How do you define success? If you haven't thought about this, then this week's interview with Belindah Jones will help put you in the right frame of mind to answer it. Belindah works a UX designer with Capital One's Digital Team, and she brings a rich history of design education to one of the country's most popular banks. We began by looking at Belindah's day-to-day work, and she shared how Capital One champions diversity in design. From there, Belindah talked about her work as a design professor, life growing up in Kenya, her dream project, and drops some gems on what designers need to know in order to be successful. This episode will definitely give you something to think about!
How do you define success? If you haven't thought about this, then this week's interview with Belindah Jones will help put you in the right frame of mind to answer it. Belindah works a UX designer with Capital One's Digital Team, and she brings a rich history of design education to one of the country's most popular banks.
We began by looking at Belindah's day-to-day work, and she shared how Capital One champions diversity in design. From there, Belindah talked about her work as a design professor, life growing up in Kenya, her dream project, and drops some gems on what designers need to know in order to be successful. This episode will definitely give you something to think about!
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Maurice Cherry: All right, so tell us who you are and what you do.
Belindah Jones: Hi, I'm Belindah Jones, and I work as a user experience designer at Capital One. I work with an agile software development team, supporting an internal credit risk application.
MC: Now, it's interesting because when I've talked to U Ex designers in the past, I don't know if any of them have really worked with development teams. Can you talk a little bit about that process and how it works?
BJ: Sure, maybe I can even just go back to just the whole of the day looks like.
BJ: Coming in would be daily stand ups, and it's just the regular information, what's been worked on, any bottle necks, and being able to reach out to people in the team and say, "Hey, you know, can I grab maybe five minutes of your time." Then there's also the product team as well, that's part of the overall team.
BJ: It's just this constant communication. Some of the teams are remote, out in Richmond, and it's a lot through Zoom, emails. Then, it's just IM-ing, "Hey, can you tell me more about a certain feature, as it pertains to design?" There's definitely a lot of communication.
MC: Sounds like it's a distributed team. Like you said, some of them are remote?
BJ: Right, right.
MC: Okay, all right. What's the most surprising thing that you've learned since working at Capital One?
BJ: Well, surprising thing was Capital One actually has, now, within the umbrella of one design, which is that houses all the designers, we have about more than 400 designers. For a bank to have that number of designers, it's amazing, like totally amazing.
BJ: And knowing that each and every designer is slotted into whether it's a line of business, or whether it's card, it's commercial, it's risk. It's amazing at what level of detail we can actually dive into.
MC: Yeah, I would say when I think of banks, I don't necessarily think of design. It's interesting that Capital One has dedicated that much power to what they do.
BJ: Right, and it's amazing because it's getting to know who our users are. Our users are super diverse. Being able to hire designers who can story-tell, who can research, who can conduct user interviews, usability studies, and being able to really get to the heart of who are our real clients and users out there.
MC: You mentioned that you're working in the, is it credit management or credit risk department?
BJ: Yes, so risk is a huge thing. For any bank, risk is a really, really big deal. Just trying to create applications that mitigate that risk, like being able to know right off the bat any entity or any business that Capital One goes into business with, knowing firsthand how they rate up, and being able to always have that clear view of, okay, should we continue doing business with this particular entity, or should we be aware of things that are going on in the financial space.
MC: It sounds like that Capital One is also a very diverse workforce? When I spoke with Alana, Alana Washington for the people that are listing, is the one who has helped kind of coordinate all these interviews. I was really, really glad that everyone that I'm interviewing is a Black woman. It seems like the team at Capital One is pretty diverse, would you say that?
BJ: I would say we're definitely growing, and we have a number of programs in place to somewhat build that diversity. Even just within design, because even in my software development team, I'm the only Black person. Again, there's different facets of where diversity is. But I think within design, we're definition kind of heading in that direction of being able to bring more people onboard.
MC: Nice. How long have you been at Capital One?
BJ: Right, so I've been at Capital One for slightly more than a year, and prior to that, I was in academia for more than 10 years.
MC: Let's get into that. That's interesting. Talk a little bit about that. I saw just from doing my research that you've taught at a few art schools, you taught at the University of Maryland university college, I think was that the last place where you taught?
BJ: Right, right, that was the last place. Actually, that was the online and then the Art Institute was the on ground.
BJ: A lot of people ask me, well, how do you do it? How do you teach higher education, and you spend 10 years. Like what was your whole experience? I have a love for learning, like I have a love of learning, and it was that passion. Like you wake up every morning, you're like, "Wow, I'm actually imparting knowledge." Then also being able to create and build all these projects and lessons plans, that you could see through, everyday we'll be covering certain features.
BJ: Being able to see what that end product should look like, but then also mentoring students along the way. Again, seeing students coming from their first day, their first day of college, and seeing them walk down during graduation, it's amazing. Actually, when I look back, I'm like, wow, it went really, really fast. But education is big for me, super, super big for me.
BJ: Even where I am in Capital One, always advocating for scholarship, always hey, what's the next conference? What's the next webinar? What's the next book that I can read, because I know trying to stand out in this field is always being in par with technology. What's out there? Information technology, so on, so forth.
MC: I was just about to ask if you have chances to kind of impart education, do that same thing while you're at Capital One. But no, that's really good, that Capital One offers those kinds of scholarships, and that you have the professional opportunities to kind of also impart that education as well.
BJ: Yes, yes, and one thing that I'm also passionate about and kind of going back into academia was mentoring, and knowing that, you know, again coming into Capital One, I was coming from a totally different environment, academia, it's very collaborative. Very, sort of scholarship and we're in a room together with other professors who are PhD level, and just in this midst discussion and learning. I totally miss that.
BJ: And seeing, okay, how can I somewhat bring that into One Design, or into Capital One. And always have this honest, collaboration of hey, let's work together. We all are working towards the same thing, but being able to not only mentor, but not only mentoring new people coming in, but also mentoring those who are trying to move up, whether it's leadership positions, or being able to lead projects. That's something that I'm really kind of passionate about, and seeing if I can be a part of something like that in Capital One.
MC: Let's go back to when you mentioned that you've taught both on the ground, like you said at these art institutes that you've taught at. Then from there, kind of shifting to online. I'm really curious as to what differences there, I mean, aside from just virtual versus physical, but what differences are there in teaching about design from those two separate types of vantage points?
BJ: There's that hands on that students will always say, "You know what, I cannot do online courses, 'cause I miss that interaction, that hands on." Especially when you're dealing with things like 2D drawing, it's hard to do it online. Then you also have that face to face critic session, whereby you've seen the actual visual piece, whether it's a website or a poster.
BJ: Being able to interact and look at the person presenting, and being able to say, "Hey, you know, you did an amazing job, you sounded very articulate, you didn't sound nervous." But online, it's really hard to catch that, or even correct that. With online, I found at least the students that I was teaching, these were adult students who were active in the military.
BJ: They kind of knew their place, they knew why they were there, which made a huge difference. In regards to keeping them on track, they had that from day one. It was a little easier to somewhat teach them, because they were at that point.
BJ: But when it came to that visual component, that's where you have high breed courses, whereby you meet face to face once in the week, and then everything else is online interactive.
MC: Nice. I know when I taught online, I feel like getting students to understand the discipline that it takes to do it online was kind of the hardest part. So when you said that you were teaching all these military students and they got it, I'm like, what's that like? I don't know what that ... 'Cause sometimes I would talk to students and just like pulling teeth. I'm like, you have to log in and say something X number of times a day.
MC: I taught like a principles of web design course, so nothing super intensive. It's like teaching how to make an anchor tag, how to bold texts. This was part of a BIS degree, a Business Information Systems Program. Right off the bat, the students coming in weren't designers, in some cases, weren't even really technically inclined, but they knew that they had to take this course in order to progress in their major fields.
MC: Sometimes they would come and just, they just didn't want to learn. Now, some of them I was able to kind of show them the passion that I have for design, and then that kind of trickled over into what they do with their, know at their points. But I'm curious, what have your students over the years taught you? Have they taught you anything like about yourself, or about your teaching style?
BJ: Over the years, you really self-reflect after every semester, or in this case, it was every quarter. What worked, what went well and what could be improved, and every semester, you had different sets of students, different personalities, different backgrounds. It's being able to stay in tune with each one of them, because everyday was different for them. They would come in ...
BJ: Again, I would teach eight o'clock classes, some course and it's knowing, okay, everyone is not on their best self at 8 AM, but it's okay.
BJ: Then as a professor coming in, I had to be all smiles and super energetic, because a class was running for two hours. It's coming in with that skill set of we can do this, let's make this fun. Yeah, and so it was just also building relationships, but also knowing that's just ... Somewhat being able to understand that a lot of the success sometimes tied into student somewhat life issues in a sense.
BJ: And I think at that young age, it's hard for students to separate the two, because some days they'll say, "You know what, I just don't feel like it."
BJ: Kind of going back to what you're saying is that they're just there and they have to, you take this class to move on to the next, and taking that and saying, "Okay, how can I make this work for you?" But again making sure that you still go through the course and you're not feeling it, but where can I cut you some slack, but I'm not telling them this, but where I can I cut you some slack. I know you want to push through because I'm taking your word for it.
BJ: It's almost as if you're kind of throwing them that trust, and then them coming back and saying, "Okay, you gave me that extra time, that one time, or that one week things were just not right, but I pulled through, and you helped me through it." Learning lessons would be for one, I'm a very, very patient person, but again, the times when that patience really runs thin, and you kind of just step back and be like, "Okay, why am I doing this? Right, what am I teaching in the first place?"
BJ: It's being able to better the lives of people coming in, being able to just impart words of wisdom, because some of the students coming in, you need to be a parent, you need to be an aunt, you need to be a mum, you need to be a teacher. It's like teaching the whole person and it's hard to somewhat ... I did it at the very beginning when I first started, and I said, "No, I'm only here teach, and if you don't have what I need you to have, then next person."
BJ: But it wasn't working, it wasn't working. I found that you had to build relationships and some of those times, you had to cut some slack. 'Cause then they knew, okay, this particular professor cares for me. But they knew it the way they wanted to know it, that if she's not giving me extra time for this project, she doesn't care for me.
BJ: From a professor's standpoint, we're like, oh my gosh, but we can't do that, we have to uphold these standards. We have been looked at by our bosses and deans that no, you have to set the standard. Kind of balancing those two was sometimes really, really different, because at the end of the day, some students didn't understand that. You kind of had to pull back and say, "Okay, let me work on them one on one, and see if that would help them, you know, just grow into themselves."
BJ: It's interesting, because then you saw their work improve over time, and then towards the end of like their very last semester, you like look them, I'm like, oh, my gosh, they're all grown up. It was something taught, and you look different. It's amazing, just the growth was amazing.
MC: I think teaching helped me become like a more empathetic designer. The reason that I say that is because oftentimes when particularly if you're dealing with clients, even if you're dealing with stakeholders or coworkers, you sort of have to approach them in that same way. You kind of have to go to where they are sometimes. I know particularly with clients, there's a lot of education that has to go on, because unless they've hired a designer before or they've worked on a creative project before, they really don't know where to start.
MC: They don't know what goes on behind the scenes, and so it would be my job to try to teach them. As you say, teach the whole person about what it's like. So granted, I can tell them what fonts I used and colors and such, but I have to think, "Well, this person is a busy executive, do they really care about that? Let me just give them like the executive summary of what it is that I do, so they can get a sense of how that works." Have you found that teaching has helped you out now with the work that you do at Cap One?
BJ: Yes, definitely, and going back to what you said, it's definitely given me empathy. And also just patience, 'cause not everyone knows what designers, especially user experience designers do, they don't know. With tech and product, they will do what they do every day. Again, they've been doing it for years, and then design is called at the very end, we need you to design this.
BJ: But from a U Ex perspective, I'm like, okay, but what has happened in the last year? I need to be part of that to figure out how things should flow. Have we brought in the users? What did they say?" Just trying to explain to them, this is what we do, and we don't only design, we can facilitate workshops, we can interview users, we can have usability studies.
BJ: It's educating them, this is more than ... I mean, we can do it all, we can also take part in creating roadmap visions, and being a part of the solution, which I think coming to one, we're really trying to do is, hey, let's be part of the table as well. Let's kind of bring us in early as well.
BJ: For this world, let's kinda bring us in early, as well.
MC: With places like General Assembly, and other spots that are kind of almost churning out UX designers with these 10 week programs, these multi-week intensive courses, it seems like we're seeing more UX designers enter the field, what are your thoughts on that?
BJ: Well that's interesting because I also had an experience with one of these courses, and I'm actually familiar with General Assembly because I did attend a couple of classes there as well.
BJ: Just coming from academia, and seeing the contrast between academia and- academia, in regards to, four-year, two-year colleges, universities, and bootcamp courses that are, you're in you're out, a lot of companies don't have time to wait for people to go through these extensive programs. We're talking about four year, two years. And we're not as specific as what the industry requires right now. So with the bootcamp courses, they are in tune to what's in demand right now, and this is what we're teaching you right now. So, in a sense they're definitely filling that need and that gap, which is amazing.
BJ: They're quite expensive, but again, you know reasons why, but I definitely have respect for them because they are doing what they need to do and I believe students are also doing enough research to find out, number one, is this right for me, number two, what are they teaching and how are they teaching it? So that once they come out of that, I am employable. And not only employable, I have a number of different choices to choose from because everyone wants me. Right? So, I definitely give my hand to them, for sure.
MC: Yeah, I like the part about how they really kind of make sure that they're tuned in to really get a job, you know? Because some companies do partner, I'm pretty sure there are a lot of them, but companies do partner with these places, like a General Assembly. It's sort of like a pipeline, in a way, if you go through the course, then they know that you can work at this other company once you graduate because they've got openings and things for you because they've managed to staff other people who have worked at General Assembly.
MC: And I would say that's different from what we see with four-year institutions in some cases, and even with online places where you may go through and get the education, but there's not really a guarantee that once you graduate, that you've got something lined up. I would also even say, because you said that General Assembly kind of teaches to what's going on right now, they're able to turn around their curriculum in a much faster way. I remember when I taught, this was back in 2010, 2011, they were still teaching students how to design websites with tables. And this is well into the fact now that people use CSS for layouts and things like that.
MC: And so I remember having to campaign the dean to say, we need to change the curriculum because we're teaching them an outdated way of working and designing and they're not gonna be able to get work if they graduate out this program with this and unfortunately it didn't change because they said, you know, these are not designers, it's a business information system. They just need to know the basics. I'm like, well this is the wrong basic that we're teaching them. That basic is outdated. So, I see that benefit with being able to teach just more up to date topics and subjects as it relates to the field.
BJ: Right, right. And also another aspect to joining some of these camps, in a sense, is being able to network. So say for instance, General Assembly is in the heart of D.C., and you have a lot of people who teach, who work in the industry. Very connected, so that would be another super huge benefit of going to places like this because people you are sitting with who are your classmates are in the industry. People who are teaching you might even work at a job where you wanna work in. So that, I see has been another big thing.
MC: Yeah. Did you ever have an aha moment? Where you knew that this is what you wanted to do for a living?
BJ: Well, that's interesting, so I'm originally from Kenya, grew up born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. And attended an all-girls high school run by Irish nuns.
MC: Oh wow.
BJ: When I tell people that- Does that exist? And kind of seeing what that has instilled in me over the years. Very, very structured. Very, very structured. We had mass once a week on Fridays, and every day would be a assembly and we would line up and the head nun would tell us the news of the day and what we had to do. But, yes, so being taught by nuns. I remember one Sister Imelda, very sweet, very sweet lady and she would let us get away with everything. And you had another one Sister Marina, oh my gosh. Very tough. Very tough. Very, very tough.
BJ: But it was good because then structure started on at a very early age. And then, somewhat bring it in to school, bring it into work, and your best to work ethics and so forth, so I can definitely, kind of, speak to that. But, in regards to, how I jump into graphic design and UX, is actually through my dad. The time when I finished high school, he was actually doing his research on the side and he came to me and he said, you know what? I've looked into graphic design and I've enrolled you in a college here in Kenya and I want you to enjoy and it's a two-year associate program. I was like, uh no. But I want to do business administration. And it's funny because in high school, I was really bad in economics and math, so I don't really know why I wanted to go that route.
MC: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
BJ: But, he had done his research and he'd spoken to all these professors and we were going back and forth until I said, okay I will do it. And I have never turned back and just jumping into academia and dealing with so much of the same things. You have target audience, you have user groups, you have problem solving in both cases, you have communicating, you have being able to create a product or service that users can actually flow through, but be able to understand it. So that's pretty much been my journey.
MC: You mentioned your father who are some other influences that you've had throughout your career?
BJ: In Kenya, definitely my parents. And then, through college, so I haven't finished my associate degree in Kenya, and I had classmates who pretty much filtered through and started working for huge ad agencies Ogilvy, and Mable, McCann Erickson, and just kind of keeping tabs with them and kind of seeing how they've grown and what they're working on has been super inspirational. And then moving into America, because I came in right after I finished my associate degree, I came in as a transfer student. And just seeing, and actually, not really people in my field, just seeing what people who have migrated from different parts of the world and what they are doing. And I'm like oh my gosh, this person is going up to PhD level. Every weekend they're in the library. I mean, that to me was inspiring, and knowing that okay, you gotta work hard to be anything.
BJ: And again, coming in as an international student you're paying twice as much as an in-state student. And you're paying so much money and knowing that I have no choice but to work as hard as I can, otherwise, me and my bag are back to Kenya, you know?
MC: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
BJ: So yeah, just people around me were very inspirational, in regards to, work ethics, being able to put in 100% or 100 plus. And then just reading books on designers out there and there's actually one, he's a German industrial designer and he has an amazing quote that really, really speaks to user experience. He says, and this is by Dieter Rams, he says, "You cannot understand good design if you do not understand people. Design is made for people". And every time I read that I remember my trip to West Africa. That I took on a study abroad program that was also part of my thesis research. And, I had somewhat jumped or found this study abroad program in grad school and I was like, number one I want to travel, and number two I want to experience something different. I've never been to West Africa.
BJ: Yes, I'm from North Africa, just never been to West Africa. But then again, that experience of coming from America to Africa and then going with a group of students who were actually coming in from the public health departments, so again as a graphic designer joining this team and being able to have a specific role like, what am I doing with a public health group? And knowing that okay, I have this thesis that I have to research on and I was super interested in art, education, and health. And seeing how I could bridge the gap between the three. Because I'm super passionate about education and health and art, and at the time I was working for a nonprofit in Iowa that was health-related, but it was about giving basic needs to the community, providing basic needs to the community.
BJ: So, again, dealing with people and people's needs. So that to me was like, wow. Nonprofit for me. I love providing service but more so to me, what really touched and I think just coming from a developing country, is serving those under represented the vulnerable populations that I call them. And being able to provide that technology, but being able to provide technology that works for them. And interestingly enough, you can go to the most remote part of Kenya or in Africa, well let me say Kenya, because I know Kenya, the most remote part of Kenya, and you will find every person with a cellphone. Every person has a cellphone which is amazing, so technology is moving but then again, what is that technology doing for them at a day-to-day basis?
BJ: So, is it helping bank better? Is it helping them monitor or keep tabs of okay, I took out a microloan for my small farm. Can I use this application or app on my phone to keep tabs on when is my next payment? Do I have notifications coming to me? And do I even understand what those notifications mean? So it's almost this untapped market in a sense that people having the technology in their hand, but are you using it to be its maximum? And creating these best user experiences that only market to these populations.
MC: I think people would be surprised to know just how far technology is throughout Africa. And I remember this because this was way back in the day, maybe at like 2005, 2006. I used to write for a site called Black Web 2.0, and I always tried to make it a focus of what I wrote about to be about technology in Africa. Because people might think, oh well South Africa or maybe some of the bigger cities like Johannesburg, or even growing up in Northern Africa like Legos or Tunis or something like that, or Cairo even I should say, but not really realizing how much technology is throughout the continent, like in different- in place you might not even think about having technology.
MC: A while back I had a game designer from Cameroon, he has a 20- I think it was 20 people at the time, like a 20-person game design company in Cameroon and he talked about how he's put the game together, how he staffed everything, and it was amazing because people don't think that something like that would come out of that place in the world, you know what I mean?
BJ: Right. Right. It's booming and I remember I was home two years ago, but before that I was there a year before that and I was in Kenya or Nairobi in June and July Obama was going to make his visit to Kenya for the first time. And he was actually coming in for a sermon, and I forget the name of the moment, but I twas pretty much bringing young folks together in technology, in regards to, how can you improve the economy? Whether it's farmers in a remote location in Kenya, what can you do with technology to make sure that people are not being left behind?
BJ: And a good example of my parents, they are retired, they're in their 70s. But they're farming. And they grew everything from mangoes to papayas to plantain to tomatoes, anything you name it. So, every time I see my mom with the same little book, where she writes down okay, from the farm today Saturday we harvested 100 bags of mangoes and then she would have different markets within the city that she would deliver to, and then she'd also have another small set of buyers that she would then deliver to in case all the big markets didn't consume what she had.
BJ: But this book would actually have names of each buyer and how much they still owed her. Because when you're dealing with small-scale buyers, they can only pay you such an amount over a period of time and unfortunately that's how the business is, so for my mom to keep track of okay, so Momma Rose, over here, I gave her 10 bags of mangoes, she was only able to pay for 10. But she has the-she was only able to pay for five, but she has the 10. So how can I keep track in my little booklet that she needs to then pay me in the next visit x and x amount.
BJ: So again, being able to turn it around and say okay, Mom, what if you lose your notebook? Can we create a little app for you that then shows you clearly who your distributors are, who your buyers are, when you made a drop-off, when Miss Momma Rose is gonna pay you your next payment or maybe you want $100 and then send notifications to Momma Rose and say, hey Momma Irene is gonna come and pick up her payment. You know? So it's just some of these populations that are so- I don't want to say they're being left behind by technology but in a sense they are, but there's such a lack of word of opportunity to serve some of these, and I'll say aging populations because giving my mom an $800 iPhone phone is not gonna work.
BJ: Because number one, the technology is too advanced. But then again, be able to show her, hey this is an app that was designed for your needs. It was designed for your needs to make sure that you're able to have things on the go and then again, being able to save it on the cloud somewhere and you will have to explain it to her. But, again being able to serve, if technology is produced for everyone, everyone consumes technology and I think people should be able to consume it equally. But being able to educate those populations that are not consuming it at the same rate.
MC: And I think, also as we think about, you know ...
BJ: ... same rate.
MC: And I think, also, as we think about diversity and technology, as you just mentioned before about the iPhone with it just having too much technology, but then also thinking about the apps and the people that they would serve, I feel like certainly a lot of apps, there's a wide variety of apps out there on the app store, Android play store, whatever, Google play store. But they all seem to be, or mostly, American-centric or US-centric. They're coming out of Silicon Valley. Or maybe the needs that it's meeting are for those that are in first world countries or up here in the US or something.
MC: But what I thought was interesting when I covered and talked about tech in Africa is how there's a lot of banking solutions for doing mobile banking or for doing transactions from phone to phone, things of that nature. Being able to have an amount of people that can speak to that level of need for those kinds of audiences, I think, is super important.
BJ: Right. And it's something that has really gained track. So you have M-Pesa, M-P-E-S-A, that has really done amazing. So what it is, as you mentioned, is your phone being the bank, and it's [inaudible 00:35:16] to ask whereby we do online banking. We can transfer money between each other. We can pay our bills on online banking. But for them, how it goes a little step farther is they don't have to carry any money with them. Yes, they have ATMs, they ATM cards, but to them they can go to a restaurant, they can go to a little kiosk on the side of the road, and say, "Hey, I want to buy two eggs, and a half a loaf of bread," and pay through their phone.
BJ: Won't have to carry cash for them. And same thing for the farmer, same thing for banking. So they can easily exchange money, and they don't have to walk into a bank unless they have to, and they can also loan. So say for instance, if my mom says, "Hey, I owe someone in the farm 100 shillings." She'll go to a kiosk and buy those ... it's almost like pre-pay. And you load it to your phone. And you just transfer it to that person. "Hey, I've paid you. We're good. We're good." So that has really taken storm. I think it was specifically set up for developing countries, and I think that's why it has flourished. And I think it's tried to be incorporated into other already developed countries, and I don't think it quite manifested in that sense.
MC: Also, one of the differences with these kind of things is just the network itself. Part of it is not just that you're dealing with a different banking system, but the technology that serves it up to you is different.
MC: I spoke with, just recently, [Anise 00:36:56] Davis, she's an Android developer in Amsterdam. And her and I were kind of talking about the Android system, and she works with the start up that provides solar energy to countries in Africa, and how all of it is sort of done through Android, because Android, it's just a more open operating system in terms of being able to work with different networks, work on lots of different phones, even work on, I would say, lower cost phones. Like you said, everyone can't have an iPhone, $800 or $1000 iPhone. It's too much technology, plus it's cost prohibitive. But if you have, maybe, $150 phone or less that has the Android operating system that can still run some of these same apps, then it makes more sense if you're developing along that ecosystem.
BJ: Right. And it's interesting that she did mention that Android ... and now that I think about it, yes, a lot of people ... and I do remember the ... because sometimes when I go to Kenya I have to buy a phone, and I will go for the cheapest phone, because I'm only there for [inaudible 00:37:55] of time. And it's funny because I remember the one time I did buy a phone, it was a tiny Nokia phone. It was inexpensive because that's what I needed. And I remember my niece, actually, laughing at me and saying, "Please don't show that phone around. Just put it in your pocket when you're amongst company, because people don't have that phone."
BJ: But again, it's kind of going to your point of being able to work with multiple solutions, but Android being kind of that open platform. And also being more affordable for a lot of folks.
MC: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely.
MC: Do you have a dream project that you would love to work on or love to do one day?
BJ: Oh, wow. I kind of have a couple of them. One, just going back to my thesis project, is dealing with [Cloth 00:38:52] as a tool of communication, and dealing with the vulnerable populations. But it's kind of taking that step farther. And just to give a little intro into my project was, being able to communicate through Cloth [inaudible 00:39:10] messages. So using symbols, universal symbols, used in West Africa that can communicate across language lines that would say, "Hey, breastfeed your child." Or, "Get tested for HIV," or "Immunizations for your kids or babies." So taking that step farther and saying, creating a mother of health brand or icon, and seeing her on the side of buses or posters, and her being an indicator of health. Take care of your whole being, take care of my family.
BJ: And kind of trying to incorporate technology into that, and saying, "How can we push these efforts to the remote areas?" Where we know people have cell phones, but then also being able to create interfaces that can actually work for these groups. So I think that's something that I'm passionate about. And, again, not leaving anyone behind. It's almost like, "Don't leave a child behind. Don't leave these groups behind." Because technology can do wonders, but then it's also being able to create user experiences that can also work for these groups.
MC: When you look back at your career, what do you wish you would have known when you first started?
BJ: It is ever evolving, as a young girl growing up in a family of six. And knowing that, yes, I want to be a graphic designer, but knowing, or again, at the time, thinking that it was just one straight shot. And also not realizing that technology would be a huge part of that trajectory, in a sense. But what I would have liked to know then is giving myself space to kinder, be more, shall I say ... not open. But be more adventurous in regards to kind of going back to what I did with the study abroad and joining a group for public health. I would have not known that. I would not have known my interest in people, and providing services that work, if I had not taken that opportunity.
BJ: So I think it's maybe being ... and actually, what I can do is go back to my young self, because I think my older self is somewhat, shall I say, less open, I would say. Because being young, you're like, I can do this, I can do that, I can travel. I remember when I was getting funding for my study abroad program, I ran around campus. To me, N-O was not in my vocabulary. I ran around campus, department to department, asking for money. I wrote proposals, and I actually got more money than I needed. So in this point in time, and maybe just the older you get you somewhat get very tunnel visioned into this is what I want to do and this is how I can get there. But then going back to my younger self and saying, "Hey, you can get there in so many different ways. It doesn't even have to be through design. It could be different fields and industries, and meeting people from different facets of life that can take you to where you need to be to gain that richer life." Yeah, so that's definitely what I would say.
MC: As you think back to your time as an educator, even now working at Capital One, are there certain skills that you feel like designers need today in order to be successful in this industry?
BJ: It's interesting. Communication. And I think I was reading one of a podcasts, and communication was a big one. It's so interesting, and it took me taking a communicating for influence, how do you create influence within your team, within your stakeholders? How do you communicate with influence? And it wasn't until I took this workshop, within Capital One, that I realized very many people have different communication styles. And it can make or break your project, it can make or break your relationships.
BJ: So, number one is communication. And I think a lot of people will say, "Well, I communicate very well. I communicate what I need, and I communicate what I don't need." But there's a way you say it. There's a tone to it. There's a way you approach people and communicate that is not conducive. It's also those cues that you wouldn't know until someone actually, honestly mentored you and told you. And again, being from academia, I saw that all the time. But, again, being in the corporate where it's very different, but then having that mentor, or even that friend, who'd be like, "Hey, how about you try this way, and then see what result you get." Those really key area is that I think are super important.
MC: Do you think it's important for designers to think about what success looks like for them?
BJ: Yes. And, again, it's definitely different for different people, and I think something that's universal is, "Hey, just move on up the ladder." What's the next role? What's the next role after that, so on and so forth. But I think just how we put down goals for the year, like the beginning of the year you have resolutions, I think as designers we also have to do a reset and say, you know what? From last year, this is what I was able to achieve. Was I happy? Was I happy with the direction? And then this new year, what do I want to do? And just kind of going back to what we talked about before, just talking before the interview, was you can move up the ladder, but you may not be fulfilled.
BJ: So I think we have to know deep inside, what will fulfill us? And sometimes it takes you doing things that don't fulfill you to actually know. So I think it's being honest with ourselves and knowing this will fulfill me, because I had something similar of an experience last year. Did I like it? I did! And I loved it. I want to continue with it. Or maybe not quite. Let me try something else. And again, being open to try different things, and also having a community that embraces and gives you that opportunity to grow and shift.
MC: Where do you see yourself in the future? What kind of work would like to be doing, let's say, in the next five years or so?
BJ: In the next five years, definitely people oriented. So definitely creating services for people. And again going back to those populations that I mentioned, but also just day to day. Even just as a designer, I am a consumer as well. What are those things that annoy me at the beginning of the day that I don't want to have to do? It's almost as if [inaudible 00:46:27] somewhat getting to that area of how can we make lives a little bit, not even a little bit, more comfortable? Because [inaudible 00:46:36] so busy doing things. What can I take off the plate at the beginning of the day? Or any time of the day that you don't need to think about? But then also create experience that is seamless, that's I don't want to say invisible, because then you won't know it's there. But things that would make people's lives easier.
MC: What advice has stuck with you over the years as you went through your career, even now as you're working at Capital One? What advice has really stuck with you?
BJ: I would say, I always default back to my dad, because he, and my parents but it was moreso my dad ... because we grew up six kids, but five girls out of [crosstalk 00:47:16].
MC: Oh, wow.
BJ: So it was always education is the key to success. And growing up, just talk to any person growing up in a developing country, when you were born that's what you were told. In high school, through college, education is the key to success. And always that yearning for learning. Not saying that just because you have acquired all your degrees, they may mean nothing to someone. But how can you improve yourself, and not only career-wise, even personally. How do you improve yourself to be a better person, to be a better parent, to be a better wife, husband. It's self-fulfillment, self-growth. And I think once we somewhat fulfill that, it then transitions into career. So it's just love of learning and being open to opportunities.
MC: Sounds good. Well, just to wrap things up here, where can our audience find out more about you and about your work online?
BJ: People can find me on linkedin.com, in Belindah Jones, or on Twitter, @jonesbelindah, or on my website at belindahjones.com.
MC: Alright. Sounds good. Well, Belindah Jones, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. I feel like you've share so much information. From your career as an educator to now, your career as a US designer with Capital One. I can certainly tell that you have this passion for education, this passion for teaching, and it's really reflected, I feel, through everything that you've said throughout this interview. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.
BJ: Yeah, and thank you for the opportunity. Thank you so much.