Mary Sargent

Tell us about your background: What do you do now, where did you get your start?

I am a Product Designer at The Washington Post where I work with our designers, engineers, and product managers to deliver a suite of digital publishing tools called Arc Publishing. I studied English and Political Science at the University of Maryland and was interested in pursuing a career in human rights and advocacy. As fate would have it, I instead ended up taking a job at an energy tech company where I got my introduction to the tech field. I learned a lot about building a platform and the important role user experience plays in that process. Eager to learn more about UX, I decided to take the plunge and enroll in a full-time design course at General Assembly. Breaking down a problem and drawing out solutions reminded me a lot of my humanities studies in college and I found it was easy to apply those skills to my work as a user experience designer.
Looking back at my trajectory, it’s easy to make sense of the decisions I’ve made, but in the moment I really had no way of knowing if I was moving in the right direction. Being a young woman of color in tech you don’t see a lot of reassurance from your environment that you belong. I’ve been lucky to have women mentors along the way, but I also had to learn to trust in my abilities and experiences to guide and move me forward. I would strongly encourage girls especially those of color to pursue a career in tech and design. As the industry evolves, so should the culture and the people in it.

How do you believe you use your strengths in the context of your work?

Product design involves taking information from different perspectives – that of the users, product owners, developers, etc – condensing this information and forming actionable solutions to either create or improve a product. My ‘ideation’ strength has made me successful as a designer because it allows me to find connections between these differing opinions and find solutions that improve our product’s overall experience.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

Never stop asking questions. This advice has guided me through my transition into tech and my current role as a product designer. Asking questions means that I’m learning and adapting which has helped me navigate an industry that’s constantly changing.

The Women in Tech campaign exists to help redefine what women in technology means in the 21st century. Started independently by a group of professional women who, after many impassioned discussions about women in tech knew we wanted to expand this definition beyond ‘traditional’ technology skills. To us, it includes most every current, emerging or evolving role within an organization. By featuring leaders and emerging leaders across industries who embody this we hope to collectively ‘stand up’, be proud of our place in the digital world and inspire young women or those new to the ‘tech space’ to get involved.

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