Meet Our Team: Mandy Kerr, Director of People Ops

For Mandy, empathy trumps just about all else.

Alexa Harrison
Alexa Harrison
Jul 6, 2020
Min Read

This month, we’re chatting with Designlab’s Director of People Operations, Mandy Kerr. She is extremely capable, a Taurus, and is always seeing the uniqueness in people. Read on to find out more about Mandy.​

Hey, Mandy! What does a normal day look like for you?

My work is very varied and so I don’t often have two days that are alike. The one thread that runs through all of my days is that they are all very focused on people and their journey with Designlab. I have the privilege of working directly with many people on the team and so a big chunk of my time is spent on 1:1 meetings. The rest of the time is spent on whichever people based task is going to have the greatest impact for the broader team.

What did you do before joining Designlab?

I’ve been working in people ops for quite some time now. First in my own business which I ran in South Africa for a number of years and then with an eCommerce business based out of Cape Town, South Africa. Before people ops I was part of the graduate recruitment program at a big FMCG after studying a Bachelor of Science at the University of Cape Town. People have been my area of interest for as long as I can remember.

Why did you decide to join Designlab?

Two reasons really:
1) I love that Designlab empowers people to take the plunge to move towards doing something that they love.
2) I love that Designlab makes education more accessible in many different ways for a diverse spectrum of students

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned since joining Designlab?

That genuine connection in a fully distributed team is not only possible but very achievable if you work with the right people implementing the right values.

What’s the best part of working at Designlab?

Undoubtedly the team! It is a wonderful group of empathetic, results driven people who are working together to build something great.

What do you think makes an employee successful at Designlab? 

There are three things that I think make an employee successful at Designlab.
Empathy - this is really important whether engaging with students, mentors or colleagues.
The ability to work autonomously - as a distributed team which aims to cultivate a culture of trust, this is particularly important.
Being authentic - bring your real self to work and appreciate in those around you what makes them uniquely them.

What makes a good Designlab student?

An open mind, a hunger to learn new things, and a willingness to work hard. As with many things in life, what you put in as a student at Designlab is what you get out.

Are there any great books would you recommend?

Fiction - Cutting for Stone - Abraham Verghese is one of my current favorites. I read a lot so this list often changes :)
Non Fiction - This is a really tough one, but top of my list are Good to Great by Jim Collins, Grit by Angela Duckworth, and Quiet by Susan Cain

How would you describe yourself in one word?


What’s your favorite quote?

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” This is often attributed to Albert Einstein although there is no substantive proof that this is the case. It reminds me to look for the things that make each of us unique.

What do you think is a key virtue in life?

For me empathy trumps just about all else. It’s very difficult not to be kind and understanding if you have empathy.

What’s your astrological sign? 

I’m a Taurus and can be as stubborn as they are known to be. Although I do thrive on change and so that part doesn’t ring true

What would you most likely be doing on a normal Saturday afternoon in your free time?

When it is my choice, almost definitely reading, hiking or spending time with friends and family. Pre-covid I spent most Saturday afternoons at the sides of sports courts or fields cheering on my kids in their various sporting activities.

What are 3 alternative lives you would like to live?

Singer - I have a horrible singing voice but have always wanted to be able to sing well
Author - I love to read and can think of nothing better than immersing myself in a good story. Writing full time would be a way to immerse myself in books in a different way
Owner of an adventure lodge - what a great opportunity to facilitate interactions with the great outdoors for myself and others
*One extra one (if I am allowed to cheat) is that I would love to buy then restore and sell old properties in Europe

What’s an everyday design that has changed your life?

It might be a cliche but my smartphone has changed my life. It allows me to be flexible with how I work and therefore balance my work at Designlab with the time I spend with my family in many creative ways.

⚡️Lightning Round ⚡️

Tool you can’t live without:

Slack, it is the way that I stay connected to the team.

Food that makes you nostalgic for childhood:

Ice cream with chocolate sauce, particularly on a hot summer day.

Team Cat or Team Dog?

Team dog! I have a very active, very cute 3 year old beagle at home who keeps me very busy.

Your natural habitat: 

Hiking in the mountains or on the couch with a good book.

First thing you’re going to do when this crisis is over: 

Book a flight to visit family!

Read more about the team over on our About page!

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Launch a career in ux design with our top-rated program

Top Designers Use Data.

Gain confidence using product data to design better, justify design decisions, and win stakeholders. 6-week course for experienced UX designers.