Discover Marcela, our VP of Client Engagement and Head of our Atlanta office.
Change is a trying time for everyone. Leadership can facilitate it by understanding the micro and macro employee experience.
Published on September 23, 2019
Hi, I’m Edward, an introverted minimalist who loves taming complexity and solving problems.
As a Senior Director of Engineering at YML, I lead and mentor engineering teams who thrive on solving problems and creating software solutions.
Semi-officially, I have been bestowed with the title of Chief Cheesecake Officer. This honor is solely due to a devoted following by YML’s staff and some clients for my White Chocolate Cheesecake.
I grew up in Aiea, a small town on the island of Oahu.
As a child growing up in Hawaii, I took for granted its rich and unique cultural diversity. From the Pidgin English language spoken amongst my friends (“Eh, pau hana! Going go home?”) to hitting the manapua trucks after school, or enjoying the tropical outdoors, it was uniquely Hawaii, and it was home. Now, as an adult, I appreciate and treasure the cultural diversity of my upbringing; I am a better person because of this diversity.
I caught the programming bug in high school when my physics teacher taught us FORTRAN at the local sugar mill using an IBM minicomputer and punchcards. Yes, this was before the Internet, the introduction of the IBM PC, and hitting up Stackoverflow for answers to programming challenges. It was a fantastic time to begin a career in the software industry.
Since college, I’ve reinvented myself several times as technologies changed and my interest matured. One constant throughout most of my career was the systems I worked were large, complex, and mission or life-critical systems. These systems ranged from realtime flight-control software to embedded cryptographic software. Software that had to work correctly or people could get hurt; this work taught me the definition of quality and the value of a software development process.
I joined the first wave of mobile developers when Apple released the first iOS SDK in March 2008. This platform allowed me to lead and participate in a team that developed the first clinical-research mobile applications that have impacted thousands of people. The effort also allowed me to become a first-time author with the publication of the first book on ResearchKit.
I’ve been an early adopter of technologies since college.
When I first interviewed at YML, I discovered the founders were also early technology adopters and that we were aligned with my goals. I’ve stayed at YML for over five years because of the people. I have a great team that I like and respect.
An added benefit: the crazy ones make the job more enjoyable and rewarding.
I am passionate about software, teams, and what it takes to produce high-quality and secure software systems.
Successfully engineering and delivering a software solution while satisfying programmatic constraints requires a team that has a wide range of technical skills as well as a refined set of soft skills. Developing teams with this set of skills have been and continues to be very rewarding.
I admire companies who put their corporate reputation behind issues of humanity and challenge established norms.
One of the first company that comes to mind is Virta Health. They are successfully challenging the conventional wisdom of diabetes prevention and achieving incredible reversal/remission results for a disease that is pandemic.
Apple is another company that I admire. Their belief that privacy is a fundamental human right resonates with me, given that I have a software-security background. Even though Apple is far from perfect, their privacy stances keep me as a customer.
My favorite spot to eat a meal is my home. Not because the food is spectacularly good but because I can control the quality of the ingredients that go into my meals. Frequently, my best meals are simply those comprising a few quality ingredients with minimum effort. Some of the best examples of this are Caprese salad and Affogato. Both are dead simple to assemble and delicious if the ingredients are fresh and high quality.
When I’m lazy (a little too often) and want a break from cooking, I tend to go to restaurants close to my home. Here are some of my favorite:
My all-time favorite place, but not in the bay area: Helena’s Hawaiian Food. Helena’s is frequently my first stop after landing at Honolulu International Airport.
I thoroughly enjoy spending time with my family, cooking, reading, and learning about new technology and health information.
My preferences for cooking or baking a dish is to make is anything and everything from Stella Parks.
My interest in health, however, creates an internal conflict that I wrestle with more often than I care to admit. Occasionally, I lose the dessert-health match, and I surprise my family or coworkers with a little treat. (I, of course, eat none of the treat. Nod, nod, wink, wink.)
Published on August 27, 2019
My first name is Lionel, but I prefer to be called by my middle name — Weston. I am an Engineering Manager for our excellent Indianapolis Team.
My speciality is in iOS development, but in my free time occasionally dabble in web technologies, server administration and when I am feeling it, I blog at Alloc-init.
Born and raised in Southern Indiana, I grew up in a mostly rural town called Bedford, its claim to fame is that the limestone for the Empire State Building came from a nearby quarry.
I recently moved near Indianapolis to be closer to the office. Aside from a year I lived in Georgia when I was a kid, I have lived in Indiana my whole life.
I started learning programming in high school, mostly Visual Basic. I was a member of our BPA (Business Professionals of America) chapter and even won a couple of awards in regional software engineering competitions.
After high school, I did a couple semesters at IVY Tech, but ended up dropping out due to money troubles. After Apple released the iPhone SDK in 2008, I decided to try to get back into programming so I saved up to buy a MacBook Pro, an iPod Touch and a programming book. I spent the next couple years self-teaching myself iOS development while I worked days in tech support at a local ISP, and in 2012 I entered the professional software engineering world.
I came to YML in 2014.
Before I worked at YML, the place I worked was very corporate and I wasn’t a fan of the project variety or the corporate politics. When it came to YML, I won’t deny that the idea of working for a Silicon Valley company with an impressive portfolio wasn’t also a factor.
I felt like YML also opened up my growth options.
When I am not programming, I do most of my computing on my iPad Pro. I think it is amazing that this 11” device can do so much and I am very interested in finding ways to do more and more on it. My friends actually think I am a bit nuts that I try to do things that most people would think of as a “computer” only task on it.
iPadOS is coming in September and it will even further expand what it can do, I am so excited! (Fun Fact: I actually am writing this on my iPad)
I suppose Apple is the obvious choice here. I don’t think they are perfect, but I typically align with their decisions (especially when it comes to privacy and security).
Nintendo is another one, I love how they refuse to follow the typical Triple-A gaming pattern. Their games might not have the “best graphics,” but when it comes to pure fun they easily win against any other major game developer.
My favorite things to eat are burgers. And I have two favorite places in Indy: Between the Bun and Punch Burger. I love places that add unusual toppings to their burgers.
I am an input nerd. Ever since I taught myself iOS development, I have been binging on educational YouTube videos. My favorite topics are Engineering and Design.
While I cannot draw to save my life, I have gotten pretty good at recognizing good design and this has really helped the work I do at YML. I also want to give a quick shoutout to the amazing channel Crash Course, where I’ve found a new passion in world history.
I also play a ton of video games. My current favorite gaming system is the Nintendo Switch and the rapid growth of my game library has probably annoyed my wife a bit. (If she is reading this, sorry honey!)
Published on August 12th, 2019
UX designer extraordinaire, team leader, collaborative ally, and creative strategist. I’ve been with Y Media Labs for 5+ years across two office locations. Currently I’m swatting at mosquitos in Atlanta.
Having one foot in design and one foot in leadership is the best place I’ve been in my career so far. There’s nothing more rewarding than coaching designers toward having their “aha” moments with big hairy problems. Or really, just opening their eyes to the possibilities out there as they grow in their own careers.
I was born and raised in Atlanta; a southern girl from a family of five women (way to go, dad 👏).
I moved to San Francisco in 2010 where I lived for 7+ years. San Francisco is where I finished school, met and married my husband, fell in love with pork buns, and first started working with Y Media Labs.
When YML opened a new office location in my hometown I jumped at the chance to be back with my family, dragging my husband along with me (bless his heart he can’t stand the humidity). It has been an amazing opportunity to have a role in the growth of our Atlanta office from the bottom up.
Tell us a little about your background.
My background is in print and graphics, like so many others in our field.
What I love about print is that something so ephemeral can make you feel so much; the smell of a book, the excitement of opening a well-designed package, the satisfaction at the perfect stock of a business card — it creates a moment.
I challenged myself when I transitioned into digital with YML to create that same quality experience, but through a device in someone’s pocket. I am inspired by the intersection of physical and digital. I worked for a short period of time creating motion graphics for trade fairs, kickstarting my love of interaction design.
Interaction plays a critical role in user experience and can breathe life into the work we do; contributing to understanding through context, and sprinkling in surprise and delight.
At this point it’s less about why I came and more about why I’ve stayed.
Working with YML gives me the opportunity to touch everything from drones, wine, and music to banking, healthcare, and insurance.
Our fierce leader and badass office director, Marcela, has stopped at nothing to empower the women (and men) around her. We are a team of dreamers and doers keeping collaboration and critique at the heart of our process. We value honesty and integrity.
Collectively we’re weirdos with hobbies/passions inspiring our work that range from muddy to hoppy, and our culture is definitely one to be envied.
There’s so much to love about what we do.
We tell stories. We decide when and how people interact with technology in order for them to have the best possible experience. We leverage that same technology to facilitate inclusivity.
I’m humbled by the opportunity to be at the forefront of design and innovation. We’re in the unique position to fully immerse ourselves in a variety of other industries in order to inspire change from the inside out.
Prison Tacos (or El Progreso) where Boulevard runs into the State Penitentiary is our favorite place for pastor. We order nothing else, just 3 pastor tacos (each). They’re to die for. We probably eat tacos way too many times a week… but really, is there such a thing?
There’s also a new place called El Tesoro that’s perfect for brunch or lunch. I hesitate to even mention it in hopes that the line won’t get too long. It’s that good. We love the tamales and the tostada.
Turns out, I’m obsessed with pottery. And even better, I’m not that bad at it! I’ve been throwing pots on the wheel for the last year or so. I spend most of my spare time in my studio throwing, trimming, and glazing.
Other than that, my husband and I love to go backpacking (covered in deet), we have a vegetable garden (anything you can put on a taco), we both game (Zelda or ToeJam and Earl), and I quite often find myself with my nose in a Brandon Sanderson book that I can’t put down (sci-fi and fantasy only, please).
August 8, 2019
YML's team is diverse, insightful and bound together by a dedication to the agency's mission — make a lasting impact. The "Getting to Know" series shines a light on various members of the YML team.
My name is Adam Talcott, and I’m a software engineering manager at YML.
I’ve been at YML for four years, and during that time I’ve had the pleasure of leading a number of different technology projects. I usually get involved in the early stages of an engagement, even before a client has committed to partnering with us, to bring an engineering perspective to the table. I then get to see that project through strategy, design, development and deployment.
I was born in Chicago, but I grew up in California, splitting my time between the San Fernando Valley in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area.
I went to college and grad school in southern California, and, after a brief stint in Austin, Texas, I returned to the Silicon Valley about 20 years ago.
After completing my Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering, I worked as a computer architect designing microprocessors for IBM, Sun Microsystems and Cisco. In 2008, I started developing iOS (then just “iPhone”!) apps in my spare time.
I started my own consulting company in 2009 working on iPhone apps for a wide variety of customers. I worked at a startup in the machine learning and video space prior to joining YML.
At YML I saw a great opportunity to work with a great team and to partner with amazing clients. I also really love the variety of projects I get to work on and the variety of technologies I get to learn about and use here.
I love to bring great designs and user experiences to life. It doesn’t matter what the technology may be, but nothing gives me more pleasure than having something I’ve helped build improve people’s lives in some way.
Apple is definitely one. I was an Apple fanboy since I first started programming on my parents' Apple II Plus computer. That’s long before it was normal to see everyone in a meeting, classroom or airport with Apple computers or using an iPhone.
It’s been amazing to watch the growth of that company, and I still get inspired by the story of how the first Macintosh computer was developed.
I live in Los Altos, so when I eat in San Francisco, it tends to be for a special event. As a result, my favorite restaurant in the city is Gary Danko, which I’ve been fortunate enough to visit on a few occasions.
Closer to home, and more affordable: I love eating at Patxi’s Pizza in Palo Alto or Estrellita Restaurant in Los Altos.
With my family, usually in the car shuttling the kids between activities. My wife and I have a ten-year-old daughter and and an eight-year-old son, and I always look forward to weekends or traveling with them.
And when I do have a moment to myself, I also love reading history books or getting some video game time in playing Rocket League or a hockey game in NHL 19.
July 18, 2019
YML's team is diverse, insightful and bound together by a dedication to the agency's mission — make a lasting impact. The "Getting to Know" series shines a light on various members of the YML team.
I’m Hamish, which is a Scottish name pronounced “Hey-mish”, but in the US by necessity I will respond to Hammish, Hameesh, Amish, Shamus and occasionally Angus.
I’m a UK qualified Chartered Accountant, and I’ve been working as a CFO / COO for professional services agencies for most of my career.
Despite the extremely Scottish name, I was born and raised in South East England and spent the first two decades of my career in London. When the agency I was the CFO for in London expanded into the US in 2003, I took the opportunity to move with it to the San Francisco Bay Area where I’ve been living and working since 2006.
Tell us a little about your background.
My time at school and university was dominated by mathematics – almost all of my high school qualifications are mathematics subjects, and my bachelor’s degree is in mathematics. So after graduating, becoming a Chartered Accountant was a natural route into the business world for me.
Why did you choose to come to Y Media Labs?
From the start, I’ve wanted to work with business leaders to help them build and grow their organizations. Fast-growing businesses are the most fun and challenging to work for, and I’m a professional services agency specialist and a technology enthusiast – so Y Media Labs checked every single box for me. I couldn’t have been more excited when Ashish and Sumit asked me to join.
What about this industry are you most passionate about?
I’ve always been a tech geek – before computers I was a gadget guy, in the early 80’s I was programming an 8-bit computer with machine code, and I love the things that technology enables. I keep in touch with friends and family all over the world using social media. I listen to just about any book in the world or any music I want to during my commute using a wireless super-computer that fits in my pocket. I can deal with my anxieties by checking my garage door is closed from anywhere in the world – all these things I love with a passion and muse on with awe on a daily basis, and I’m excited for the things to come too.
What are some other companies you admire?
I admire people more than companies, and it’s the people behind them that drive inspirational companies. Coming from the UK I grew up being inspired by Richard Branson, and his values of fairness, inclusion and humility, which infuse the Virgin brand. And people like Roger Federer, who despite his phenomenal success and domination of his sport for years, maintains a humility and kindness to all which is an example for everyone.
What are your favorite spots to eat in San Francisco?
I worked for several years on the Embarcadero, in what is now Google’s San Francisco office. Favorite places around there are Ozumo for sushi, and Boulevard for a splurge. Where I live in Marin, I have to give a big shout out to Insalata’s.
How do you spend your spare time?
Living in Marin, our family does a lot of outdoors stuff – tennis, hiking with our dogs, swimming, and mountain biking which was invented in Fairfax the town next door to us. We love movies too, and being able to stream HD movies on demand onto a projection screen in our living room is amazing – just another reason I love technology!
By Ryan Spencer
I started my journey with Y Media Labs on April 11th, 2011 meaning I have just reached, and passed, my eight year anniversary with the company.
YML has gone through many fundamental changes (even just referring to it as “YML”!), but I believe the most important factors to our success have been outcomes of our collective curiosity and openness to change.
We began our journey with a narrow focus in building apps for mobile devices, and realized over time that our true impact is not through just great work, but by also being advocates of a customer-first mindset.
What we really do:
In addition to creating digital experiences for clients, a lot of what we do for our partners is to try to help them reimagine their own process to better reflect the needs of their customer.
While there are many large companies who employ some type of design thinking throughout their organization, there still are many that do not and still do not understand the value. Our goal is to tap into the biggest opportunities and bring about change.
In this article, I would like to reflect on my experience here at the company and how we shifted our own perspective over time. This is how we turned a small design shop into an experience design company with lasting impact.
I believe I joined Y Media Labs in version 1.0. At this time, creating mobile apps was our only priority.
Early on, our goal was to simply try to produce the best work possible. The output was key, and we wanted to keep the process simple by not convoluting it with complexity. The “we make iPhone apps” industry was a bit of the wild west, and for us, it was a process of learning, exploration, and opportunity. Somedays the lack of structure created turbulence, but over time we realized through it that we grew as a result — to be agile, adaptable, and fast.
The problem: business and stakeholders alone lead product decisions
In the early days, clients tended to lead or change the product direction on the fly because there was no north star or overall product vision.
We didn’t have the confidence to say “trust us, we are professionals” and we feel as though there is a greater opportunity in following our prescribed roadmap.
Truthfully though we were just so immersed in the process of learning, creating and problem-solving that we didn’t have a realization of the immense experience we grew over time.
And after all, clients are paying us to create their overall vision. So they should have absolute say, right? But as we began to hire more people to the team, we realized that this wasn’t going to work for everyone the way we anticipated.
In this first version of YML, we we beginning to attract some of our first marquee clients from great work alone. Some of the most notable ones in this phase include Symantec, Bank of America, Sesame Street, Photobucket, Nom Nom Paleo, Intro to Letters, and Credit Karma.
By the end of 2013 we had worked on a huge body of work, both projects and pitches. This includes one of my absolute favorite projects I’ve worked on which was YMLs first award-winning product, NomNom Paleo (Now with two Webbys).
In many cases, we were seen as app design mercenaries who were there to help where needed, not meant to guide – but we aspired to be more and wanted to figure out how.
These learnings in YML 1.0 along with a bigger, brighter team brought us into the next phase.
The business-driven “app shop” gained a customer-focus through design thinking methods.
This iteration of the company was when we began to hit our stride professionally and culturally. The work begun to become more visually appealing, but more importantly we had a better understanding of the value of a strategic approach could bring.
Creative Gets a Voice, Customers too
YML began as a technology-forward company, and in many ways it still is. Although design has always begun outnumbered in headcount, it had become a much greater force in the company. There had been a number of design leaders along the way that were key to helping us through both our projects and process.
In 2015 my colleague Alex Huang and I were given the charge to co-lead the Creative team, and with that came an opportunity to bring new ideas and process to the work. Alex and I had the fortune of working on some incredible pieces of work at this time. There were some high-profile brands, all with unique challenges of reaching massive audiences in a way that felt personal, engaging and intuitive.
We were always looking for ways to do things differently, and dreaming of ways to solve problems differently with tools, methods, or process.
While working on The Home Depot mobile app, we conducted a small experiment.
We thought it would be useful to show up at the local Home Depot at 6 in the morning with donuts, prepared with paper-prototypes and a list of questions for contractors and customers willing to speak to us.
Surprisingly they were willing to talk to us and give us valuable directional feedback that saved us a lot of hours down the line. Customers convinced us, helping us to convince our stakeholders.
We learned that failing early was far more preferable, and the closer we got to customers, the more empathy that we were able to build for people we were designing for. Design teams working off a rich set of customer insights rather than subjective opinions was a huge breakthrough for us and our clients.
Divergent and Convergent Thinking
Around this time we also were increasingly convinced in conducting workshops as a way to understand the challenges more clearly. We went through a number of different iterations of a design studio workshop as a method to begin the process of divergent and convergent thinking.
We quickly transitioned from the “silo” design model of working on designs at our office and sending them back over, to a much more collaborative working partner, which I believe led to a better quality product that was produced in less time.
Looking back at the outcomes, this was a really promising era for YML and it was the first time that I felt truly proud of our work. It felt more guided, in tune with the audiences, and the outcomes improved dramatically.
Marquee clients: Apple, Staples, The Home Depot, State Farm
Mobile app design to full ecosystem design.
New Office & Brand
This phase was kicked off with a move to a new space in Redwood Shores.
We were able to work with an architecture firm in thinking about the way we wanted our space to look, feel, and function. We took some of our early lessons forward about the necessity of collaboration, and made sure our space reflected that need. Whiteboards everywhere for spontaneous ideation, and an open environment where music and energy were able to flow through.
Redesigning our office caused us to rethink the way we presented ourselves from a brand-standpoint. Through our internal discussions, we began to feel as though our brand of Y Media Labs needed to be somewhat neutral aesthetically. Our work and our people are our focus, and therefore our brand should take a step back. We felt as though our space and our site should both resemble an art gallery — a passive place that great work can be displayed.
At the same time, our identity is shaped by the individuals on our team, so we wanted to create some emphasis on displaying the work and a focus on the people that shaped our work. This fresh start made us reflect deeper into our brand, ourselves, and the work we wanted to do.
The most recent turning point came with the addition of Chief Creative Officer Stephen Clements, who joined from 15 years at AKQA. He immediately challenged the way that we thought, how we approached the work, and the way we speak of our successes.
He has a great vision for YML and the way in which we bring impact for our clients, and we have since been more vision-focused than ever with our work. He has pushed the quality of our work forward on multiple fronts and has been a fantastic mentor to all of us on the team.
He’s been a huge contributing factor to my personal growth as well as the positive trajectory of the company.
With these changes, we had a moment of realization.
While mobile apps are a central part of a user’s experience with a brand, it is just a single touchpoint in the customer' overall journey Thinking more broadly, there are many other touch-points that need to work in harmony in order to bring value to an entire ecosystem, and we wanted to figure out what those opportunities are.
Customer’s lives are complicated. Digital channels aren’t used in a linear way. They might be browsing a site on their desktop with the intent of going into the store later on to see a product. Or being helped in store by an employee who’s using an iPad to better facilitate customer service.
We aim to build threads between these experiences, to connect the dots between mobile experience, websites, communication tactics, in-store experiences and beyond. It all begins with research and understanding, and a great team to facilitate the process.
This third version of our company is still at its peak.
Every day we speak with our clients and their customers, allowing them both to dream big with us, and help them shape their perspective on digital experience.
As an experience designer, I consider myself first and foremost a user-advocate: with the intention of reducing steps and complexity while also reducing barriers of communication with customers.
This era’s marquee clients: First Republic Bank, Molekule, Sequoia, State Farm.
In 2011 I would dream of a future of this company where I would be working alongside talented, passionate, caring people on projects that would challenge and inspire me. Through many iterations of exploration, challenges and insights, I’m thankful to see us get to that place.
P.S. Thanks Alex, Neil, Phil and Caroline, for being awesome YMLers. We’ve all been together through many of these iterations and we couldn’t have made it without your support and friendship.