Designers, Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Ashlee Mckay, Product Designer at Zibbet

June 15, 2019

Ashlee Mckay is a Product Designer at Zibbet, a marketplace platform providing artists, crafters and vintage collectors with custom, e-commerce tools.

In her role, Ashlee is responsible for creating user journeys, leading visual designs, branding, and countless illustrations across Zibbet’s umbrella of products.

Balance the Grind spoke to Ashlee about her passion for design, a typical day in her life, side hustles & freelancing, disconnecting from social media and more.

This conversation is brought to you by Teachable, a powerful yet simple all-in-one platform to create and sell beautiful online courses.

1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your background and career?

I grew up with a passion for making things. My next door neighbor’s mom back in Canada (where I grew up) was a fashion designer/seamstress.

I spent countless hours watching her Mom construct clothing. She would let me help and even use the smaller machines on my own.

I went on to graduate high school and studied Fashion design, and later Fashion Merchandising. After graduating, although I loved design I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.

I worked as a Visual merchandiser but was still not content so I decided to quit my 9-5 to travel the world.

After landing in Sydney I immediately knew I did not want to leave. I got a job doing online e-commerce merchandise planning.

I used software that created a lot of friction while planning and always thought there should be a better way.

I would imagine how this software would look and how it would streamline my daily tasks, but I had no idea that was product design, or how I could get into that field.

After two years with the persuasion to follow my dreams from my husband I decided to leave merchandising behind and to study Product design focusing on User interface design, branding, and illustrations.

Things fell into place after I landed my first role as an intern for a children’s homewares company called Sackme! Now I work full- time in my dream career and on top of that I design and manage an app with my husband.

I am also in the process of launching my online digital print shop, as well as diving into the creative market world designing and selling assets, as well as template packs.

On top of that I take on freelance jobs (most of these are illustrations and marketing focused).

2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?

My current role is on the product design team at Zibbet, a platform for artists and crafters to sell their handmade goods.

We have just launched an inventory management system to help creative entrepreneurs sell across multiple marketplaces with less friction and manage everything from one place.

On a daily basis it ranges two days are hardly alike. One day I might be designing a concept for a new marketplace, the next I might be working with the team on a new onboarding strategy, and the next crafting an illustration library or designing a set of new icons.

3) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Hmm, I’m sure most people would glam this up but honestly, a day in the life is sleeping in past my 6:00 am alarm, waking up and watching way too many animal videos on my facebook feed while I contemplate getting out of bed.

I am normally ready by 7:30 am after that I feed and take my two dogs outside, then I come back in and get my things ready for work, and head off.

It’s been on my bucket list to add more productivity to my mornings but being honest I am not a morning person and I am not even truly awake until 9 am when I walk into the office that’s when I turn off autopilot and start my day.

First, it’s usually a catch up with various team members depending on the project. Then I check my tasks in Asana and start mapping out my day, and get straight into it.

When lunch time comes around I normally head to the gym for a yoga or barre class and head back into the office where I catch up on reading while I quickly eat my lunch.

After that some days we have meetings but normally it’s just back to work fleshing out designs, or collaborating on projects with my other team members.

After work, I normally come home and cook dinner then get back to work either creating digital Art to sell online or working with my husband Andrew on an app we launched called Friendly.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you prioritize your workload?

For me, a good old list always does the trick I like to make sticky notes and stick them to my monitor so I know how many things I need to tackle before the end of the day and physically crossing them out keeps me motivated and I get less distracted.

When I have a heavy workload and there are things that will take me more time to wrap my head around I always prioritize the smaller, quicker tasks so that I can spend more time on the meaty ones.

This helps calm my anxiety so that I don’t become overwhelmed, focusing on one task at a time really helps too.

5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

I find balance when I am outside the home or office. Being outside in nature either at the beach, walking my dogs, or cooking a nice meal with my husband really grounds me.

I also love to socialize and catch up with friends, test out new restaurants, or take some time off and travel.

6) What are some of the things you do to take time out and recharge?

It’s hard because in this day and age with social media it almost feels like no one is recharging, and everyone is working at 100% and if you stop for a moment you will fall behind.

On these days I detach from social media, and really connect with myself and try and focus on what I really need if its rest, adventure, cooking or baking, or my friends.

I intuitively try and seek out what I know will help recharge me and spark my creative energy.

7) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

Always surrounding myself with people who inspire me. The people I let into my circle all have traits I admire, being around them inspires me to come up with new ideas or a new perspective on an old idea and I really value them for that.

I think remembering that everyone has strengths and weaknesses is key, it can be really easy to focus on what you are not so good at, but I feel the balance is in perfecting what your good at and letting go of your worries. & just do, don’t think!

8) Are there any books you’ve read that have helped you with work-life balance?

If I do read it’s mostly blogs or design articles, I can’t remember an actual book that has helped me.

However, this post is helpful if you are looking where to start: 16 Productivity Tips Every Designer Needs to Know.

9) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Taking big tasks and breaking them down into smaller tasks that can be completed each day. Checking things off and knowing exactly what you need to do really helps with feeling a sense of accomplishment.

That’s why I like to do this both on paper and in Asana, also try not to second guess yourself but test your work often and keep up a positive attitude.

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