Insight from JW Player’s Monica Parra
Monica Parra knows she wouldn’t have had a successful career in art—and now in design and UX engineering—if she wasn’t comfortable with conflict.
“It’s actually quite required of us to disagree with each other, because we're after the best possible solution,” she says of the creative process. “Healthy debate is really important, and I crave it, to be honest.”
That’s been true at every stage of her career, from when she made a late switch to art school to when she worked her way into the digital side of traditional media magazines to when she got into digital product design.
Now, Monica is the Director of Design and UX Engineering at video software and data insights platform JW Player.
As a woman working in tech, she’s learned how to make sure her perspective is considered. “Men love to interrupt; women love to give people space,” she says. “You fight for your voice at the table.”
We sat down with Monica to hear more about how she fosters a spirit of healthy debate and collaboration, as well as the career path that brought her here and what advice she has for budding designers looking to find the path that’s right for them.
Raising her hand
Monica was studying international business in college when she realized she didn’t want to ever work in a cubicle farm. “I saw a future that looked like Dundler Mufflin, and I needed to pivot,” she says, smiling. “The only other talent or hobby that I had at the time was graphic design.”
She followed that interest, which had previously manifested itself in homemade flyers for family businesses and fun Photoshop projects, all the way into transferring into art school. By the time she graduated, she set out to work in publishing, so she could be a part of editorial storytelling.
Monica thought she’d be working on print magazines, but a recruiter pointed out that lots of publishers were hiring in their digital space. “I really wasn’t confident, and they were like, ‘Trust me; you have a portfolio. And you’ll make more money because there’s not so many people in the running for these roles,’” remembers Monica.
She ended up being part of the early design teams at magazines like Newsweek and Spin, and she credits those experiences with teaching her the importance of collaboration.
“We were working with editors, videographers, and photographers, and you got staffed and tried to do your work as fast as possible. That’s where I got my hustle,” she says. “It’s where I learned what a real design team was. It was supportive, with camaraderie and not competition. Truly just a bunch of design nerds, we traded our skills to help each other, we stayed late if someone was on a deadline. The team culture I have today is definitely rooted in that first design team.”
While Monica loved her experience in publishing, she felt the industry closing in around her, and once again, she raised her hand to try something new.
“I’d always thought product design was physical—like designing this ChapStick, essentially,” she says, gesturing towards an example. “But there was this whole new wave of digital product design, which was a domination of software design and UX, and I had the chance to again be at the forefront of something that was not fully saturated with too many designers,” she says.
Leaning into the differences between design and product design
When she moved into product, Monica had to learn not to run to a solutions space. “Instead of going straight into Photoshop and designing to your heart’s desire, you start with understanding user goals. What are the requirements of this? How do we know the solution we’ve chosen is the right solution?,” she asks.
She liked the change, saying, “as you get used to what the data can tell you, you start to crave more data.”
In trading in her design aesthetic for user perspectives and feedback, Monica found that a lot of the core skills were the same. “You have to be objective and take yourself out of it. You’re not designing for yourself, you’re designing for all the users and viewers of your product,” she says.
When Monica joined JW Player, it was because she was ready for a product design role where she could be more creative. She knew she’d have the chance to build a team, and was excited to do so at the intersection of design and tech for a company whose tech stack and product she really believed in.
“When I started at JW Player, I had friends ask me, ‘Why aren’t you applying for creative director jobs?’ But at the time, I wasn’t ready to let it go, to be hands-off,” she says. So her first year on the job was focused on digging into product and really creating the kind of design culture she came from and appreciated.
But then it was time to move into a directorship, and Monica knew she was ready. “It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but it’s a pretty great place to be, when you’re ready to be challenged,” she says.
3 key skills for being successful in design in tech
Monica has hired both designers and engineers to work on her product team, and here are some of the common markers of success she’s seen:
- An ability to communicate. “If you don’t know how to communicate your design philosophy or thoughts, communication from designer to engineer can break down pretty quickly,” she says.
- An interest in the other side. Monica looks for designers who are excited to “sit with an engineer and look at every pixel to make sure it’s perfect,” she says, and engineers who are excited to participate in the creative process.
- A belief in compromise. “We cannot be precious about what we built and we cannot insert ourselves as the user for what we're building,” says Monica. “This is a career that’s not for the faint of heart. You get a lot of hard feedback. I always say I’m very open to being convinced of being wrong, but you have to put in the work to convince me.”
💎Want to implement change in your team or organization? Watch the video to the end to do it successfully.
📼 To implement change you need to follow certain steps. Play this video to get three top tips on how to do it the best possible way. You'll hear from Kyle Lisboa, Support Operations Manager at Esri, who shares her experience with you!
📼Why implement change? Tip #1: Identify the reason. Think about the business reason for the change. If you understand why change is needed, it helps you explain it to others. Avoid making change for change's sake and implement solutions that solve problems.
📼Plan to implement change! Tip #2: Develop a plan. Create a detailed plan to help implement the change. If you create steps and timelines, this will guide the process. It also helps others understand how you are progressing towards the implementation and what the next steps are.
To Implement Change You Need Others - Tip #3: Seek Feedback
Gather feedback from those affected before, during, and after any changes are implemented. Allowing others to provide their feedback helps to create an inclusive atmosphere where everyone feels part of the solution.
📨 Are you interested in joining Esri? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Kyle Lisboa
Kyle is an experienced Strategic Operations Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the computer software industry. She’s skilled in Arcgis Products, Databases, Management, Geography, and Cartography. If you are interested in a career at Esri, you can connect with her on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to mention this video!
More About Esri
At Esri, they build cutting-edge geographic information system (GIS) technology that customers use to solve the world’s most complex challenges: slowing climate change, stamping out disease, designing a better city, fighting crime, and much more. Their ArcGIS software is helping communities around the globe respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by monitoring the surge, managing testing sites, aiding essential workers in finding childcare, mapping food and essentials, and keeping residents informed and safe.
Nearly 80% of workers want to work for a company that values diversity, equity, and inclusion, per a CNBC survey.
But how do prospective employees — and, for that matter, current ones — know whether an organization takes diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) seriously?
Metrics can help.
What are DEI metrics?
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging metrics are measurements of how a company is doing against its stated DEIB goals. They help track progress, light up problems, synthesize momentum over time, prioritize investment, and allow a company and its employees to have accountability over DEIB intentions.
How can DEI metrics help my overall DEI strategy?
Creating a DEIB strategy is the first step in making your workplace more equitable. But having DEI metrics is a vital second step in ensuring that progress happens.
DEI metrics help a company actualize their strategy, live out their values, meet employee expectations, and make the workplace more fair for all employees.
10 examples of DEI metrics
1. Hiring: the diversity of your candidate pipeline.
How diverse is your applicant pool? Have your candidates self-identify and track what representation looks like in your candidate system.
2. Representation: the demographics of your current employees.
Many companies put pressure on their new hires to make up for gaps in their existing employee population — so make sure you’re benchmarking against data on what your current workforce is made up of.
3. Representation: the demographics of your leadership team.
People need to see that there is a path for success for people who look like them at your organization. What does the makeup of your board look like? Your directors? Your managers? And what does the promotion pipeline look like into those roles?
4. Representation: the demographics of your suppliers.
The money that you spend can significantly impact communities around you — so you should be measuring whether you’re doing that in a way that challenges bias and champions equitable treatment.
5. HR systems: pay equity.
Do all employees, regardless of gender or race, make the same amount of money if they’re doing the same job? If not, what’s your gender / race pay gap and how quickly are you closing it?
6. Employee experience: HR issues.
It’s important to track wins when it comes to DEIB, but it’s also vital to track times when your organization falls short. How many HR / People issues related to DEIB, including allegations of unfair treatment or bias, has your organization dealt with in the past year? What was the result of them? How quickly did issues get resolved? These metrics are key to know.
7. Employee experience: satisfaction with DEI progress.
When you send out employee satisfaction surveys, make sure you include questions on how employees perceive your current progress on DEI goals. They’re the ones most impacted by your strategy — and their opinion matters.
8. Employee engagement: participation in communication platforms.
How often do employees participate in Slack? What about by-channel participation? Looking at data on who talks to who and when can help highlight issues with inclusion or culture. Some companies are using AI-enabled text analysis tools to look for signs of frustration or for problematic language.
9. Employee participation: ERG membership.
Employee resource groups can be hugely helpful in creating community around different identities, interests, and demographics. They can also provide guidance on how to actualize your organization’s DEIB goals. (Which is part of the reason you should pay ERG leaders for their efforts, but that’s a topic for a different blog.)
10. Brand reputation: customer perception.
We’ve talked about key groups for whom DEIB metrics matter — prospective employees, current employees, leadership — but they matter to your customers, too. Whether you add a DEIB component to your existing NPS process, conduct 1:1 customer interviews, or get feedback some other way, it’s important to see whether your customer base is seeing progress on your DEIB goals, too.
Have you ever been so exhausted that you quit your job?
You may have been experiencing burnout.
Burnout is characterized by overwhelming exhaustion, detachment from your work, and a sense of ineffectiveness.
And while anyone can experience burnout, if you have ADHD, you may be more susceptible to it.
Before you get to the point where quitting feels like your only option, there are steps you can take to set healthy boundaries and start feeling more like yourself again. Read on to learn how you can recognize burnout in yourself, and what to do if you’re experiencing it!
How Does ADHD Burnout Feel?
There are some clear signs that you’re burning out, but ADHD can make the descent to burnout harder to detect. These warning signs include:
- Lack of motivation - not wanting to do the things you need to do or the things you love.
- Exhaustion - feeling overly tired both mentally and physically.
- Irritability and mental fatigue - feeling short-tempered, mean, or like you snap easily.
- Physical discomfort - body aches, low energy levels, and general pain.
- Negative outlook - the tendency to find something wrong with nearly everything.
- Emotional dysregulation - feeling weepy, sad, or unable to smile or connect with others.
Generally, burnout starts with taking on too much. Exhaustion creeps in, and you feel like every day is working against you because you are constantly overwhelmed. You may start to feel like the entire world is spinning out of control, or like no matter what you do you can’t keep up (or catch up).
If this resonates with you, you might be on the road to ADHD burnout.
Why People with ADHD Can Be More Susceptible to Burnout
So why does ADHD make some folks more susceptible to burnout? There are a few common ADHD traits that often result in behaviors correlated with burnout (taking on too much, working too long, etc.):
- Hyperfocus - ADHD is not exclusively about attention deficits. In fact, hyperfocus is the opposite – a deep, intense concentration to the point of being oblivious to your surroundings. Per WebMD, hyperfocus is a state of highly-focused attention that lasts for an extended period of time. You concentrate on something so hard that you lose track of everything else going on around you. When hyperfocus sets in at work, it can be hard to unplug or be aware of the people and environment around you.
- Time Tracking - Losing track of time is one thing, but if you find yourself losing track of hours without realizing it, that could be related to burnout. People with ADHD perceive time not as a sequence of events the way others usually do, but as a diffuse collection of events viscerally connected to the people, activities, and emotions that fill them.
- Difficulty Prioritizing - Do you take on too much and then struggle to prioritize it? When someone asks for help, does everything often go to the wayside so you can jump in? Or maybe the daunting anticipation of the tasks ahead prevents you from starting. Per ADDitude, ADHD impacts your temporal processing abilities, which can affect executive functioning.
Combating ADHD Burnout
If you think you may be suffering from ADHD burnout, there are a few ways to take back control. Here are three tips for combating ADHD burnout:
Reserve Your Yeses - Pump the brakes when you recognize the early signs of ADHD burnout. Start reserving your yeses right away. Say no, and practice not apologizing. It is okay to say, "I have a lot on my plate right now and cannot take that on. Thanks for thinking of me." Saying no is nothing to apologize for, and it should be celebrated! You are working to protect your energy above all else.
Practice Over-Estimating - If you think you could knock something out in a day, give yourself a week. Overestimate on time and allow yourself the grace to have a little more time than usual to complete projects. Slowing down when starting a new job or role will help you produce high-quality work and prevent ADHD burnout.
Drop the Mask - Be honest with your employer and friends. Let them know that although you seem to keep up internally, you struggle. Identifying ADHD burnout from the outside can be extremely difficult. Your honesty and transparency will position you to determine if your environment is supportive and inclusive.
How to Support Colleagues Dealing with ADHD Burnout
The experiences above may not resonate with you personally, but perhaps you’ve noticed other people you work with describe or experience them.
If you’re a manager, there are several ways you can support colleagues with ADHD (as well as neurodivergent employees more generally) to help prevent burnout. Ask for clarity on when they have felt the most supported at work. Discovery questions like, “how did you feel at that time?” or “how was the pace of that project?” can help you to understand their actual capacity.Download this free guide if you’re looking for more ways to support your neurodivergent coworkers. Work with your DEIB and HR team to develop new neurodivergent inclusivity standards to help you stay ahead of the ADHD burnout cycle.
💎Worried about bias in the workplace? Watch the video to the end to find out how to reduce it!
📼Avoiding bias in the workplace requires a lot of effort. Play this video to get three top tips that will help you. You'll hear from Ben Lopez, Talent Acquisition Manager for EMEA at Workiva, who shares advice on how to create a more fair, equitable environment where everyone feels welcome and has a seat at the table.
📼Acknowledging bias in the workplace is the starting point. Tip #1: Recognize Bias. Take the time to recognize your own bias. Both conscious and unconscious. And look out for bias within teams and among peers. Work together to understand how you can all avoid each of those biases that you may encounter.
📼Avoid sneaky bias in the workplace! Tip #2: Rely on a structured process. Whether it's about interviewing, promotions, or performance reviews, relying on a consistent, fair, and objective process will help guard against bias. Document the process to keep both you and your peers accountable. And when it comes to interviewing, work with your peers and other participants to define clear questions and objectives to cover with each candidate.
Reduce Bias In The Workplace By Knowing Different People - Tip #3: Widen Your Network
Don't always engage with the same people. Widen your internal network, and interact with different teams, and different departments. Get to know those with different life experiences, different academic backgrounds, and different work experiences. Understanding those who are different from us allows us to be more empathetic and create an environment where we all feel a sense of belonging.
📨 Are you interested in joining Workiva? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Ben Lopez
With a robust background in recruitment, Ben is an agile and well-networked talent acquisition leader. He’s been recruiting high-caliber talent around the globe for 15 years, spanning SaaS software, professional services, oil & gas, and healthcare across four continents. If you are interested in a career at Workiva, you can connect with Ben Lopez on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to mention this video!
More About Workiva
Workiva was founded to transform the way people manage and report business data with various collaborators, data sources, documents, and spreadsheets. Today, people all over the world use their platform to seamlessly orchestrate data among their systems and applications for transparent and trusted connected reporting and compliance. At Workiva, they are innovative in everything they do—from how they build their software, to how they serve their customers, to how they treat their employees.