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S1 E8: Like a Big Experiment (Grace / @graceleaf_)
Episode 815th July 2022 • WebJoy • Eddie Hinkle
00:00:00 00:21:08

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Grace Ling joins the show to talk about her origin story, how she went from running and trying to biohack herself to run faster to working as a Product Designer at Electronic Arts, and everything in-between.

We discuss how to design your life for yourself, juggling all kinds of different hobbies and passions, and how her side project during school became a 40,000 member community called Design Buddies, not to mention their cute mascot.

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Eddie:

Welcome to Episode 8 of the WebJoy podcast.

Eddie:

I'm your host Eddie in this podcast, we interview guests about their origin

Eddie:

story and what makes them excited and joyful to be part of the tech community.

Eddie:

I hope you enjoy today's episode.

Eddie:

"Like a Big Experiment" with Grace Ling.

Eddie:

Hi Grace.

Eddie:

Thanks for joining us.

Grace:

Hi, Eddie.

Grace:

Thanks so much for bringing me on I'm honored

Eddie:

We're honored you decided to join us.

Eddie:

If you don't mind, just give a brief introduction about yourself, to the

Eddie:

community who you are, what you do, where you work, just some general details.

Grace:

Yeah, for sure.

Grace:

My name is Grace and full time, I'm a product designer at Electronic Arts and

Grace:

for fun, I run an almost 40,000 member community called Design Buddies, which I

Grace:

started during the pandemic as a student.

Grace:

And I like to draw swim, run, hike, travel.

Grace:

I do a lot of things for fun and experimenting with different things.

Eddie:

Awesome.

Eddie:

That sounds great.

Eddie:

Sounds like you stay pretty busy.

Grace:

Yeah.

Grace:

I like doing a lot of random things all at the same time.

Grace:

I think that's what personally I think makes it fun.

Grace:

Oh, yeah.

Eddie:

That's great.

Eddie:

Yeah, it kind of gives you a fuller experience rather than just focusing in

Eddie:

on one thing where you can get locked into

Grace:

I tend to do all of it at the same time.

Grace:

Cuz I tend to get bored if I focused on just one thing.

Eddie:

I can definitely connect with that personally.

Eddie:

I oftentimes try to pick up too many things at the same

Eddie:

time which sometimes backfires

Grace:

Oh, yeah, I can definitely relate as well.

Grace:

It's all like designing and seeing what your threshold

Grace:

is and iterating from there.

Eddie:

Nice.

Eddie:

I love that.

Eddie:

So how did you get into tech what's the short version of your story?

Grace:

I had a lot of career pivots.

Grace:

It all started with just like me wanting to experiment with

Grace:

a lot of the different things.

Grace:

Growing up.

Grace:

I was born and raised in Silicon valley, so all surrounded by tech,

Grace:

and I didn't want to go into tech.

Grace:

Actually.

Grace:

I wanted to become an anime artist, and a professional runner.

Grace:

I play a lot of games, and running were a huge part of my life.

Grace:

I ran cross country and track very competitively throughout

Grace:

high school and college.

Grace:

Went to Nationals a couple of times, and that inspired me to study bioengineering

Grace:

in college because I wanted to learn how to biohack myself to run faster.

Grace:

And I thought bioengineering would help me unlock that knowledge.

Grace:

so that's like literally my goal.

Grace:

And I want to on the side become anime artist and continue, and

Grace:

it's try to run professionally.

Grace:

After a few internships in bioengineering.

Grace:

My favorite part of that I worked with cell culture was taking photos of the

Grace:

cells, or you might call them "Cellfies".

Grace:

Cells.

Grace:

Um, and I, I did enjoy me a lot work.

Grace:

I just liked taking them "Cellfies".

Grace:

Um, of my cells, and I felt like it wasn't the path I wanted to be,

Grace:

cuz it wasn't giving me energy.

Grace:

I've always loved video games, so I decided to pivot into Computer Science.

Grace:

My college major was bioengineering and computer science and engineering.

Grace:

And that's what inspired me to study because I just wanted to make games.

Grace:

So I studied computer science, did a few internships in game dev.

Grace:

And that's how I discovered level design.

Grace:

Initially I wanted to become like a virtual reality level designer.

Grace:

but I feel like that was such a specific job.

Grace:

And I was graduating from undergrad, and couldn't find that many entry level jobs.

Grace:

So I decided to look at different job titles, like top

Grace:

tech companies are hiring for.

Grace:

And I saw a lot of UX project designs.

Grace:

I was like, oh, what's that?

Grace:

And I did a bunch of Googling driven a bunch of communi.

Grace:

And did a few projects, designing websites, apps.

Grace:

I was like, oh, this is really fun.

Grace:

And I feel like the skills I learned really translated across like level

Grace:

design user experience and all of that.

Grace:

And so that's actually how I got to UX product design.

Grace:

So I graduated from undergrad in June of 2019, and then started a

Grace:

Master's actually after, because I had no idea what I wanted do my life.

Grace:

So I literally bought myself more time to figure it out through my Masters

Grace:

in Computer Science Engineering.

Grace:

I was like, I kinda wanna do everything.

Grace:

So I'll just take it slowly.

Grace:

And I wanted to have more time to build my portfolio.

Grace:

And so around that time I was stuck between do I wanna do game dev

Grace:

development or UX design or level design game design had no idea.

Grace:

So I started learning more and more about product UX design.

Grace:

I found it was pretty enjoyable.

Grace:

I really love solving problems and learning about the business

Grace:

side and the user side, and working with product, engineering,

Grace:

research and all those nice people.

Grace:

So I decided to pivot into that.

Grace:

My transition to design was actually pretty rough because it was during

Grace:

COVID and I was applying to a bunch of internships and a lot were closing

Grace:

the internship programs and stuff.

Grace:

So I started networking on LinkedIn and I reached out to my current director at EA

Grace:

and that's how I got an internship and I got a full-time offer in December of 2020.

Grace:

And it's been great while continuing my master's studies part-time and

Grace:

graduating just last week and being promoted two weeks ago as well.

Grace:

So it's been fun.

Grace:

it's been a journey of try new things, seeing what gives me energy,

Grace:

seeing what I'm good at and seeking the opportunities are available.

Eddie:

So much at one time, getting promoted in your current position and

Eddie:

graduating and all of that at one time.

Eddie:

That's super exciting.

Grace:

Thank you

Eddie:

You were tossing around a couple things like game development, product

Eddie:

design, what pulled you in the direction of design and has you the most excited and

Eddie:

interested in product design right now?

Grace:

Yeah.

Grace:

I feel like it's like everything at once because I'm learning a lot about

Grace:

the business side, the product side, the technical side, the user experience

Grace:

side, what I wanna do in my life.

Grace:

And thanks to EA.

Grace:

I gotta work on a lot of really interesting marketing and

Grace:

player experience products that impact millions of players.

Grace:

So I thought it was really fun.

Grace:

Seeing what product I could build and the day to day life of working with

Grace:

so many different types of people and learning all these skills and

Grace:

trying to build a product together.

Grace:

I thought it's fun.

Grace:

Just keep building on stuff and solving problems.

Eddie:

That's really awesome.

Eddie:

You mentioned all these different things that you do.

Eddie:

And you know juggling them and figuring out how many things you can

Eddie:

do without overwhelming yourself.

Eddie:

That's what we wanted to talk about today and kind of the topic of joy is right.

Eddie:

You mentioned, you wanted to talk about the topic of designing your life.

Eddie:

Can you talk to me about what does that mean to you?

Eddie:

What have you thought about as you've tried to design your

Eddie:

life and fit things together?

Grace:

Yeah, I think of designing my life as like a big experiment of

Grace:

seeing what brings me joy and what I like to do and what I'm good at.

Grace:

And just trying a lot of things out and being with testing stuff, because

Grace:

as a designer, or as myself I used to feel like I need to be perfect.

Grace:

I need to wait for the perfect time, to ask for permission, to make

Grace:

sure everything's pixel perfect.

Grace:

But then that really held me back from actually executing things.

Grace:

And so I think of myself as having discovery and just testing things

Grace:

out and seeing what I like the most and what I'm good at to see

Grace:

what I can make the most impact.

Grace:

And going from there and having no finish line.

Grace:

So it's also having an infinite mindset of just trying things out

Grace:

and seeing what works or what doesn't work, and iterating from there.

Grace:

Keep improving instead of worrying about being perfect on the first try.

Grace:

So I seeing designing my life as like building or like designing

Grace:

a product and collecting data and using that to keep improving.

Eddie:

Awesome.

Eddie:

That sounds very exciting.

Eddie:

You're passionate about so many different things, right?

Eddie:

I mean, you were interested in biohacking, you've gotten into programming,

Eddie:

design work, artwork and anime.

Eddie:

I feel like a lot of these things.

Eddie:

if someone kind of fits the mold of an artist, they may not think

Eddie:

about going into programming, or if you're programming, you may

Eddie:

not think about going into design.

Eddie:

What was it that kind of helped you discover which things you were

Eddie:

passionate about, even though they were so different than the other things that

Eddie:

you were engaged in and interested in.

Grace:

Yeah.

Grace:

That's actually something that held me back for a while, because

Grace:

I felt like I can only be one.

Grace:

I can either be art or engineer.

Grace:

I can't be both, but I feel like designing your life also comes

Grace:

with discovering who you are.

Grace:

And not molding yourself to other stereotypes you might see out there and

Grace:

being not afraid to break stereotypes so you can pursue what gives you personally

Grace:

the most joy without worrying about what other people think of you or how

Grace:

other people might fit you into a box and just going from there and designing

Grace:

your own journey without following any like stereotypical path or path that was

Grace:

taught to you when you're really young.

Eddie:

I think a lot of us, all of us really can easily feel like we need to

Eddie:

fit into this box that people give us.

Eddie:

I know I've struggled with that as I'm a developer, but I don't

Eddie:

always fit the mold of developer.

Eddie:

In many jobs I've ended up kind of being a bridge between design and development,

Eddie:

because like, I can't really design from scratch, but I understand the

Eddie:

thinking of a product designer, even though I'm a developer, which kind of

Eddie:

puts me at odds with myself at time.

Eddie:

And I'm sure you have struggled with that as well, being in product

Eddie:

design and computer science.

Eddie:

So it's interesting to struggle with that and figure out who we are, despite

Eddie:

the boxes that people want to put us in.

Grace:

Yeah, I agree.

Grace:

I feel like that held me back for a long time from pursuing anything

Grace:

creative, because I felt like I'm computer science student.

Grace:

I should be technical.

Grace:

I shouldn't be interested in these things, but at end of the day.

Grace:

There's not really any instruction manual to life.

Grace:

It's however you make it.

Eddie:

When you start to get into something new . And you're breaking

Eddie:

out of your box and saying, Hey, I'm interested in this thing over here.

Eddie:

I'm gonna try that out.

Eddie:

How do you get started?

Eddie:

Because I know that can be intimidating to enter an area that you're not necessarily

Eddie:

comfortable or have experience in.

Grace:

Yeah, that's actually a really common struggle that I've dealt with

Grace:

because I pivoted careers so many times.

Grace:

So it's always a struggle, feeling like a beginner, but also knowing that you're in

Grace:

this for the long run, like that feeling of being a beginner is only temporary.

Grace:

You'll only have to experience it once.

Grace:

And it's always fun to learn because I feel like when I'm learning,

Grace:

I'm growing and I'm improving.

Grace:

And so that feeling that excitement of learning new

Grace:

things is what keeps me going.

Eddie:

That's awesome.

Eddie:

Rather than learning, being something that's intimidating and something that you

Eddie:

have to do instead, that's the activity of fun that you can embrace and you can

Eddie:

just enjoy that as an action in itself.

Grace:

Yeah.

Grace:

It's like an opportunity to improve yourself.

Grace:

Cuz I also struggled a lot with imposter syndrome, especially growing up.

Grace:

In high school, people would ask me like yo, what's your GPA

Grace:

and what are your test scores?

Grace:

So that was a kind of environment that I was most used to growing up.

Grace:

And so it's always that comparing with others.

Grace:

Especially as a runner, people compare you in your times with other people.

Grace:

So that was always in my head, but letting go of comparing myself to

Grace:

others, instead of seeing others as competition, I see them as inspiration

Grace:

or how can we work together instead of trying to one up each other and stuff

Eddie:

I love the idea of switching that Because imposter

Eddie:

syndrome, it affects all of us.

Eddie:

And it really does come down to the fact that if you're not looking at any

Eddie:

other people, if you're not comparing yourselves against others, you'll

Eddie:

never truly feel like an imposter.

Eddie:

I love the other fact here you're talking about trying new things and

Eddie:

learning and feeling imposter syndrome.

Eddie:

And it's funny because for me, I feel like those two really overlap.

Eddie:

Do you feel imposter syndrome more when you're in a new territory

Eddie:

when you're exploring something new than when you're in something

Eddie:

that you've been in for a while?

Grace:

In the recent few months , I don't feel that much imposter

Grace:

syndrome or I don't feel any and the reason is I just stopped caring

Grace:

about things I can't control.

Grace:

I used to care a lot about what other people thought of me.

Grace:

But then I can't control it and it's not my life goal to please

Grace:

everyone cuz that's impossible.

Grace:

So I stopped chasing that.

Grace:

And then I realized I can just not care about a lot of things

Grace:

by simply changing my mindset.

Grace:

It's not like I just woke up one day and decided, oh yeah, I don't care anymore.

Grace:

But it's a process of unlearning.

Grace:

It's like, whenever I feel like an imposter, I was like, wait, I don't

Grace:

care about this because there's something I can do about this.

Grace:

Might as well focus on what I can control.

Grace:

So I guess that's how I overcame imposter syndrome, like my way, but I feel like

Grace:

everyone has their own different ways.

Grace:

But that's what worked for me

Eddie:

That's really So as a community, we love to support each other.

Eddie:

I'd love to hear if there's anything that the community can do to support you or

Eddie:

anything that you're involved in that you'd like to share with the community.

Grace:

Thank you.

Grace:

Appreciate it.

Grace:

Design Buddies is actually a community I founded on my design journey when

Grace:

I was feeling lost in my career.

Grace:

I created this random Discord server called Design Buddies.

Grace:

When I was bored in class and two years later it's grown to almost

Grace:

40,000 members and our goal is to help designers level up in their career.

Grace:

And this means meeting other designers, connecting with people, finding job

Grace:

opportunities, accessing resources, to help with leveling up in your career.

Grace:

And so it's definitely 100% free.

Grace:

And I do this just for fun and along with other friendly team members as well.

Grace:

So yeah, y'all welcome to join us.

Eddie:

First of all, wow, like mind blown.

Eddie:

I have a hard time wrapping my mind around 40,000.

Eddie:

Like when did you all start this?

Grace:

April 10th, 2020 is our birthday.

Eddie:

Wow.

Eddie:

How did you all get that much attention and grow as a community so quickly

Eddie:

in only a little bit over two years?

Grace:

yeah, a big part of it is just us doing it just for fun.

Grace:

And not really have any like end goal and also me just not being afraid to like

Grace:

experiment with things and encouraging other people to experiment and just keep

Grace:

launching and keep learning and keep iterating and not being able to fail.

Grace:

So it's like how I designed my life is how I designed the Design Buddies

Grace:

and then taking opportunities and evaluating them as they come and

Grace:

seeing what works, what doesn't.

Grace:

Before this, I had almost zero experience with community building

Grace:

let alone like project management.

Grace:

I was a student, I was like deep in class, so I had no experience in

Grace:

business, any legal stuff, any management stuff, that's a big part of it as well.

Grace:

So I didn't let that stop me from creating a community.

Grace:

I just took that as an opportunity, like, oh I can learn.

Grace:

Might as well, impact other people at the same time, like win, win for both of us.

Grace:

So it's kind of My big playground, I guess, as a life experiment, but

Grace:

also an opportunity for me to be able to impact thousands of people and

Grace:

help them improve in their design skills and even land a lot of jobs.

Eddie:

That is awesome.

Eddie:

What do you all do as a community that helps people level up their career?

Eddie:

Do you have certain kind of content available?

Eddie:

Is it about people meeting together and being mentored or peer conversations?

Eddie:

What do you all do?

Grace:

All of that actually we host a lot of events, have resources, have content.

Grace:

I've been getting into TikTok and stuff, and we also have a job board.

Grace:

We have a network of hiring managers and companies looking to hire.

Grace:

And we also have people conversing with each other, like peers

Grace:

connecting with peers and also upcoming mentorship program.

Grace:

We also partnered with a lot of design education programs that provide

Grace:

scholarships that are free for the community, especially for Design Buddies.

Grace:

So we're always experimenting with things.

Grace:

So things might look different like a few months from now.

Grace:

Whatever it takes to just be happy and make people have fun while

Grace:

leveling up in their design careers.

Grace:

Also we invest a lot of time in our branding.

Grace:

And so we have a nice mascot called fluffle, which is kind of

Grace:

like Clippy from Microsoft word.

Grace:

But it's like your guide to design we just love personifying things and making

Grace:

things fun and adding some spice to life.

Grace:

A big part of me growing up was I was always really intimidated

Grace:

about the workplace because I thought you had to be like super

Grace:

professional wearing suits and stuff.

Grace:

For me, I've always liked to be playful and just to chill.

Grace:

So I wanna bring that energy to the design and tech community

Grace:

as well with Design Buddies.

Grace:

And that's like our long term, my long term vision with why I decided

Grace:

to go with all these bright pastel colors and buddies and our friending

Eddie:

That's awesome.

Eddie:

I love that.

Eddie:

I love when we can have things personified.

Eddie:

I definitely have always liked MailChimp having the monkey and everything.

Eddie:

I like when there is a personified mascot, that's friendly and engaging.

Eddie:

And of course who doesn't love Clippy.

Grace:

Yeah, like Wumpus from Discord.

Grace:

It's like a mascot that represents them.

Grace:

And Fluffle the definition English definition is like a group of bunnies.

Grace:

So it represents like everyone, the group of Design Buddies were design

Grace:

bunnies in fluffle . (laughing)

Eddie:

That is so awesome.

Eddie:

I love that.

Eddie:

so if anyone is interested in checking out Design Buddies, we'll

Eddie:

have the link in the show notes.

Eddie:

So feel free to go over there and click on that at the very least to

Eddie:

understand the exact scale of what Grace is talking about, because

Eddie:

she makes it all sound so easy.

Eddie:

I looked at all the photos of the people involved in actually making this

Eddie:

thing happen and there's ton of people.

Eddie:

So if nothing else go over and look at that page to understand exactly what

Eddie:

all is happening, it's incredible.

Eddie:

And then yeah, if it interests you, sign up and get involved.

Grace:

Yeah, definitely.

Grace:

And also thanks to all of our friendly team members for making all this possible.

Grace:

Cuz definitely.

Grace:

I like to also try to give leadership opportunities to other people as

Grace:

well, so they can put on your resume.

Grace:

I can write them a letter rec.

Grace:

So it's been really fun being able to give leadership opportunities

Grace:

to other people while growing Design Buddies and just helping

Grace:

everyone have fun at the same time.

Grace:

So definitely check out our page.

Grace:

We have a lot of teams and a lot of friendly people who are also helping us.

Eddie:

That's great.

Eddie:

That's one thing that throughout all the episodes I've been noticing is

Eddie:

there are a lot of really amazing communities, whether in the developer

Eddie:

space, with FreeCodeCamp to in the design space with Design Buddies.

Eddie:

So I love that this podcast is a platform where everyone can find out about all

Eddie:

the really friendly, fun communities to be a part of because sometimes it's

Eddie:

hard to find them, you know, a lot of communities can be toxic and so it's nice

Eddie:

to find the good ones to be involved in.

Grace:

Actually, one of big reasons why I started Design Buddies is

Grace:

when I was starting in design.

Grace:

I found a lot of design communities at that time that I was

Grace:

particularly in not very friendly.

Grace:

I felt like really intimidated and to me, they seemed a little bit elitist.

Grace:

So I 'll just create my own community and just make some friends and be wholesome.

Grace:

I feel like, there's people out there who don't like to be elitist.

Grace:

And low and behold, it went viral.

Grace:

So yeah.

Grace:

So it's also like solving a problem.

Grace:

It's a very like UX project for me.

Grace:

(laughing).

Eddie:

Yeah, for real cuz it's like, oh, surely someone else wants a community

Eddie:

that isn't elitist and wants to have fun.

Eddie:

And it turns out yeah, actually the majority of people want that.

Eddie:

There's just a small minority that think in their head that they wanna be elitist

Eddie:

and they get drawn to those communities.

Eddie:

Thank you for joining us and chatting today.

Eddie:

It's been really fun.

Eddie:

Grace.

Grace:

Yeah, Thanks for having me on this was fun.

Grace:

I appreciate it.

Eddie:

Thanks for joining us for Episode 8.

Eddie:

"Like a Big Experiment" with Grace Ling.

Eddie:

You can find out more about Grace on her website or on her Twitter @graceleaf_.

Eddie:

You can find the links to everything we talked about in this episode, as well as

Eddie:

a link to Grace's website and Twitter.

Eddie:

In the shownotes.

Eddie:

If you enjoyed this episode, help others discover as well by rating and reviewing

Eddie:

it in your favorite podcast directory.

Eddie:

And don't forget to follow us on Twitter @WebJoyFm.

Eddie:

Thank you for listening and have a great day Next episode on WebJoy.

Nick:

Front end is an example, like, pretty much our entire tool chain is all

Nick:

open source, started off with stuff like Broswerfy BrowserSync then we have Webpack

Nick:

and we've got stuff like Parcel, Babel, Rust is open source, all these things,

Nick:

they're literally all open source, and you can see that it's actually pushed

Nick:

forward, tool chains and development through all that collaboration, because

Nick:

all of that code was put out there.

Nick:

You know?

Nick:

So I really like that about it, but another aspect which gets back to

Nick:

people is I really like interacting with the developer community.

Nick:

It's something I enjoy a lot.

Nick:

You know, by having all that out there, it's a great way where people

Nick:

can also learn, maybe they realize it, but they forget sometimes.

Nick:

You literally have all this code out here.

Nick:

You're trying to learn something, you know, you wanna figure out how something

Nick:

bundles go look in a bundler project, the code is literally all there.

Nick:

I think those are kind of the things that bring me joy, at

Nick:

least right now in in my career.

" Eddie:

We're like Detectives" with Nick Taylor.