A Day in the Solstie Life: Gabby Manotoc, UX Design
Gabby Manotoc, UX Designer
When I announced I was moving halfway across the world to get a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, I received one of two responses. Half the people in my life were excited and wished me the best of luck in my adventure. The other half, unsurprisingly, questioned my “rebellious phase” and figured I’d return as soon as I realized I wouldn’t find a sustainable job as a designer.
Well, it’s been seven years since I hopped off that plane from the Philippines to New York City, and I haven’t packed my bags to return home. In fact, I now work as a UX designer for Solstice in our New York office, helping Fortune 500 companies transform their digital customer experiences.
Admittedly, I’m still working on my elevator pitch about what exactly I do, but that’s mostly because my role changes so frequently. Most days present an opportunity to grow in a direction I wouldn’t have anticipated upon graduation. In fact, when I was handed my diploma I pictured a career where I’d just sit at my computer working on a design with my headphones in, rarely having to interact with that many people.
I was very wrong; my job at Solstice is much better. And it’s way more fun!
With that said, I welcome you to take a look into a day in my Solstie life.
6:00 AM: Wake Up & Walk The Dog
New York is an incredibly dog-friendly city with a ton of pet stores, dog runs, and dog services. Soon after moving to the city following college, I adopted my own rescue dog, Lillie — she’s my confidante and best friend. Living a few blocks away from both Central Park and Riverside Park, I get my cardio in every morning by taking hour-long walks with her come rain or shine…and even snow! She’s a Solstice fave and even won an award for “the cutest New Yorker” at the 2017 Solstice holiday party.
This photo is by my good friend and photographer, Ashley Comer, who photographed us on one of our walks around the city.
8:45 AM: Commute To Work
The office in Soho is near several subway stops, which makes it very easy for anyone to access, no matter whether they live in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, or New Jersey.
One of the most inspiring aspects about living in New York is that it’s not hard to find inspiration. Even on the subway, you’re likely to see something interesting. There are a lot of musicians who play at stations and dancers who perform in the subway cars; the other day I even saw a poet reciting his work up and down the train.
A view from my desk.
9:00: NY Stand Up
Solstice New York is a small office, but it can best be described as a family. At the tail end of 2016, I left my job at a global digital marketing agency where I worked in an office of 800 people. When I started working at Solstice, I was the fifth person to join the team. Since then, we’ve grown to 15 people and even moved to a bigger space where we can fit a growing collection of plants and the office wolfpack. The smaller office creates a feeling of startup innovation while still being supported by a team of over 300 in Chicago.
Twice a week, we have an office stand-up where we talk about any updates for the office as well as any project news. Even though we’re a small team, we don’t always work on the same projects, so we like hearing about what everyone is up to. We have our own social, philanthropy, and wellness committees connected to the larger Solstice global team who also give quick updates at this time.
9:30 AM: Project Stand Up
Every morning, my delivery team holds a quick stand-up, which is a daily progress meeting. During this time, we talk about what we did yesterday, what we are doing today, and whether we have any blockers to our work. It’s a great way to make sure everyone is on the same page and that the full team is aware of project updates.
Since being hired at Solstice, I’ve been fortunate enough to design for multiple industries — agriculture, real estate, financial services, manufacturing, and B2B. This allows me to continuously grow and stretch my skills across different user demographics; I’m always challenged and never bored.
10:00 AM: Headshots & Heads-Down Time
We’ve had some new hires recently to the team, and one of the fun things I get to do is to take their headshots. I love it when I can use one of my extracurricular skills to help the team build our culture. I like to take advantage of the New York architecture and the bright natural light to create our own Big Apple-inspired photos.
After that, I focus on working through some design updates for my current project. I’m actually rolling out of one project and transitioning to a new one, which is a refreshing way to start the new year. One of the advantages of working at a consulting company is the diversity of projects I get to touch.
11:20 AM: Push-Up Challenge
The New York office will often do a random push-up challenge in the middle of the day. We use the competitive spirit to encourage all of us to be healthier.
11:30 AM: Prototype Walkthrough
I am helping the new designer on my current project to transition smoothly. Fortunately, the timing worked out perfectly, and she gets to join us right before the next round of research. At this time, we have a meeting to walk her through the research plan and the interactive prototype I created for users to click through and give feedback.
12:30 PM: Lunch
I’m a meal-prep snob and bring lunch to work every day. This week, I made Asian-themed bento boxes with stir-fry vegetables, cauliflower rice, and sesame tofu.
3:00 PM: UXD Roundup
Every week, the Solstice UX Design team across New York, Buenos Aires, and Chicago meets for updates. We share fun things we’ve read online or interesting approaches to recurring challenges we may experience on projects.
Last year, the team had a little “competition” to rebrand these weekly meetings. The winner designed a cute logo that was then turned into stickers and notebooks!
6:00 PM: Post-Work
Living in New York, there’s never a shortage of things to do. After work, I like to take dance classes, go to meetups, attend concerts, or grab dinner with friends. One group that I’m particularly involved in is a community of women in UX called Hexagon. They run a mentorship program in which designers are paired with more senior colleagues who can help them grow in their career. It’s a great way to get insights from people you don’t work with on a daily basis. Being involved in the local design community also helps me stay up to date with different trends in the industry.
7:30 PM: Nightly Walk Home
I live in an area that is jam-packed with dog-friendly stores, which means I can multitask. I walk Lillie and run errands at the same time. She likes to ride in the shopping cart.
9:00 PM: Winding Down
I like to spend the last few hours of the workday doing some personal relaxation, such as sorting through my weekend photos, applying a face mask, or watching the latest acclaimed movie on Netflix.
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