Jamie DeTavis is as book-smart and she looks— sophisticated, soft-spoken and serious. She also possesses a flair for fun in the moment.
Self-described as “scrappy,” this pint-sized business woman is a powerhouse with the creative chops to match. Out on the patio at Vibe Coworks, with the sun (yay!) streaming all around us, she shares that we can all be our own power source, sparking electric ideas in the way we live, and in the work we do.
Jamie is the UX Lead Strategist at Turnover Intelligence, which offers innovative B2B and B2C solutions around commuting and its relative consequences. She helps to create software as a service (SaaS) products and solutions for optimization of a client’s workforce footprint. And like many core contributors at a start-up, Jamie wears many hats.
”I do anything that’s needed,” Jamie says, clearly having found the right fit for her expertise.
“Sometimes I’m a sounding board for the CEO on how best to move forward with the operations intelligence we’ve gathered to marshaling in product development through usability studies, rapid iteration and prototyping. I’m currently developing the Customer Experience Journey our client will apply as they implement Turnover tools into their workflow.”
The strategist also developed some of the startup’s B2C products, diving deeply into research. “We want to put forward just the right content so that prospects will make the decision to come and work with us.”
Playful, pragmatic and pointed, Jamie share thoughts about strong leadership, the definition of success, being resourceful and her favorite recipe, with an ever-ready smile about being part of the Vibe Tribe, first as a member and, most recently, as one of the newest additions to the Vibe “space captain” team.
What’s the #1 trait of a good leader?
Jamie: Being a good listener. If you can really ensure that the people you are supporting and managing feel heard and acknowledged, then you can stimulate really healthy debates about how a project should progress. Where does that lead you? To creating amazing and honest work.
How do you measure success?
Jamie: By making sure that I’m passionate about what I do and that it’s based on my strengths. If I get to do that every day, that’s success to me. I have to be creative on a daily basis. I set that as a goal for myself when I was 25, working in my first job as an art director at a woman’s publication.
What’s at the top of your mind these days?
Jamie: So many things. Professionally, it’s all about what I want to do with the skills and knowledge I have, how I want to help others and how I want to develop deeper knowledge in my UX career. Those have all been at the forefront of my mind. I’m having fun with it. As a UX designer, I tend to live inside the ‘question of things’ more than trying to solve the problem. That way, answers tend to be more accurate and helpful.
A specific example of living inside the question: Currently, I’m figuring out what title to give myself as I branch out into new positions and start to create a professional presence in the Poulsbo community. So, I’m having lots of conversations about what it’s like to be a UX designer out in more rural areas.
Also, I tend to look at all the angles of something, and maybe they don’t relate to one another at first, but I trust my process. That could mean noticing how big cities create exposure around their own business world. How can that translate to Kitsap County so that we can take advantage of such strategic thinking?
It can be that big or very specific, like how do I want to construct my day. Do I want to stand at a desk all day, do I want to be talking to more people, etc. So it tends to be a symphony of elements, and eventually it all comes together. I feel it inside that “Okay, I’m going in the right direction.”
What’s your go-to indulgence?
Jamie: Being from the desert (actually Las Vegas, but don’t hold that against me!), if it’s cold outside, a book and a glass of wine are gonna be it. But if the weather is super nice, like today, I might take a 20-minute walk through Centennial Park. I did that yesterday, leaving my phone in the office, reading all the signs around the park and thoroughly enjoying sitting on a rock. I think you have to have those little respite moments when you’re doing creative work, taking care of that side of yourself.
How has Vibe facilitated the flow of your creative juices?
Jamie: Vibe has given me the room and space to work really well in my role at Turnover. I don’t know if I could have continued to work for the Tacoma start-up had I not had this community.
If you could choose to go anywhere, where would be your next destination?
Jamie: Omigosh, I want to go so many places that I haven’t been to yet. Top pick: Isla de Mujeres, the “island of women,” in Mexico. Just away from it all.
Are you a globetrotter or a homebody?
Jamie: Both. I like to immerse myself wherever I’m living and staying. I would love to live in Italy and be a homebody. It would be my fantasy to have a little Airbnb villa somewhere outside of a small village with the daily routine of going out to market every day, picking up whatever we want to eat for dinner, paying attention to how the sun sets and rises – and to how people’s natural rhythms go. Having things happen organically, rather than always planning them out. Maybe stay in Italy for a month or two. I would want to soak in it.
What’s the main difference between being a UX designer and a graphic designer?
Jamie: Well, there’s a third component, and the industry is still trying to figure them out.
The third element is UI or User Interaction. UX, or User Experience, is more about how someone feels, what they’re thinking about as they go through the process of navigating a website. It tends to define empathetic, emotional aspects, incorporating research and ethnographic interviews. UI is more about the look and functionality.
Graphic design? It’s way more focused on visual design, adhering to a brand and its marketing aspects. All visual in nature, whereas UX is rooted in user research and prototyping and iterating. UI focuses on the interaction a person is having with technology. UX and UI live together, and they can cross over a little bit. There’s a lot of debate within the tech industry, and those roles are still being figured out. People are having lots of conversations about it all.
What is it about UX that makes it so fabulous?
Jamie: What ups my passion factor is that UX is a smart way to solve problems. It helps companies cut down on costs when they build something out and need to make sure it really works. As a UX designer, I can go out there and create a paper prototype of a mobile app, go to a local coffee shop and ask people to step through the app and get their instantaneous feedback. It’s the simplest way of catalyzing changes or iterating quickly before it goes to a developer. We need UX to solve complicated problems.
A side story: I fell in love with UX a couple of years ago. Okay, to me, we’ve been doing UX for ages, but we just never named it. I see Gandhi as the very first UX designer. He recognized that he didn’t really know the true India, being educated in England and raised in privilege. He realized that his solutions were based on a very narrow understanding of his homeland. So, he went out into the rice fields to talk to the people. He spent something like a full year just visiting India. Gandhi came back with a solution from this life-changing journey. Based on the users – or his people, the common person – he was then able to help his country gain its independence. That’s how I see UX.
How has working remotely at Vibe been for you?
Jamie: I love the creative professional atmosphere. Meeting all the people who work here. Getting to be helpful at times. Having somebody crack a joke at just the right moment. The super-fast wifi! I get 200 times more work done here than I would at home.
Share with us your favorite recipe from your mom or grandmother.
Jamie: I don’t have one. I do not cook; I eat. Although I was a lover of my grandma’s tortilla soup. But…my own favorite recipe is a sausage dish that I make and make well. I made it up when I was in college, trying to save money. Anyone who eats it, loves it.
What’s in it? Rice, sausage, onion, tomato, green bell pepper, a little bit of garlic, splash of red wine. It’s better two days after you make it. I’d do a big batch, feed friends and have some left over. Nothing better.
You have two daughters. What’s the most rewarding part of being a parent?
Jamie: My girls are my greatest teachers. I love being able to help them learn how to navigate their emotions in a way that’s empowering and doesn’t make them feel bad for having emotions, a lesson missing from my generation.
When I was growing up, I felt like my feelings were considered flaky, girly stuff. I really take that seriously, being a mom. So, when my daughters were young, I “recaptured” classic princess stories. “I mean, why didn’t Cinderella just leave, she was being treated so horribly?” My daughter would ask me these questions, and I didn’t have good answers.
That’s when I started to put my research hat on and dug deep. I found that Disney’s version of such “classics” as Cinderella and Snow White were watered down versions of stories from Russia and other places. So, my daughters grew up, instead of such Disney-fied versions, knowing the story of Vasalisa the Doll, the original Cinderella. It’s a very empowering story, teaching children to listen to their intuition, empowering them, redefining the world so that they see for themselves that emotions and intuition are our greatest strength. Listen to your inner voice. I want my kids to now how to say “No” – and how to say it well.
Who are you reading right now?
Jamie: I’m reading Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things by Don Norman. I like to read fiction and nonfiction at the same time. I just got done with Frank Herbert’s Dune series (I’m a sci-fi chick). The books are phenomenal, and I read all eight of them. The only good thing about the movie is that you learn how to pronounce the words in the books!
Where is your favorite spot in Kitsap?
Jamie: My balcony. I just moved up here in June. We have a really nice view and huge, huge trees where eagles nest. There’s the homebody at the heart of me.
You’ve just recently become a ‘Space Captain’ at Vibe Coworks, as part of the Vibe Host Program. (Space Captain hosts help create a positive, welcoming environment for everyone who walks in the door, trading 8 hours a week of host time for an unlimited membership.) What is it that most excites you about that role?
Jamie: Well, I love people. They fascinate me and they always surprise you and I like the opportunity of meeting more of the Kitsap business community. And anything I can do to be help as Vibe enters its first year of being fully open, whether it’s organizational stuff or if there’s some way I can help somebody network, anything like that, I’m game. It’s just fun.
Your personal motto?
Jamie: I have a few. I don’t see how we can have a happy planet if we don’t have happy people on it. So, I make sure that there’s an element of fun in what I’m doing. Do your best and have fun. That’s what I tell my kids. If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing your best.