61. Krista Krebs – Senior Product Designer, UPMC Enterprises

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“The best thing about tech is you can start right now.”

Tell us a little bit about what a typical day looks like for you.

As a designer I am constantly involved in multiple initiatives happening at the same time across my team, and I love it that way. I work with product managers, engineers, and other designers to build products that empower patients to manage their healthcare. On any given day I am diligently defining requirements, white boarding ideas, finalizing design specs, running usability tests, and talking with customers, but most importantly, always staying curious and ensuring purpose and customer value in all things we build.

How do you stay passionate in your career?

I was just thinking today that I know it seems cheesy, but I honestly love what I do, and I am very thankful life has lead me to a career I enjoy. I am constantly learning because I am constantly putting myself out there and trying new things, and testing new processes and ideas. When I am not at work I freelance as an opportunity to learn new tools, keep current, and stretch my creativity. I also advise startups and mentor other designers as a way to continue to learn. The more exposure to people in your field, the more ideas and conversations you have access to, the more information you can consume and accelerate your own learning/growing process. It comes down to the fact that I honestly think design is so much fun, and I keep getting better at it, and it’s fun to solve problems and pain points that real people have like you and me because it provides value in a way that wasn’t previously possible. I also use tools like twitter to keep inspired by other product people, designers, and engineers. There’s a lot of talent out there and we can all learn from each other!

Did you have a traditional path into tech (i.e.: CS/IT degree transitioned into tech job)?

I studied Information Sciences and Technology, specializing in Product Design and Development at Penn State University, so I guess you can say I had a more traditional route into tech. It was great because as a high schooler who had taken a coding class and enjoyed it, and enjoyed fixing and figuring out what was wrong with my laptops when they broke, I had no idea really where life would take me except that I liked “technology”. It honestly felt so vague at the time, and I remember being confused my first few years of university because I didn’t feel like I had an end path. I remember thinking, you go to med school you become a doctor, you get an education degree you become a teacher, but technology seemed so wide open that I found it quite daunting. I would ask counselors and they would say, “Well, you can work anywhere because everyone needs technology!” But it still felt quite uncertain and that was hard at first. It wasn’t until I took some studio classes where I began to code my own mobile apps and design them that I felt like I really knew what I wanted to do. Being able to combine my technical ability and interests with creativity and understanding of user psychology has definitely been the perfect fit for me.

Are there any apps, software, or tools you cannot live without?

Figma + Illustrator for design, Gmail/Gsuite, Slack, Pen and Paper, my iPhone and my Macbook.

It’s common knowledge that women and femmes often face obstacles in the tech industry based on their gender. Have you ever had to deal with this type of experience and if so how did you handle it?

Facing gender bias of course happens, but I am usually quick to counteract it with my experience and abilities and people’s minds can change quickly as I earn their respect. I was lucky to have mentors and former managers who saw my potential early on and gave me the opportunities to learn and grow with experiences. If you are early in your career, you just need one person to really advocate for you and see your potential and that can open you up to a whole new world.

What’s your favorite thing about being a part of the #womenintech community?

I love learning people’s stories; we all have one. Where we came from, how we ended up here, what keeps us going, what makes us fall apart. It is all incredible fascinating and I like being part of a community where people feel comfortable enough to be themselves and be vulnerable and gain confidence in who they are. I enjoy making people see their own potential when maybe they just need that extra push. I have felt first hand the enormous impact of genuine kind words, and so I try to make others feel special as well.

If applicable, how have you given back to the WIT community?

I like to give back to the community by mentoring other designers. Only a few years out from my first job, it’s still fresh in my mind what it was like starting out and I like to lend myself to helping those who are where I was. I also love meeting my idols and peers who are killing it. I am a believer that the more situations you put yourself in, the more you learn, so I try do to that when I can!

What is a piece of advice you would give to others wanting to or currently pursuing a career in tech?

You create your own experience. The best thing about tech is you can start right now. There are a zillion ways you can learn for free, and build something today. By building your own projects solo or with some friends, you can create your own experience that makes you marketable to do it for a living. That’s really exactly what I did in school; companies want to see you have experience before hiring you for an internship, so I created my own. Anyone can do it, you just have to want to learn.

Tell us about a time you felt extremely accomplished in the past year. 

I felt accomplished this past year when I signed on to my first official company advisory role for Product and Design, continued freelancing, and got promoted within a year of joining a new company.

Favorite quote:

Create your own experience



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