stop. So I actually don’t read that much now because I trained myself out of it!

When I do read though, I love anything by Ken Follett. He’s written a couple of single books but also a couple of series. One series is Pillars of the Earth. His series are amazing because all of the characters somehow intertwine together in the most unexpected ways.

A podcast I listen to is Best of Belfast. I started listening to it before I moved to Belfast, knowing that I was coming over here. The host, Matthew, talks to different people from Belfast and across Northern Ireland about their stories. He speaks with some really interesting people; it’s quite varied.

And then, to make me sound like I do work, I had to include a UX-related one! There’s a guy called Jared Spool and he puts out some great content about UX design, so I make sure I keep up with that.

You’ve already lived in New Zealand, American and now Belfast… where’s next?

Well my UK visa runs out at the end of this year, but I can get a one-year visa for the Republic of Ireland, so our plan is to move down there for a year, depending on how everything goes.

My boyfriend and I are at the stage where we really want to buy a house and we know we want to do that in New Zealand. It just depends how long we want to put it off for before we do it! 

Moving down to the Republic of Ireland, it’s still the same time zone and me working remotely really opens up where we can live – as long as there’s a decent internet connection, it’s pretty open where we can go. 

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working? 

I love going on hikes. We’ve done quite a few around Ireland. When I first moved over here, I got given a scratch map of Ireland. So when we go and visit each place we scratch it off the map. I think there are just over 50 different places and we’ve done maybe half of them so far. So we’re working through that.

It’s funny, when I moved over here and have never been to Europe before, I was planning to go somewhere in Europe every long weekend. But then when we got here, I kept finding new places in Ireland that I really wanted to go to. There’s still so much I want to see here and now I’m panicking as I’m running out of time! The only places I’ve been outside of Ireland and the UK are Barcelona, Paris and Nice. That’s it – and I’ve been here for nearly a year and a half!