It's a rare occurrence when I get the chance to talk with someone at a crossroads in their career, so this conversation with Isaak Hayes is especially interesting. Isaak has worked in a variety of roles in both large tech business and startups, most notably perhaps as a former product designer at Facebook. We spoke just days before he and his family embarked on their latest adventure — moving to China! Isaak and I talked about how he first fell in love with design, and he discussed his early career as a UX designer, his work at Salesforce and RealCrowd, and how that prepared him for this current stage in his career. Isaak says that this time in life feels like a rebirth to him — from Seattle to Shenzhen, he is definitely making moves!
It's a rare occurrence when I get the chance to talk with someone at a crossroads in their career, so this conversation with Isaak Hayes is especially interesting. Isaak has worked in a variety of roles in both large tech business and startups, most notably perhaps as a former product designer at Facebook. We spoke just days before he and his family embarked on their latest adventure — moving to China!
Isaak and I talked about how he first fell in love with design, and he discussed his early career as a UX designer, his work at Salesforce and RealCrowd, and how that prepared him for this current stage in his career. Isaak says that this time in life feels like a rebirth to him — from Seattle to Shenzhen, he is definitely making moves!
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Maurice Cherry: All right, so tell us who you are and what you do.
Isaak Hayes: My name is Isaak, Isaak Hayes. I am a former product designer at Facebook, working most recently on their Confetti app, which was a live trivia game show. Before that, I was working on the ads team helping marketers and advertisers to set up their ad campaigns. And then prior to that, I've done a lot of work in enterprise design, creating design systems as well as patterns for uploading data, really interesting stuff. But I worked at Salesforce, Shooter Sync, Getty Images and a couple of other companies. And now I'm focusing more on my own business, so consulting, doing some work on apps, and just trying to lead my future on my own.
Maurice Cherry: So what was behind your decision to leave Facebook and strike out on your own?
Isaak Hayes: That's a good question. I've just reached 40. I've been doing design work since college, and so probably almost 20 years of design work. The industry's changed, I've definitely changed a lot. I started as an artist who transitioned to doing web design and graphic design, and just had this vision of I was going to change the world with my design work and helping my clients to get their vision to the world, and just very excited about that, to now where I've helped a lot of clients and people out and I kind of want to work on my own ideas. I definitely feel that the longer I was in that world, I could see patterns starting to kind of come about, a different title, a different label, but kind of the same thing, and I wanted to try something different.
Maurice Cherry: And in terms of trying something different, aside from this sort of change in employment, you're also doing a change in location, is that right?
Isaak Hayes: Yes. My wife and I, we've been married, we got actually married in college, and one of the things that we always committed to was that we wanted to live abroad at some point in our lives. We have two kids, one and four at the moment, and we're at an age where learning language is going to come really easy to them. My wife has a minor in Chinese, we kind of put it out there to the world, whoever got an opportunity in another country first, that was a really good opportunity for our family. That would be kind of where we went.
Isaak Hayes: And it just so happened my wife got a really great opportunity in Shenzhen, China working with a pretty cool school over there. It's really great because I have a business partner who will be living in Hong Kong that we'll do a lot of collaboration with him from there. It's kind of funny, we were thinking maybe Thailand, Singapore or Japan, and then this opportunity came up in February and we were like, Huh, we hadn't actually considered China. We definitely had what the news tells us about China kind of in our head, had to really do a lot of research to feel comfortable. But we're really excited about the opportunity.
Maurice Cherry: Of course you mentioned your wife got that opportunity there. Certainly I think what we hear about in the news from the American perspective is very kind of anti China for the most part. Setting up a new business there in a country where, one, you're not part of the dominant culture, but then, two, you're also not necessarily speaking the language. How are you preparing yourself for that?
Isaak Hayes: I won't actually be having my business in China, so I actually plan to be doing more business in the Philippines, Hong Kong and kind of within the region. But that's a really great location for flying to some of the different areas that I want to go to.
Isaak Hayes: But in terms of the language, I definitely plan to, and I have been taking language lessons, I'll be the only person that will probably have the most difficult time learning Chinese because my wife minored in it and my kids should pick it up pretty quickly because we've already been teaching them. I'll have a tutor that I'll use and I really do plan to immerse myself.
Isaak Hayes: And I think living here, especially being in the Bay Area in Seattle, I'm pretty familiar with not being part of the dominant culture. So I feel like it'll be a different spin on that because it'll be the language difference. But I'm actually excited about being different but actually because I'm from somewhere different.
Maurice Cherry: Nice. Well I definitely wish you luck. That's a big, big shift. Especially bringing your family there with you. It's not just you having to deal with this new environment. You've got other people that you have to take care of as well. So that's a really big move.
Isaak Hayes: I think in some ways it's going to be a lot easier because I'm going there with my family. We have our own culture as a family that I get to bring over there with me. And then we get to come home and have meals together and talk about how everything's going. So I feel it would be a little bit more intimidating if it was just me on my own. But I guess that probably depends on the person.
Maurice Cherry: So let's switch gears a little bit cause I want to hear about this journey from, I guess starts to Shenzhen essentially. Where did you grow up?
Isaak Hayes: I grew up in Union City, California. So right in the San Francisco Bay area. It's a little suburb, most people have never heard of it unless they've taken BART passed it.
Maurice Cherry: What was it like there?
Isaak Hayes: Back in the 80s it was the melting pot. My school was very diverse. We had people from all over the world. We had a gate art program, which is basically they have an advanced math, advanced science, but I got to do advanced art programs. So I got to do sculpture and graphic design way before high school and to really just focus on doing the things that I love. I had a really blessed childhood in terms of school. It was quiet, it was the suburbs. So you just hang out with your friends and then you dream about living in a city one day when you're older.
Maurice Cherry: Okay. You had that kind of early exposure it sounds like to design and everything. Was your family supportive of this when you started kind of wanting to go into design?
Isaak Hayes: My father was like, "Oh you're going to do art." He had no idea what that, so he would always say "You should consider being a teacher in case that doesn't work out." So he was funny. And then my mother, she was just like "Do what you're passionate about. You're a great drawer. Just keep it up." So she was definitely follow your dreams. And my dad was like, "Yeah, follow your dreams, but be reasonable, have a fallback."
Maurice Cherry: It sounds like that spark then came pretty early and you had that support, which was really good.
Isaak Hayes: Yeah. When most people were kids, it seems like people were like, "Oh, I want it to be a fireman or a doctor." I didn't really want to be anything like that. I just knew I loved to draw. That was the thing I like to do. I wanted to just be in my room drawing or playing by myself quietly. And then when I heard about the programs and I learned there was actually careers in art, I was like, "Oh, this is great because I don't know what I would've done otherwise."
Maurice Cherry: So you went to Western Washington University after you graduated from high school, is that right?
Isaak Hayes: Actually, no, I went to the San Jose State for a few years, actually majoring in illustration. So I was between graphic design and illustration. I didn't necessarily like the graphic design program at San Jose State as much, but I did like the illustration program a lot. But then they ended up canceling the illustration program while I was there. It was this big transition between computers are evil to like, "Oh we should actually use them for people's careers." So as part of that long story, I ended up transferring to Western because they had a smaller program that was more catered on the individual. It Was just perfect for me.
Maurice Cherry: So what was your time like there?
Isaak Hayes: At Western?
Maurice Cherry: It's right up there next to the Canada. So it was easier to go to Canada if you wanted it to go out to a club or something like that. It was definitely, I'm not gonna say it was culture shock, but it was definitely less diverse than California, and so I'd meet people and they were like, "I'm from a city that's 2,000 people, you're the first black person I've ever met and I really want to talk to you." And I'd say most of the people were really... It's not a liberal arts school, so people were friendly. It just sometimes would be a lot of excitement. Like, "Hey, tell me more about being black" and I might be tired sometimes.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah, I know that feeling. I mean I've been certainly in situations where I've been one of few black people or sometimes the only black person and there is this kind of weird, almost, I don't know, anthropological sort of environment that ends up happening where you're expected to kind of speak for all black people or they want to touch your hair or just all kinds of like weird stuff like that.
Maurice Cherry: Outside of that though, do you feel like Western really kind of prepared you for going out there in the working world as a designer?
Isaak Hayes: Yeah, I love the program. When I've had the opportunity to hire designers, I definitely reach out to the graduates from there and I've hired like two of them so far. I haven't hired that many people in my career. I really value just being there where it is a bit more remote. The focus, we had the professors there, they treated each of us like we were, I'm not going to say almost like their children because it gets a little bit weird, but they definitely treated us like family. Definitely they instilled values like hard work and we did do all nighters, not by force but like "Hey you've got a deadline. And so the students, we might go to the computer lab at the time and work together on a project together because we were just a team.
Isaak Hayes: The energy there was really positive, really connected. And then the focus on graphic design and craft and the fact that we had print making classes, we did a field trip together to go see design programs. It was the best thing that I could have done for my career. And I definitely, what I've noticed about other people that went to my school is I know their work ethic. I know that when you apply for a job it'll say like, "Oh we're looking for somebody that knows this tool or has done this thing." And at my school it's like "Okay if I don't know that I can figure that out." And I know that when I meet somebody from there they kind of have that same ethic where they'll figure it out and they'll work hard to do that.
Maurice Cherry: I want to hear more about your early career because you started out as a UX designer, at a time when UX design I don't think was as, I guess, heavily sought after as it is right now. Certainly not as I think prevalent as it is in the industry, thanks to boot camps, like General Assembly, etc. Tell me about kind of what your early UX design career was like.
Isaak Hayes: Yeah, so I told you I started as a graphic designer but I had also done a web design. My first job was as a graphic designer and I did a lot of consulting through an agency called Filter Talent. I think they've since changed their name, but they're based here out of Seattle, which is where I started in my design career. And I had an opportunity to go to Microsoft on contract as a product designer. Before it was UX, it was product designer already there. And then we did a weird transition and transition back.
Isaak Hayes: So I had an opportunity to go to Microsoft as a product designer working on Office Live, which was basically like a cloud version of Office templates and that sort of a thing. And I did ads, I updated a little things here and there. I didn't really know what I was doing. I mean, I knew I was doing design work, but they were more like digital screens. And that was the first time that I got to meet a user researcher and learn about this process. Before that I would design something, I would show my manager or the company's owner and they'd say, "I don't like blue, I don't like that font." And I might try to say, "Well I think this is important because of this and that."
Isaak Hayes: But ultimately it was me against them depending on how much trust they had in me on who won. But when I went to Microsoft and I got to work with a researcher and then I could say, "Okay, I had this version, we tested this version, and 80% of the participants like this and so we're going to go with it." For me that was like, "Wow, it's really mapping the left side and right side of the brain of this logic that goes with you." You do this thing that's creation and you're creating it for people. But who's to say that it's right or wrong? And there was research to kind of prove that ""hey, this works for a lot of people.
Isaak Hayes: And for me I was like, "Oh, this is what I want to do. I don't want to do graphic design anymore. I really want to focus on something where I can validate what I'm doing and I can prove that I'm doing the right thing." And that was really, really important to me at the time.
Isaak Hayes: So after that contract, I think that contract lasted six to nine months or something like that, I applied for an actual UX design job at a small startup, and I met a mentor. His name is [Wah 00:13:55] Tai, and he's like, "I can't hire you on full time, but I can see that you're still early in your career and I want to be your mentor. What do you think?" And I definitely learned-
Isaak Hayes: Sure, and I want to be your mentor. What do you think? And I definitely learned in my program, no matter what, especially early in your career is more important to get that information and have really good mentors. So I was like yes, because I'd been looking for a mentor.
Isaak Hayes: You can't say I'm looking for a mentor when I'm applying for a job, because then I wouldn't get the jobs if I said I wanted a mentor. They felt like that was a lack of confidence or something like that. So when he said that, I was like this person actually cares about me, cares about my career, I will definitely work for this person.
Isaak Hayes: I don't know how long I was there, but he really did teach me everything that he knew. We created logos together for the startup we were working at. We created pitch deck, different screens, signup sheets, just everything. And he actually connected me to his circle, and I ended up finding a full time job after that.
Isaak Hayes: Yeah. The values from him, I've used to then start mentoring as well, to help people to get into their career, because that was a pivotal point in my career. I was already doing well in design, but to make that transition and to feel confident and, honestly, to trust that there were actually people in the workforce that cared about me as a person instead of me as a number was super important at that point in my life. It's still important now. But that was probably the first time I really felt that somebody in the workforce valued me as a person.
Maurice Cherry: I think it's interesting that he sought you out as a mentee at a time when you were also looking for a mentor. Oftentimes, well, I don't think it's a bidirectional relationship. It seems like there are people, certainly folks who listen to this show, that are looking for mentors and don't know where to find them. But it's rare that I find people that are looking to mentor someone. So it's really interesting that that was such a pivotal point in your early career like that.
Isaak Hayes: It is actually, yeah, quite interesting. Because when you look for a mentor it is difficult. Yeah.
Isaak Hayes: I think the only thing I can think of was by virtue of the amount, the budget that he had for that role, I think it was like if he could find an intern or something like that that he could trust, that would be helpful. But, yeah, that was just really good timing for both of us.
Maurice Cherry: What groups do you work with for mentoring?
Isaak Hayes: I've mostly worked with individuals that I met at events. So, for instance, I think you asked earlier about the Seattle scene. So I've gone to, there's a black designers in Seattle group that recently started and I've gone to a couple meetings there. I think I met two people who I've then been mentoring since then. Yeah, just one-on-one meeting. It's great to know, okay, we had a great conversation at this coffee shop or at this pub, or something like that.
Isaak Hayes: Prior to those people, I met people at conferences, or I've had friends that have said, "Hey, can you help out this friend?" So word of mouth. I haven't necessarily met anybody who just cold called or outright emailed me.
Isaak Hayes: I have met about two mentees where I was working at a job and we weren't able to hire them, but I just thought this person is really amazing, I want to stay in contact. So I reached out to them and said, "Is this appropriate? If you have any questions, let me know this." And kind of reached out through LinkedIn and kind of just kept the conversation up there. We set goals together, check-ins to see how they've delivered on those goals.
Isaak Hayes: So, it's kind of random, but I definitely try to have probably about two or three people I'm talking to a month.
Maurice Cherry: So we have a lot of listeners that are either looking for a mentor or they want to mentor someone. I'm pretty sure we have some people that fall into either of those categories. What advice would you give for people that are in either of those situations?
Isaak Hayes: For the people looking to find a mentor, I think really kind of having that connection is really helpful. So if you're at a conference or a meetup, or something like that, going and talking to two or three people there and seeing, hey, yeah, me and this person actually had a really good connection, and asking "Hey, do you mind if I email you later? I'd love to talk about this more."
Isaak Hayes: And then just following through on that, "Hey Isaak, great to meet you at XYZ conference. I loved what you had to say about this specific thing. Are you open to questions about this thing?" And probably being specific. I think that's one thing I always hear people that are mentors saying they'd like the person that's looking for mentoring to have specific questions, so that they're not having to do too much digging, especially if they have limited time.
Isaak Hayes: For the people looking to mentor, I definitely think when you go to conferences and you go to events, I think there is definitely a higher number of newer designers. I actually think for the people looking to mentor, I think it's a lot easier if they're willing to just go say hello to somebody. And then I think it just, it comes about. You're talking to somebody and they're like, yeah, I'm trying to break into this company, or I'm really interested in VR, and then you all have a really good conversation about that.
Isaak Hayes: Yeah. I guess I'm so used to the the mentee kind of trying to instigate further contact, but I think I would probably just say something like, "Hey, it's been great talking to you. If you have any other questions, please hit me up on LinkedIn, or here's my a business email address. Please let me know if you have any questions." I would definitely try to keep it very professional and work-related, so there's no confusion about motivations.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah. I think it probably also helps to, like you said, if that person is more motivated, if they have specific questions. Because I know oftentimes I will get people that will just come to me asking about advice and things, and they'll always say something like, "Oh, can I just pick your brain? Can I just bend your ear?" And usually the answer is no, because if you have something specific, I can help you with that, but if you just want to, I don't know, just chit-chat.
Maurice Cherry: It helps if you have a specific ask in mind of what you're looking for, so that way the person who you want to mentor you can sort of use their resources towards that. This isn't, I don't know, the movie All About Eve comes to mind. You don't wanna try to like warm your way in and that sort of way. Have a specific goal in mind that you're trying to achieve with doing this.
Isaak Hayes: Agreed. Yeah. I really like if they have a specific question or they're like, "Hey, can we go over my portfolio?" And I said, okay, I can give you 30 minutes and we can kind of do a portfolio walk through.
Maurice Cherry: Right.
Isaak Hayes: It's something really specific that we can kind of time box.
Maurice Cherry: So you mentioned earlier being at Salesforce, which is a very large company out there in the Bay area. You're in Seattle, but out in the Bay area it's a really big company. What did you learn from your time there?
Isaak Hayes: I learned a lot there. That was, I think to date, my favorite job. When I started there, I joined because I had an interview from Dream Force. Dream Force is this really large conference that Salesforce has every year to connect with their customers.
Isaak Hayes: I had a friend that was working at Salesforce at the time, Jamie, and she was like, "Hey, I really want you to meet my boss. He's awesome. And I really think you'd like Salesforce." At the time I didn't know what Salesforce was, so they were like, hey, just come meet us over here at this event.
Isaak Hayes: Just to see how this company was trying to connect with its customers was amazing. I definitely worked at places in the past where people would make fun of the customers, like they're idiots, but we have to make this thing for them.
Isaak Hayes: And so this company was saying, we value our customers, we're going to do this thing, and we're going to do this thing huge so that they can know that we really value them. Of course, it was great marketing, but at the same time it still was an event about the customers. I just thought that was amazing.
Isaak Hayes: And so from there, reading about Benioff and just some of the fun and interesting... I'm using really kind words. He was very bold, but some of the tactics he used to get into the business and to make Salesforce what it is today, it is just so bold and hilarious reading his book to learn about that.
Isaak Hayes: From there, I just learned a lot about sales and marketing, of course. How do I talk when I'm leading a presentation? What are people looking to hear from me? How do I put together a presentation deck or a presentation video to sell my idea?
Isaak Hayes: I also really learned about philanthropy and how you can give back to the community while still having a job, how you can still make profit but care about the world. That company really matches my values. And so I think the biggest things that I learned there, I think the mapping to the world was super important and caring about customers was super important. Also, just the team comradery that we had there. It was just amazing. So I had a great time there.
Isaak Hayes: I ended up leaving because I wanted to try the startup life. That's why I came back to California, to do startup. It was sad when I needed to leave, but I had a vision, I thought startups were going to be magic, and I left Salesforce. But I left at a good time.
Maurice Cherry: So let's talk about your role in 2014 at RealCrowd. At RealCrowd, you were their director of user experience. Was this a big change from your previous kind of senior UX roles?
Isaak Hayes: It was, yeah. It was. At first, it was just me and then I needed to hire a team. I needed to manage my own time. I couldn't rely on a PM or somebody to say, well, actually try this instead. I needed to say, okay, Monday through Wednesday I'm going focus on doing the UX work, but on Thursday and Friday I need to focus on branding. I have my contractor coming in on Friday, so I need to make sure I have a schedule ready for them so that they know what they do on Friday. I have to do interviewing on this date. So it really made me like tighten up what I was doing and really kind of own what I was doing. That was really amazing.
Isaak Hayes: Also, it was really nice, because at first we did not have a PM, so I got to act as a PM and worked directly with the developers in a way that was different than when I would do that at a larger company. I would say, "Hey, I think we need to do this." And they would say, "Okay. Why?" Okay. We would just work together as a team, instead of needing a PM to tell us what to do.
Isaak Hayes: It was just really good. And then I got to hire Jesse Zachary as a our intern and then onto full time, and he also went to the Western with me. Or not with me, but he also went to Western. It was a really good job for definitely a validating that what I learned, kind of proving myself, I guess.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah.
Isaak Hayes: Yeah.
Maurice Cherry: What made the role challenging?
Isaak Hayes: I think the biggest things, to be honest, were that my wife and I got pregnant at that time. I had not, obviously, had a baby at that point and I hadn't considered insurance when I joined that job, when I left my large company. And so that caused me to reevaluate whether or not a startup was the best thing at that point in my life.
Isaak Hayes: But in terms of the day to day, it was a really great job. We had really good energy. I really love the size of like 10 people, 20 people. That's a really good size company for me, just because you have that one on one contact with everybody, people are on the same mission, and even if they're not, you can talk daily and kind of keep it at least we're on the same page today and then we can check in tomorrow and see what's tomorrow.
Isaak Hayes: Yeah. Honestly, it sounds crazy. The issues we had were just issues that startups have, like what is our mission, what's our vision, and the fact that we have multiple founders, are they agreeing on the same direction. Other than that, I think it was a really good job for me.
Maurice Cherry: Nice. And then of course from there you went to Facebook. Like you mentioned at the top of the show, you worked on Confetti, which is his video game. You worked on the Facebook video team, et cetera. And now you're off to do your own thing, which is great.
Isaak Hayes: Yeah. I had a little turn in between the RealCrowd and Facebook where I did go to a couple of other startups. One which was really great, SugarSync, which got acquired. And then I went onto one more. But, yeah, and then Facebook's been great for the last three years. Yeah.
Maurice Cherry: Nice. So what is the Seattle design scene like for you now? Having at first kind of started out in the Bay and then moving up north. What is the scene like?
Isaak Hayes: It's a lot larger now, obviously, with the population increase and Amazon blowing up like it did. So it's a lot. I think it's a lot more connected now than it was in the past for me.
Isaak Hayes: I think it's also really nice, because when I was here back in the 2000s there weren't that many, I guess, younger designers that I was bumping into. They were mostly, they had been at Microsoft or Expedia for a while and they were more of the mentoring age, at least compared to me. Versus now, there's a lot more younger designers here in Seattle, a lot more energy, really looking to network, build their portfolio to make connections.
Isaak Hayes: So I think it's a lot more vibrant of a scene and it's still growing. I actually think it's a really good place now.
Maurice Cherry: Do you do any work with the local AIGA chapter up there?
Isaak Hayes: I did in the past, back when I was here before. I have not since I've returned. I returned just a year ago. I knew that I was willing to be leaving, so I haven't really committed to too much.
Isaak Hayes: I knew that I was willing to be leaving so I haven't really committed too much to the Seattle area within the last year.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah, I want to make it back up there. The first, well first and only time that I was up there was in 2002. I did an internship interview with Microsoft and I remember really liking it. I liked the city. I, you know, got to see the Space Needle and went to Pike Place Market. I was like, "Oh this is nice," but I never got to experience the city. I mean I was, I don't know, maybe 20 at the time and all I could think about was just trying to ace the internship interview, which I didn't, but I do want to try to still make it back to Seattle and kind of see what it is.
Maurice Cherry: One of my favorite YouTube video companies is based out of Seattle called Cut. I've been talking with AIG Seattle's DNI person for awhile. I'm curious to see what the scene is like there. I've also talked with, oh god, do you know Todd Bennings?
Isaak Hayes: No, but I'll-
Maurice Cherry: Does the name sound familiar? Todd Bennings, Seth Stell. They do this, they have this, I want to say it's weekly or monthly at this point. They have this group call HERE Seattle.
Isaak Hayes: Okay. Yeah. No.
Maurice Cherry: Your about to move to China but I mean it's worth at least kind of looking into. HERE Seattle is this monthly meet up that fosters like DNI and tech and design and it's for people that put them on. Seth, Todd, I forget who the other two are. I remember Todd because Todd used to be here in Atlanta but now he's in Seattle. But it's worth checking out. It's H-E-R-E Seattle. Might be worth just popping to see what it's about.
Maurice Cherry: Because I know that they also do like mentorship opportunities and stuff too. They're often at different big places around the city. They might be doing something at Amazon or doing something at Microsoft. And I think the year that I spoke to Seth, which was I think 2016 or something, they were doing something out on a yacht. I was like, "You all are bawling. Take that model and do HERE New York, HERE Atlanta, HERE wherever." But no, yeah, you might want to check that out.
Isaak Hayes: Oh yeah, I'll definitely look into it. I'm definitely, this is the place that I'll always return to. As well as the Bay area.
Maurice Cherry: What is it that motivates you now these days? I mean you're at this, this really, this crossroads in your career. You've certainly had the stability and the success of working in the tech industry, working at well known companies, most notably Facebook, and now you're going to be in a totally different country doing something totally different with your career. Like what? What is it that motivates you to make these kinds of leaps like that?
Isaak Hayes: I think I try to stay young at heart and I think for me that means being able to try new things. And so when I do feel like I'm stuck or things are stagnant, I do try to try something different and it doesn't have to be a new country every single time. I think that's gonna get tiresome, you know? I think once we're done with the China tour and maybe you know, probably spend four years out there, I think we're going to figure out a place we want to be here until the kids graduate from high school.
Isaak Hayes: I want to make changes in this world. What does that mean is, you know, is that creating an app? Is that creating more jobs? Is that mentoring people? I do know that the thing that always motivates me is helping people and I know that I can do that with design work. I know that I can do that with marketing work that I've been doing helping people to kind of figure out their Facebook page and and run different ads for their small local business so that they can grow. Also helping them to figure out a business plan.
Isaak Hayes: Also now I've been doing some funding, helping people to raise money for their startups and that sort of thing. All of those things helped me to get different pockets that I believe in in a better place. And so I think the thing I'm focused on now is really helping entrepreneurs of color and women to be successful. Helping people in general to just be their better selves.
Isaak Hayes: I'm trying to define over the next probably three months what I mean by that and kind of see if there's like a ... Is my consulting mostly focused on helping people's businesses or am I actually focusing on a business that is an app for creators or something like that. I'll just keep it really general. But I know that everything that I've done has been so that I can help people to better themselves. That's kind of where I'm at.
Maurice Cherry: Okay. Who or what are some of your influences?
Isaak Hayes: Yeah, so sticking ... I'm definitely a direct relationship type of a person. Definitely [inaudible 00:04:42], my mentor that I told you about. I know you interviewed Tory Hargo recently, [crosstalk 00:32:50] awhile back, but you know, we got to work together on Facebook and he's awesome and he is a stand up person that directly, you know ... I needed help and he came and gave me some really great advice about ... It was probably a simple topic for him, but I was like, "I don't know how to do this thing," and he really walked me through, took his time and so he was, he's really awesome. And I have a few design managers that I've worked with that I really feel that way.
Isaak Hayes: If my manager was, treated me that way, then I stayed with them a long time. If they did not, then I did not. But outside of people that I worked with directly, I looked for inspiration. You know I really like what Bill Gates has been doing with the humanitarian things and like finding a mosquito that can't have more mosquito babies so that we can lower malaria. Just really thinking of things in a different way.
Isaak Hayes: I go on Twitter and I follow like, I look to more business leaders then design leaders. Erica Hall is somebody I've been looking into lately because she's been really talking about things that I think are important in the world and less focused on people that are talking solely about craft. But I can't think of a specific person that I'm like, "Oh this person is the best." Definitely have an upbringing in the church so I definitely have probably a really focused right and wrong in terms of helping people and that being the right thing to do.
Maurice Cherry: When you look back at your career, what do you wish you would've known when you first started?
Isaak Hayes: Man, I, yeah, I definitely wish I would have known how to find a mentor faster and how to have that conversation. I wish I had known how to speak to people more. I've always been more, you know, I told you like to draw in the room by myself, which meant I didn't do a lot of socializing with other kids. That's always been something that I've worked on as an adult and I've definitely gotten a lot better with it. But I still, I enjoy alone time. Definitely one on one conversations over group conversations.
Isaak Hayes: I definitely, I wish I ... There was a class I took at a Salesforce, which was like a presentations class and really just how to talk and that sort of thing. I wish I had had something like that when I was younger to gain more confidence. Not even necessarily confidence, but to be more comfortable talking with other people and to understand how to talk to them in a way that gets my point across and that really looks into what they're interested in.
Isaak Hayes: You know, like, "Oh, you know, Maurice is interested in XYX topic. Well, why don't I talk about that for a little bit," and then maybe segue into this thing or see if there's an overlap. I think I was definitely very pointed. You know, "I want to talk about this thing. Oh, I'm not going to talk about that because they're talking. They're talking about something else. I'm not going to go talk to them."
Isaak Hayes: I was very rigid. And so I've been a lot more flexible and definitely just understanding how to make sure that a conversation is two ways and that I guess it's they say a win-win in sales or something like that. That it is a win-win, but not artificially, but really it's, "Hey, like do I care about that person? Do I want that person to care about me? Then why wouldn't I show an attempt to care about that person as well?"
Maurice Cherry: Where do you see yourself in the next five years or so?
Isaak Hayes: Obviously we're going to China as you know, but I want to travel, so we're going to travel all over that region. I went to go to Ghana. I just want to see the world and I want to kind of take some limits off that I've, I think I've had growing up just being in one area. Because I was in the Bay area until I was 20 so I want to travel.
Isaak Hayes: I definitely, I see myself continuing to mentor people, mentor businesses most likely. Having a team of my own again. Probably having another creative agency at some point. Whether that's as part of a company that I run or if it's just kind of having an agency on its own right.
Isaak Hayes: And, but you know, the focus with the kids, my kids the age they are is I see myself being a good father, being a good husband, which is always something you have to continue to assess to make a relationship work is that you're connected to them. And really trying to figure out a way to instill in my children the things that I believe in while they're still young. I think that's probably the primary focus of this age time period, which is also another reason for going to another country.
Maurice Cherry: Okay. Now given everything that we've talked about, with, with your consulting and things that you plan on doing, what does success look like for you now?
Isaak Hayes: If I think about the things I'm most proud of, one of them was mentoring somebody and getting them from a career path that they were not happy with at all to they're now working at a startup that they're really happy about and they have some really great opportunities. I'm trying to figure out how do I turn that into what I want to do next because I, that made me really proud.
Isaak Hayes: I really enjoy seeing other people happy or, and not just happy because that can be frivolous and that's fun as well, but I actually mean seeing other people get to a place they did not know that they could get to. That achievement, that really brings me joy.
Isaak Hayes: Outside of that, I really love finance so that's one of the reasons I went to RealCrowd. It was working on real estate investing. I think if I can figure out, yeah, I don't know that's gonna bring me joy, but I know that I'm interested in things related to finance. Honestly, Maurice, that's kind of why I'm taking this little break to figure out what that is. I think if I knew the answer, if I knew the answer was I'd be so happy if I created the next mint.com or something like that, then I would be doing that.
Maurice Cherry: Well, just to kind of wrap things up here, Isaak, where can our audience find out more about you and about your work online?
Isaak Hayes: I am definitely active on Twitter. Well, semi active on Twitter. So @isaakhayes and Isaak spelled with a K. They can also find me on Instagram. I think it's also isaakhayes there. And also on Linkedin.
Maurice Cherry: All right, sounds good. Well, Isaak Hayes, I want to thank you just so much for coming on the show. Thank you, really for sharing your journey. You know, most people that we have on this show, we talk about where they're at right now in their job and like what a typical day is. And I think you're the first person that we've talked to that is not in that position. Like you have gotten out and now you're at this crossroads. And I think that's a really interesting thing for our audience to hear.
Maurice Cherry: You know, sometimes with the way their career trajectory's go, depending on what city you're in or what industry you're in, it can be hard to kind of see what the end point is. And you know, you can often even sometimes get lost within that, trying to discover what that is and sometimes you have to step away. Sometimes you have to step away and that's what the next goal is. Or that's what the next thing is. And so I certainly wish you well out there in China. I mean that's such a huge opportunity. I can't wait to hear what you're going to come up with while you're out there in terms of working and consulting. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.
Isaak Hayes: Alright, thanks. It's a pleasure.