Women in Tech: Meet Hayley Hughes

By Masha Tseveen.

HHWho: Hayley Hughes
Role at IBM: Design Language Lead
Field of Work: Product Design
Location: Austin, Texas
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

You work for IBM Design as the Design Language Lead. Can you describe a little about your job?

The IBM Design Language started with the need to create a modern look and feel for our products. We started with a visual language, comprised of iconography, typography and color, and shared it with our designers across the world. As people gave us feedback and helped contribute to the effort, it scaled into other areas of product design such as interaction, user experience and front end development.

My role is to set the vision for how we grow the IBM Design Language, based on the needs of the product teams in our design studios. I collect, curate and communicate the value of the design language in and outside of IBM, and collaborate with a team of multidisciplinary experts to craft a future for how it evolves.

Tell us a story about how you got your first job at IBM. Was it difficult?

My first interview at IBM required to be creative, introspective and shamelessly honest. I applied for a co-op design position in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. During the interview, my then-to-be manager drew a handful of organic and geometric shapes on a white board and asked me to select which one was most representative of how I saw myself. In retrospect, it was a fascinating way to get an interview candidate to talk freely about their qualities and was also probably a personality indicator.

When I chose the squiggly line, he dove into details about the valuable traits of those who most often make the selection. At the end of a good conversation as I was about to leave he asked, “So, why the squiggly line?” I pointed to my head and said, “It’s the curls.” Everyone laughed, so I’ve always assumed it was a bit a good humor that eventually got me through the door.

Why should professionals entering the field choose IBM?

Designers who ask big picture questions about how the world works will take comfort in IBM as a place where challenges exist at every imaginable scale. Designers with a deep curiosity to understand and modify human behavior for the better will find like-minded collaborators in subject matter experts, researchers, engineers and inventors at IBM.

Share us the best advice you ever received

My Mom always says, “You go girl!” and it keeps me going strong. I’ve also enjoyed another three letter piece of advice that you might hear me say around our studio, which is “You do you.” I say this because I think it’s always best to observe to what’s going on outside of you, listen to what’s inside you and just offer the most authentic version of yourself you’ve got to give.

What are the key moves women should make in 2015 to advance their careers?

Any advice I have is also advice I probably will try and give myself, so here goes:

Key Move #1
There’s no time like the present – go learn about something other than design! It’s actually a part of your job to learn about other subjects because it strengthens your ability to make connections back to your work. Getting into a new head space clears out the cobwebs and brings a fresh perspective into view.

Key Move #2
Keep asking why – if it doesn’t make sense, if it isn’t clear, if there’s a gap in the logic. If you’re good at spotting holes in the details and keeping track of conversations, but always fall silent when there’s a opportune moment to point something out, start speaking up.

Key Move #3
Ask for forgiveness, not permission. The worst you can hear is no, and the peace of mind in getting an answer is a million times better than always asking yourself “what if?” Go make the world your oyster and tackle the challenges you feel are most important, not just the ones you’re assigned to.

Apply for a job like Hayley’s here

So to inspire more women to join the tech ranks, we’re showcasing 26 innovations by 26 innovative women. Check out here.

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