Episode 8

full
Published on:

15th Jul 2022

S1 E8: Like a Big Experiment (Grace / @graceleaf_)

Grace Ling joins the show to talk about her origin story, how she went from running and trying to biohack herself to run faster to working as a Product Designer at Electronic Arts, and everything in-between.

We discuss how to design your life for yourself, juggling all kinds of different hobbies and passions, and how her side project during school became a 40,000 member community called Design Buddies, not to mention their cute mascot.

Discussed Links

Transcript
Eddie:

Welcome to Episode 8 of the WebJoy podcast.

Eddie:

I'm your host Eddie in this podcast, we interview guests about their origin

Eddie:

story and what makes them excited and joyful to be part of the tech community.

Eddie:

I hope you enjoy today's episode.

Eddie:

"Like a Big Experiment" with Grace Ling.

Eddie:

Hi Grace.

Eddie:

Thanks for joining us.

Grace:

Hi, Eddie.

Grace:

Thanks so much for bringing me on I'm honored

Eddie:

We're honored you decided to join us.

Eddie:

If you don't mind, just give a brief introduction about yourself, to the

Eddie:

community who you are, what you do, where you work, just some general details.

Grace:

Yeah, for sure.

Grace:

My name is Grace and full time, I'm a product designer at Electronic Arts and

Grace:

for fun, I run an almost 40,000 member community called Design Buddies, which I

Grace:

started during the pandemic as a student.

Grace:

And I like to draw swim, run, hike, travel.

Grace:

I do a lot of things for fun and experimenting with different things.

Eddie:

Awesome.

Eddie:

That sounds great.

Eddie:

Sounds like you stay pretty busy.

Grace:

Yeah.

Grace:

I like doing a lot of random things all at the same time.

Grace:

I think that's what personally I think makes it fun.

Grace:

Oh, yeah.

Eddie:

That's great.

Eddie:

Yeah, it kind of gives you a fuller experience rather than just focusing in

Eddie:

on one thing where you can get locked into

Grace:

I tend to do all of it at the same time.

Grace:

Cuz I tend to get bored if I focused on just one thing.

Eddie:

I can definitely connect with that personally.

Eddie:

I oftentimes try to pick up too many things at the same

Eddie:

time which sometimes backfires

Grace:

Oh, yeah, I can definitely relate as well.

Grace:

It's all like designing and seeing what your threshold

Grace:

is and iterating from there.

Eddie:

Nice.

Eddie:

I love that.

Eddie:

So how did you get into tech what's the short version of your story?

Grace:

I had a lot of career pivots.

Grace:

It all started with just like me wanting to experiment with

Grace:

a lot of the different things.

Grace:

Growing up.

Grace:

I was born and raised in Silicon valley, so all surrounded by tech,

Grace:

and I didn't want to go into tech.

Grace:

Actually.

Grace:

I wanted to become an anime artist, and a professional runner.

Grace:

I play a lot of games, and running were a huge part of my life.

Grace:

I ran cross country and track very competitively throughout

Grace:

high school and college.

Grace:

Went to Nationals a couple of times, and that inspired me to study bioengineering

Grace:

in college because I wanted to learn how to biohack myself to run faster.

Grace:

And I thought bioengineering would help me unlock that knowledge.

Grace:

so that's like literally my goal.

Grace:

And I want to on the side become anime artist and continue, and

Grace:

it's try to run professionally.

Grace:

After a few internships in bioengineering.

Grace:

My favorite part of that I worked with cell culture was taking photos of the

Grace:

cells, or you might call them "Cellfies".

Grace:

Cells.

Grace:

Um, and I, I did enjoy me a lot work.

Grace:

I just liked taking them "Cellfies".

Grace:

Um, of my cells, and I felt like it wasn't the path I wanted to be,

Grace:

cuz it wasn't giving me energy.

Grace:

I've always loved video games, so I decided to pivot into Computer Science.

Grace:

My college major was bioengineering and computer science and engineering.

Grace:

And that's what inspired me to study because I just wanted to make games.

Grace:

So I studied computer science, did a few internships in game dev.

Grace:

And that's how I discovered level design.

Grace:

Initially I wanted to become like a virtual reality level designer.

Grace:

but I feel like that was such a specific job.

Grace:

And I was graduating from undergrad, and couldn't find that many entry level jobs.

Grace:

So I decided to look at different job titles, like top

Grace:

tech companies are hiring for.

Grace:

And I saw a lot of UX project designs.

Grace:

I was like, oh, what's that?

Grace:

And I did a bunch of Googling driven a bunch of communi.

Grace:

And did a few projects, designing websites, apps.

Grace:

I was like, oh, this is really fun.

Grace:

And I feel like the skills I learned really translated across like level

Grace:

design user experience and all of that.

Grace:

And so that's actually how I got to UX product design.

Grace:

So I graduated from undergrad in June of 2019, and then started a

Grace:

Master's actually after, because I had no idea what I wanted do my life.

Grace:

So I literally bought myself more time to figure it out through my Masters

Grace:

in Computer Science Engineering.

Grace:

I was like, I kinda wanna do everything.

Grace:

So I'll just take it slowly.

Grace:

And I wanted to have more time to build my portfolio.

Grace:

And so around that time I was stuck between do I wanna do game dev

Grace:

development or UX design or level design game design had no idea.

Grace:

So I started learning more and more about product UX design.

Grace:

I found it was pretty enjoyable.

Grace:

I really love solving problems and learning about the business

Grace:

side and the user side, and working with product, engineering,

Grace:

research and all those nice people.

Grace:

So I decided to pivot into that.

Grace:

My transition to design was actually pretty rough because it was during

Grace:

COVID and I was applying to a bunch of internships and a lot were closing

Grace:

the internship programs and stuff.

Grace:

So I started networking on LinkedIn and I reached out to my current director at EA

Grace:

and that's how I got an internship and I got a full-time offer in December of 2020.

Grace:

And it's been great while continuing my master's studies part-time and

Grace:

graduating just last week and being promoted two weeks ago as well.

Grace:

So it's been fun.

Grace:

it's been a journey of try new things, seeing what gives me energy,

Grace:

seeing what I'm good at and seeking the opportunities are available.

Eddie:

So much at one time, getting promoted in your current position and

Eddie:

graduating and all of that at one time.

Eddie:

That's super exciting.

Grace:

Thank you

Eddie:

You were tossing around a couple things like game development, product

Eddie:

design, what pulled you in the direction of design and has you the most excited and

Eddie:

interested in product design right now?

Grace:

Yeah.

Grace:

I feel like it's like everything at once because I'm learning a lot about

Grace:

the business side, the product side, the technical side, the user experience

Grace:

side, what I wanna do in my life.

Grace:

And thanks to EA.

Grace:

I gotta work on a lot of really interesting marketing and

Grace:

player experience products that impact millions of players.

Grace:

So I thought it was really fun.

Grace:

Seeing what product I could build and the day to day life of working with

Grace:

so many different types of people and learning all these skills and

Grace:

trying to build a product together.

Grace:

I thought it's fun.

Grace:

Just keep building on stuff and solving problems.

Eddie:

That's really awesome.

Eddie:

You mentioned all these different things that you do.

Eddie:

And you know juggling them and figuring out how many things you can

Eddie:

do without overwhelming yourself.

Eddie:

That's what we wanted to talk about today and kind of the topic of joy is right.

Eddie:

You mentioned, you wanted to talk about the topic of designing your life.

Eddie:

Can you talk to me about what does that mean to you?

Eddie:

What have you thought about as you've tried to design your

Eddie:

life and fit things together?

Grace:

Yeah, I think of designing my life as like a big experiment of

Grace:

seeing what brings me joy and what I like to do and what I'm good at.

Grace:

And just trying a lot of things out and being with testing stuff, because

Grace:

as a designer, or as myself I used to feel like I need to be perfect.

Grace:

I need to wait for the perfect time, to ask for permission, to make

Grace:

sure everything's pixel perfect.

Grace:

But then that really held me back from actually executing things.

Grace:

And so I think of myself as having discovery and just testing things

Grace:

out and seeing what I like the most and what I'm good at to see

Grace:

what I can make the most impact.

Grace:

And going from there and having no finish line.

Grace:

So it's also having an infinite mindset of just trying things out

Grace:

and seeing what works or what doesn't work, and iterating from there.

Grace:

Keep improving instead of worrying about being perfect on the first try.

Grace:

So I seeing designing my life as like building or like designing

Grace:

a product and collecting data and using that to keep improving.

Eddie:

Awesome.

Eddie:

That sounds very exciting.

Eddie:

You're passionate about so many different things, right?

Eddie:

I mean, you were interested in biohacking, you've gotten into programming,

Eddie:

design work, artwork and anime.

Eddie:

I feel like a lot of these things.

Eddie:

if someone kind of fits the mold of an artist, they may not think

Eddie:

about going into programming, or if you're programming, you may

Eddie:

not think about going into design.

Eddie:

What was it that kind of helped you discover which things you were

Eddie:

passionate about, even though they were so different than the other things that

Eddie:

you were engaged in and interested in.

Grace:

Yeah.

Grace:

That's actually something that held me back for a while, because

Grace:

I felt like I can only be one.

Grace:

I can either be art or engineer.

Grace:

I can't be both, but I feel like designing your life also comes

Grace:

with discovering who you are.

Grace:

And not molding yourself to other stereotypes you might see out there and

Grace:

being not afraid to break stereotypes so you can pursue what gives you personally

Grace:

the most joy without worrying about what other people think of you or how

Grace:

other people might fit you into a box and just going from there and designing

Grace:

your own journey without following any like stereotypical path or path that was

Grace:

taught to you when you're really young.

Eddie:

I think a lot of us, all of us really can easily feel like we need to

Eddie:

fit into this box that people give us.

Eddie:

I know I've struggled with that as I'm a developer, but I don't

Eddie:

always fit the mold of developer.

Eddie:

In many jobs I've ended up kind of being a bridge between design and development,

Eddie:

because like, I can't really design from scratch, but I understand the

Eddie:

thinking of a product designer, even though I'm a developer, which kind of

Eddie:

puts me at odds with myself at time.

Eddie:

And I'm sure you have struggled with that as well, being in product

Eddie:

design and computer science.

Eddie:

So it's interesting to struggle with that and figure out who we are, despite

Eddie:

the boxes that people want to put us in.

Grace:

Yeah, I agree.

Grace:

I feel like that held me back for a long time from pursuing anything

Grace:

creative, because I felt like I'm computer science student.

Grace:

I should be technical.

Grace:

I shouldn't be interested in these things, but at end of the day.

Grace:

There's not really any instruction manual to life.

Grace:

It's however you make it.

Eddie:

When you start to get into something new . And you're breaking

Eddie:

out of your box and saying, Hey, I'm interested in this thing over here.

Eddie:

I'm gonna try that out.

Eddie:

How do you get started?

Eddie:

Because I know that can be intimidating to enter an area that you're not necessarily

Eddie:

comfortable or have experience in.

Grace:

Yeah, that's actually a really common struggle that I've dealt with

Grace:

because I pivoted careers so many times.

Grace:

So it's always a struggle, feeling like a beginner, but also knowing that you're in

Grace:

this for the long run, like that feeling of being a beginner is only temporary.

Grace:

You'll only have to experience it once.

Grace:

And it's always fun to learn because I feel like when I'm learning,

Grace:

I'm growing and I'm improving.

Grace:

And so that feeling that excitement of learning new

Grace:

things is what keeps me going.

Eddie:

That's awesome.

Eddie:

Rather than learning, being something that's intimidating and something that you

Eddie:

have to do instead, that's the activity of fun that you can embrace and you can

Eddie:

just enjoy that as an action in itself.

Grace:

Yeah.

Grace:

It's like an opportunity to improve yourself.

Grace:

Cuz I also struggled a lot with imposter syndrome, especially growing up.

Grace:

In high school, people would ask me like yo, what's your GPA

Grace:

and what are your test scores?

Grace:

So that was a kind of environment that I was most used to growing up.

Grace:

And so it's always that comparing with others.

Grace:

Especially as a runner, people compare you in your times with other people.

Grace:

So that was always in my head, but letting go of comparing myself to

Grace:

others, instead of seeing others as competition, I see them as inspiration

Grace:

or how can we work together instead of trying to one up each other and stuff

Eddie:

I love the idea of switching that Because imposter

Eddie:

syndrome, it affects all of us.

Eddie:

And it really does come down to the fact that if you're not looking at any

Eddie:

other people, if you're not comparing yourselves against others, you'll

Eddie:

never truly feel like an imposter.

Eddie:

I love the other fact here you're talking about trying new things and

Eddie:

learning and feeling imposter syndrome.

Eddie:

And it's funny because for me, I feel like those two really overlap.

Eddie:

Do you feel imposter syndrome more when you're in a new territory

Eddie:

when you're exploring something new than when you're in something

Eddie:

that you've been in for a while?

Grace:

In the recent few months , I don't feel that much imposter

Grace:

syndrome or I don't feel any and the reason is I just stopped caring

Grace:

about things I can't control.

Grace:

I used to care a lot about what other people thought of me.

Grace:

But then I can't control it and it's not my life goal to please

Grace:

everyone cuz that's impossible.

Grace:

So I stopped chasing that.

Grace:

And then I realized I can just not care about a lot of things

Grace:

by simply changing my mindset.

Grace:

It's not like I just woke up one day and decided, oh yeah, I don't care anymore.

Grace:

But it's a process of unlearning.

Grace:

It's like, whenever I feel like an imposter, I was like, wait, I don't

Grace:

care about this because there's something I can do about this.

Grace:

Might as well focus on what I can control.

Grace:

So I guess that's how I overcame imposter syndrome, like my way, but I feel like

Grace:

everyone has their own different ways.

Grace:

But that's what worked for me

Eddie:

That's really So as a community, we love to support each other.

Eddie:

I'd love to hear if there's anything that the community can do to support you or

Eddie:

anything that you're involved in that you'd like to share with the community.

Grace:

Thank you.

Grace:

Appreciate it.

Grace:

Design Buddies is actually a community I founded on my design journey when

Grace:

I was feeling lost in my career.

Grace:

I created this random Discord server called Design Buddies.

Grace:

When I was bored in class and two years later it's grown to almost

Grace:

40,000 members and our goal is to help designers level up in their career.

Grace:

And this means meeting other designers, connecting with people, finding job

Grace:

opportunities, accessing resources, to help with leveling up in your career.

Grace:

And so it's definitely 100% free.

Grace:

And I do this just for fun and along with other friendly team members as well.

Grace:

So yeah, y'all welcome to join us.

Eddie:

First of all, wow, like mind blown.

Eddie:

I have a hard time wrapping my mind around 40,000.

Eddie:

Like when did you all start this?

Grace:

April 10th, 2020 is our birthday.

Eddie:

Wow.

Eddie:

How did you all get that much attention and grow as a community so quickly

Eddie:

in only a little bit over two years?

Grace:

yeah, a big part of it is just us doing it just for fun.

Grace:

And not really have any like end goal and also me just not being afraid to like

Grace:

experiment with things and encouraging other people to experiment and just keep

Grace:

launching and keep learning and keep iterating and not being able to fail.

Grace:

So it's like how I designed my life is how I designed the Design Buddies

Grace:

and then taking opportunities and evaluating them as they come and

Grace:

seeing what works, what doesn't.

Grace:

Before this, I had almost zero experience with community building

Grace:

let alone like project management.

Grace:

I was a student, I was like deep in class, so I had no experience in

Grace:

business, any legal stuff, any management stuff, that's a big part of it as well.

Grace:

So I didn't let that stop me from creating a community.

Grace:

I just took that as an opportunity, like, oh I can learn.

Grace:

Might as well, impact other people at the same time, like win, win for both of us.

Grace:

So it's kind of My big playground, I guess, as a life experiment, but

Grace:

also an opportunity for me to be able to impact thousands of people and

Grace:

help them improve in their design skills and even land a lot of jobs.

Eddie:

That is awesome.

Eddie:

What do you all do as a community that helps people level up their career?

Eddie:

Do you have certain kind of content available?

Eddie:

Is it about people meeting together and being mentored or peer conversations?

Eddie:

What do you all do?

Grace:

All of that actually we host a lot of events, have resources, have content.

Grace:

I've been getting into TikTok and stuff, and we also have a job board.

Grace:

We have a network of hiring managers and companies looking to hire.

Grace:

And we also have people conversing with each other, like peers

Grace:

connecting with peers and also upcoming mentorship program.

Grace:

We also partnered with a lot of design education programs that provide

Grace:

scholarships that are free for the community, especially for Design Buddies.

Grace:

So we're always experimenting with things.

Grace:

So things might look different like a few months from now.

Grace:

Whatever it takes to just be happy and make people have fun while

Grace:

leveling up in their design careers.

Grace:

Also we invest a lot of time in our branding.

Grace:

And so we have a nice mascot called fluffle, which is kind of

Grace:

like Clippy from Microsoft word.

Grace:

But it's like your guide to design we just love personifying things and making

Grace:

things fun and adding some spice to life.

Grace:

A big part of me growing up was I was always really intimidated

Grace:

about the workplace because I thought you had to be like super

Grace:

professional wearing suits and stuff.

Grace:

For me, I've always liked to be playful and just to chill.

Grace:

So I wanna bring that energy to the design and tech community

Grace:

as well with Design Buddies.

Grace:

And that's like our long term, my long term vision with why I decided

Grace:

to go with all these bright pastel colors and buddies and our friending

Eddie:

That's awesome.

Eddie:

I love that.

Eddie:

I love when we can have things personified.

Eddie:

I definitely have always liked MailChimp having the monkey and everything.

Eddie:

I like when there is a personified mascot, that's friendly and engaging.

Eddie:

And of course who doesn't love Clippy.

Grace:

Yeah, like Wumpus from Discord.

Grace:

It's like a mascot that represents them.

Grace:

And Fluffle the definition English definition is like a group of bunnies.

Grace:

So it represents like everyone, the group of Design Buddies were design

Grace:

bunnies in fluffle . (laughing)

Eddie:

That is so awesome.

Eddie:

I love that.

Eddie:

so if anyone is interested in checking out Design Buddies, we'll

Eddie:

have the link in the show notes.

Eddie:

So feel free to go over there and click on that at the very least to

Eddie:

understand the exact scale of what Grace is talking about, because

Eddie:

she makes it all sound so easy.

Eddie:

I looked at all the photos of the people involved in actually making this

Eddie:

thing happen and there's ton of people.

Eddie:

So if nothing else go over and look at that page to understand exactly what

Eddie:

all is happening, it's incredible.

Eddie:

And then yeah, if it interests you, sign up and get involved.

Grace:

Yeah, definitely.

Grace:

And also thanks to all of our friendly team members for making all this possible.

Grace:

Cuz definitely.

Grace:

I like to also try to give leadership opportunities to other people as

Grace:

well, so they can put on your resume.

Grace:

I can write them a letter rec.

Grace:

So it's been really fun being able to give leadership opportunities

Grace:

to other people while growing Design Buddies and just helping

Grace:

everyone have fun at the same time.

Grace:

So definitely check out our page.

Grace:

We have a lot of teams and a lot of friendly people who are also helping us.

Eddie:

That's great.

Eddie:

That's one thing that throughout all the episodes I've been noticing is

Eddie:

there are a lot of really amazing communities, whether in the developer

Eddie:

space, with FreeCodeCamp to in the design space with Design Buddies.

Eddie:

So I love that this podcast is a platform where everyone can find out about all

Eddie:

the really friendly, fun communities to be a part of because sometimes it's

Eddie:

hard to find them, you know, a lot of communities can be toxic and so it's nice

Eddie:

to find the good ones to be involved in.

Grace:

Actually, one of big reasons why I started Design Buddies is

Grace:

when I was starting in design.

Grace:

I found a lot of design communities at that time that I was

Grace:

particularly in not very friendly.

Grace:

I felt like really intimidated and to me, they seemed a little bit elitist.

Grace:

So I 'll just create my own community and just make some friends and be wholesome.

Grace:

I feel like, there's people out there who don't like to be elitist.

Grace:

And low and behold, it went viral.

Grace:

So yeah.

Grace:

So it's also like solving a problem.

Grace:

It's a very like UX project for me.

Grace:

(laughing).

Eddie:

Yeah, for real cuz it's like, oh, surely someone else wants a community

Eddie:

that isn't elitist and wants to have fun.

Eddie:

And it turns out yeah, actually the majority of people want that.

Eddie:

There's just a small minority that think in their head that they wanna be elitist

Eddie:

and they get drawn to those communities.

Eddie:

Thank you for joining us and chatting today.

Eddie:

It's been really fun.

Eddie:

Grace.

Grace:

Yeah, Thanks for having me on this was fun.

Grace:

I appreciate it.

Eddie:

Thanks for joining us for Episode 8.

Eddie:

"Like a Big Experiment" with Grace Ling.

Eddie:

You can find out more about Grace on her website or on her Twitter @graceleaf_.

Eddie:

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

Eddie:

a link to Grace's website and Twitter.

Eddie:

In the shownotes.

Eddie:

If you enjoyed this episode, help others discover as well by rating and reviewing

Eddie:

it in your favorite podcast directory.

Eddie:

And don't forget to follow us on Twitter @WebJoyFm.

Eddie:

Thank you for listening and have a great day Next episode on WebJoy.

Nick:

Front end is an example, like, pretty much our entire tool chain is all

Nick:

open source, started off with stuff like Broswerfy BrowserSync then we have Webpack

Nick:

and we've got stuff like Parcel, Babel, Rust is open source, all these things,

Nick:

they're literally all open source, and you can see that it's actually pushed

Nick:

forward, tool chains and development through all that collaboration, because

Nick:

all of that code was put out there.

Nick:

You know?

Nick:

So I really like that about it, but another aspect which gets back to

Nick:

people is I really like interacting with the developer community.

Nick:

It's something I enjoy a lot.

Nick:

You know, by having all that out there, it's a great way where people

Nick:

can also learn, maybe they realize it, but they forget sometimes.

Nick:

You literally have all this code out here.

Nick:

You're trying to learn something, you know, you wanna figure out how something

Nick:

bundles go look in a bundler project, the code is literally all there.

Nick:

I think those are kind of the things that bring me joy, at

Nick:

least right now in in my career.

" Eddie:

We're like Detectives" with Nick Taylor.

Show artwork for WebJoy

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.