Based in San Francisco, California, Kim Ho has been mentoring Designlab students since June 2020. We spoke with Kim about her job at Netflix (including the recent launch of the Fast Laughs mobile feature), how she switched careers from architecture, and what predictions she has for product design in 2021. Read on to learn more about this Designlab mentor!
Hey, Kim! We appreciate your time today. Tell us, how did you first get into UX design?
I studied Architecture, and worked in the industry for 2-3 years after college. I had high hopes and dreams with architecture and had just come back from working on the 2010 Vancouver Olympic dreams. The effects of the 2008 economic recession really changed my views about my career, it was hard to get a job, and architecture was one of the industries struggling to get back into momentum, so I started to explore other possibilities. I became a brand manager for a year managing the social media marketing strategy for University of Waterloo’s incubator program, Velocity. Then, I began helping startups with design tasks as they worked on their product, and this led to me considering a career shift.
We know many people switch from architecture to UX design, and that’s so cool that you worked on the Olympics! Where else have you worked?
I’ve also worked at Coin, which got acquired by Fitbit, which then got acquired by Google. I worked at Instacart in its early days on the Core Experience Team and Growth Team, and then Facebook, on the News Feed Team and Ads Manager Team. Currently, I’m at Netflix.
That is quite a resume you have! How did your journey bring you to Designlab?
Fun fact, I took a Designlab course when I was starting out in 2014 and trying to move into this industry. Designlab was new and didn’t offer as much as it does today, but I guess you could say I’m alumni. I was looking for ways to give back to the design community in the form of mentoring and literally thought of my experience in Designlab. I looked it up and sure enough there was a way to mentor—it was meant to be!
It definitely sounds like it was meant to be ✨ What does an ordinary day look like for you now?
I work hard to keep the process of designing core to my role. I learned early on that my best work comes in the morning, so I block off my mornings whenever possible to work on design work specifically, and leave meetings for the afternoons.
On most ordinary days you’ll find me working through corner cases of current designs I’m looking to bring to life for a test we may be interested in pursuing. This work is usually in conversation with our entire product team to ensure we’re aligned as a team on where the product is going, and why.
I will also carve out time for early explorations of ideas that I have which I think may have some future opportunities and align with the team’s goals and priorities. I’ll often bring these to team meetings to share and get feedback. For me design work can range from sketches to visual explorations, through to prototyping—whatever the design needs will determine what tools/process I use to explore the subset of solutions.
That is design thinking at it’s finest. What are your specific roles and responsibilities at work?
I’m a product designer at Netflix, and I work on all things new and shiny for our product experience on the mobile app. I’m responsible for shaping and delivering the visionary product experience throughout the entire feature journey from ideation, testing, and launch.
We are big fans of Netflix (who isn’t?!) so I bet it’s great to work on new features there! What parts of your job do you find most fulfilling?
I really enjoy the space to explore designs that go wide and deep, and to know there was no rock left unturned when thinking about the best experience we can shape for our 200M+ global members. Collaborating with partners who are the best at their discipline is also really fun! Together we can dream up and make really amazing ideas come to life. Ultimately, it’s incredibly fulfilling to see members enjoy what you design.
200M+ 🤯 Talk about scale. What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to hang out with my dog and be outdoors whenever I can. I read a lot and enjoy strength training, but recently have picked up running again and have found some of my best ideas come during a run. I have also been learning how to play the ukulele! Lastly, I also recently picked up a Nintendo Switch and have been playing a lot of Overcooked with friends online during the pandemic.
The Designlab team enjoys playing Overcooked together 🍳 What’s a favorite design or designed product of yours?
I have always had a fondness for furniture and very much love my Eames lounger chair and ottoman. It’s timeless and a great example of iterative design.
The Eames chair certainly is timeless. What’s your favorite project on your portfolio at the moment?
My favorite project in my portfolio is the recent feature launch of “Fast Laughs” on Netflix because it marks a critical shift in a mobile-first experience at Netflix.This meant new ways of innovating in order to deliver something so unique for our members and business.
Can’t wait to check out Fast Laughs now! Are there any tragically designed products or services that you think could use a revamp?
I think the finance industry is and continues to benefit from design. Health care is another one.
Hear hear! What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Live a life that is true to you.
🙌 What is the best piece of advice you have to give someone entering the world of design?
Show up, ask questions, don’t give up. I say that to most of my Designlab students and I can’t think of a time where that advice doesn’t apply.
That’s great advice. What predictions do you have for product design in 2021 and beyond?
Audio as a medium is shifting a lot and in a much needed way. I think that’s going to be fun to see how tech and product can help advance this even further.
We’ll be keeping our ears open 👂 What attracted you to becoming a mentor?
There weren't a lot of mentors that I could identify with when I was trying to get into product design. As a mentor, I felt I could be additive and use my experience as an example of what was possible.
And we’re so happy you did! What do you find most exciting or rewarding in mentoring?
There is a moment when things click and the fog lifts for students if they lean in—after that they are pretty much unstoppable. That aha moment is pretty rewarding and a privilege to be part of.
I’m sure everyone can resonate with that aha moment 🤩 What has surprised you most about the students you’ve worked with?
Sometimes the most motivated student on day 1 isn’t the one who sees the coursework through. Motivation alone is not enough, it’s the relentless commitment to deliberate practice that makes the end designer.
Relentless commitment is definitely crucial to career transitions, however it’s what’ll get you there in the end! What has been the ultimate student win throughout your mentor experience?
Seeing my students become designers and contribute to the world with the skills they’ve learned. Also, hearing from past students via email from time to time is rewarding because to me it confirms that we did build a great rapport.
Finally, what do you think makes a good mentor?
Accountability and action.
Similarly, what do you think makes a good student?
Accountability and action.
If you’re interested in learning UX/UI design with a mentor like Kim, we invite you to explore our UX Academy program. If you’re interested in becoming a mentor with Designlab, we encourage you to learn more and apply here.