Motivating the Motivators

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By Jack Cole

In my last post I spotlighted two people who in their own distinct ways were influencers in shaping my sensibilities in moving towards a career and creative life in design. While these are only two examples of people who were pivotal in my journey in embracing the challenge to challenge others through a Reframe mindset, the reality is that there are so many people for each one of us that play a pivotal role.

Today, I’m spotlighting the Motivators who work alongside me who have their own Motivator stories and journeys to tell. I’ve asked the Motivators on my team to consider the parents, teachers, friends, colleagues, and mentors who have contributed to their reason why they are who they are today.

As a hiring manager of a user experience research and design firm, my team and I have established a core set of expectations for any Motivate candidate in order to determine proper skill, personality, and culture fit. While it is a given that any candidate have solid UX/UI and research skills demonstrating overall knowledge, mastery, and understanding of process, it is just as and almost more important that a candidate demonstrate the intangibles that unequivocally make that person a Motivator.

In assessing these characteristics in interviews, we’ve found that once we’ve gotten past the basic “must asks” of the interview process, allowing candidates to tell their own stories help us to unearth the true growth potential they might have with us. One of the questions we ask is around who or what has been a driver in their life helping them be here today. Invariably, the responses we’ve gotten back are compelling tales of how through instruction or simple action, have inspired these candidates to find their own pathways to a creative life.

With this in mind, along with introducing a new podcast I’ll be hosting (more on that later), I’ve taken the opportunity to sit down with some members of our team to ask the question: “Who were the Motivators that made you a Motivator today?”

The following spotlights of both our Motivators and their own personal influencers are an interesting look into how even one person can truly make the difference in changing one’s perspective from “I can’t” to “I can”:


NIKKI’S ROLE AT MOTIVATE:  Nikki has worked as a UX / UI designer and lead for various globally-known companies and brands for 12 years.

In working for Motivate, Nikki has both supported and led projects for large-scale client partners in the finance and media industries. Her open, highly collaborative approach to UX strategy customer-centric practices makes her highly-sought after among clients and Motivate team members alike.


“I’ve watched my father (my whole life) push every limit in his career in becoming a top leader in his industry. He has always pushed me to do the same and think creatively, innovate and create. He taught me to go into a career that I was in love with (like he was), because that (to him) is the key to happiness. I found out later on in life that he was right.”


NATHAN’S ROLE AT MOTIVATE: Nathan grew up (mostly) in Tampa, FL. and just like the roads in Florida, his road to Motivate has been long and winding. Early in his career, Nathan worked in real estate before taking on roles within more traditional ad agencies. After a few years, Nathan entered into exploring the startup world learning a lot about tech and the life cycle of startups.

Along the way, he gathered more experience and savviness working with creatives building a strong bond with his counterparts working as a project manager. Nathan now embodies a full creative mindset as a Client Engagement Manager bridging the gap between clients and the Motivate Design. Nathan demonstrates superpower qualities around anticipating what’s going to come next (whether good or bad) and working with teams to figure out how to solve for problems along the way.


“I’m sure this is the most popular answer, but still gotta say it… it’s my mom. First off, she’s the most humble and level headed person I’ve ever known. When everyone else is panicked and running in circles, she’s cool and looking for a solution. If the building was on fire, she’d be the one calmly shepherding people to the stairs. She also has this kind of quiet, incredible toughness… no matter what kind of obstacle you put in front of her, she very calmly and quietly conquers it. And most importantly, she stays relentlessly positive. Negativity gets pushed to the side; I think she just doesn’t really have time for that.

She had breast cancer a few years back, just kinda dealt with that and then went back to her life. She runs a successful business with my Dad and teaches aerobics on the side.

All of this has had a huge influence on me and shaped who I am today. I like to think that I have some of these traits too, and I definitely owe it to her. ”


JARROD’S ROLE AT MOTIVATE: Before Motivate (and still currently) Jarrod  is a producer, actor, and writer for a theater company. He attended NYU for drama out of high school with the intention of being an actor. Not realizing how much it actually costs to live or the daily grind of auditioning, Jarrod shifted focus to other creative endeavors running The Joust Theatre Company and writing in his spare time.

In his current role at Motivate, Jarrod is the resident Happiness Coordinator (yes, that’s his actual title!) working to bring people joy in a million creative ways. Whether it means helping with client projects, providing a laugh, or simply reminding people of life outside work, Jarrod’s objective is to see opportunities to improve the lives of the rest of the team. “Joy is the game, Jarrod’s my name, and I’m not playing! (around… but that hurt the rhyme scheme)”

JARROD’S MOTIVATOR: Emily Snyder – Director, Playwright, Producer

“Emily was the first person to cast me in a play. I didn’t audition, just showed up with a friend who was in the play to a rehearsal. An actor was sick and they needed someone to read the part, so I stepped in for a day. At the end of rehearsal, Emily said I had a knack for it and insisted I be a part of the play’s ensemble. The play was a bizarre comedy of manners and resulted in me being in full drag for all of my stage time and I became the understudy for everyone else in the show. She continued to be supportive of me and my growth and gave me the confidence to continue into theater professionally. The rest is history!”


ALEX’S ROLE AT MOTIVATE: Starting out as an illustration major at the Pratt Institute, Alex began her career with the amazing opportunity to custom-Illustrate a children’s book entitled The Pearl: A Russian Love Story written by Nan Richardson.

Moving on in her career, Alex worked as a UX / UI designer for Marvel, Peter Thomas Roth Clinical Skin Care, The Children’s Place and then as an Art Director for start up by the name of Lolly Wolly Doodle.

Now with Motivate, Alex’s upbeat personality, diligence to her craft, and wide-ranging skill sets are a breath of fresh air for everyone she works alongside. Her recent projects range from UX / UI mobile and desktop design, package design, and workshop facilitation for clients in the pharmaceutical, sports entertainment, and retail spaces.

ALEX’S MOTIVATOR: Mrs. Smith – Alex’s high school art teacher

“I come from a humble home and growing up I always helped contribute financially. I never thought that I could make a living out of art, especially not one that I could help my family with. I was very aware that others had a very large advantage over me with having tutors and private art lessons not having to work so that they could do extra curricular activities and so on and that was just in my district in Florida; how could I ever compete against people who come from all over the world with enormous amounts of money (at least compared to me) to New York to do art?

I had always worked hard at school and was a very good student with very high scores and AP credits and thought I should probably become some sort of finance or lawyer person (money making person). But that’s not where my heart was and it was clear to my art teacher Mrs. Smith. I tend to be a shy person (something I have worked on and have gotten better at) so I never really opened up to Mrs. Smith or anyone back then so she really didn’t know what was going on in my life but she did think I had a natural talent and would give me and a few other students special projects.

She told us about this summer art program at Ringling School of Art and Design and how they give two full scholarships. The scholarship covered the tuition, room and board I just needed to figure out how to get there and bring clothes! Amazing! She said I should apply and helped me do so, I worked on a portfolio and she helped me make them slides (so old school) and I filled out the application on her computer and……I won!

Thanks to her I was able to see if I stood a chance out there in the art world. I kicked ass at the Program and won every award and a full scholarship to the school if I chose to go there (which I did not).

That program gave me the confidence and guts to throw the dice and take my chances in NYC. If it wasn’t for Mrs. Smith I would be who knows where miserable. She was the one person who saw me and my talent and gave me the tools to believe in myself. I think of her often, everytime I look out the window and see this amazing city and think of all the amazing work I’ve done.

One moment, one instance of giving knowledge and kindness really can change a person’s life. I don’t think she knows what she did for me at all, like I said I didn’t really speak much back then and I’m terrible at staying in touch but I thank her in my heart and mind and I hope it reaches her. I’m sure she is still changing kids lives for the better everyday, because she is truly amazing.”


ABBY’S ROLE AT MOTIVATE: As a User Experience Researcher Abby has worked for Motivate on projects for more than a few telecommunications / media companies creating research plans, conducting interviews, and synthesizing data.

Given Abby’s technical background in IT and a broad range of roles in a prior start up, Abby has a unique perspective and skills puts her in a unique position to not only assess customer experience, but also analyze business needs and technical requirements.

Coupling her wide array of talents with her ability to communicate only in a way that a true Southerner does, Abby’s ability to deliver truth while simultaneously building trust with others is second to none.

ABBY’S MOTIVATOR: Her Friend Rachel

“Rachel and I met in freshman year of high school and have been best friends ever since. After college we went in different directions – she moved to New York to work as a consultant at Deloitte and I moved to Houston to start a job in IT consulting.

After a few years at this job, I became unhappy with the work. There was no room for creativity or questioning the status quo. Around this time, Rachel came to me and asked if I wanted to help her start a company. We both worked 2 jobs until we secured funding, which allowed me to quit my job, move to New York, and work for the startup full time.

At the startup I wore a lot of hats. I was doing financial analysis, marketing, and working with engineers and developers. I got introduced to UX design while working at the startup. I absolutely loved how it used a methodical process to explore big ideas and concepts. I liked it so much, I decided to pursue a career in it full time.

Without Rachel, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to change careers or the opportunity to learn about UX design.”

Inspired by all of this talent and the stories behind each Motivator’s journey, we will be launching a new podcast called Everyday Reframe – a podcast that aims to help unlock the potential in people and organizations to find opportunities and outcomes that can make a difference.

In it, I’ll be your host exploring interviews like these and various other conversations, perspectives, and case stories touching on UX research and design as well as real-life situations that people of all backgrounds encounter.

Just like Motivate, we aim to go deeper than the surface of general UX topics skills and tools – we’re interested in understanding universal human topics through active open commentary and being inspired by the people who tell those stories.

Just like the Motivator stories shared here, we’ll be looking forward to bringing you more stories of creative thinking applied everyday through a million different ways. We’ll celebrate problems as opportunities and then show how those opportunities became real life solutions. The goal will be to challenge and inspire you to do the same in your own life and career journey as well as cultivate a community of creative thinking on a broader scale.

Want to get in on the conversation around Reframe? Reach out through the contact information below to share your story, influencer, or suggestions to keep the conversation going!  

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