Episode 6

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Published on:

6th Jul 2022

S1 E6: This is Like Real Life (Kelly / @kellycodeschaos)

Kelly Harrop joins the show to talk about her origin story, starting as a professional gamer turned video game model, turned product manager turned UX Engineer, where she has settled in to her passion.

We discuss what UX Engineering is all about, and just how much she loves buttons. We talk about video games, including her current obsession, Elden Ring, before finding ourselves back in familiar territory discussing how video games relate to life.

´╗┐Discussed Links

Previously on WebJoy

Transcript
Eddie:

Previously on WebJoy.

Jason:

And so failure is just information.

Jason:

All failure is temporary.

Jason:

Now it's part of the learning loop.

Jason:

And so the goal is to try something and see whether it works so that you can then

Jason:

make a better informed decision next time.

Michael:

At each failure of learning how to do a for loop

Michael:

learning, how to do an if statement.

Michael:

When I gave up, I didn't start at zero.

Michael:

I had my save point.

Michael:

I'd accrued some knowledge of programming and it led me to be able to transition

Michael:

that and going with the metaphor here, instead of using fire, I use ice and

Michael:

that ice tactic was to take that same approach for an if statement and apply

Michael:

it to web development and that allowed me to progress to the next stage

Eddie:

Welcome to Episode 6 of WebJoy.

Kelly:

Sometimes I'm writing a product requirement document,

Kelly:

sometimes I'm designing a UI.

Kelly:

Sometimes I'm taking someone else's wire frame and coding out the end design.

Kelly:

And sometimes I work on tooling.

Kelly:

There's no normal.

Kelly:

It's nice that no matter who I'm trying to help, there's something I can do.

Kelly:

Hey did you beat that boss?

Kelly:

And just having this bonding moment of, oh, what did you do?

Kelly:

What was your tactic?

Kelly:

Did You choose it?

Kelly:

Did you melee it?

Kelly:

Did you magic?

Kelly:

And so it?

Kelly:

It's open world and it lets you play the role that you wanna play.

Kelly:

I love it.

Eddie:

I'm your host, Eddie.

Eddie:

In this podcast, we interview guests about their origin story and what

Eddie:

makes them excited and joyful.

Eddie:

To be part of the tech community.

Eddie:

I hope you enjoy today's episode.

Eddie:

"This is Like Real Life" with Kelly Harrop.

Eddie:

Welcome to another episode of WebJoy.

Eddie:

Today, we have Kelly with us.

Kelly:

Hi, Eddie.

Eddie:

So if you just want to give everyone a brief introduction of who

Eddie:

you are, what you do, where you work, you know, just a general overview.

Kelly:

Yeah, I'm Kelly Harrop.

Kelly:

I am the UX Engineering Lead for the Intuit Design System.

Kelly:

I've had a history of working in design systems.

Kelly:

Love systems, love design, love code.

Kelly:

So getting to do what I enjoy

Eddie:

Awesome That sounds great.

Eddie:

How did you get involved in tech?

Eddie:

Where was your origin story?

Kelly:

I have a very weird origin story.

Kelly:

I started as a video game model, uh shout out Charisma+2, my old modeling agency,

Kelly:

and Yvonna Lynn for signing me up.

Kelly:

Through her, she had some connections in the gaming industry and she helped me

Kelly:

land my very first job out of college.

Kelly:

So I started in video games doing event production, graphic design and just

Kelly:

trying to figure out what I wanted to do.

Kelly:

Took a few jobs after that here and there still trying to figure out what I wanted.

Kelly:

And Ultimately I really loved UI.

Kelly:

I loved just everything about the corner radius of a button really fascinated me

Kelly:

I don't know if that's, um, normal or what, but I was obsessed and so I worked

Kelly:

for a few companies doing white labeling mostly, which is having just like a

Kelly:

standardized experience and then themeing that experience for different companies.

Kelly:

Over the years done both the design side and the engineering side, product

Kelly:

management side of all of that.

Eddie:

That sounds like a fun journey.

Eddie:

Starting from modeling, to product management and now UX engineering and kind

Eddie:

of all these different things in the way.

Eddie:

How did the transition between those roles work?

Kelly:

I've always been really interested in shipping out, whatever.

Kelly:

So when I was a kid, I just wanted to make games.

Kelly:

That's all I wanted to do.

Kelly:

And I would just figure out, okay, I need to do art.

Kelly:

I need to figure out how to make this art, do something interactively with

whatever was available:

action script, just using jQuery, whatever I could

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figure out and just throw it together to have something almost playable And later

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on, when I was doing web development, I really just fell in love with HTML, CSS.

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And just love that there are rules.

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I love rules I love if it's like grammar or like just anything with

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structure I'm obsessed and This was something where I'm just like okay,

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accessibility there are rules, there are ways to do this the right way.

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And I just love that structure.

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I had that kind of development mindset but I hadn't really coded

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professionally I had done more design work and so when I started working.

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I focus more on design because that was ultimately something that I felt like I

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could just jump in and not break anything.

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I felt less Like I was just gonna ruin everyone's day if a pixel

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was off so I started with design and then when I started working, there

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was this kind of hidden expectation.

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Oh, like you can code this too.

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Right.

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And I was like sure.

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Okay, the last time I touched HTML was in maybe like middle

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school, but I can totally do this.

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So I just went back to what I knew, I knew the rules, I knew accessibility.

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I knew if you're using an anchor, use an H Ref don't make it a

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button and things like that.

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Use a button when you wanna use a button.

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Those kinds of rules.

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Really just helped me anytime I wanted to learn something, I just went

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okay what's the right thing to do.

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I went through like 20 different answers on Stack Overflow and everyone's

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arguing about what the best solution is And I was like well, I'll just

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combine they'll mix and match there.

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And and you know we'll we'll figure it out.

Eddie:

Nice.

Eddie:

Well, you sound like you fit in cuz that's pretty much what all of us do

Eddie:

Grab three or four different stack overflow answers mix 'em together

Eddie:

and hope that Actually works.

Eddie:

And if it actually works, you just ship it.

Eddie:

If it doesn't then you start tweaking things and try to figure

Eddie:

out when it suddenly starts working.

Eddie:

What is it that you really enjoy about being a UX engineer?

Eddie:

You've gone through a lot of different roles and it seems like

Eddie:

at least for now you've settled into being a UX engineer, what keeps you

Eddie:

there and what keeps you excited

Kelly:

I would say that no sprint is the same.

Eddie:

Yeah

Kelly:

I do a lot of context switching So sometimes I'm writing

Kelly:

a product requirement document, sometimes I'm designing a UI.

Kelly:

Sometimes I'm taking someone else's wire frame and coding out the end design.

Kelly:

And sometimes I work on tooling.

Kelly:

There's no normal , which you know, some folks might not like some folks

Kelly:

like me, I get restless So just having that kind of diversity in my sometimes

Kelly:

daily work can be exciting and there's always a different problem to solve.

Kelly:

It's nice that no matter who I'm trying to help, there's something I can do.

Kelly:

If a designer needs help, I can jump in and help them.

Kelly:

Developer needs help I can jump in.

Kelly:

Just being an advocate for as many people as possible has been the driving

Kelly:

force of "Hey, I don't know that yet, but I want to find out because then

Kelly:

I can help you" And so that's how I stumble through and stay up till 2:00 AM.

Kelly:

Just watching YouTube videos going.

Kelly:

Oh, that's how it works.

Kelly:

Okay.

Kelly:

Got it And then sharing that out with folks.

Eddie:

Nice!

Eddie:

Yeah, at my previous company we didn't have any UX engineers so

Eddie:

I actually led the effort.

Eddie:

We hired two UX engineers cause we had two different teams

Eddie:

that were working on stuff.

Eddie:

So we got a UX engineer per team to help be their advocate and

Eddie:

work with the product designer.

Eddie:

And like you said, they just did so many different things.

Eddie:

They might be helping create the design system in Figma one day And

Eddie:

then the next day they're working on the component library, that's

Eddie:

implementing the design system and help giving accessibility tips or CSS

Eddie:

suggestions to the front-end engineers.

Eddie:

Definitely is a role that you like you said every day can even be different.

Eddie:

And you shift between a lot of things.

Kelly:

Yeah.

Kelly:

I have a very similar experience where it's funny, like a developer will

Kelly:

complain this component is garbage.

Kelly:

It doesn't have a prop for this really custom specialized thing I needed to do.

Kelly:

Why doesn't it just do it out of the box?

Kelly:

And so then there's a learning opportunity there teaching about

Kelly:

performance and you can make the component do what you need it to do by just

Kelly:

customizing a little bit with some CSS.

Kelly:

So I think one of the biggest things that I try and educate and

Kelly:

up level is that the design system doesn't solve all your problems.

Kelly:

There's still development that needs to happen on top of that.

Kelly:

And I love just being able to do those demos, do workshops, write that

Kelly:

documentation, give those examples because then it shows you if you use

Kelly:

the design system, we don't have to like have this, 2MB button to

Kelly:

do something, it can do the basics.

Kelly:

Then you can add on that functionality and add on that customization that you need.

Kelly:

That's why I love design systems because it can start off so small,

Kelly:

but then you can show the potential with really complex interactions.

Eddie:

That's awesome.

Eddie:

If you're building something from scratch, you have to think of all

Eddie:

the details And by having the design system some of those smaller details

Eddie:

are already taken care of, which means you can look at more of the context

Eddie:

and you can contextualize what you're doing more in that specific instance.

Eddie:

Which is cool, right?

Eddie:

To not have to look at three different levels all at one time.

Eddie:

With this podcast, we like to talk about, a topic of joy.

Eddie:

So I just wanted to ask you what's something that brings you joy

Eddie:

and what's something that you've been really enjoying lately

Kelly:

So when I'm not working on design systems and tech, I am

Kelly:

100% obsessed with Elden Ring.

Kelly:

And for those who don't know, Elden Ring is a video game it is

Kelly:

on multiple different platforms.

Kelly:

I play it on Xbox, but it is from FromSoftware and they

Kelly:

make all the dark souls games.

Kelly:

And this is my very first FromSoftware game.

Kelly:

And.

Kelly:

Totally obsessed.

Kelly:

I've watched YouTube videos about the lore I'm on the subreddit

Kelly:

constantly just on Twitter.

Kelly:

I think it's becoming an Elden Ring, Twitter account and apologies to my tech

Kelly:

followers are going, oh, not another Elden Ring post and so it's just been on in

Kelly:

the back of my mind all day, all night.

Eddie:

It's funny because I didn't realize until as we were talking was that like you

Eddie:

got started working In the game industry.

Eddie:

And then you have shifted over into the more general tech industry.

Eddie:

So it's kind of brings us full circle, right?

Eddie:

Like of course you enjoy Elden Ring.

Eddie:

Of course you enjoyed working in the game industry.

Eddie:

It all overlaps.

Eddie:

That's really cool.

Eddie:

What do you think you enjoy most about Elden Ring.

Kelly:

I would say with other games there is a set number of animations, like

Kelly:

everything feels very AI and very obvious.

Kelly:

So if you like Dodge two times roll it's like oh this feels like

Kelly:

a very scripted event And I feel what Elden Ring gets right is that

Kelly:

It's just kind of unpredictable.

Kelly:

There's so many different animation sets from someone who's made video games,

Kelly:

just the amount of diversity in terms of the movement sets and how they move

Kelly:

you remember the fights, you remember the encounters they're so challenging

Kelly:

and it's just fun to watch someone on Twitch or find a friend who's also

Kelly:

playing and go Hey did you beat that boss?

Kelly:

And just having this bonding moment of, oh, what did you do?

Kelly:

What was your tactic?

Kelly:

Did You choose it?

Kelly:

Did you melee it?

Kelly:

Did you magic?

Kelly:

And so it?

Kelly:

It's open world and it lets you play the role that you wanna play.

Kelly:

I love it.

Kelly:

My first FromSoftware game and I'm now hooked.

Kelly:

I'm a fan.

Kelly:

I wanna play all the other dark souls games just to see what I've

Kelly:

been missing out all these years

Eddie:

It was funny because when you're talking about fighting the monster

Eddie:

and how you can fight them in so many different ways and they're all a little

Eddie:

bit different I think the one thing that kind of stood out to me was it reminded

Eddie:

me a lot of the Zelda game on switch.

Eddie:

I don't play a whole lot of video games, but that I was addicted

Eddie:

to for probably about two years.

Eddie:

Now I'm eagerly awaiting Zelda You know, you're talking about oh, you

Eddie:

can do all these different things And that's one thing that really stuck

Eddie:

out to me about that one was I'm very amateur when it comes to video games.

Eddie:

I used to play like a lot of Final Fantasy's growing up

Eddie:

Haven't played as much recently.

Eddie:

With Zelda, I really had no idea what I was doing So I was just throwing

Eddie:

random stuff out and sometimes it filled miserably and, uh, he died.

Eddie:

But other times it actually worked out and I was like, whoa, I don't think that's how

Eddie:

I was supposed to beat him, but it worked.

Kelly:

Right As long as it works.

Eddie:

exactly

Kelly:

Yeah.

Kelly:

I really just like the, perseverance aspect of it.

Kelly:

You die, you get back in there, you just go at it again What's interesting

Kelly:

to me is every time I died, I would try and go, what did I do wrong?

Kelly:

What did I do?

Kelly:

Did I roll too quickly?

Kelly:

Could I have jumped there?

Kelly:

Did I, did I roll?

Kelly:

Like, should I have rolled forwards?

Kelly:

And it's one of those things where I'm studying every movement.

Kelly:

I'm trying to understand why did I mess up And it's funny

Kelly:

because sometimes I'll walk away.

Kelly:

I'm like I can't deal with this And then I'll come back an hour

Kelly:

later and just beat the boss.

Kelly:

I'm like Hey, this is like real life.

Kelly:

Like I'm working on something.

Kelly:

It's just not going my way.

Kelly:

Just take a breather, come back.

Kelly:

Oh, problem solved.

Kelly:

So I feel like there are a lot of parallels with how I approach beating

Kelly:

this game and my daily work life.

Kelly:

That is just kind of interesting.

Kelly:

Just shows I will not give up.

Kelly:

I will persevere I will get back in that dungeon and finish it cuz I

Kelly:

wanna get all the achievements.

Kelly:

I'm a completionist.

Kelly:

I like feeling that sense of accomplishment.

Kelly:

Something I forgot to mention was I used to be a professional gamer

Eddie:

Oh wow Cool

Kelly:

which is how I got into the modeling and working

Kelly:

in that kind of environment.

Kelly:

People just go, oh, are you gonna become professional with it.

Kelly:

And I have to say just because I spend an exorbitant amount of time does

Kelly:

not necessarily mean I'm good It just means I really enjoy the experience

Eddie:

Nice, that's funny.

Eddie:

And it's funny that you talked about how you approach video games and how

Eddie:

that kind of mirrors your real life, none of this was scripted but for

Eddie:

those listening along and Kelly hasn't heard the episode right before this, I

Eddie:

was actually talking to Michael Liendo and we actually were talking about

Eddie:

how you can learn through failure.

Eddie:

And as we talked, we ended up stumbling into video game talk.

Eddie:

And the idea that you have these save points and that you learn

Eddie:

from failure in video games.

Eddie:

It's how you progress And yet when we fail in real life we get nervous about that.

Eddie:

And how, if we embrace the mentality of when we play video games in real life and

Eddie:

just realize that Hey you try something.

Eddie:

It fails.

Eddie:

Try it another way.

Eddie:

Try to learn from what went wrong.

Eddie:

That's a great way to approach learning in life.

Eddie:

It's so funny, like you had the exact same mental model there, so

Eddie:

we didn't script that that's real.

Eddie:

Uh, you know so yeah

Eddie:

Well I know we're coming near the end of time.

Eddie:

So as we wrap up typically we like to just see if there's anything that

Eddie:

our guests want to share with the audience any kinda resources or things

Eddie:

that the audience would find helpful.

Kelly:

Yeah.

Kelly:

I have a couple things.

Kelly:

One, I recently started a podcast with my co-host Adekunle Oduye

Kelly:

who is a UX Engineer at Plaid.

Kelly:

And so it is a podcast about UX engineering and what it

Kelly:

means To be in that role.

Kelly:

So if you wanna learn more about what we do in our day to day, that

Kelly:

is something that we started up So we only have a few episodes for

Kelly:

now, but we are working to build up.

Kelly:

I guess the other thing was I recently was a speaker at Config,

Kelly:

which is one of Figma's conferences.

Kelly:

And so I talk a little bit about what our design system team has been up to

Kelly:

that's on YouTube and go check it out

Eddie:

I will include a link to both of those in the show notes.

Eddie:

So if you all wanna check out either of those feel free

Eddie:

to check out the show notes.

Eddie:

I definitely recommend the Code and Pixels podcast.

Eddie:

That's actually how I stumbled across you, Kelly, I found

Eddie:

that podcast listened to it.

Eddie:

And so then started following you on Twitter and thought, Hey, it'd

Eddie:

be fun to have you on this podcast.

Eddie:

Definitely recommend everyone go check out, subscribe and enjoy

Eddie:

getting a more clear picture about UX engineering cuz I know it's just

Eddie:

not as common in the industry so I feel like people don't understand

Eddie:

as much about what goes on there.

Kelly:

Yeah thanks.

Eddie:

Thank you for coming on the podcast today Kelly it's been a pleasure just

Eddie:

talking to you and getting to know your story, talking about some video games.

Kelly:

Yeah, thanks for having me on.

Eddie:

Thank you for joining us for episode six.

Eddie:

This is like real life with Kelly Harrop.

Eddie:

You can find out more about Kelly on her Twitter @KellyCodesChaos.

Eddie:

You can find links to everything we talked about in this episode, as

Eddie:

well as a link to Kelly's website and Twitter in the show notes.

Eddie:

If you enjoyed this episode, please consider rating and reviewing it

Eddie:

in your favorite podcast directory.

Eddie:

And following us on Twitter @WebJoyFM thank you and have a great day

Eddie:

Next episode on WebJoy.

Emily:

I get a lot of personal personal satisfaction, from those moments, when

Emily:

you take a step back and really think about the big picture on what we're doing

Emily:

here in software, I think it's easy, to kinda get swept away and in the bugs and

Emily:

the backlog and you know, oh my goodness.

Emily:

The sprint and story points and all of that stuff.

Emily:

Thinking about the big picture it's really fulfilling what we do sometimes

Emily:

if you really think about it and your product is providing a good service

Emily:

Just having the ability to be like, you could read a book or you could watch a

Emily:

YouTube video, or you could read this blog cause it's shorter, or you could

Emily:

listen to a podcast or an audio book or something like you've got so many options

Emily:

to learn about whatever developers, relations, product management, these like

Emily:

18,000 product manager podcasts right now.

Emily:

And I love every single one of them.

Emily:

I try to listen to as many as I can.

Emily:

Cause it's just so fun.

Emily:

How much is out there?

Emily:

I love it.

Emily:

It's a total game changer, I think for people to learn in different ways.

" Eddie:

So many options to learn" with Emily Patterson

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About the Podcast

WebJoy
Find your happy place
The WebJoy podcast is an inclusive community centered on celebrating the diverse origins, skills, and experiences that make up the tech industry.

Talking with guests about their origin stories, what they love about working in their roles, and what they find joy in keeps this an upbeat and rather lighthearted podcast.

We approach the world with optimism and hope, while recognizing the flaws and challenges within our own industry and the world at large. We believe that if we work together, we can all find our happy place.

About your host

Profile picture for Eddie Hinkle

Eddie Hinkle

Eddie's mission is to bring joy and empathy to the tech industry. He does this through engineering leadership, mentoring and podcasting. Eddie currently works as an Engineering Manager at Glassdoor, Mentors on ADPList and hosts the WebJoy podcast.