We're kicking off August with an inspirational conversation with Jeremi Dudu. By day, Jeremi works at Salesforce as a UX designer on Philanthropy Cloud, a platform that turns employees into citizen philanthropists by empowering them to give back and make change. Outside of work, Jeremi's keeps that same charitable energy going, paying it forward to his community through mentoring and tutoring in his community. I started by asking Jeremi what drew him to Salesforce, and from there we talked about his past work experiences at Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes, growing up in South Los Angeles, and how DJing became a gateway into working on the Web. According to Jeremi, "it's the journey that made it fun", and I think after you hear his inspiring words, you'll feel that way as well. Enjoy!
We're kicking off August with an inspirational conversation with Jeremi Dudu. By day, Jeremi works at Salesforce as a UX designer on Philanthropy Cloud, a platform that turns employees into citizen philanthropists by empowering them to give back and make change. Outside of work, Jeremi's keeps that same charitable energy going, paying it forward to his community through mentoring and tutoring in his community.
I started by asking Jeremi what drew him to Salesforce, and from there we talked about his past work experiences at Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes, growing up in South Los Angeles, and how DJing became a gateway into working on the Web. According to Jeremi, "it's the journey that made it fun", and I think after you hear his inspiring words, you'll feel that way as well. Enjoy!
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Maurice Cherry: Alright, so tell us who you are and what you do.
Jeremi Dudu: My name is Jeremi Dudu and I'm a UX designer at Salesforce.org I work for an app. We're building an app right now. It's called philanthropy cloud. It's going to be an application for large companies where they can donate and volunteer. They can have their employees donate and volunteer to the causes that they love and just look for the nonprofits that they're interested in giving back to.
Maurice Cherry: Nice. What first attracted you to working for Salesforce?
Jeremi Dudu: The thing that attracted me, so they reached out to me, must've been like 10 months ago and I had a recruiter ask me if I was interested in working with like a sub company of Salesforce and they're trying to build this application where you can give back to your community. And at the time, well I'd say for the majority of the past 10 years I've worked in philanthropy, giving back to my community in south LA and teaching kids in my community. So I was like, well this kind of like matches my whole life purpose, giving back to your community, helping people overcome the odds. Like this whole thing is about my life vision. So I think that's what attracted me the most was that, and not only matched the kind of job that I want within design, but it lasts, it matched my overall purpose of life.
Maurice Cherry: And I don't know if people really kind of know this about Salesforce with like philanthropy has been a big part of their whole business since like the very beginning, which kind of seems like a rarity among Silicon Valley companies. It seems like a lot of companies out there are more focused towards, I'll be of course growth, but not really about giving back to the community.
Jeremi Dudu: Mm-hmm (affirmative). No, I, I think Marc Benioff, he's the CEO. He's such a personality. Like I don't know him personally, but I've heard that he's such a cool guy and he just goes against the grain of what Silicon Valley CEOs should be. And I think his personality kind of goes along into the company a lot. So I feel like we're just a a branch of who he is as a person.
Maurice Cherry: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I like that model of kind of setting up with Philanthropy Cloud that you mentioned. I like that kind of model of like not only just giving back but it sort of turns employees in a way into philanthropists because it sets it up where employees and kind of give back to the causes they want to hear at at Glitch. I know we do a similar thing every year. Like right around the holidays we'll ask, we'll ask employees like where should we donate, X amount of money to and so people give a lot of suggestions and I think the last time we donated or the last causes we donated to were Black Girls Code and I think Hispanic [Hosolitos 00:00:04:08].
Maurice Cherry: I think it was like right around the time of, of of Hurricane Maria I believe. But like, and that was, this is honestly, this is my first time working for a tech company in a long time. And so for that to even be something that they were interested in and I that you know, kind of like took me, took me a back because of like I associate massive amounts of greed with tech companies not giving back to the community in any sort of way.
Jeremi Dudu: Mm-hmm (affirmative). No, I agree. That was what kind of drew me to Salesforce because when I was, well this was, I'd say six years ago, I really didn't know where I was going in my life. So you know, I started doing things that I was really passionate about. So before I even got into design, I went to this school called General Assembly and I don't know if you've heard of it.
Maurice Cherry: Oh yeah, I've heard of General Assembly.
Jeremi Dudu: Yeah, yeah. So it's basically like this tech boot camp. You can take a UX class, you can take a web dev class and I was just interested in learning how to code at the time. I went there and I was also mentoring for a nonprofit in south LA. It was called Brotherhood Crusade and I was doing all these different things. I also was a teacher for the USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative, which is a nonprofit where I got my scholarship to USC and just working with them, it helped me realize my bigger overall vision. So when I got reached out to from Salesforce and they told me about their vision, I'm like man, like this is like the dream. Like I could probably at some point like help help a kid from the hood, try to get a scholarship like I did. The possibilities are limitless. And to do that with technology is the ultimate dream.
Maurice Cherry: Nice. So going back like to your work at Salesforce, what's been the biggest challenge so far in the role?
Jeremi Dudu: The biggest challenge has been that we're a team. It's only five of us now. We just hired a new guy, but it's been trying to figure out where we're trying to go long term. And it's kind of been like working with the startup where you gotta wear different hats. So I'm doing UX design, I'm doing UI design, I'm doing prototyping, testing, trying to figure out things from the PM, trying to align 20 people on the same vision. So I feel like it's been wearing many hats and not really knowing where we're trying to go longterm. We're just trying to figure it out as we go.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah, I know that feeling all too well. It's something that, it's interesting because Salesforce is a, is a large company that has processes but sometimes with different departments and things like that, it can be difficult starting up because you don't really have a kind of benchmark or a role model or a process as to what works. So you're kind of building, I say you make the road by walking essentially like you have to forge that path because it hasn't been done in the company before and it is kind of like a startup in that respect. There can be a lot of growing pains I think that come with that process.
Jeremi Dudu: Yeah, exactly. But I feel like, you know personally that that's something that I like. I like going into the unknown and making something happen. And that's been, it's been like the funnest part so far because when you get to the destination you're just like, oh, look at what I built. This is amazing. But I think it's the journey that makes it fun. The, the parts where you're, you're really like blossoming the identity of who the company can become.
Maurice Cherry: Now aside from Philanthropy Cloud, I mean, as much as you can talk about it, I would imagine. What are some of the other projects that you're working on?
Jeremi Dudu: Right now? I'm building the IOS app for Philanthropy Cloud, which has been, it's been really fun. I'm working with some developers in Paraguay and Uruguay and like they're, they're all over the place. So it's been, it's been a lot of fun. Just learning about their culture and we've got a team in Colorado as well, so yeah. Were we all pretty much work remotely? So that's like my main thing right now is building the Philanthropy Cloud IOS app. I've helped with the web application. But yes, as far as Salesforce goes, those are, those are the things that I work on.
Maurice Cherry: Is it difficult working with a distributed team like that because you're not only just across like time zones, you're across different countries.
Jeremi Dudu: It can be, but I feel like we've made it work for the most part. When it's 9:00 AM here, I think it's like 2:00 PM in Paraguay. So sometimes they might be at lunch and, and we're all like, they're telling us, hey, we got gotta go get lunch now. So we're hungry. But for the most part, no, we've made it work.
Maurice Cherry: So how do you approach a new project? I mean, of course you say you're working on Philanthropy Cloud now, but say there's something new that comes up at Salesforce that you might have to work on or you're working on with your team. How do you approach that?
Jeremi Dudu: I try to learn about the people that I'm going to work with as much as possible because everybody has different working styles. Everybody learns differently. So I try to tap into who they are as people and how they learn best. Like some people like to talk about the project conceptually. Some people like to visually see things on a whiteboard. So first of all I just try to understand who the person is that I'm working with as much as I can. And then, we talked back and forth learning about their goals for the project. Then we get into the specifics of what the goal is for the project and all that. But I feel like I take kind of a more human approach to design rather than us going in and just, getting down to business because I feel like design for the most part from what I've learned over the years is about understanding who you're designing for, but also understanding who you're working with.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah, I'm the same way, especially when it comes to working with and building, building teams. Like I try to make sure that my team compliments each other. Like of course everyone on the team are very strong, talented individual contributors. But like as a team together, I make sure like, oh well this person's weakness isn't necessarily a weakness. It could be a strength for someone else. So it sort of complements with things like that. So I liked that kind of people first approach when it comes to working with prospects, understand who you're working with first because oftentimes I will give you a signal as to how they're going to work on the project. Like if you get a sense that you know, a person might be cranky in the afternoon or like, you know, like just little, little things like that, but it affects the work. So getting to know the person invariably means you get to learn how they work and that helps out just with the project altogether.
Jeremi Dudu: Yeah, exactly. Like, like on my team, it's four of us. I feel like we're all tight at this point. You know, we all have our different personalities, but there's one guy named James, he used to work at Disney and he's a great animator and he, he likes to think very conceptually, my manager, she's a great person to manage projects simultaneously. She's working on like five or six different things at the same time. And there's another guy named Daniel, he's a great speaker and I'm, and I'm somebody who can kind of, see something before it even happens. I'm already looking at the app, how it should work in my head before I even have it down on paper or I'm working in sketch. So I feel like all our different strengths kind of work off of each other.
Maurice Cherry: Nice. Nice. So before Salesforce, just doing my research, I see that you have done a lot of UX work in the online media industry. You did work with Fandango for a while, Rotten Tomatoes, et cetera. What were those experiences like?
Jeremi Dudu: Aw man though that was like getting my MBA in design. It was like, because I never thought that I would become a designer. So working with those companies, it taught me the ins and outs because coming in as a designer, I thought that I had to be somebody who knew everything. But working at those companies that it just allowed me to see that it's okay to learn as you go because everybody's doing that. My mentors who are working there, they're all like family now, the way they just treated me and, and all that. Like, like not even in terms of design but just as people, they have the greatest culture of people that I've ever worked with still to this day. I feel at Salesforce we're really trying to understand who we are as a team still like even over the course of nine months. But I feel like Fandango, Rotten Tomatoes just working there. I get, I can't say it enough. They were like family and that culture is just amazing.
Maurice Cherry: Let's, let's tap into that more. What about the culture made it so good?
Jeremi Dudu: Well, just first of all, they have a very diverse company and they have people, not, not all different, not just all different races, but the way people think there. They all have different personalities. You know, every department was, every department had had its own identity. So we had, there was a guy named Young, he was a user researcher and he was just a great person. I used to go play basketball with them on Wednesdays. We got lunch Tuesdays and Thursdays and it was like family meals. And then we also had summer parties that were crazy. So I felt like the combination of the people and activities that we did together made it a really great culture because cause you're not only spending time with people at work, but we were spending time outside of work that that allowed us to get to know each other, you know, as a team, as human beings. So that was always great.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah, that's something that, you know, I've mostly worked with remote teams. I mean before I started at Glitch, I had my own studio for nine years and my team was all remote there. And granted my team now at Glitch is not that far from me. I mean they're in New York, I'm here in Atlanta. So there are opportunities when I get to go up there. But usually when I'm up there, it's all work, all meetings. So I regret like not having enough of those down times with the team or we can just get to know each other as people because the team there, I don't know, I'm kind of telling myself here the team there knows each other well because they worked together in the same place and I feel like I know them well because we talk all the time on Slack, et Cetera. But it's a different.
Maurice Cherry: It's a different dimension when you're there like in person and especially when you're in person and not focused on the work. Like it's a different dimension. And so I miss not really being able to have that for my team. It's something that I hope at Glitch we can start to like move towards. I for example, we do this annual onsite where everyone comes to New York and we have like a big, you know we have meetings and we have get togethers and stuff like that and it's great. But I would love it if we would start doing one. It's like just for our teams, because I feel like like one of our teams for example, it's spread across like 10 times zones. So it's rare they get a chance to do anything I guess, you know, like together in one place unless it's at the annual onsite and they're, you're with all the other employees. So it's a different, it's a different kind of vibe.
Jeremi Dudu: Mm-hmm (affirmative), like even at, when I was at Fandango, there was this woman, her name was Sandra and she was a consultant that came to work for us, but she was really into meditation and then she started teaching us how to meditate like our whole team. And that I feel like just having our team learn about meditation and meditate with each other and do all these breathing exercises. It not only helped me individually in my own life, but I feel like it all brought, brought us closer together. Just doing something that is so it's, it feels like it's not only for yourself, but you're just trying to become a better human beings that just made us, you know, grow tighter together as a unit.
Maurice Cherry: What is it about UX design that appeals to you the most?
Jeremi Dudu: That's you're constantly trying to become a better person day by day. I feel like it's a, it's an emotionally impactful job because you're dealing with people's expectations. You're dealing with people not really understanding where they're trying to get to. And I feel like you got to become a better person every day. To become a great UX designer. You have to have empathy, you kind of have to understand the way people think and you have to have a great vision. So all a combination of all these different facets of UX design is what I love the most.
Maurice Cherry: So I want to go back to something that you, you know, you kind of touched on a little bit earlier, which is of course Los Angeles. You're from Los Angeles, you do a lot of volunteering of course, in the Los Angeles area. What was it like growing up there?
Jeremi Dudu: Well, I actually grew up in a area, I'm not sure if you've heard of it. It's called Alhambra and it's, it's kind of like on the east side near Pasadena.
Maurice Cherry: Okay.
Jeremi Dudu: And I always live there and that, that was cool because I got a lot of good Asian foods. I can tell you about about different Tai foods and Chinese foods and all that. So that was really cool. But I always went to school near South LA, and I think my mom, she always wanted me to see both sides. You know, this is where you could live if you put in the time and the work. But this is, these are the struggles that you're, people that look like you were going through. Being exposed to those two sides. It was really cool because I feel like growing up I was able to speak to people who look like me, but also people who didn't look like me.
Jeremi Dudu: Whereas, you know, when I went to school, I feel like the kids around me, it wasn't that they weren't interested in talking to people who didn't look like them, but you know, I see on both sides that people can become a little ignorant just because they're not exposed to different cultures. So I feel like that was something that my mom instilled from me from a very early age was, everybody, all of us have things that we have in common. And that's actually something that has helped me in UX design is just understanding that we all have families. Our cultures have a lot of similarities ...
Jeremi Dudu: You all have families, our cultures have a lot of similarities. That whole thing with life, just trying to get to know other people, other cultures is what makes life special.
Maurice Cherry: And I mean that's something that you can speak to personally, not just from growing up in Alhambra, but just like your family as well, right?
Jeremi Dudu: Yeah, yeah, for sure.
Maurice Cherry: Was design a big part of your childhood?
Jeremi Dudu: No, I'd say skateboarding was a big part of my childhood. Yeah, I skateboarded for 12 years, and I was like a skate rat. So my cousins, they lived in a area, it was west LA, and we'd go to Hollywood and Santa Monica and Venice Beach, we just skate, we were like 12, 13 years old. But we skated with like 20 other people and just go to all these different places. And that was a great experience because it exposed me just to talking to different kids from different backgrounds that I probably would have never met.
Jeremi Dudu: But yeah, I feel that's helped me with UX Design too because-
Maurice Cherry: Skateboarding?
Jeremi Dudu: Yeah, yeah, definitely with the skateboard trick, you're just trying and trying and trying. And I used to get frustrated because I didn't know how to kick flip for a year, but I just stuck with it and I actually became one of the best skaters on the block. So I feel like it taught me a level of resilience that I feel other sports ... It's cool with basketball and soccer and all that. But with skateboarding, when you land a trick and people are cheering you on there's this comradery and brotherhood that goes along with it. And I try to work with that in my day to day since I've started design.
Maurice Cherry: When did you, I guess get that first spark for design? Because what I'm hearing is that certainly you're able to, and this is I think, a skill that is not unique to a lot of designers to be honest, it's to be able to take non design experiences per se and be able to extrapolate those into something that you can use for design. So when did you first kind of know that like, oh, this is something I can do for a living and it's called design?
Jeremi Dudu: I think it was working backwards to my youth and not really paying attention to the moment, but paying attention to my patterns and my history through life. So when I was in high school, I used to paint shoes for kids. I used to paint on Vans when, I don't know if you remember the pack? But they had the Van song and everybody was wearing the Vans.
Maurice Cherry: Okay.
Jeremi Dudu: Vans got really popular at my school and I would paint my Vans. And kids would ask me, "Yo, where'd you get those Vans from?" And I'm like, "Yo, I painted them." So they're like, "Oh, would you paint mines?" And they'd actually pay me to paint their Vans. So that was something that I thought was cool.
Jeremi Dudu: And then there was also the bus passes that we used to get. So we used to get stickers for our bus passes. And I know this it was probably illegal back then, but I would actually get the sticker and then get it copied and then sell it to kids and they would paste it on their bus pass, and give me 10 bucks.
Jeremi Dudu: So, and then I was also cutting hair for kids in my school, and I went to Manual Arts High School, so shout out Manu. But my teacher over there, Mr. Campbell, he would allow me to cut kids hair during lunchtime in his class. And I'd get paid five or 10 bucks there.
Jeremi Dudu: So after looking at at my childhood and my youth and what I was good at, it sparked the curiosity for me to learn Illustrator. I just used to look at YouTube videos all day at one point, just trying to learn how to use the Pen tool. And using the Pen tool was similar to I'd say doing somebody line up, trying to get a line or a curve as perfect as possible, it put me in that same state of mind.
Jeremi Dudu: So that I think, looking back at doing the things that I did, it helped me see, yo, all these different creative avenues, they're similar. I could be really good at this if I put my mind to it.
Maurice Cherry: See this is why I love this show because I have never heard anyone compare using the Pen tool and Illustrator to giving somebody a line up. But now that I think about it, it makes sense. It makes a lot of sense.
Jeremi Dudu: Yeah, it makes sense, yeah, it does. And in college I was deejaying parties, and I would say that's similar to doing web animations because if you play the wrong song at the wrong time, people are going to get angry. It's the same thing with web animations. If you're doing animations all over the place and it doesn't click at the right time, as a user you'll be like, "What was that?" It didn't make sense. So I just saw the patterns in how things cross over with one another.
Maurice Cherry: So going back to college, you've mentioned earlier about you got the scholarship to USC and I mean I would imagine you had a good time and you were deejaying and everything, but what was your academic time like there?
Jeremi Dudu: Oh, that was a struggle. I was a communication major. So I felt a lot of times because I'd say growing up as an only child, communication and speaking in public, that's always been my biggest struggle. So I actually majored in that because I wanted to get over that anxiety. So I feel going there it helped me see my potential as a person, as a human being, just being in that major and being around kids that always had big visions for themselves was really cool.
Maurice Cherry: And you had a study abroad experience too while you were there, right?
Jeremi Dudu: Yeah, I studied in Australia.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah. Tell me about that.
Jeremi Dudu: Australia was was dope. It's like Jamaica, New York and LA all in the same place. That was amazing, meeting kids from all over the world. We went to country, it was like a spring break that we had one time. We went to a country called Vanuatu, which is known as land of the last cannibals.
Maurice Cherry: Interesting.
Jeremi Dudu: Yeah. But that was really cool because the people that we talked to, they didn't know who Kim Kardashian was or who Kanye West was or any of these big celebrities that we knew. But we got to learn that just their focus on family and even though they didn't have much financially, they cared about us as people and about their families, that was the number one priority. And they just seem like some of the happiest people that we knew, that I've ever met in my life. So it just gave me a different perspective on everything.
Maurice Cherry: And you say you just did a spring break there in Vanuatu?
Jeremi Dudu: Yeah, we went there for seven or eight days.
Maurice Cherry: Nice.
Jeremi Dudu: And I think I caught some kind of little disease, one of those, I don't know what you call it, but I had a cough and a fever the whole time I was there. We drank this thing called kava and it really messed me up. It really messed me up. But overall like the experience was really cool. We went to the waterfalls, spent time with the people and that was dope.
Maurice Cherry: So I want to hear more about your early career. Like I said to you before we started recording, there's a sentence on your website where you're like, I may not have had formal training as a designer, but even as you've mentioned, just in this conversation you worked as a barber, you were a DJ, you were a teacher, you were a social media manager, and it's clear that you are able to take these experiences, take the good out of them and find ways to push it back into your work as a designer. But what was your early career like once you graduated from USC and got out there in the working world, what was it like?
Jeremi Dudu: I was lost. I didn't know where I wanted to go. And my uncle, who worked for Hewlett Packard, he was like, "You should probably take a sales job."
Maurice Cherry: What?
Jeremi Dudu: And I was like, "Yeah." And I was like, "Why?" And he was like, "It'll expose you to different people, and it'll open you up to the possibilities of who you could be." And I was like, "Okay, that doesn't make any sense, but let me try it out."
Jeremi Dudu: And so yeah, that was my first job out of college. I worked for a ad media company, we did remarketing, pay per click advertising, all that. And I worked there for three months and it was actually cool because I got to understand how people think. I would cold call them and some people would be nervous, some people would be totally open to listening to you. And that just exposed me to the laws of human nature. So I feel it did, it was the best job that I probably could have gotten right out of college.
Maurice Cherry: Just not for the reason that probably your uncle might've thought.
Jeremi Dudu: Yeah, exactly. Then I also had a job as a mentor working with the Brotherhood Crusade. I had another gig where I worked at a PR agency in Santa Monica. And I was doing all those, I did three jobs at the same time. Oh, and I was working for a producer from Austin [inaudible 00:28:41] and we were building this site called Fast Food Porn, which I know it sounds bad, but it's basically a site where, we'd have models taking ... We'd have a photographer, we'd have some models and they pour McDonald's French fries all over themselves and be with Papa John's and all that. It went against my values, but I'm like, "Yo, I'm trying to learn more about myself, so let me put myself in uncomfortable, you know, predicaments." So that, that was a cool job too.
Jeremi Dudu: So I did all of those jobs at the same time. And I was just trying to tap into what my true passions were. And I really do feel allowing myself to explore. It was a good time, but it also helped me realize what my strengths were, what my weaknesses were early on
Maurice Cherry: And what were those strengths and weaknesses?
Jeremi Dudu: I feel like my strengths, going back you see patterns in your life. So me doing those jobs allowed me to see I'm really good at bringing people together. I'm really good at seeing things before they even happen. I might not be the strongest speaker, I might not be the most analytical, but I know what my strengths are. So doing all those things allowed me to really hone in on what I like from the jobs that I did.
Maurice Cherry: Now I want to talk about your experience at NGO, you worked there in 2015 and 2016. Was that a big departure from some of your earlier career work?
Jeremi Dudu: Yeah, it was because at the time I was looking for a mentor in UX Design. It was a transition for me to go from what I was doing, which was a lot of stuff, to going to general assembly and then going from general assembly into an industry that I really didn't know much about. So what I was doing after General Assembly was I was hitting people up on LinkedIn and asking them if I could meet up with them for coffee and then I'd also go to a couple meetups in the city. And I feel like I built myself a community from doing that in the design community. And I had all this support from people who I had recently met and I was like, "Yo, this is really cool that there's a design community in LA, which I never knew about."
Jeremi Dudu: And they're all learning about UX Design because this seems like a recent industry that's becoming popular. I don't think ... When I was in college I had never heard about UX Design. So it was like we're all learning together, which I really enjoyed because it reminded me of my days of skateboarding.
Jeremi Dudu: So I feel like transitioning into this field was fun because I was going into unknown territory. But there was one day where I went to this job fair and I had built a prototype of a barber shop application, and I showed the dude, it was like an envision prototype. I showed the dude at the job fair like, "Yo, look at this app that I built. I used to be a barber and basically it's an app where you can find barbers in your neighborhood, check it out." And he played with it for two minutes and he's like, "Yo, I'm going to send you an email tomorrow for an interview. Just come through and show your work."
Jeremi Dudu: The Guy who interviewed me was Mark Cassis and his friend Peter, but I just told them straight up like, "Yo, I've learned about this stuff in [inaudible 00:32:15] development. I feel like I'm pretty good at it, but what I really want to focus on is UX Design." And I told them that in the interview. And I just made it clear that I was looking for a mentor, that this is stuff that I've recently been learning. And he just seemed like a cool person and then they hired me.
Maurice Cherry: Nice.
Jeremi Dudu: So, and I like that he was somebody who had ... He was actually a coach before he started UX Design. He used to coach cross country at a high school. So I feel just as people, we had a lot of similarities in our backgrounds. And he was willing to train me from, from the start of my career.
Maurice Cherry: So he saw something in you and you were direct about it, which I think, I mean I could just say this from somebody who gets hit up all the time with coffee requests. It's so much better if you're direct in that like, "Hey I would just love to get together and like pick your brain." And I was like, "I have too much other stuff going on." And not to be mean about it, but it's like if you have a direct ask that helps me out a lot. Because then I can give you a direct answer.
Jeremi Dudu: Exactly. Yeah. So, when I was on the job, when I had first started I thought that I had to produce and do all this work, but he allowed me to really explore where I wanted to go within design. I didn't have a lot of work for the first three or four months. He was just allowing me to go online and learn, actually. And so I was learning about parallax scrolling and I learned how to code a parallax site because we might have ... At the time we wanted to do a parallax webpage. So he allowed me to learn that. I built my own parallax scrolling page. He allowed me to learn about color theory and anything I wanted to, basically. And he would just give me his feedback while I was learning.
Jeremi Dudu: So that was training for me up front that I don't think any school can give me. Just because mentorship was something that he was passionate about and me becoming my best self, pushing myself every day. I felt it was a match made in heaven just to have that at that point in my life.
Maurice Cherry: It almost sounds like it was an apprenticeship in a way because he was helping you along with building projects, but it wasn't something where it was, I guess, tied to your success as an employee, but more so tied to your success as a practitioner of the work.
Jeremi Dudu: Yup. Exactly. At some point, hopefully I can do the same for somebody, that that's my overall dream is to bring a person of color into the industry and give them that same opportunity that I had upfront. Because I feel with a lot of people in our community, that I get hit up on LinkedIn all the time, and they don't see the potential in themselves where you do different things in your life that allow you to see where you can go. And if somebody else sees that in you, and you have the work ethic to do it, then why not give somebody the opportunity? Because I feel if you have a different way of thinking, you have a potential to contribute to an industry that otherwise probably wouldn't have gained, you know?
Maurice Cherry: That's true. That's very true. Now, one thing that I thought was really interesting as I was doing my research is that along with working at Salesforce, you are also a math teacher. Please talk to me about that.
Jeremi Dudu: Yeah, not anymore. I haven't done it because my wife has been pregnant. But last year, I did it for over a year, and I need to update my LinkedIn. But yeah, it used to be this program that I was involved with that actually gave me my scholarship to USC. And that's something that I'm really grateful for because I didn't graduate with $100,000 or $200,000 debt. But that program really helped me in my life because my mom, she died when I was 19 years old, and my dad, he's got schizophrenia and he lives out in El Paso, Texas. But at a time of my life where I really didn't know where I was going, I was 19 years old going to Santa Monica College, taking the bus at 5:00 AM, going to work at the ESPN zone till 1:00 AM. That whole hardship, it was a real struggle for me.
Jeremi Dudu: And so when I transferred into USC, the program paid for my scholarship. They paid for me to travel to New York and intern at AMC networks. So all those different experiences in my life for them being with me at times that I needed somebody the most, I just felt naturally I have to give back to this program. Whatever they need from me, and whatever these kids need from me, I just want to give it back.
Jeremi Dudu: So yeah, they offered me a teaching position where I felt I didn't just want to teach, because a lot of these kids go through problems at home that they probably don't feel comfortable talking a lot about to other people. So just being there as a mentor and guide for them in life was my overall objective. Yeah, math was school, and it's a part of the program, but just being a life teacher and a guidance counselor as well was one of the reasons they brought me in.
Maurice Cherry: And I mean I think especially for kids at that age, it's just important for them to just see you being there. It's not even then as much about what you teach them it's just the fact that you're a presence that they know is going to be there on a consistent basis is super important.
Jeremi Dudu: Yeah, exactly. I didn't have a lot of male role models in my life.
Jeremi Dudu: Like, I didn't have a lot of male role models in my life growing up. And growing up in South L.A, I also saw that a lot of my peers didn't have male role models. So I'm like, "Yo, if I can become that to people in my community, why wouldn't I try to do that?" I saw the effects of not having a real role model, but hopefully they can gain some of the benefits, because I feel like growing up a lot of my friends, and even including myself, we want it to be ballers. We thought that we were going to make it to the league and when that didn't pan out, it's like, what are you going to do? You don't see that there's other avenues that you can take in life. So I tried to expose my kids to art and different creative outlets to kind of hopefully spark that thing within themselves that helps them see where they can go in their life after education.
Maurice Cherry: Who are some of the people that have influenced you?
Jeremi Dudu: Man, people who influenced me? I say one person, I think, is Michelangelo. I was learning about Michelangelo at one point before I started design and I learned that he was a sculptor. He was a painter. He painted the Sistine Chapel. He was a scientist and he used to draw. So just learning about his life and seeing that there was no limitation to what he could do, I'm like, "Yo, I don't know about design, but if he could do the Sistine Chapel, then maybe there's something great that I can do too." So I feel like it allowed me to see, as a human being, that you can only put limitations where you see them. You know, if you can see the possibilities of the beauty that you can create in the world, then go after it.
Jeremi Dudu: I don't know the specifics of what drove him to do that, but I feel like just seeing that you can just tap into whatever you really put your mind to, that's something that a lot of people don't have. I felt like early on in my career, some people who gave me guidance, they were like, "Yo, you should just focus on one thing and get really good at that one thing." But I feel like exposing myself to a bunch of different things allowed me to see that there are all these different paths that I can take within design and I'm kind of good at a few. So why should I focus on one thing? So I feel like Michelangelo, he gave me the motivation that I could just be totally who I wanted to be.
Maurice Cherry: Do you have a dream project or anything that you'd really love to do?
Jeremi Dudu: A dream project?
Maurice Cherry: Yeah.
Jeremi Dudu: Right. I'd like to work on something in music, but I feel like right now is my dream project. This is my current dream project. If I could help South L.A. or inner city community raise money for kids to go to college, that's my dream. That's my overall dream. So I feel like right now the stuff that I'm working on with Philanthropy Cloud is the main thing, but if there was another thing that I wanted to work on, it'd probably be something in music. I'm not sure. Just something that helps creative people get their message out. And also maybe like a small clothing brand where I can just experiment with different styles and catering to different audiences. Maybe a skateboard brand.
Maurice Cherry: Okay.
Jeremi Dudu: That'd be pretty dope.
Maurice Cherry: Interesting thing about skateboarding, so one of the people who I interviewed, I think probably the first person for the show that I interviewed that was like in and around the L.A. Area, I think he's still there, was Emory Douglas who was the former Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party. And I found out his information because I was looking around, I was doing research for him and I found that there was this company that was doing skateboard decks of his works and they were mentioning that this was like a licensed work or whatever. And I remember reaching out to them, and just like on a whim, just reached out and asked if they knew him or if they could put me in contact with him. And I think the guy that was doing the skateboard decks was his grandson and put me in touch with him and we ended up having a conversation on the show. It's episode 15, if people want to go listen to it.
Maurice Cherry: But yeah, no, that's a interesting coincidence there. Now one thing I have to ask about, only because you mentioned it in the bio, was about the houseplants. I got to ask about the houseplants. You have 30 houseplants?
Jeremi Dudu: Yeah.
Maurice Cherry: Now, talk to me. I'm trying to get plant tips. I have like four plants.
Jeremi Dudu: Yeah.
Maurice Cherry: I don't know if I necessarily want to get to like a jungle stage, but I certainly want to get better at the plants that I have. So talk to me about the plants. Talk to me about that.
Jeremi Dudu: Yeah. So, actually, there was a book from a guy named Hilton Carter that recently came out and I'd say it was like a life-changing book because this guy has a complete jungle in his home. And my family's from Belize where they got jungle all over. So I'm like, "What's the easiest way I can recapture that in my own home?" So I read his book, got a bunch of tips and I started doing the same thing to my home. I think you want to start off with the pothos, the grandma plant.
Maurice Cherry: Okay, all right.
Jeremi Dudu: Because it's the easiest. You can put it in a low-light situation, in a high-light situation and it's still going to thrive. And you can let it dry out. Before you water it, put your finger in the dirt just like an inch above. If it's dry, you water it. If it's not, water it until the water comes out the bottom. And I know before I started with houseplants, I would just kind of give it a trickle and feel like that would help it. No, you got to water until the water actually drains out of the pot.
Jeremi Dudu: But I just feel like, since I work at home, just having a bunch of houseplants around, they've helped me become... I feel like I'm working less and playing around more. It doesn't feel like I'm working. It feels like I'm in a tree house.
Maurice Cherry: Nice.
Jeremi Dudu: So it feels like it's had an effect on the work that I produce day to day. So it kind of creates this environment where you're like in nature and you just feel like you're not in an office. So it helps a lot.
Maurice Cherry: I'm going to have to get another pot of those. I had one and because I end up traveling a fair bit for work, I know that I was going like weeks or so without watering it. And I certainly have been watering it and doing stuff to it, and I realized that what I thought was like one of the healthy leaves was just, I guess, like somebody had just cut a leaf off from a larger plant and just put it in the soil. And I was thinking this thing had roots and was growing, and I was like, "No, it's just a leaf." Like it was just sitting in the dirt. So like the plants that I have now are pretty low maintenance, but I do want something that's... I don't want to say showier, but something bigger, I guess. I have a ZZ plant.
Jeremi Dudu: Oh, yeah. Yeah, for sure.
Maurice Cherry: I got a snake plant, which I bought at IKEA like two years ago. I'm surprised it's still thriving. And I have two orchids, but they're not flowering. They were when I bought them and now they're not. They're just leaves now, I guess. But I've been thinking of getting some more stuff. I had succulents for awhile because that was like the in thing and they all died. I have a friend who actually, he sells plants and stuff on Etsy and he tells me all the time, people get succulents because it's trendy, but they're just not good houseplants. And he was saying the same thing about the big... what do you call the big, the fiddle-leaf fig?
Jeremi Dudu: Oh, right.
Maurice Cherry: Those big plants.
Jeremi Dudu: Yeah, and I've had-
Maurice Cherry: You know, like-
Jeremi Dudu: I've had a fig for the past four or five years and it's struggling.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah. He was like, "Because they're trees, they need a lot of water, they need a lot of soil." They have to like branch out in that way and it doesn't really do super well as a houseplant. You have to get... There's like certain plants that just do well in the house and others don't. I actually have something, and I got this from work, it's not a plant. I forget what she called. It has a name. I think it's called like a marimo or something. It's a Japanese ball of algae.
Jeremi Dudu: Hmm, I've never heard of it.
Maurice Cherry: And it's sitting in my desk. I'm holding it up right now. It's in a jar of water and it basically just subsists there. It's like these balls of algae that are supposed to sit on the lake floor in Japanese lakes or something. And I'm glad that she sent them us because she was like, "They're impossible to kill." I'm like, "Great," because... and sometimes I'll just forget about watering. And I know different plants have different watering schedules, and I got to get better on my plant game, which sucks because I was in 4-H in high school. I should be better at this, but whatever. I need to get some tips on the houseplants. So thanks for-
Jeremi Dudu: Yeah, you're good.
Maurice Cherry: Thanks for the tips on that. No, that's good to know.
Jeremi Dudu: Yeah, there is another one. I have a majesty palm and that one is beautiful. You don't need a ton of light, but if you put it near... you know what a indirect window light is, right?
Maurice Cherry: Yeah.
Jeremi Dudu: When it's not like beating down on your plants? The sun isn't beating down, but if you put it in the indirect-facing window light, then that one can thrive and it's beautiful.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah. I need to get some more plants that are like that, because the way that my apartment is situated... so, my apartment has these two large windows, one in the bedroom, one in the living room. And it's very much a east-facing apartment. So it gets a ton of sun in the morning.
Jeremi Dudu: Oh, okay.
Maurice Cherry: I'd say maybe about like four o'clock or so. As the sun's starting to set in the west, it'll die down, but it gets a lot in the morning. And so I try to make sure... like, in my living room it's hard to not put a plant in the window because my entire living room is flooded with light in the morning. Same way with my bedroom. I got to figure it out, man. I got to find the right mix.
Jeremi Dudu: All right.
Maurice Cherry: When you look back at your career, what do you wish you would've known when you first started?
Jeremi Dudu: What I wish I would have known? I would've wished that I didn't have to know everything upfront. Everybody's learning as they go. Even the top CEOs, even the best product managers, the best designers, the best product managers, everybody's trying to learn something as they go. There isn't somebody who knows everything. And I feel like for a lot of young designers who hit me up, they feel like they have to just know everything upfront. Before they start their careers, they have to know how to use Sketch and how to design a whole application. Or, that they got to learn about front-end development and be the best front-end developers before they even start. But what I think people don't understand is that we're all just trying to get better. Everybody's learning something. And if you show that you're passionate about something and interested, I think people are going to support you in that.
Jeremi Dudu: But a lot of people don't know what they're passionate about, so I just feel like if I knew upfront it's okay not to know something, it's okay not to understand a business and just kind of voice what you want for yourself, and people will help you, then you'll be all right. And I feel like that's what I communicated to the intern that I work with at Fandango. She's recently graduated from USC and she struggled with that same thing because I feel like we all have some form of impostor syndrome. We all have that. And a lot of designers suffer from that. And I feel like even before you get started, you can feel intimidated because you're looking at other designer portfolios and you're like, "Yo, they're the greatest UI designers that I've ever seen." It's kind of like you go into the gym and if you want to get on the bench press machine and bench press 235 and you haven't even got to a hundred yet.
Jeremi Dudu: It's kind of like that same mentality. You think that you could just go out there and show out, but you can't until you start building day by day. It's kind of like, I don't know, when I was starting out, one of my mentors, he said that you lay a foundation brick by brick and you can look at life like you're building a house. So each day you're laying down the foundation to where you want to see yourself in the vision for your life.
Jeremi Dudu: So I approach design in the same way. I don't know everything about UI design. I don't know everything about UX design. But I'm learning every day and so are my team members. So just for a young designer to know that if you're interested in becoming a UX designer, reach out to somebody and show them that you're interested. Maybe by doing a project, maybe by getting some coffee, but you do not need to feel like you need to have all the education upfront or have five years of experience like these job descriptions say.
Maurice Cherry: What does success look like for you now?
Jeremi Dudu: Success? Now I think success is less about financial success and more about inner happiness, because I feel like if you're internally happy with the direction that your life is going, everything else, it will appear as a success to you. Because I struggled a lot when my mom passed away and I feel like for a long time I was in survival mode. Always needing a job, always needing to be stable financially. But I've learned, through going to therapy for the past three years of my life, I've learned that if you're internally happy, you'll be happy in your relationships. You'll be happy in the opportunities that come to you and you'll just thrive because people kind of see something within you that you see in yourself. So I feel like success now, it just means being at peace with where you're at in life.
Jeremi Dudu: Because now I'm going to be a father and I'm thinking to myself, have I built a life that can support a child? Are they going to see things within me that help them become a better person? And hopefully they do. But I feel like for me at least having faith in myself, being close to my spirituality and helping that my friends around me see greater themselves, that's what real success to me is. I used to think growing up that you had to be famous to change a lot of lives. But I feel like if you can change the lives of people in your community and give them faith that they can make something better of themselves, then I feel like that's the ultimate success.
Maurice Cherry: Well Jeremi, just to wrap things up here, where can our audience find out more about you and about your work online?
Jeremi Dudu: Well, they could always hit me up on LinkedIn. Just look up Jeremi Dudu. There are not many of us. You can look up my website, jeremidudu.com and I'm on Instagram at jeremidudu.
Maurice Cherry: All right, sounds good. Well, Jeremi Dudu, I want to thank you. I really want to thank you so much for coming on the show. I mean, we talked a little bit before recording and you were asking like, "Well, what does the audience want to hear?" And I was like, "They want to hear about the journey." And there was something you said early in the interview, you said, "It's the journey that makes it fun." And I feel like with what you certainly illustrated in terms of the experiences in your personal life, in your work life, this strong drive that you have for community activism and mentorship and giving back, I feel like that's what you've done. You've helped make your journey fun. And I'm really excited to just see kind of what is going to come up next for you in life, man. I really mean that. So, thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.
Jeremi Dudu: Yeah. Thank you for having me, Maurice. I do feel like I don't have all the answers, but I'm always trying to learn and contribute to the community.