Office Hours: I'm the director of design at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and previously led design at Foundation Medicine and MIT.Featured

Hi Elpha!I’m Catherine Winfield, the Director of Design at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, where I lead a team of product designers, systems designers, user researchers, and content strategists to create tools for educators that enable them to better engage students and achieve whole child outcomes.Before joining CZI in 2018, I was the Director of Experience Design at Foundation Medicine for 3 years, where I founded and built design as a practice and team. I oversaw the redesign of our patient diagnostic reports, launched a new genomic platform for expediting drug development, and led a patient-centric rebrand of the company. Prior to that I was the design lead at a small cardiology startup called Quanttus, rethinking cardiology care through wearables. I was also the Creative Director at the Design Lab at MIT, a boutique design research lab that I returned to after my graduate degree. I discovered product design through a love for architecture. I entered the field of architecture fascinated by studies that showed student test scores increased when classrooms had access to natural light and patient readmission rates dropped when rooms were designed to be more residential than sterile. I realized that more opportunities for this type of work live in product design where human-centric processes are already industry standard and patient/student outcomes drive business decisions. Ask me about starting or scaling teams from scratch, managing and leading resilient design teams, designing great experiences in healthcare and education, and more!
Thanks so much for joining us @winfieldc!Elphas – please ask @winfieldc your questions before Friday, June 25th. @winfieldc may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Thanks so much for having me Elpha! It was a real pleasure to connect with this community!
Hi @winfieldc Catherine, thanks for offering your time to share your exciting path. I would like to ask you how can I break into the "Instructional Design" world, which seems to relate to your experience? I have worked in tech for over 10 years, on the business side - sales, business dev, marketing, partnerships. Now I am considering building a path towards "Learning Content Creator" "Learning Experience Designer" "Instructional Design". My drive is to have an impact in education and healthcare (through education), using technology. I have a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration, and an MBA. I am planning to get a business job in edtech in the next few months, but want to start now building a path towards the new role. I believe skills are transferable but the industry is not there and everybody ask to have at least 2-3 years experience. What is the one thing you would recommend to start? Thank you.
Hi!I think many of my answers to the below question could help you but your specific intended path is unique. In addition to what I offered below I would also suggest seeking out contract positions. The reason for this is that Learning Content and Design roles are newer in the tech industry than some of their Product Design or Content Strategy counterparts. Meaning there are more people pursuing even fewer roles. Therefore freelancing and taking on contract positions gives you an opportunity to build your skills, resume and portfolio more easily. To find contract positions at large companies find out who their contract employment and sourcing agency is, this information is usually easily found in a LinkedIn search. Then pursue open roles at that agency since larger tech companies do not typically post contract roles on their website.
Thank you @winfieldc, I hear you loud and strong, "building your portfolio" even if outside of your formal work stream. Thanks for your insights. Patty.
@winfieldc Thanks for your time!I’m an early stage founder of CurieDx. We help telehealth users with point of care medical tests using photos uploaded by patients. When I am ready to look for a design lead for our UX/UI, especially the patient facing side, what are key characteristics I should look for in that hire? What traits have you seen work best for developing patient/healthcare oriented medical devices or tests?How might these traits (or skill set or prior experience) be different from someone who has done design in other industries?Thanks!
Great question! This was a heavily discussed topic at my last role. I believe that (especially in telehealth) you should not pursue designers who have too much healthcare experience. They may seem like great fits because they already know the lingo but they may not bring something new to your product. Patient/customer satisfaction is really important in telehealth and it does drive business decisions so you want someone who will help you challenge the rest of the organization to think about the patience experience differently. Balance that with your other role requirements of course, but having someone who will push you further will help you deliver an innovative product to patients. Otherwise, I believe many of the same standard traits and skills apply across industries.Lastly, consider hiring a user researcher before a designer. It's never too early to start incorporating patient/customer insights into your work!
Thanks so much @winfieldc! I hadn’t heard of user researchers before , sounds like a great idea!
@winfieldc Hi Catherine, Thank you for sharing your story! Similar to @patriciapalacios I'm also an MBA and from a business and marketing background. I've always been very interested in the business design and experience design fields and think my background matches the work but I have been having trouble finding companies that have these roles defined. What would you think are good starting points or keywords I should be looking into for roles in this field if I have no traditional design or architectural background? I would also love to do more creative work, do you think some education in more traditional design disciplines is a must? Thank you!
Hi Catherine, thank you so much for doing this! The UI/UX and product design space feels a bit hard to break into because a lot of entry level jobs ask for 2+ years of experience. Do you have any recommendations for breaking into this space?For some background – I did a ton of webdesign in high school and originally went to college for that. After my freshman year, I discovered filmmaking and decided to pursue that instead. Flash forward to 7yrs after graduation and working in the film industry on set (camera dept), I was burned out and wanted to work in an office. Got a job as a Customer Support Manager for a tech company that makes products for filmmakers + photographers. After 4yrs at that company, I became incredibly interested in UI/UX design. I started doing our app designs 2 months ago and am currently doing customer research and interviews. My job title is still Customer Support Manager, but I was thinking I should have my boss change it after I have maybe 3 months or so under my belt. No formal training in the UI/UX space other than watching informative videos online and reading articles on top design websites.
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Hi! I love this question and there are a few approaches that might help you. 1. First make sure your portfolio is always up to date and robust. In most design organizations portfolios speak louder than resumes. The work doesn't always have to be at your job. Volunteer work or practice design exercises give hiring managers a sense of your skills despite formal years of experience. 2. If you are considering a position change within your current role you should ask your manager about apprenticeship models. Many tech companies are now offering strong on the job training and support in the form of apprenticeships. These models allow you to try a new position while picking up real practice projects and include additional training and professional development support. 3. Make sure your resume reflects your work. Meaning you don't always have to organize your experience by title, organize it by your experience. If you are conducting UX work from a customer service role, lead with that. It is relevant experience for the roles you are interested in!
Thank you very much for joining us @winfieldc. What would you say are the major differences in going from 0 to 1 (starting teams from scratch) vs. scaling from 1 (scaling teams)?
What a great question!The short answer is that where you choose to spend your time and who you need to hire is very different. First, in building teams from scratch (0 to 1) you need to be focused on speed of impact. What will get the greatest impact out the door as quickly as possible? To do this you need generalists and you yourself may even need to step in as an IC. You are managing for completion of meaningful quality work with real resourcing and time trade offs. It likely won't make sense to hire specialists and you will need to find designers who can research and researchers who can design. It's fast, messy, and fun!Second, in scaling teams 1+ it's a very different state of mind. You need to think about sustainability, maintainability, and scaling process. You need to invest in a design system (hopefully you put in some foundation already), you need to think about common processes across the team, and culture as an organized entity vs a grass roots energy becomes more important. You will likely start to hire individuals with very specific skills that match your work. Collaboration norms need to be solidified with cross-functional partners such as engineering and product. You also need to invest in robust career ladders and professional development so teams have clear growth trajectories. It generally moves a little slower due its increasing complexity but is so rewarding. Lastly, as a leader it's important to name for yourself and your team that what got you from 0 to 1 successfully will not be the same skills you need to go from 1 onward. Resiliency and flexibility is key and growing pains are totally natural!
Hi @winfieldc, thanks for joining us! I am very curious about how design works.Where do you get your inspiration for your design and design directionHow do you design for the whole child; andHow does your design differ across the different organizations you work for?
Hi!I believe design is a tool for solving complex problems which means I derive my inspiration from the constraints of the problem. This can come from the humans I and my team designs for or it can come from analogous industries. I find design analogies to be immensely helpful in unsticking tricky problems. It's rare that you might design something that has no relevant parallels so I love pulling examples from other industries that have tried to solve a similar problem. In terms of how this then differs in each organization - if you are pulling contextual inspiration from the problem you are solving the inspiration is different each time. In the example of whole child then it's important to spend time with the students you are designing for and their caregivers so that you can pull inspiration from the full landscape of adults and systems that influence their lives.