This week’s profile features an interview with Kelley McClure. She grew up in Asheville, NC and went to NC State University before working and saving to move to New York City in early spring 2012. I remember hearing about her doing this. My younger introverted cousin had spread her wings and I was so impressed. We all were. She was doing great work and coming out of her shell with so much creativity and drive in college so she took it all the way to NYC.
- Kelley, we’ve never gotten to talk too much about your path although I’ve certainly heard pieces over the years. What did you want to be when you “grew up” and how has that evolved?
I always wanted to be an artist. I didn’t know any of the details, I just knew I wanted to be a person who “draws stuff.” That was pretty consistent up until high school when I realized that doing art for a living wasn’t going to work for me. I was only interested in drawing comic-style characters yet not interested in drawing comics, if that makes sense. Art class became less exciting. I was gradually becoming more interested in layout design while working on the school newspaper, which was a hugely influential part of my life. My journalism teacher recommended looking into graphic design programs, and from there I took a chance on a user interface (UI) design job, which is where I am today.
- So, you made it to NYC. What do you do in your “day job” now and why have you chosen that?
As a UI designer for a major corporation, DIRECTV which has become AT&T, I am part of a team that creates digital products that touch millions of users. I specifically work on the visual interface of websites and apps. That’s not what I was planning when I moved to NYC. It was hard to find entry-level print design jobs, so I took a chance on this UI design position despite not having much confidence in that area. It’s been a great experience for me, so I’m choosing to forward my career down that path.
- Wow! You took quite a chance in the UI design position. So, what have been your best sources for learning?
Professionally, most of my learning comes from my co-workers. I learn from their past experiences, and I often find new resources via their recommendations. On my own, I can learn a lot as a UI designer by interacting with other products that are known for good user experience and/or visual design. I also read a lot of articles. Smashing Magazine is a great resource for people in my field.
- I’ve been so impressed with how you’ve been bold with things, often more bold than we thought you would be. How happy have you been with your choices along the way?
I’m happy with where I am in my life right now, and I don’t feel like I’ve had too many tough choices or made any “wrong” decisions. There are a few things that I know I want to do in the future that are going to be tough, but my experience so far tells me I’ll make it all right.
- This is my bold question: what advantages, barriers, and motivators have you observed for women?
There are obviously still many barriers for women in life and the workplace. I’m fortunate to not have experienced any active discrimination at work. I fall into the category of women who don’t speak up as much, though it’s also part of my introverted personality. Employers should pay more attention to introverts in general anyway.
In terms of advantages and motivators, I’m a fan of any groups that promote skills for women and girls in any area. There are some good camps for girls who want to be web developers, and I wish I’d had access to one earlier. I think most people are just happy to be taken seriously and listened to, so finding a place where there are people who do that for you unconditionally is already a great motivator.
- That’s pretty cool. What is your passion and why is it important to you?
Through my work, I’ve developed a passion for creating fun, seamless experiences for people through design. Something like paying your bill online doesn’t need to be boring and tedious; I believe even that experience can be relatively enjoyable. Ideally, I’d like to apply these skills to a product or service that people really need, but I’m happy if it’s just for entertainment, as we all need that too! Recently, I’m doing everything I can to learn how to design great things that are also accessibility friendly, and I’m challenging my peers to do the same.
- What do you devote your time to “outside of work?”
I consume entertainment! Specifically movies and video games. I read books too, but I probably buy more than I can finish in a realistic timeframe. Lately, I’ve been watching movies I haven’t seen in years for the nostalgia. As for video games, I mostly enjoy RPGs that take a lot of time to complete and are great for playing multiple times.
- How do you feel most inspired?
I think I’m most inspired by people who are subject matter experts, or anyone who’s simply great at one or many subjects. I want to be able to say I know a lot about one or many things, which is what drives me to learn about or do a particular thing.
- What causes or organizations are you most passionate about?
I’m passionate about a variety of causes, but one particular organization that stands out to me the most is UltraViolet. They are an anti-sexism organization that is notable for being highly intersectional. They really impressed me with their power and ability to “get things done,” as well as their professionalism and inclusiveness.
- Finally, who do you look up to most?
My parents are my biggest influences, personally. I go to them for any kind of advice. Professionally, I look up to my peers most of all. I think it’s because I’m working closely alongside them that I feel more inspired by their advice and achievements. Jessica Hische is a great artist and designer who influenced me during college, though she’s not someone I know personally. She does tons of work and obviously loves it, as her work seems to be a part of her everyday life.
Awwww, yeah, I love Kelley’s parents too.
Thanks for reading Kelley’s story. Share in the comments how it impacted you or share it on social media. Check out next week’s weekly post on Women & the Ways We Work. Missed the others? Take a look at my blog to read the others. Know someone you think should be featured? Can I help you or your organization with a storytelling project? Contact me and let’s chat.