Transcript | Leading UX for the next generation of tech products | Rebecca Milazzo (Head of UX/UI @ PlayerZero)
The transcript from my podcast with Rebecca Milazzo from PlayerZero
Rebecca Milazzo 0:00
AI is, you know, automating the mundane tasks, whether or not a company uses AI that they're going to have an interface that is just as simple to use as an AI tool would be to discover simple human language is is the way to make something universally acceptable. Because, you know, we came from a world of QA and technical we were originally going to present to engineering, debugging is a very technical word where you're problem solving, right?
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Max Matson 0:34
Hey, everybody, welcome back to another future of product. Today, I am incredibly excited to welcome my compatriots, fellow player zero, person, Rebecca Palazzo, our head of UX. Rebecca, would you mind introducing yourself to the future of product fans?
Rebecca Milazzo 0:49
Yeah. Hi. Nice to meet you all. Thanks so much for having me on. I felt honored that I got to be a part of this very unique journey you've been taking everyone on. But yeah, my name is Rebecca, I am head of product, whatever that entails at a startup, just trying to make the best design decisions and product decisions and experience decisions for our team and kind of an ever changing world. So it's been really exciting and very, very dynamic over the past now, almost four years being with the team.
Max Matson 1:18
Right on, right on. Let's, let's dive a little bit into kind of your story, right? What led you into UX design in general, start there, and then kind of bridge that into what got you to player zero?
Rebecca Milazzo 1:30
Yeah, I took quite a wild path. I've been really enjoying talking to product owners who have also done come from like education and some other industry shifts. But I started off in advertising, mostly because I love people, I love understanding people, their intentions, their needs. And that kind of was the only thing that I had been exposed to, because I grew up in New Orleans. And there's not a lot of growing tech there. So UX UI wasn't necessarily a space that was proposed to me or was really growing at the time just yet. Start off in advertising.
It's a very dated industry, though. And I really wanted to be in a space that was dynamic and growing and changing. And it's challenging, but in its own kind of very old ways, set ways. And then kind of merged into a little bit of a design world where design wasn't about people, their intentions, their needs. So everything I loved about advertising was lost in design. But design was something that kind of what I wanted to focus on an advertising. And then I had an opportunity to join a team and learn UI UX from an old mentor that I had had. And she took me under her wing and impatiently taught me how to kind of be a dual UI and UX leader at the company, and really just kind of leaned into that read as much as I could listen to as many industry experts as I could, and really kind of found this strange, beautiful hybrid between like, it was just like advertising. But in a growing industry, it was all about people. It was nothing to do with making things pretty. In fact, I often yell at my co workers or team whenever they say all it's pretty like no, that's not what anyone wants to hear. Because it's so much more than that. It's yeah, no, I
Max Matson 3:07
love that. Let's let's get into that a little bit more. What is the difference between pretty and usable?
Rebecca Milazzo 3:12
Yeah. So I think that the biggest thing is pretty doesn't by any means reference how it's accessible or intentional. It's just visually pleasing to the eyes. And oftentimes, you'll notice people talk about pretty design, it's because it was intentional and about people. And so there's this weird kind of, it's hard to describe, but you go and take a painting class, and you have these like, abstract. So you think about Van Gogh and the craziness about it. And like nothing is understandable because nobody got into his brain. That's art for art's sake. And I think there's this like weird merge of pretty insinuates more art than it does practicality, where, you know, it's just like complimenting somebody's looks, I think, right? Like, you don't want to start off with somebody's beautiful you want to start off with, they're intelligent, they're thoughtful, they're mindful. They can also be pretty, right. So great design often is beautiful, because it's clean. It's simple. But great design puts people first, it's thoughtful, it's simple. And character. It's almost looks easy. It almost looks like it didn't take a lot of time because it is so thoughtful. So I think that's the biggest difference that I've understood over the years. I love
Max Matson 4:21
that's great. It's a great definition, right? How did you kind of reach that understanding of, you know, the UX UI kind of role working in that more traditional kind of realm of advertising, right?
Rebecca Milazzo 4:33
So I honestly don't really think it was a huge transition for me because again, the the core of it the understanding people, their intentions and needs, you do user interviews, you do massive researches, you send out surveys, you do kind of small focus groups, you understand the market the the biggest difference for me that was even more exciting is I was at a company I did UX for a specific company. I wasn't split into two men. any advertising, you're split into many, you know, you came from that world too. And it's every six months or context shifting, learning about, you know, xattr ins jump Elia and their whole culture. And then the next month, you're learning about law and like maritime lawn. But here, right, and especially with player zero, it's so siloed. And so focused that understanding the users has been absolutely the most important, like exciting part for me, because there isn't a six month window, it is going on and on now for four years. And I am also one of our users. So it just ends up working out in my favor that I can understand myself and our users better.
Max Matson 5:37
All right on, I love that, it seems to be something that I kind of come to the conclusion of with a lot of my guests is that when you're building for something that's relevant to you, that you would actually use in your day to day it's a lot easier to kind of think through. And you know, we to provide is like personas, right in marketing and product. But if you are the persona, it's it's a lot more second nature, right? So let's get into a little bit of, you know, kind of the background with player zero. So how did you get introduced to player zero? What was that journey? Like?
Rebecca Milazzo 6:06
Yeah, it was exciting, I had been saving up for a home and was taking on as much freelance as I possibly could and got connected to auto mash our CEO and founder and just thought it was in me a little freelance gig. And just it's funny, you said that about how it's solving my problems, because previously, I was at a payroll company where like, I wasn't a payroll HR expert, it was such a different realm. And I'm very grateful for the knowledge I gained there, because it is something that, you know, is usable my future. But this was a tool that like I just slowly fell in love with. And even though we started off in the QA realm, I actually was serving as QA as in my previous role as well. And so I immediately say, oh, my gosh, this is going to change my world, this is absolutely going to make my life better. And even still, to this day, when I'm cueing player zero, I still use our tool. And it absolutely changes my workload. And so now, there's no BS, there's no like me making things up trying to sell like, I'm passionate about it, because I use it and I see the value. And so moving from kind of a headspace where you're, you're learning and doing to doing something for yourself, right. Game Changer.
Max Matson 7:14
Yeah, no, 100% 100%. That's awesome. And so it was kind of a natural fit, right, you came along? Ironically, it's kind of how I came up with it a little bit too, right. I was coming up with this big web and app overhaul project for a client, and just having an absolute nightmare of an experience trying to QA, right, and, you know, here comes this product that can essentially solve that experience make it a lot more simple for somebody like me, who's not technical. So it is, it's really interesting how, you know, that path kind of led both of us into building AI, which I don't think was the intention, right, it was kind of the outcome. Yeah.
Rebecca Milazzo 7:52
So it's, it's interesting, it's you, I didn't round out, I forgot. But like, whenever the offer was to join the team, right? It's a startup, it's scary. You know, I just bought a house because I had been saving with the money. I'd made freelancing, and it's like, oh, gosh, should I actually join a startup? That's risky? And like, there was no doubt, because it was a product for me is like, I have to see this through, I have to see it through and like, you know, we've been in the industry is changing every, every time we want to release something big the industry changes. And it's like, no, I still have to see this room.
Max Matson 8:22
Yeah, no. 100%. And so it's a constant challenge. But it's also incredibly rewarding to be challenged in that way. And to constantly have to find new creative ways to it's kind of the opposite of traditional advertising and a lot of ways, right. Yeah, it's super interesting. So let's, let's talk a little bit more about AI. Right. So in the realm of UX design, kind of what you work in, what are the unique challenges with working with an AI product like player zero?
Rebecca Milazzo 8:49
Yeah, so it's been, it's really interesting for me, because I think for UI and UX, right, the the AI journey is, is a little ask me a little more creative. So like, how it applies to me and my workload, and design and copywriting and things. It's just it's not as black and white as it is maybe more like content writing or things like that. But you know, I know it affected me. And so once we started looking right, the biggest thing for UX I think holistically, even including player zero, right is that AI is, you know, automating the mundane tasks, but it's also creating this kind of world where people are going to expect the conveniences that AI provides in all of UX. And so while right now, it AI is a commodity when it comes to answer seeking and discovery. It's creating an expectation, whether or not a company uses AI, that they are going to have an interface that is just as simple to use as an AI tool would be to discover and so that goes along.
We've been talking a lot about data warehousing and that's changing the data space, and how kind of applications holistically are being built and how People are starting data models. But it's it is scary exciting, because it's going to change how we think about problem solving and UX entirely. And then kind of focusing more on kind of player zero and our UX, right. It's, it's also, it's so new. So there haven't been a lot of wild innovations or deviations, you know, I read this book, it was by Austin Kleon, called Steal Like an Artist. And it's been my favorite book since college. And it talks about there's like, no I original ideas, right. And that's something that's really difficult as a creative person to admit to. You're just you're constantly taking in and putting out something new, but it's coming from what you've taken. And so I think the big challenge now is going to be taking what chat GPT has done with their chat interface, perplexity, Hex all of the different companies that we've been looking at as models, and creating something that both feels comfortable like what they've created for people, but also unique enough, and exciting enough that we're continuing to disrupt the industry. And we're continuing to show people that data can be presented in more and more beautiful ways. So it's exciting challenge, but it's a little daunting, because there is no space yet that we can see of kind of what that looks like successfully.
Max Matson 11:20
Right. Yeah, no, that's a great point. I mean, I feel like at this point, it's kind of a race to strip away as much user work as possible, right, which I do think is kind of a common trait to the way that technology has been moving for a long time. But with that being the case, you know, how do you take something that's rather complex to explain directly and turn it into something so intuitive to use? Right? I think that that's the big challenge facing people who want to incorporate AI into their products.
Rebecca Milazzo 11:49
Yeah, we learned early, right, honestly, right after you join that people don't like Oz, they don't like the mysterious man behind the veil. They want transparency. And I think that kind of is really, really inspired. We did so many user research kind of discovery calls then. And, and it nope, everyone always had a question like, how did you get this? How did you see this? How did you do this? And it was kind of like, well, don't you just stressed us? But and that was asking a lot of people. And so with the complexity of AI, I think, you know, we haven't solved it yet, because we're still kind of actively working on this and this new release involving open AI.
But the big thing that we've been talking about is this idea of full transparency, right? So when it's data, it's data, it's presented as data. It's accessible, it's not intimidating, maybe it's reduced down to be less noisy. But you're then transparent about what was reduced down what was eliminated, maybe giving access to seeing that if people need to regain their confidence. And then what is an assumption or what is a story or a narrative that maybe something behind the veil is created, arming that story with, again, the data to back it up. And so I think a lot it's a lot more about almost citing, like if we're thinking English papers, citing kind of where this information came from, and allowing people to access it if they want to gain trust. And but also delivering reduced down content beautifully. So it's, it's a, it's a balance from what I've been seeing. And not like, incredibly simple, because incredibly simple. is oz. Run complex feels like you're looking into an SQL, you know, database trying to find and discover.
Max Matson 13:25
Right, so it's kind of that perfect middle point. Yeah, yeah. I, as we've been kind of working through this, getting feedback from from users and customers and stuff, what have you found that's been kind of like that aha moment that kind of hits that middle line between? This is simple. I know how to use it. It's familiar, you know, fits like a glove. But also, I've have confidence because like, as a data product, like you said, I think that trust is a huge element. You know, it's something that I've talked to previous guests about what like blackbox modeling is incredibly hard to actually get used by and because this thing could be telling you, you know, something completely made up when in reality, the answer is something completely different.
Rebecca Milazzo 14:06
Yeah, so in the in the feedback we've gotten, again, this space is difficult, because they want data, they haven't had access to data products product, people don't have access to it. And if they do, they have to wait a month for reporting that data stale. Or if they have access. It's too very rudimentary information. I think, you know, and what we've been trying to do and focusing on making data accessible, and also not only accessible but like telling a story. product doesn't want. There, it's complex, right? So I think what, what we've heard from everyone is that they almost it's like, they're thinking about it, someone is like an intern, right? It's kind of the automated mundane tasks again, bringing that back up, right. So whenever an intern would present data, they present the simplified data, but they want to be able to back it up and everyone universally Between Matt and my immune and myself, they've gotten feedback, that feedback has been, it can't be something where you're like, I'm 70% confident about this because without ultimate confidence, they will not act on it. Because their jobs are on the line, and they're the glue that holds the company together. And glue cannot be not confident it is going to hold together, like we need the Gorilla Glue, we need that gorilla glue to come in and hold it all together. And that requires confidence. And so that's kind of been the biggest feedback. And the most challenging feedback is, you know, we, in our previous iterations had a lot of assumptions and had a lot of, you know, we're 57% confident we're 80 something percent confident and like, at that point, all confidence is lost, because numbers are not what they need. They need us to deliver them the information in the facts.
Max Matson 15:47
Right. No. 100%. And that's a great point, right is, if you're 87% confident I'm 100% confident you don't have the right answer.
Rebecca Milazzo 15:56
87% confident I'm in love with you, brother, you know, what, what's,
Max Matson 16:01
what's this 13% sitting out no man's way. Nobody wants to hear that. Yeah, no, 100%. But that's, that's a great point. So that being said, you know, we have always said, like the ML space. Right. And I think that that's something just to give kind of the audience a little bit of background on. I think the one of the big directions that we're pushing in now is making that interface more recognizable, as far as like generative AI goes, right, like layering that on top of what we do. But we've always had machine learning under the hood being kind of the driver of these data insights. Do you feel that you know, so you sit on an in an in a really interesting place? Because you do UI UX, you're also like a brand designer, right? How do you infuse a brand into a product whose interface changes so wildly?
Rebecca Milazzo 16:52
It's funny, we actually had a talk about this last week, it's it's been a challenge right now, we even had a whole naming debacle and did a ton of user studies on that. And that was exciting and terrifying all at the same time. But I think the biggest thing that we've been focusing on right is just not losing our ICP, not losing who we're selling to. Because in the end, there are you know, there are some companies Koala and June, I think came out recently that are beautiful and playful. And we have these player icons made like over a year ago now because we have this idea of having characters come to life in our name is player zero, there is heavy in the fact that like something else is doing something for you before you so you have less work to do, right? Your player, when you're coming in, you're ready to play the game. So we have these player icons, we've been pushing for them pushing for them to give that personality and that charm, right, but remembering our icpe Getting back to who matters, and actually who is going to buy us to use us. Those quirky, fun, playful design choices and kind of that call in June moved into words are perfect for their ICP, but they're not perfect for ours. And so it's remembering that constantly because what we're doing is simple. Even though it seems complicated, right? Like we're merging tons of data, we're merging people data, removing merging ends, data, marketing, data, sales, data, success data. And so it's a lot of different personalities coming into one space, it needs to be clean, it needs to be delivered with confidence, and it needs to be delivered to where it's accessible for all. And now more than ever, accessibility and clean design has been such a focus. You know, we have some kind of mentors that have been involved in Vercel
And I think they're a beautiful example of a tool, even though it's heavy in the edge space. It's the leaders of a company that buy into oversell and buy into their whole movement. And their design absolutely emulates that persona, because it's it's clean, it's sleek, it looks rich and expensive, because it's so clean and sleek. And like I talked about earlier, right, like good design looks like somebody did it overnight. But it actually took them longer than anybody else who even made beautiful icons and characters and personas. So that's been a really exciting thing for, you know, automation AI to have conversations about recently. And just not trying to like, you know, this, especially with a conversational bot, right. You're trying to humanize it. You're trying to give it a character you're trying, you know, we talked about naming. Is that important? Do you want it to have a name? Does naming it give it this weird personality in which there may be mistrust because it's more of unified, Humana fide? I don't know. Whatever that word. Yeah, so there's there's a lot of challenges when it comes to the small nuances, but overall, right, like, AI is intimidating to everyone and especially people who are outside of more of the technical space, customer success, service marketing, things like that, right? Even myself, right as a product person. We're not in the end space. It's not normalized, right? Like our team has been working with machine learning for, you know, over five years now and this like there's they're second nature for them. But being careful that this really intimidating element of our product is friendly, but not like your best friend who then, you know, removes the seriousness of the data that we're providing.
Max Matson 20:14
Totally, totally. And you mentioned kind of making this usable for ICP, right? Which for us is people, right? How do you go about making something like players, you're usable for non technical people? Right? It seems almost counterintuitive.
Rebecca Milazzo 20:29
Yeah. So something, one of my first mentors, when she taught me that UI UX, she over killed the word simple human language, you know, it's not a single word, but she constantly would look at me like is that simple human language. And I was, I was just so I didn't understand I didn't understand until like, one day it hit. And, you know, I used to use a Hemingway editor on on Google. And I don't know if anyone else has used it. But it basically takes what you've written. And it tells you what grade level you've written that. And especially in advertising, it's really important that your grade levels really low, because then you can include everyone, I think the same thing applied for us is that just simple human language is is the way to make something universally acceptable. Because, you know, we came from a world of QA and technical, we were originally going to present to engineering. And so in our heads, it was always debugging, it was developer, like developer tools, console, data logs. And a lot of that has been just removing that from our language. Because debugging is a very technical word where you're problem solving, right? It's not something we problem solve things day to day, you know, we problem solve fixing things at home, we problem solve, you know, things with friends and families and whatever, right? So just always remembering to take a step back and consistently focus on simple human language is the only way because we are bridging so many different personalities, personas and types of language.
Max Matson 22:02
Yeah, you know, absolutely. I love that. It's like a simple human language can be applied both to the visual language and the written language that you use. Right. So I think that that's kind of what chat UBT why it was able to kind of Captivate so many people is that everybody's used a chat bot in the past, right, I think we've all been underwhelmed by chat bots and fast. And so to have an experience that's almost identical to that that only requires, you know, a written input that we're all familiar with, through the form of like texting with people, you're able to kind of demonstrate the value that this incredibly complex AI model has, in a way that's very intuitive. And understand easily understandable. Right? So you earlier you kind of mentioned, user feedback, right? And we had this pivot from engineering to product. Would you mind talking a little bit about how you got those kind of concrete? Feedback points from users?
Rebecca Milazzo 22:57
Yeah, so I think I can speak for the majority of us product people like to talk I think that's also wise, something like, I wasn't meant for the graphic design world, because a lot of people in the design world are more introverted, and there was something there was just missing was missing, people was missing talking. And so when we were in an engineering space, you know, I would DM people on LinkedIn and ask for feedback. And it was, it was a struggle it was. And also engineers, time is just so valuable that like, if there's no tit for tat, there's no like, they don't get anything from a conversation. When I was starting the day, I started messaging product, people on LinkedIn, you know, the Phantom Buster started turning and burning, and I got, I feel like immediate five people immediately. And I was just jumping for joy. And over I, you know, I probably had, since we pivoted in February, it was like I was hitting about, you know, two or three calls a week, just because it's not my primary role at the moment, and then they, they went up and started having like five or six calls, and each week, at least one person be like, wow, like, I'm so excited to reach out, like, I'm so happy to connect with other product person, because like everyone feels the need to connect.
So that's just been a really lovely change. And so like, you know, at the end, we're always a cave, you know, for need feedback, reach out, my team is always available and like, you know, giving them feedback on their product. But the general kind of, at first, it was just to kind of understand them. So it was a really awesome, exciting conversation that literally took every twist and turn. There were trends that, you know, we found, but it's more just to understand, like, different product people, its priorities, it really just depends on the company they were at. And so that was a difficult challenge for us to kind of circumvent right, is that? Do they care about issues and problem solving? Are they more focused on roadmapping? Are they focused on being the glue, right? There's all these like small nuances, but that was just kind of like an aggregating phase. And then almost right with an aggregating phase, and in there, one of them suggested this tool called fathom, and it's actually an AI tool and To record the videos and take notes. And so that was actually a really beautiful way for me to have better notes to have better intuition and feedback afterwards, because I didn't have to write down anything. I just have genuine conversations with these people. And products, people just, they just need help prioritizing and automating those mundane tasks, right? It was, they all universally whether or not they cared about bugs, whether or not they worked with service, whether or not they were a product owner, or you know, a leader of the company, or just a doer, the universal thing was just that, like, they weren't, they didn't have the tools to successfully do what they needed to do on a day to day, they were just doing their best and whether or not it was they had like one woman was like, I have no room for to take in any more tools. I'm on tool overload, and I'm getting nothing out of any of them. Okay. noted, understood. And then, you know, another person was like, No, we don't have to us because we like we can look at all of our users every single day. And I was like, No, that's also a perspective. And then they're obviously not solving world hunger. But like a tool being brought into a company is a bigger deal in some places. And so it was like the, you know, the politics of it. So it was a lot of learnings just around how they talked about their problem of prioritizing and getting the information that they needed. And then the path that they would take once they found something that would help them to integrate it in to bring it in, because it does cross so many boundaries and accompany was the biggest highlights for me.
Max Matson 26:35
That's awesome. Yeah, I feel like you do a very good job of this is going beyond kind of like the quantitative or constructive models of personas, right? Like, I'm glad that you talked about that process I talked about a little bit, in my episode with Matt is when we sat down with all those PMS, right. There's so much that we kind of put into our personas before meeting with them that once we actually got in the room with people, you start to see those assumptions fall apart, right? And you kind of build a much more robust actual picture of because everybody's real person. I mean, trying to construct models around people is typically a failing effort. But I feel like you're a person who's very skilled at being able to incorporate that feedback in a way that the qualitative model almost like lives in your head, right? Like earlier today, we're talking about a potential feature. And I think that scope creep, right, because you know, who the persona is, you know, what their day to day looks like, you know what the processes that they need made more efficient are? So I guess my question would be, what is kind of the secret magic behind being able to really embody that persona once you once you've done all these interviews, once you've kind of internalized the the needs?
Rebecca Milazzo 27:47
I think it's a lot easier for me today because again, I am I am they they are I, whatever that quote is from. So, you know, there's a lot of empathy I can give versus sympathy and fake empathy goes such a long way, when you are already in shoes, you don't have to understand how they feel. You know, but even when you take four steps back, and you know, I'm outside of player zero, and just focusing on the person, I think it is just remembering that they're a person, right. And you know, I my last job, a lot of the conversations is just sitting there and watching them try to do something and hearing their frustrations, and just taking it in and, you know, maybe even imagining will be like, Oh, how would I felt if that happened? Right? And it's creating the sympathy because it's not my shoes, and I could never understand. But, you know, overall of that I, I like to not assume I think that's something that I've really worked on it. It's something that I've pushed all of y'all like, you know, instead of answering a question like, Well, tell me why because it's easy to assume and move on in a conversation and you lose the connection that you could have gotten.
When you ask, Well, can you tell me a little bit more? Or why do you say that? Or, you know, those lows, leading questions that I know, every user researcher just thrives on asking you I went to the user testing conference, and there was a whole presentation about follow up questions and not ever answering questions, but doing in a way, gracefully, that doesn't make people angry that you've never answered them. But allowing somebody to sit on the truth and to think about why they asked something, and to give you the real reasons, does everything for me that you know, I don't get in just maybe a Google search on like, Why do product owners not use data tools, right? Like, it just there's so much more in that gray space that that allows me to handle? I think that's really what I find gives me the most sympathy and empathy in the end.
Max Matson 29:48
Would you say that those follow up questions and kind of the poking and prodding that comes after kind of what you have scripted is the main way that you're able to kind of go beyond, you know, like the template. Yeah,
Rebecca Milazzo 29:58
I'm probably gonna get in trouble from all the other user researchers out there, but I don't script anything, including this conversation. I really enjoy the natural, like fluid form of good conversation and it bites me in the butt. Often I will say like, there, there have been a lot of product conversations where somebody may have misunderstood what I asked, and then I can rein it back in, and that it's on me to grow and learn. I obviously like practice my pitch about the product and how we talk about it. And that may write it down for the first two weeks. But I think the best advice, you know, I used to talk to my interns about is, again, treat people like they're human. And when you do that you can have these natural conversations that are genuine, and it doesn't feel like you're pushing for something. And it also encourages curiosity. And like, Oh, tell me more like, are you telling me why you thought this? Oh, that's really interesting. I never even considered that. Versus like, feeling when you have a checklist and you or you have numbers or you have prompts. It's difficult, I think sometimes to not be like, Okay, well, I have to get this question in for the end of our conversation, and you end up cutting them off at a really beautiful moment. So there is a balance, I think I'm on the drastic opposite end of note taking and no bullet points and leading a conversation. So I think there's a special middle place. So please don't you know, take me, you know, hold like, wholeheartedly there. But the more fluid and genuine a conversation, I think the better I am able to grow and grow for player zero and understanding our ICP and what their actual needs are.
Max Matson 31:38
Yeah, yeah. No, that makes sense. I mean, it requires empathy. Right? I think that's the first step. Yeah, is to really step into that person's shoes. Because I think when you don't understand the question, having a more structured format, makes sense, right? Needed to validate assumptions, invalidate assumptions. But once you kind of have an idea for who the person is, you felt a little bit of their their pain, it's a lot easier to step into their shoes fully and actually just have a straight up person to person conversation. Yeah. Yeah. So that being said, you know, how do you go to bat for the user? When, when you're in, you know, these product discussions with engineers, with product people with marketing people with a whole mix of different folks. And
Rebecca Milazzo 32:19
player zero? No, you know, it's funny, I keep saying I use a product like I've written I use the product. And that is the problem that we are looking to solve, right is that? I think, in, you know, this space, you know, engineers are highly respected, and rightfully so they are the brain trust behind all the beautiful technology that we use every day. And designers, you know, have the vision and product people see such kind of big visions, and they oversee the journey of the vision. But sometimes they think because they are the glue, and because they're in so many different places at once. They don't have enough to arm them, right. So when we originally made player zero, there's, we were really focused on issues and problem solving and showcasing how many people were affected by a problem, right? So not all problems matter.
And not all bugs matter. That was kind of our mindset. And I referenced that because that alone, got everyone I talked to so hyped because you're like, oh, my gosh, I get to know if something matters or not. Because today, they try to go to bat to a problem. They're like, Oh, hey, we're really hyper focused on this other red handle issue for one of our high priority clients. And then, you know, CEO comes battering down the door, and they're like, this is on fire, we need to fix it now. Challenging, that is very difficult. And it's not encouraged all the time, right? Sometimes you just pass it and say, Okay, we'll fix it. But in the narrative and caring about the company, right, it's in everyone's best interest to arm me with the information, I need to make a better decision. And that's kind of everything we've been focusing on, and why I get so excited about being part of this team, because it's changing the way that I discuss about problems or solutions or truly anything. And it's no longer, you know, not getting on the defensive, you're not defending, but you having to arm yourself, we constantly talk about armament, you know, seeing that blast radius, seeing what, who's affected, what's affected. It's all that extra stuff you need before going into battle for the things that matter and the things that matter or your company and your or your team or you know, your core value props or your KPIs whatever you guys focus on, but it definitely yeah, it's, I'm stoked. Because that's changed me today. And what we have today data and it's absolutely gonna change tomorrow for me
Max Matson 34:41
know, right on. Yeah, I feel like, you know, being in kind of the startup setting, to kind of juxtapose with what we talked about at the beginning of this conversation is almost the only way that you can even come up with a solution like this, right? Because we have these conversations daily, where it's all of us together talking about the product talking about the direct shouldn. And that's something that you miss when different departments are in different floors, right? So building a solution that's able to bring those floors together really, ironically, can only come from a place where they're not separated in the first place. So that being said, what advice would you have for people who are maybe looking to join a startup looking to enter the space kind of based on your experience?
Rebecca Milazzo 35:23
This is endless. This is a whole other conversation right here. I surely did not know what I was getting into is exciting. But exciting was like the only thing I understood as if I said, New Orleans is not a really big tech hub. So I don't know, I didn't know anybody in startups, I didn't understand truly the sacrifices or fears, you know, that my parents are instilling like, oh, you sure you know. But I think the biggest piece of advice we talked about this a lot is just is is it's it holds in startups as it holds in large companies is to not be married to an idea. And it's the most incredible advice I've ever been given as a designer, as a US UX researcher, as an experience kind of like path, you know, creator. Because I think the moment that you get attached to an idea, you kind of put blinders on from seeing the bigger picture from seeing other ideas.
So, you know, I told you, we started off as a QA tool, and then we pivoted to being a more like automated testing tool. And then we pivoted to, you know, being an issue incident management tool. And then we pivoted to being a JIRA search integration tool to now where we are today, right. And, and it sounds like a really long journey. But our our problem solving space was never lost, we just were finding that the problem wasn't actually the problem, it was there was something deeper, there's something more rudimentary or, you know, fundamental. And so, you know, not being married to an idea is such a critical thing, because all of us have beautiful ideas, and the company has been six of us, we go back and forth every day. And we're not afraid to challenge one another. It's not taken as offensive, it's not taken as disrespectful, obviously, presented correctly. It's taken, as you know, just deepening our understanding and trying to open up our eyes more. So I think that would be my greatest piece of advice for anyone in any space, even just not even startups, and then also just believe in it. Right? I think often we talk about, you know, I left my very comfortable job, you know, that was a guarantee for startup. And, you know, we're like kind of why what like what what got in like, believing in automatic and his energy. And I think carrying the energy is critical, because there are ups and our downs are a low points there SVB market crashes, there are, you know, recession, or pandemics, we've kind of been through player zero through them all. And it's one of those things where like, you could absolutely just be like, pummeled to the ground with despair and fear.
But I don't think that any of us let thoughts that moment last for too long. I think we processed it, we didn't put it in a box and shove it away. Because our energy, but we believe in it. And I think if you cannot believe in the product that you're building at a startup, you should find another startup. Because that energy is contagious. In both ways. If you are negative about it, if you do not believe in it, it is immediately felt by your team members. We have not had that, thankfully. But I've definitely met other people and who literally kind of have lost the thrill. And also the success of the company requires just, you know, people with the halo without a doubt will go to bat for it. Because in these products, conversations, especially if if if I don't radiate passion about our tool, like why are they going to give me feedback about it? Why are they wait, they're gonna waste their time that's just absolutely not respectful on either of our points. I think those are the two biggest learnings for me, and then just be open to learn. I feel like we all wear 18 hats as does everyone in a startup. And if you're not prepared to wear 18 hats, go to an enterprise because there are you know, I know some people who work in different kinds of big enterprise companies and they love the one Heartland you know, you pick your hat, you wear it confidently, maybe everyday is not stressful, maybe it's really cushy. That is a oral that is not a world that I enjoy. But that is a very different world that you're not really exposed to in college, right? You're not exposed to you're gonna be asked to do QA while you're doing design because there's a pandemic figured out.
Max Matson 39:30
No, that's exactly right. And I think the kind of the ad agencies setting is a good one to kind of compare and contrast against right because that is very much a world in which the goal is to build playbooks, right playbooks that are replicable across different clients so that you can provide one uniform product, right? Whereas what we do and like you said, touching kind of like every different department on a given day, in order to find kind of innovative solutions, kind of the opposite of building you know, that consistent constant roadmap. Now obviously, as we matures, things will become more standardized people will fall more into their departments, right. But these are definitely like the Wild West days, I would say. And that's something that anybody who's joining a startup needs to be prepared for.
Rebecca Milazzo 40:14
Yeah, there's a lot of horse bucking, it almost feels like you know, we're in a ring, and it's just constantly trying to throw us off sometimes, and we have to get really good at it. There are times when you fall just have to get back up. But the Wild West is a beautiful comparison. And it's not for everyone.
Max Matson 40:28
No, exactly. Definitely not. I would agree with that. I would agree yet. So let's touch a little bit more on specifically some of the pain points that come with being at a startup, right? You and I had kind of like this, this product offering def reports, right? That, I think is quite a good product. And it's very useful for us internally. And it's still a core component of the product, but we had kind of a different idea for how it was going to function for a while. And I know that for both of us seeing that need to go away in favor of kind of a different direction was was painful and one of those pivots. Right? So how do you take something like that, you know, that you've put a lot of time into a lot of work into, and, you know, be able to come back to work the next day with a smile on your face excited for kind of the new direction?
Rebecca Milazzo 41:20
Yeah, I honestly, Dev reports was my baby. Yes, still is my baby. She's still exists. I still use her daily. But I think, you know, the thing is, it's it goes to my being married concept. earlier comment is, you can't be married to an idea it there. We've had so many good ideas. We honestly Matt and I were talking the other day. And we've had, I want to say confidently two products now that we could have launched and been successful with. But as you know, we talked about how disruptive AI has been to the world, right? That ability, the agility to be quick and iterative and dynamic is so critical to our success, that I can't be married to death reports, it's a beautiful tool, it is a tool that will bring someone Joy someday, if another company makes it more power to them, I will still continue to QA with it, because it is lovely. But I think, honestly, you know, looking back, the funeral we had was needed because today, AI is again changing it right there is better ways to tell a data story. There are better ways to data stories around things like dev reports, and user journeys.
And, you know, we can deliver the console and network dev tools and all that and the storage to a as a report. But there is a more palatable manner to deliver that or upload it or detect it. And you know, I think our mindset around that entire product would be so different if we built it today. Especially because our user base is so diverse now and changing and we're wanting to make data accessible to everyone. Yeah, it's, it was a tragic loss. But shoot, it was for the best. And you know, it, it happens. And we've I've now more than two, five products that we've fully built and really kind of pivoted on. And every time in the moment, there's a couple of days where I'm like, Man, can I do this again? Right. And then we wake up and we have like, a really there's one good product conversation that we have. I think mine happened about a week ago with Ana mash, and just talking about the excitement behind AI. Obviously, the fears are still prevalent for me. But I did my research, I did my due diligence. And so it's easy to get over that morning quick. When you're like, Okay, I can see that we're not just following the new shiny thing. We are still focused on problem solving and finding our mode and finding our value. This new tech is just helping us solve these problems that we were kind of patchworking are banding together before. Yeah, absolutely.
Max Matson 43:57
Absolutely. No, I love that point. So I think that's actually it's a great segue, because one thing that you mentioned earlier is kind of having faith in the founder, right? And having run your own thing as I have in the past as well. I do think it gives you almost a different vantage point into that, right? Because when you're touching every aspect of a business, it it is a fundamentally different experience than kind of even us who touch a lot of different aspects, different departments within a day to day. I feel like you know, if you're at a startup, and you've lost that confidence in a founder, that's that's the breaking point. Right? That's the one insurmountable. So doing that due diligence, every time that there is a pivot, there is a change something that isn't fully understood to understand where where, you know, the founders coming from, I think is incredibly important, right?
Rebecca Milazzo 44:51
Yeah, so I think I'm the only remote worker of the team right now. And that has been my biggest challenge. So outside of pivoting and things, it's, you know, you miss those in office conversations. And you kind of have to be a little bit more intrusive and message and paying and keep going. But something that I've learned with so many pivots that we've had is just how to do that gracefully. I will pester, I will send zoom calls, I will add things to the calendar, because the moment you fall behind behind the narrative is the moment that you feel like you're on an island. And they're like remote work isn't shouldn't be my demise when it comes to the story and understand the story of storytelling and believing and Animesh. But it is a hurdle. And so just kind of gracefully navigating those two weeks of just kind of regrouping and re understanding. And making sure that I don't stay on the island is has been really important for me.
And then you know, just asking questions, like I said, you know, we talked about not being afraid to change and in our conversation earlier today, right, like, I only heard parts of it, and I needed to understand better and so just like, hey, this sounds like scope creep, can you tell me more because I want to understand, it's not like I'm your curb stopping something. But you're also just really focused on understanding more and more and more, because the way that you think about, it's different the way that I think about it, and so on. So that's kind of the biggest way that I've been staying, you know, on ground with with our founder. And, you know, after this many times, we better be damn good at it. But it's hard. It's always hard, because you think the last time is the last time and then you're like, Okay, I don't have to do this again. It's exhausting. And you know, it's funny this week, I think it came into the office. And this is this is the week where I've been re energized, I've understood the problem, I've been working on the solution space, or I've understood the problem to the best of my ability, while we kind of developed the zero to one foundation of of our tool, but the now now's the uphill excitement that we just need to keep going.
Max Matson 46:56
Totally, totally. So kind of given that, you know, this is an AI tool and the the kind of insane pace that AI is moving. How are you thinking about building a tool that's going to address the needs of people, you know, six months, a year, two years from now, as opposed to just today just right, because we know that the solution today is different from what one coming tomorrow, what AI
Rebecca Milazzo 47:19
is going to take over the world by then. So it really doesn't matter. No. So that six to six months is probably as far in my brain as we're working just because you know, even yesterday, open AI just released some really rad new tool that's really helping our innovation for this next release. But you know, I mean, a year honestly, too, but it's, I think just trying to be an innovator, but not disrupting right. So we're trying to think about the problem, the problem hasn't changed, we've been thinking about the same problem. We've been trying to innovate for this problem for four years now for you know, there was this weird, we always used to reference it as the game of telephone early on. So product people and engineering played a game of telephone. And obviously, that's the worst game in the whole world. Because by the end, you're saying potatoes when we started off with grapes. And so we were trying to alleviate that pain. And, you know, the problem that we're solving today is the same problem is that there is a game of telephone, but it just extended so much more across the company than we even believed we could solve for. So I think that's the important thing is that we, you know, we didn't want to scope creep, we don't want to stretch out everywhere and say we can solve world hunger. But now with AI, we are able to.
So I've firmly believed that this problem will still be a problem at companies have because we've talked to startups, we've talked to enterprises, and no matter the size, or how many people it is really difficult to speak the same language, it's difficult to get the right information at the right time. And it's difficult to keep people at the forefront of everyone's minds, right. Yeah. And so as we build, you know, we talk about our moat, that thing that makes us really, really special, creating, you know, an understanding of users creating an understanding of the status space and what we can present, just never forgetting that we are solving for the problem of telephone. Because as long as humans are involved, humans will speak a different language. And I think that's why the AI movement and the path that was taking rapidly isn't as terrifying to me. As for our specific product, as it could be for other industries, because the data industry is just changing as a whole. But our problem still persists. Even if people move to data warehousing or people move to different data models, behind the scenes, instead of just classic SAS like websites, there will still be a communication issue. So I think, you know, forever like all of us, it's just remembering your ICP, remembering the value and making sure that your value still holds. And it has been which is, you know, pretty cool for us. Being in this position.
Max Matson 49:59
Yeah. Yeah, no, absolutely. So that's super interesting. So there's both like this iterative mindset in the way that we approach the problem, the interface for the problem. How do you see your role changing, you know, in UI UX as AI? Because right, that's the other side of this is that while we're innovating and trying to build new products that disrupt people, they're also building products that disrupt us constantly. Right? So we've talked a little bit about how like product management is being bolstered and kind of made Superhuman by AI tooling. What do you see is kind of the path for UI UX designers in kind of taking that next step with AI tooling to be that much more productive.
Rebecca Milazzo 50:40
Yeah, so something that's exciting, I think, you know, you talk to people who are, like, really upset about the AI movement, because they're gonna get replaced at your quote. And you know, in early conversations, actually, because we are a machine learning tool before open AI really was pushed, people even responded with well, we don't want to replace our QA. And there's always this fear of replacement. And from a UI UX perspective, right? You have mid journey making icons, and you have mid journey, making wireframes or iterating, wireframes, or getting, you know, all these different design elements. And then from a UX perspective, right, it's, it's researching, competitor analysis, and the USP and all this data that that you're able to get but what's exciting, I think that everyone needs to remember outset and even like designers, you know, you as a as our kind of like marketing comms grew is that, like, the job we know, today, is obviously not going to be here. And now I don't know, sort of soon. Which is just scary from like, this comfort standpoint, because I personally don't like change.
As one of my, you know, things I'm very aware of, I just don't appreciate having to pivot quick. But what is exciting is that, we will be able to focus on the things that really matter, right, and the things that excite us. And having these user conversations that are really personal that no AI bot can have, what an AI can do is get that quick USP or competitor analysis for me and like mass data quantities, and do the grunt work. And I think while you know, on the days that I'm doing grunt work, I'm not able to have that empathy as much, or I'm not able to really process what I'm learning. And so it can help us take the like, you know, categorizing user behaviors and predicting future behaviors, right? When we're roadmapping, or planning projects, you know, taking out insights from all of the user data, all of those things that quite frankly, are tedious. And to me, it takes that away from me, it makes me a better designer, because now I'm just drowning in beautiful insights that I didn't have before because I didn't have the time and allow me to make better experiences, better decisions, have better conversations, better planning. As long as I'm kind of keeping that mindset, and I think what will be important, is utilizing the tools to the best of my ability to get those kind of large volume jobs done. That, you know, maybe I wasn't even doing before, right? So knowing that it's available for me knowing I can optimize my job. And then redefining what I want to do and what I want to be as a leader in the design space in the experience space.
Max Matson 53:28
No, absolutely. So it sounds like you know, if you are in a role, right? Augmenting yourself to the best of your ability is thinking about, like, what's to come and where the gaps are in your own workflows in order to make yourself that much more productive, basically, replacing the work that your intern would do right. Now, I have a slightly trickier question, which I have been asked before, which is, what about the new UX designer? Somebody who is just coming out of university? Would you have any kind of recommendations for them if their complaint would be? Well, all that grunt work that you're describing is how I would have gotten my, my first job, right?
Rebecca Milazzo 54:07
Yeah, it's so I think, with with graphic design, right, it's easy to be outshine by the new, frilly designer who's just really, really creative, right? And that was kind of something I never claimed to be the best designer but I am damn good at communicating and planning and, you know, you kind of that T person makes up for, you know, not being perfect at the top with like all of the subsequent things below. But I think the new designers need to just be proficient in kind of this data exploration, right. So they're kind of while that's there in to the industry. That's also kind of those things that now I'm adjusting to learning and processing data to find new innovative ways. And so now, right, like, we're just skipping some steps, but they need to be comfortable with data they need to be comfortable with, with insights and being able to parse through them and getting their hands on an earlier versus that slow pace. So I think, kind of talking in a big circle, if I were a designer coming into this space today, you think you're immediately gonna be given wireframe jobs, or we're going to be given kind of insight jobs to figure out what's going on, right? And what I imagined pivoting is that data, those insights will be given to you. You just need to make better design decisions based off those insights and not just kind of go off of an island and be like, Well, I'm the creative here, I'm just going to do something fun and playful. Right? So because that's the hardest thing, I think every time you know, you're teaching an intern or teaching somebody who may be more junior, it's like breaking that mindset of making things pretty, and making sure you emphasize, they're handed the empathy, or they're handed the ability to empathize with AI. It's taking action based off of that, that's going to be the big change.
Max Matson 55:50
I see. Yeah. And adopting kind of that empathetic mindset in the first place. Right. And just constantly looking at yourself as an ongoing project. I think that that's, that's kind of the the big takeaways, right?
Rebecca Milazzo 56:01
Yeah, cuz as a single person in college, right, you can't aggregate a lot of data, you can hold a small group study, you can do research, you know, for a year and have tons of interviews. But if it's about something you created, or something you made up, it's not the real world. And if it is, it's something smaller, right. But when you come to a bigger job, there's, you haven't had the ability to process that much data and really empathize with users, as you should have the ability to I think a lot of UI UX people come in and learn on the job. And so it's more of just like, diving in. Yeah.
Max Matson 56:38
Yeah, no, 100%, being open minded, being ready to push yourself. Now I so we're getting a little close to time, but I've got a couple more questions for you. The first one being, if you were, you know, a product leader or founder at a company who's looking to hire that first UI UX person, what are the traits that you would look for?
Rebecca Milazzo 57:00
That's hard to do, I think it depends on if the founder is kind of a big thinker, or not something that we have been blessed with is a founder who has really incredible vision and is has the ability to think big, you know, we talk a lot about that zero to one, and he loves that space, where like, you know, I absolutely feel confident, incredibly comfortable from that one to 100. Because I can do interviews and research and things like that. So I think if the founders looking for, in, they don't have that big picture mindset, somebody with a ton more experience. Somebody who's had experience in different types of companies, I think, is really important. Because without that, they don't necessarily know the right questions to ask for that big picture. Right? It's easy to it's easy to find the small things, you know, like, how can we solve this singular problem or how, but thinking about that moat, thinking about the big picture is difficult if you haven't seen that apply to a few different industries and a few different stories. But if you are a big picture thinker, I think you kind of open yourself up to somebody who, you know, could be not necessarily Junior, but you know, more kind of mid level senior UI UX with a duality, or that they can both design and do user interviews. That just kind of begins to bring that empathy and right, because you can dream big, but people are still at the core. And you know, a lot of times founders don't have time for those conversations continuously, right? And so it's your job to confidently provide the data at that point, right about this, those in person conversations. To arm that founder with the knowledge that they need. So they don't You don't necessarily, I wouldn't say need as much experience over vast amounts of industries, as much as you do just having incredible conversations and getting insights based off of somebody else's vision. So the ability to kind of remove yourself from that and just take the time to understand your founders vision.
Max Matson 59:00
Right on. That's great answer. All right. So my last question for you. This is a real spicy one is what is your biggest hot take on AI tech, UI, UX, whatever you'd like to lay out?
Rebecca Milazzo 59:17
Can you give me the definition of hot take before?
Max Matson 59:20
Something contrary to popular opinion? Yeah.
Rebecca Milazzo 59:23
So I'm kind of leaning on the the idea for UI UX specifically. There's so much revolving around process and it's actually something that I've been really working on since I joined players are right, especially at startups, there's not enough time for process per se. Right. So the thing the biggest hot take for that, right is that iteration doesn't need to happen before, you know Dev, or you know, it doesn't have to, your hypotheses don't have to be polished. But as long as you maintain the nightmare Right to the solution, right. So I think for me coming in somebody who wanted to follow the processes wanted to set up structure wanted to make sure that we QA for X amount of hours before we went out to prod, being able to kind of let go and, and just kind of see the process through has been invigorating because it just allows you to, you know, get out there fail and fail harder and fail faster. So I don't know, necessarily heartache as it isn't much for people in startups just like reversing the mindset that's been drilled into us for so long of like, you need to make sure that it's tested because it's like, it's, you know, if it goes out to users broken, it's the end of the world. But people are gentle and people are patient as long as you are gentle and patient with them. So the thing that's my biggest learning personally, that's become a hot topic. Right? Um, that's a good one.
Max Matson 1:00:58
Well, Rebecca, this has been so much fun. I really appreciate you joining me. Any you know, let people know where they can find you. Follow you your riveting follow
Rebecca Milazzo 1:01:07
on out the tweeters not for me, I'm sorry. I'm on LinkedIn. Definitely kind of building my community. They're focusing on that since that's kind of been my main linkage to products people. But yeah, so connect with me on Twitter, Rebecca Milazzo. You know, other than that, I don't really use social media much because I'm on my computer all day and there's time to step away and it's after work. Yeah, thank you. This is this is awesome.
Max Matson 1:01:32
Ya know, a ton of fun. Well, thank you, Rebecca. Appreciate it.
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