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S1 E34: Little pieces all fitting together (Nicole / @NicoleFranq)
Episode 349th January 2023 • WebJoy • Eddie Hinkle
00:00:00 00:22:11

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Nicole Franq joins the show to talk about her origin story, from getting a business degree and doing hedge fund accounting to embracing creativity and becoming a designer.

We discuss atomic principles and how the little choices, habits and experiences form into a larger part of who we are and where we want to go. We talk about how she mentors people and tries to provide the advice that she didn't have when starting out.

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Transcripts

Eddie:

Welcome to episode 34 of the web joy podcast.

Eddie:

I'm your host Eddie.

Eddie:

And in this podcast, we interview guests about their origin stories and

Eddie:

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

Eddie:

I hope you enjoy today's episode.

Eddie:

The little pieces, all fitting together with Nicole Frank.

Eddie:

Welcome to another episode of Web Joy.

Eddie:

Today I have Nicole Frank with me.

Eddie:

Nicole, say hi to everyone

Nicole:

listening.

Nicole:

Hi everyone.

Nicole:

I'm so excited to be here, so thank you for having me.

Eddie:

Awesome.

Eddie:

It's my pleasure.

Eddie:

So, Kind of who are you, what do you do where you work, you know,

Eddie:

a brief rundown of yourself.

Nicole:

So I am a, uh, senior UX designer now referred to as a product designer,

Nicole:

which is kind of confusing and I know a lot of people are in the industry, are

Nicole:

kind of confused by the title switching.

Nicole:

I work at a small startup based in Omaha, Nebraska, but I am located in Connecticut.

Nicole:

So I am leading the tax experience side of our application.

Nicole:

I also run my own kind of personal brand on Twitter.

Nicole:

Nicole Frank and I try to help others who are breaking into user experience with

Nicole:

like general things where it's like maybe you're applying for your first UX role.

Nicole:

How best to do that and try to guide people and give them some quick

Nicole:

tips that I wish I knew at the time.

Nicole:

So I really like that kind of community in helping out

Eddie:

others.

Eddie:

That's great.

Eddie:

It seems like you keep pretty busy with all of

Nicole:

that.

Nicole:

I do, yeah.

Nicole:

It's like a full-time job, but it's like a labor of love.

Nicole:

It's not like anything where it's like, oh my God, I have to.

Nicole:

Go and tweet this today, or I have to help out this person.

Nicole:

No, it's honestly kind of the best thing that I've ran

Eddie:

into.

Eddie:

Well, you're investing into others, kind of helping them get their start.

Eddie:

So that's an interesting segue to like, Hey, how did you get your start?

Eddie:

Right?

Eddie:

Where were you, what were you doing?

Eddie:

When you kind of realized, I wanna get involved in tech, I want to do product

Eddie:

design, UX design, and um, what has that journey kind of looked like for you?

Nicole:

It's been a long journey.

Nicole:

So remember like the early two thousands and like, I was like a kid and there was

Nicole:

like, you could design your own MySpace and put in code or, um, remember neo pets?

Nicole:

I was like obsessed with that.

Nicole:

Yeah.

Nicole:

Embarrassingly enough.

Nicole:

. Eddie: So that's good.

Nicole:

I think everyone had their neo pest phase.

Nicole:

Yeah.

Nicole:

Everyone had like a phase where they were like making their

Nicole:

profiles and learning a little.

Nicole:

Like H T M L C S S, but it wasn't at the level that we have now.

Nicole:

So it was like everything was misaligned.

Nicole:

There was weird colors, whatever.

Nicole:

Yeah.

Nicole:

The days are kind of coming all back to me now, but in high school I went to.

Nicole:

This local high school and they're actually, they have specialized programs

Nicole:

because it's such a big high school.

Nicole:

So I did fine arts and I had my mindset on, hey, I wanna be an artist and I

Nicole:

wanna study under some like really great art professional and go to college for

Nicole:

it and get my master's in fine arts.

Nicole:

The recession happened and it made me take a step.

Nicole:

And say to myself, I need a corporate job.

Nicole:

I need to be able to support myself while the rest of the

Nicole:

world is like falling apart.

Nicole:

My family had issues during the recession.

Nicole:

Other people's families I knew had a really hard time.

Nicole:

So went to school and studied business and of course got the little minor in art.

Nicole:

So , that was like my way of kind of balancing.

Nicole:

being corporate and then also having that artsy side.

Nicole:

But after then I just focused on landing.

Nicole:

My job went to school in Boston, so it was like hyper-competitive

Nicole:

when graduating in what, 2015?

Nicole:

Yeah.

Nicole:

Yeah.

Nicole:

It was.

Nicole:

It was like a really weird time for a young, fresh out college person.

Nicole:

So what I did was get whatever job I could and eventually I worked

Nicole:

my way into the hedge fund field doing hedge fund accounting.

Nicole:

You would think it would be like your traditional accounting.

Nicole:

It's not.

Nicole:

It's literally telling like a hedge fund how much they're worth

Nicole:

over a certain period of time.

Nicole:

Could be daily, monthly, yearly.

Nicole:

And I thought to.

Nicole:

This sucks.

Nicole:

Like I don't wanna be . Yeah.

Nicole:

I don't wanna be in Excel all day long.

Nicole:

It's a great skill to have now in ux, but I literally was like,

Nicole:

okay, I need to change my career.

Nicole:

One of my friends was doing user experience over at New Balance in

Nicole:

Boston, so went back to school, but for my master's, literally same school

Nicole:

that he was going to at the time.

Nicole:

And I told myself, okay, I have six months.

Nicole:

To do this program.

Nicole:

It was a two year program, but I had my mind set on, I'm

Nicole:

gonna get a job in six months.

Nicole:

Wow.

Nicole:

And I landed a job designing hedge fund software for my first UX role, and the

Nicole:

rest has been a rollercoaster ride.

Eddie:

That's awesome.

Eddie:

I love that you took an area that you knew, like working in hedge fund

Eddie:

companies and then you were able to like do that shift into design.

Eddie:

While utilizing that background.

Eddie:

That's

Nicole:

awesome.

Nicole:

Yeah, it's definitely one of the ways I recommend to people now is like,

Nicole:

take something that you know and make that the bridge to what you wanna do.

Nicole:

That's really

Eddie:

cool.

Eddie:

I've heard one or two people mention that, but not a lot.

Eddie:

You know, a lot of people times people jump into just a completely

Eddie:

new area and so I think that's a.

Eddie:

Good way to stay stable.

Eddie:

Right.

Eddie:

Oftentimes when you're doing something new, it can feel really

Eddie:

unstable and really, like you're in a completely new territory and it's

Eddie:

like you kind of have almost like a little comfort blanket, right?

Eddie:

Like

Eddie:

. Nicole: Yeah, definitely.

Eddie:

I kind of view it as a way to get your foot in the door, because back when I

Eddie:

was applying for jobs, user experience in big cities of course is a little

Eddie:

more competitive than like say up here.

Eddie:

I don't know, somewhere that isn't like a populated city.

Eddie:

So I often suggest the idea to a lot of people as a way

Eddie:

to show your marketability.

Eddie:

Like I.

Eddie:

Know what I'm doing here, but I am applying for this junior role.

Eddie:

You don't have to train me on the content.

Eddie:

You just have to help me out in becoming a junior UX designer.

Eddie:

Nice.

Eddie:

No, that's a, that's a good point because a lot.

Eddie:

When you're changing industries, a lot of the onboarding is

Eddie:

just learning the industry.

Eddie:

So if you already know the industry, like you're a step ahead than anyone else

Eddie:

who's gonna have to learn the industry.

Eddie:

So that's a competitive advantage right there.

Eddie:

That's

Nicole:

awesome.

Nicole:

Yeah.

Nicole:

I like my journey so far, even though it's been crazy

Nicole:

. Eddie: And obviously like you've been

Nicole:

started to do mentoring and consulting, like I guess, what is it that kind

Nicole:

of sparked that interest in you?

Nicole:

When

Nicole:

I was fresh out?

Nicole:

Not outta college, but, uh, when I was switching into ux, there was no guidance.

Nicole:

And I mean, I had really awesome professors.

Nicole:

I went to a fantastic school and I'm really grateful for that.

Nicole:

But there was no one to really hold your hand and say like,

Nicole:

this is what you should do.

Nicole:

Or like, if I was in your shoes, like this is what I would do or have done.

Nicole:

So, I feel like whenever you can share that knowledge with anyone

Nicole:

who's trying something new, it's more power to everyone in the community.

Eddie:

That's awesome.

Eddie:

So I was like, they gave you the general skills, but practically speaking

Eddie:

you were kind of just on your own.

Nicole:

Yeah, and a lot of professions that I was in before, like the

Nicole:

financial field, there is no way to know what path to take or.

Nicole:

Even baby step to take.

Nicole:

So it's really overwhelming and I get it and I get a lot of questions

Nicole:

of which bootcamp should I do?

Nicole:

Should I go back to school, should I do this?

Nicole:

And it's kind of like, I wanna make sure that people have

Nicole:

information that's relevant to the careers that they might want

Eddie:

today.

Eddie:

That makes a lot of sense.

Eddie:

That's really cool.

Eddie:

So obviously if you.

Eddie:

You've been in design this long and you're helping other people get

Eddie:

in, you must really love design.

Eddie:

What is it that kind of keeps you excited and kind of keeps you in

Eddie:

love with design and, and stuff?

Nicole:

The thing I love about.

Nicole:

Design is, especially user experience design, is that you

Nicole:

can try so many new things.

Nicole:

You can learn something new every single day, and you can

Nicole:

specialize in many different areas if you choose to specialize.

Nicole:

It's kind of like a limitless like landscape in a way where.

Nicole:

You don't have to be stuck.

Nicole:

You can always try something new.

Eddie:

That's awesome.

Eddie:

I love that.

Eddie:

Yeah.

Eddie:

You have all these different avenues to go down all these little, like choose

Eddie:

your own adventure kind of thing.

Eddie:

Yeah,

Nicole:

and in finance, like what I was doing, it felt like such a linear

Nicole:

path and I hated feeling like, Trapped which user experience and design.

Nicole:

Like I have never felt that way.

Nicole:

There's always another opportunity.

Nicole:

There's always a new project.

Nicole:

It's all out there for you.

Eddie:

Well, so obviously one thing we always like to talk about on this podcast

Eddie:

is like things that bring you joy.

Eddie:

So, I know when we talked, you kind of mentioned atomic principles

Eddie:

and, and different things like that that bring you joy.

Eddie:

So I guess kind of share with us how you view atomic principles and what it is that

Eddie:

about them that kind of brings you joy.

Eddie:

And then we can dive into that

Nicole:

a little bit.

Nicole:

So I like to apply this in lots of different ways, but I like the concept

Nicole:

of starting very, very, And then building something beautiful out of

Nicole:

it, whether it's a design or your life.

Nicole:

And most people in myself included, get overwhelmed with,

Nicole:

Hey, we need this project, or, Hey, you need to do this in life.

Nicole:

It's like, how do I do all that?

Nicole:

And really what it is, is just executing these really small, basic steps that will

Nicole:

build on each other to create something.

Nicole:

That's

Eddie:

awesome.

Eddie:

So it's like start with the baby steps and then like, so that you,

Eddie:

you aren't necessarily terrified and then like you can build on top

Eddie:

of that and make something big and

Nicole:

awesome.

Nicole:

Yeah, like atomic design, like you're building small little atoms.

Nicole:

Right.

Nicole:

And then they become, Eventually like organisms, like they work

Nicole:

their way up and it's kind of a scientific way of looking at it.

Nicole:

And eventually you take all these little tiny components and boom, you have a page,

Nicole:

or you have an experience and a flow.

Nicole:

But also in life you can apply those same principles by, Hey, maybe I need to do

Nicole:

this really small habit every single day to build something great for my future.

Eddie:

So yeah, figure now for you, like would you just pick a random habit

Eddie:

or are you starting with saying like, okay, here's my end goal, and then

Eddie:

like, what small habit gets me there?

Eddie:

How do you kind of think that through from your

Nicole:

perspective?

Nicole:

So definitely having that goal in mind.

Nicole:

Like say you wanna become a lead designer, for example,

Nicole:

which is like my next big step.

Nicole:

It's like, how do I break this down?

Nicole:

This really big.

Nicole:

Into smaller steps and even daily things that will help me

Nicole:

progress forward in my career.

Nicole:

And by doing that, it's just so much more easier on your mind.

Nicole:

And you're not just like pressing yourself to like get this ultimate title.

Nicole:

You're building up the habits, the routines, the behaviors to become.

Nicole:

This person, you want to be in the future.

Nicole:

For me, it's that lead position.

Nicole:

It's like building a house in a way, right?

Nicole:

You need like a solid foundation before you get the house, and then all these

Nicole:

little things become a part of that.

Nicole:

What is Ultimate going going to be your home?

Nicole:

Does that make sense?

Nicole:

In a way,

Eddie:

yeah.

Eddie:

Start with a foundation.

Eddie:

It's like, okay, a foundation just looks like right.

Eddie:

A block of whatever, it's cement or whatever they put in our foundations.

Eddie:

Mm-hmm.

Eddie:

, I'm not an architectural person, but you know, they lay a whole bunch of

Eddie:

cement and you look at it and you're like, well that doesn't seem like much.

Eddie:

And it's interesting because I've even.

Eddie:

I think, right, the small things can be bigger than we expect.

Eddie:

They've been doing a lot of construction around us and you sometimes look at the

Eddie:

foundation of what's gonna be a house.

Eddie:

And when you look at it, it actually on its own as a

Eddie:

foundation, looks really small.

Eddie:

Like I always look and I'm like, how are they gonna build a house on that?

Eddie:

Like that doesn't seem big enough.

Eddie:

But once they actually finished the house, the foundation was

Eddie:

a lot bigger than it looked.

Eddie:

It was just like an illusion because there wasn't that much there.

Eddie:

Yeah,

Nicole:

you always look at people, at least I do, and I

Nicole:

go, wow, how did they get there?

Nicole:

And literally, the most successful people just build on top of whatever habits and

Nicole:

behaviors they need to become that person.

Nicole:

But even when I look at like a small button on a page, I'm

Nicole:

like, wow, that's so small.

Nicole:

Like what are we going to eventually.

Nicole:

with that, and then you see the whole thing built out and

Nicole:

it becomes this experience of what you dreamed it would be.

Nicole:

Just little pieces all fitting

Eddie:

together.

Eddie:

Yeah.

Eddie:

I really love that the combination of these little pieces are greater

Eddie:

than the pieces themselves are.

Eddie:

Right.

Eddie:

Kind of like.

Eddie:

Um, I know we talk about in the sometimes like, oh, you have a team, right?

Eddie:

And the team should be greater than the sum of all the people in the team.

Eddie:

Right.

Eddie:

By working together, they create a chemistry that is more than what they are.

Eddie:

It's like you said, with say, a design system like the buttons and the.

Eddie:

Color palette and you know, the modals and stuff and like when you put all of that

Eddie:

together, suddenly you get an experience where when you just look at the one item,

Eddie:

it's just like, that's a cool button.

Eddie:

That's nice.

Eddie:

Like

Eddie:

. Nicole: Yeah.

Eddie:

It's like overwhelming to think of it.

Eddie:

And I absolutely.

Eddie:

I don't know how design system designers do this and just like create these like

Eddie:

little components to, for other people to consume, but it's like they have to

Eddie:

be so intentional with the way that they build things and how they hand them out

Eddie:

to people in a way that it's like, I wish I was like this in my everyday life.

Eddie:

Just making sure everything.

Eddie:

Perfect and so aligned.

Eddie:

So then it becomes like this giant thing and we're human.

Eddie:

We're not like design systems, so nothing's gonna be perfect in our behavior

Eddie:

or whatnot, but I just think it's like so interesting how they manage that.

Eddie:

That is really cool.

Eddie:

I think it requires a specific type of mindset to be able to zoom in on

Eddie:

something small and like see how it impacts things from a greater purpose.

Eddie:

Couple episodes back, everyone probably heard an episode with Bonnie

Eddie:

Kate Wolf and she does icon design and so it's like she has to zoom

Eddie:

in to the pixel level to literally change us these individual pixels.

Eddie:

And yet like keeping in the back of her mind, like when you zoom

Eddie:

out, what does this one pixel look like at its actual like 100% size.

Eddie:

And I think it's interesting.

Eddie:

In our life, like taking and flipping that in the way you're talking about,

Eddie:

like you kind of have to remember both the individual action that might be somewhat

Eddie:

frustrating or mundane, but then thinking about what that looks like when you're

Eddie:

actually zooming out and like looking at yourself from a third person and like,

Eddie:

okay, but what does this person look like?

Eddie:

Who's doing this thing?

Eddie:

Right?

Eddie:

And uh, that it can be a tricky mindset, but I think.

Eddie:

Hearing you and thinking about, you know, the other episode that feels really

Eddie:

powerful to be able to kind of zoom out from your life and almost look at your

Eddie:

life from someone's else's perspective.

Nicole:

Yeah, and a lot of, um, psychology, I don't have any studies off

Nicole:

the top of my head, but it's hard for.

Nicole:

any regular human being to think of a future self, right?

Nicole:

It's very much your experience is past and present and like even

Nicole:

financial studies have shown this about saving money is like you have

Nicole:

a goal in mind, but a lot of people.

Nicole:

reach that goal because of their actions.

Nicole:

Just little tiny steps.

Nicole:

Maybe saving 20 bucks a week, or maybe not buying, I don't know, like a giant

Nicole:

TV every month, , because there's some people out there like that.

Nicole:

But it's really just the basics that build

Eddie:

you up.

Eddie:

And it's interesting.

Eddie:

This was not a planned segue for anyone listening, but you know, I think.

Eddie:

That kind of brings us back around to the fact that you do

Eddie:

mentoring and consulting, right?

Eddie:

Like it's oftentimes hard for us to view ourselves in a future

Eddie:

state, and it's hard for us to view ourselves like as a third person.

Eddie:

So I think that is a key part where like mentoring comes into place, right?

Eddie:

Someone else who can come in and look at us and see us differently

Eddie:

than we can see ourselves.

Eddie:

So kind of shifting there, how does that play into this, right?

Eddie:

Do you consider any of.

Eddie:

Things that we've been talking about as you go through, like mentoring

Eddie:

and what does mentoring look like with how you work with people?

Nicole:

So I have a formal mentorship program, but as a way

Nicole:

to give back to the community.

Nicole:

I'll take on five people for nine weeks in just.

Nicole:

Coach 'em through like, Hey, um, this is my goal.

Nicole:

What do I do to get there?

Nicole:

And it's all about giving people homework and making this whole feeling

Nicole:

of I'm accountable to someone now and saying like, I have to achieve

Nicole:

these little goals to reach there.

Nicole:

And actually I was helping.

Nicole:

One, um, beautiful human being, and she just got her first UX offer

Nicole:

by the little changes . I know.

Nicole:

I'm so happy for her.

Nicole:

And when she messaged me, I was like, oh my goodness.

Nicole:

Like, go and celebrate, but I'm also gonna be celebrating you and whatnot.

Nicole:

So that was great to hear from her, but it was literally just these

Nicole:

little tiny steps that add up to this big goal of her getting an

Nicole:

offer that makes such a differe.

Nicole:

But yeah, I offer mentorship and then for those who follow me on Twitter, I'll

Nicole:

put out some quick hitting advice that I'm hearing from either my mentees or

Nicole:

people that are like DMing me, asking me questions because there's so much

Nicole:

out there that it's literally just.

Nicole:

Little tiny steps that people need to be taking or something very small that

Nicole:

they need to be informed about in the

Eddie:

industry.

Eddie:

So you share information on your Twitter, then you occasionally take

Eddie:

kind of these small cohort of people to just mentor, and then you have

Eddie:

an official mentorship program.

Eddie:

Beyond that is what you were.

Nicole:

Yeah, so if anyone wants to book time with me, I usually just

Nicole:

take whatever problem that they have, like any UX designer or developer,

Nicole:

and it's like, okay, how do we break this down so that you can achieve this

Nicole:

just like atomic principles where it's like you have this big thing that you

Nicole:

need to design, but how are we going to build it up and actually like ship

Nicole:

it out and make it a real product?

Eddie:

That's awesome.

Eddie:

Yeah.

Eddie:

So.

Eddie:

If anyone is finding themselves running into challenges and needing to to have

Eddie:

some help, definitely we'll include all the information in the show notes so

Eddie:

you can reach out to Nicole and when she has an opening and can work with you.

Eddie:

Hopefully that will help.

Eddie:

Awesome.

Eddie:

Well, Nicole, thank you so much for coming on today.

Eddie:

It's been a pleasure just chatting and getting to know you, hearing your story.

Eddie:

Kind of nerding out a little bit about atomic principles and like life, you

Nicole:

know, . Yeah.

Nicole:

I really appreciate being on here.

Nicole:

Thank you so much.

Nicole:

Absolutely.

Eddie:

And everyone, thank you for listening and have a great day.

Eddie:

Thank you for joining us for episode 34.

Eddie:

Little pieces, all fitting together.

Eddie:

With Nicole, Frank, you can find out more about Nicole on her website.

Eddie:

Nicole Frank.

Eddie:

Dot com.

Eddie:

And you can find her all across the interwebs.

Eddie:

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

Eddie:

as a link to Nicole's website and social media accounts in the show notes.

Eddie:

And if you enjoy this episode, why not help others discover it as well?

Eddie:

Give us a shout-out on your favorite social media platform.

Eddie:

And tag a friend or coworker that you think would enjoy the episode.

Eddie:

Don't forget to follow us wherever you hang out online.

Eddie:

Or subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date.

Eddie:

Thank you for listening and have a great day.