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Connector Spotlight: Jacky Li



May 18, 2019

Jacky Li Spotlight

He shoots, but he doesn’t score past our hockey-loving designer, Jacky Li!

Tell us about the project you’re working on.

I am currently redesigning an existing product that is being used by 100 million-plus users. The pressure is high which makes it really exciting. The impact of this—when it’s complete—will be enormous. I get to work collaboratively with Product Designers and Product Researchers on the user interface and tackle problems around the product’s value and desirability.

We can’t wait to see the redesign! Any achievements or awards you can brag about?

‍ I’m very proud of the two blogs that I wrote last year on Why Touchscreens in Cars Don’t Work and Android Auto and Apple Carplay UI Kits for Sketch. Other achievements that come to mind are the different types of research work that I get to facilitate and experiment with:

  • Context Lab: I work with a group of hand-picked participants with distinctive differences. As facilitators, we get to guide conversations as well as design interactive activities to highlight interactions that you wouldn’t typically get with a one-on-one interview.
  • Diary Studies: I conduct quantitative research that takes place over a two-week timespan. Seeing participants upload their daily experiences in the setting that you intend your designs to be used in brings a unique and intimate perspective on how you can iterate it.
  • Wizard of Oz Testing (Voice Input+Mobile Input+Audio Output): Wizard of Oz Testing is not a simple task to begin with. It’s a method of testing a system that does not yet exist. As the ‘Wizard’, you must quickly react to the user’s gestures or actions with the designed response using a single click in order to gain accurate findings. Imagine the user as they test the driving simulator while you’re simultaneously running a voice assistant prototype, a soundboard, and an app on a mobile phone. Three cameras are on to capture everything and you control the responses sent to the user via all the devices. This is perhaps the most prepared, high budget, cable-running-everywhere type of testing I have conducted.

Where were you prior to joining Connected? 

I worked at Xtreme Labs as a Graphic Designer, then transitioned to Product Designer at Pivotal Labs. I always knew that I wanted to be in the creative industry which originally manifested itself in the form of architecture. However, I wanted to be more hands-on and see something through from start to finish. With graphic design/product design, you certainly get that experience. My first job exposed me to the tech side of the field — this was back when smartphones were becoming the next big thing and Blackberry was still at the top of the industry. Later on in my career, I helped create proposals to help the company land deals which opened my mind to design with no boundaries. The more proposals that I worked on, the more I was exposed to design research. Since my time at Pivotal Labs, I was able to find ways to design products that think beyond just the usability of a product, but also the value and desirability… definitely a rewarding experience!

That’s so inspiring! What products have you worked on or been involved with?

One of the advantages of working at consultancies is the exposure to different types of fields and mediums. The disadvantage, however, is not being able to talk in deep detail about any of them. Regardless, I am proud of the areas that I have covered thus far. I’ve worked on a variety of products such as:

  • Cruise ship mobile experience
  • Grocery store internal tooling application
  • Tourist application
  • Automotive Head-Up Displays (which was, by far, my favourite project)
  • Travel booking sites
  • Loyalty program applications
  • Mobile payments, and yes, there was a time before Apple Pay and Android Pay was the standard.
  • Sports App, where I later celebrated our launch by going to a Raptors game
  • Automotive dispatcher apps
  • Caregiving application

I can continue listing projects but what’s interesting here is the range and diversity of realization; some of these were short engagements with clear outputs, some were heavily research focused, a few never saw the light of day, and a lucky few received the full end-to-end road map from 0 to launch. My past 6 years of being a designer (which is not that long) have been a constant wave of new industries to learn from and become a mini-expert on. 

You’ve worked on quite a few products! Let’s take it back to Connected. What are your favourite things about working here and why? 

The people, the culture, and the Design team! Many companies say that they have values such as teachers and learners but what makes Connected so special is its level of execution in this area. Connected really holds true to these values. Connected employees are always willing to teach others and are passionate about what they do. To see the culture of people willing to teach drives you to be more open to learn from others and teach them as well. Props to the recruitment team! Even when we’re interviewing people, we look beyond just the skillset which makes the company that much more well-rounded. 

Whether it’s celebrating wins or participating in a brainstorming session, the morale and atmosphere are always uplifting. Even though we’re considered a medium sized-company, things get actioned quickly. You can tell that the execs care about the people and our thoughts. Before, the workday was 9-6pm but because the people voiced their opinion, it was successfully changed to a 9-5pm schedule. How did this even start? How were we able to convince the execs to make this change? We simply voiced our opinions and it was actioned. That’s a company culture that people want to be a part of.

Jacky giving event attendees a hands-on experience running user research
Jacky giving event attendees a hands-on experience running user research

Yes! We can’t agree more. What advice would you give to someone just starting at Connected?

 Be kind and thoughtful. Don’t be shy and let your voice be heard. A lot of new employees may be nervous and might not know what they’re allowed to say. What’s great at Connected is that everyone is transparent and we don’t judge. Your opinion is respected and taken very seriously. The best way to learn is to ask questions, including questioning the internal processes of the company. In the past, a co-op suggested a change in the internal process, and it changed! Everyone is empowered to do great things here which gives us a strong sense of agency and purpose.

You seem like a change-maker yourself.

 For those who know me, I am a huge environmentalist. However, I refuse to be that person who bugs people to reduce waste and recycle. I much prefer making changes to enable people around me to change their routine to benefit the environment. Coming down to it, it’s not fair to ask people to change their day to day routine. It’s in our nature to do the thing that is most efficient to us. But unfortunately, efficiency is the arch-nemesis of being eco-friendly. Therefore, it’s in my interest to combat climate change as a behavioural design challenge. I read an article that really resonated with me as a Product Designer and how we can contribute to a more sustainable future, furthering my will to think up creative solutions to these problems. 

You’re very passionate about the environment. What else are you passionate about? 

First and foremost, I love hockey. Growing up, I loved playing street hockey with my friends (shout out to my friend Terry) and was sure that I was going to be drafted to the NHL. Of course that didn’t happen, but instead, I’ve been able to fulfill my dream four years ago on my team “Lululemon” as a goaltender. Outside of sports, I like to build model kits like Gundam and Lego. Much like hockey, this started as a very early hobby and I have stayed passionate about building to this day. I think this interest fuelled my desire to become a designer –– to be able to build something from scratch and see how small, disparate pieces can come together to become something great.

Jacky as the star goalie on Team Lululemon
Jacky as the star goalie on Team Lululemon

Any weird talents? 

I make a great magic show exclusively for Connected folks every 2 years. 

Since Connected is based in Toronto, what’s your favourite Toronto restaurant?

Kinka Izakaya is my favourite restaurant. I love their cheese-covered oysters (Kakimayo) and their Yaki Udon! I only go there on special occasions… this results in a lot of special occasions! The atmosphere is great and food is to die for. It’s definitely a place you go to with friends so you can share all the dishes.

Aside from restaurants, what’s your favourite place? 

Rome, hands down. It’s a city full of history, architecture, and attention to detail. Since visiting the art museums in Rome, I’ve been spoiled in my art taste so now my expectations for what a gallery should be are really high! This is probably a bad thing in hindsight because it has made me stay away from galleries unless I’m in Europe, but I’m lucky to have seen them nonetheless.

Stay tuned for more profiles about the great people here at Connected.

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