Maggie Banks, Jet.com Intern
This summer, a select group of design students from world-class design schools have been hard at work inside some of NEA’s hottest NY-based portfolio companies. Spearheaded by NEA Designer-in-Residence Albert Lee, this new program pairs talented designers with cutting-edge companies such as Jet.com, 53, GlamSquad, Enigma and Casper for an immersive 10-week summer internship. With guidance throughout from mentors at NEA and participating companies, interns gain valuable work experience and hone their skills, while making important contributions to fast-growing tech businesses in NEA’s portfolio.
What does the internship look like and how could NEA portfolio companies benefit from the program? As this summer’s program crosses the halfway mark, we thought it would be a great time to chat with some of the participants and find out how things are going—so we caught up with Ben Babcock, Director of Research at Jet.com and Maggie Banks, NEA Design Resident and student at Carnegie Mellon University, majoring in Product Design and Human Computer Interaction. We also checked in with Albert… Here’s what we learned.
Ben, how can NEA Design Residents help a company like Jet.com?
“The goal of design research (historically called usability, then user research) is to meet with customers as often as possible and identify ways to improve your product. Jet.com brings customers in every week to shop the website and identify pain points and we use this opportunity to make updates to the website, almost immediately.
As an NEA Design Resident, Maggie is working in the design research immersion program. She runs these design research sessions, bringing in customers once a week, moderating the sessions and then collecting data to identify ways to make the site better. She started running design research programs during her very first week at Jet.com, and has since taken over key pieces of research that you might expect a full-time employee to do—these are needle-moving projects.”
Why work with an NEA Design Resident? What is the value-add from Jet.com’s perspective?
Maggie is able to identify pain points that might be blocking conversion in some way or frustrating customers. She gets in there and owns the research end to end. She troubleshoots issues involving messaging on the website, customer questions about pricing and savings and even button color problems. Each issue our design research team uncovers requires some additional design thinking, and Maggie brings those problems to the forefront.
Successful internships really start with the recruiting process, and Maggie reflects the exceptional candidate pool we’ve experienced with the NEA Design Resident program. NEA has done such a great job of screening, these interns are ready to hit the ground running from the moment they start. Because they already have strong skills and often considerable experience, we’re able to give them projects of great substance. Maggie required little training to ramp up and she’s been a true team member from day one. It’s honestly like having a full-time employee for the summer—that’s how significantly our interns contribute to the team.
Maggie, how has your experience at Jet.com given you a jump start on a career in product development?
“Working at Jet.com in the design research group has helped me understand that it’s absolutely critical to really know who your user is. I’ve learned how important design user studies are as part of the design process, and my work here is preparing me to really get at that iterative process as I move forward in my design career. Working in an immersive design research environment like Jet.com has been an invaluable experience.
NEA has been so cool and I don’t even know how to put into words how awesome I think this opportunity is. I’ve been fortunate to work at a really exciting company, and two of my peers are also interning here at Jet.com. The startup culture here is something that all of us interns are looking for in our career, and the help Albert and NEA has given us has been tremendously valuable.”
Albert, what are your thoughts on the program so far?
“A key part of my role as NEA’s Designer-in-Residence is to support our portfolio companies in leveraging design as an impactful way to build a successful company. One of the ways to do that is to ensure that they have a strong pipeline and access to top-tier talent. In the broader design ecosystem, we also want to support design talent in understanding how best to create value within start-ups with their unique skill sets, which is not as well-groomed a pathway as one might think. By creating a direct bridge between the world’s best design schools, such as RISD, Carnegie Mellon and SVA, and start-ups in our portfolio, our goal is to create a robust relationship that sets up all of our companies to bring in the best design talent early.
What’s been amazing to witness this summer, is that for our companies, the Design Residents have been able to seamlessly on-board and create immediate value at companies. I attribute this not just to their strong skills, but also to the fact that designers inherently are trained to be great collaborators and have a bias toward action and building. And conversely, for the Design Residents, it’s been amazing to see how this experience with our companies has impacted what they want to do in the world and how they might want to use their remaining time during their undergraduate or graduate programs to set them up for success in joining a start-up after school.”
Have questions related to the Design Residents Program? Please feel free to contact us.