3 Projects, 3 Takeaways: My Summer Internship at Exygy
3 October 2016
This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to be Exygy’s first design intern. As a wrap up of my time there, I was asked to write a brief post about my thoughts on working at Exygy. Throughout the process I ended up working on 3 client centered projects, as well as plenty of internal needs. These projects offered me an opportunity to hone existing skills and obtain new ones, connect with individuals filled with passion for making a difference, and discover how technology could impact all sectors of society.
Project 1: Accessibility and Inclusion at SFO
My first project was an Accessibility and Inclusion mobile application for the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). For this project, we were tasked with creating a set of wireframes that would serve as the backbone of a mobile application. The app would support two traveler groups, those with visual impairments and foreign language travelers to navigate the airport seamlessly.
I worked with Sheba Najmi, Senior UX Designer, on a daily basis, sketching, prototyping and sharing insights on how to merge two seemingly disparate audiences under one experience. Ultimately, we presented plans for an Accessibility and Inclusion app that provides both user groups a guided airport experience, centered around the selection of flight status. This project received high marks from SFO.
Project 2: Affordable Housing Analytics
Throughout my internship, I worked on implementing analytics on the Database of Affordable Housing Listings Information and Applications (DAHLIA), an affordable housing platform that helps residents apply for housing opportunities from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD). For this project I joined Jesse James, Designer and Front End Developer, Michael Enslow, Software Engineer, Roshen Sethna, Product Manager, and Lukas Snelling, Digital Marketing Executive at Brave One. The web portal had Google Analytics tracking in place, but lacked event integration that we needed to better understand visitor behavior.
I was tasked with creating and testing a framework to implement Google Tag Manager (GTM) on the site to handle complex event tracking. Through this work, I learned specifics of how GTM works and how to create an effective tracking system. As a result, I was able to deliver these findings to the rest of the team to implement on the site.
Project 3: Site Architecture for Human Services
My final client focused project was with the San Francisco Human Services Agency (SF HSA). SF HSA contacted Exygy to design and build a new website that would make its services more discoverable and accessible. In conjunction with Wendy Fong, Lead Designer, I helped build solid groundwork for the project. Using my analytics experience from my work with DAHLIA, I was able to use the Google Analytics on HSA’s site to translate quantitative data into qualitative insights about who their users were and how they were interacting with HSA’s online presence.
Additionally, I prepared a comparative analysis that investigated other executions of a “Digital Front Door” to access services. This analysis explored the decisions of how progressive government sites organized their content in order to find best practices we could draw inspiration from. Finally, building off the synthesized data, existing solutions, and field research to several HSA locations in San Francisco, I helped create possible site architecture that would help SF HSA users delightfully find, apply, and explore the services available to them.
This client work was paired with many internal projects. I worked with Wendy and Rachael Estess, Operations Coordinator, to design a new space that facilitates creative, out-of-the-box thinking. With assistance from Mari Toledo, Product Designer, I designed business cards and a new notebook using company styles. With Sheba, I created a presentation template to use for any user experience audits Exygy shares. Finally, with Zach Berke, CEO, I charted new business possibilities in the philanthropy and foundation space.
Exygy helped me develop many of my existing skills as well as develop new ones. I was brought on as a designer, but I ended up doing so much more. Along with honing UX, UI, user research and visual design skills, I also practiced data analytics, client communication, comparative analysis, and interior design. In order to gain all this experience, I had to keep an open mind and rely on my own adaptability. It certainly helped that I had great mentors to guide my development!
Takeaway 1: Stay organized
As a result of all of these projects, I discovered the importance of staying organized. Tackling so many problems is part of what made working at Exygy exciting, but constantly switching can also cause a lot of confusion and frustration, especially when unorganized. I found segmenting projects worked really well for me. Keeping all aspects of each project together, but in separate files, gave me all the tools I needed at my fingertips, while minimizing distractions from other projects.
Takeaway 2: Go analog
I further realized the importance of using analog mediums. As a designer, much of my final pieces were done digitally. However, this does not mean I stared at the computer all day. I used the ample whiteboard space and kept a notebook to store my thoughts. It saved me time in the long run, and helped me create higher quality work. The same was true with collaboration, especially when I was at a loss for next steps. At Exygy, I was surrounded with so many great minds, working with all sorts of backgrounds and perspectives. Taking advantage of that transformed my work, especially with Sheba on SFO and Wendy on SF HSA. Plus, collaboration is fun, especially at Exygy!
Takeaway 3: Team Culture is Important
Exygy’s culture, with a holistic focus, sets it apart. Every Monday at Exygy starts with a check-in meeting for each team member to discuss what is on their mind, both personally and professionally, with the rest of the team. There is also a practice of peer check-ins for more one-on-one connection. To this end, Exygy is very understanding of life’s unfortunate events, making adjustments for me during two periods of personal tragedy. Additionally, work from home and out of office days make hours flexible and adjustable to needs. Team lunch every Thursday lets the team eat together while we listen to a presentation by someone making an impact in their community, hand-picked by a team member.
It naturally follows that Exygy has some of the best people. Many of my best memories from the summer are from spending time with the team. Whether it was going out to lunch, playing Dungeons and Dragons late into the night, or simply chatting as we pass, these interactions always brightened my day. As with collaboration, everyone has so much to share, so it would be foolish to only work with such multidimensional people. Fun people also makes for a spirited internal Slack, filled with GIFs, emoji, and digital tacos, Exygy’s way of recognizing job well done.
Working at Exygy was an overwhelmingly positive experience, giving me a chance to develop skills, gain perspective, and meet amazing people. Collaborating on so many projects, both internally and client focused, strengthened my organization and flexibility to create high quality work, no matter what the task. Impact-driven work deepened my social awareness, and exposed how much of a difference concerned citizens could make. I was always treated as a whole person and a full-time team member, valuable for making connections and rare as an intern. For anyone interested in community, personal growth, and social impact through technological solutions, I cannot recommend Exygy highly enough.