/ Life

Better Together: How Kristen Drives Impact by Putting People First

Welcome to the Life at Procore blog, where we shine a light on Procorians across the globe who are living our values and helping us build a better world together. They are Groundbreakers in every sense of the word and these are their stories.

Today’s post features Kristen, a Staff Product Designer, based in Brooklyn, New York, whose passion for putting people first has led to a career of innovation and impact.

What do you do at Procore?

I’m on a Platform team in the Product Design department. I work closely with the Product and Technology organization, primarily around the new workflow solution and helping people to get their objects—like documents and invoices—approved and out the door smoothly. We’re creating a self-service experience so customers can tailor it to their company’s policies and procedures. My team and I also do a lot of discovery/research work, which is where life gets really exciting because there are endless possibilities when it comes to workflows and automation. When we’re really lucky, we get to spend time co-designing the vision at the flexibility level, which has so many big moving parts and pieces and makes me love my job quite a bit.

Outside of that, I’m part of the ambassador meeting for the design system and a member of Procore’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for PRISM (Pride, Raising awareness, Involvement, Support, and Mentorship for Procore's LGBTQ+ and allies) and Unidos (educating and celebrating the experiences of Latinx, Hispanic, and Spanish-speaking Procorians and their communities), as well as the Director of Women in Tech (WiT) (empowering, elevating, and supporting women in the technology space). I consider these ERGs a part of my job and they are definitely where I move into the “what is culture like at Procore'' piece of my work. It’s about putting people first and making ourselves stronger together.

What has your Procore journey looked like so far?

In August of 2020, a previous colleague reached out and said, “I know you love workflows, I think we have a good spot for you.” At the time, I was already involved in conversations with another company so I had the privilege of working with two offers. During my interview, the hiring manager told me, “you’re going to have some dystopian feelings because we care so much about our culture here, but we really mean it.” For me, this was great news because an open and caring culture was the one thing I wanted most out of my next role.

In September 2020, I started at Procore during the pandemic, so I got to know a lot of folks virtually. I continued branching out and making connections across the company, which is how I heard about Procore’s ERGs, including WiT. One of the executive champions for WiT, Dani, initially reached out asking if I could help the leadership team. When I asked what I could offer from a design perspective, one of the greatest things she said to me was, “We have the whole design toolkit. The way we test, try things, ask questions, and bring that empathy to the table is really something that product designers are uniquely geared to do.”

After working with Mei Ling, Sr. Manager, Software Engineering, as well as the founder and previous director of the group, I took on the WiT Directorship in December 2021. Along with Associate Director and Software Engineer, Juliana, we've been trying to build programs that will meet people where they are and help them achieve their goals. We are especially looking into intersections of identities and how WiT serves them, or doesn't yet. It’s a big question we have, but an exciting one. I really love the work that is being done to bring ERGs together so we can be even more impactful as a whole.

Can you describe your work environment and how/where you do your best work?

I tend to split my time working in the office and working from home. Right now I’m fully-remote, but Procore just opened their new office in New York, so I expect to be there soon! I do think of myself as a multi-hyphenate in so many dimensions though—both in what I do for a job and in how I work. There are tasks I love to work on collaboratively, and there are others that I need time to myself to focus on without distractions. That is one of the challenges that offices can hold, since I don't have as much control over these things in that environment. On the other hand, I prefer collaborating face-to-face versus through the virtual whiteboard. I am trying to adapt my own preferences though because I don’t think the dispersed work model, in general, is going away anytime soon. I do think that’s for the best, since it gives people a lot more freedom.

What is your reaction to being called a Groundbreaker?

I do look at myself as a change agent and hold that expectation of myself to try to find solutions where I see problems. I don’t do things in a traditional way most of the time, but I do like learning from traditions and understanding why people hold them and enjoy them. I believe it’s important for us to not just do things a certain way because that’s how they've always been done. That has actually led to a lot of harm. Of course, we also need to consider the harm we could do in doing things differently, but I’m all about pulling things together and trying to use them in new ways. The world has changed so much in the last month, let alone the last decade, so it’s exciting to try to bring efficiencies to our construction community. In my role, I think the best type of groundbreaking also happens when it’s with our customers. Which is a reason why I love some of the conversations we get to have with our clients.

What is something you do to "hold the door open" and help others get into your field or in the construction and tech industries?

Outside of WiT, I mentor with a group called Hexagon, which is a non-profit that’s dedicated to supporting the careers of women and non-binary people in UX by helping to create meaningful connections and build skills that foster success. It’s been awesome to help my mentees get closer to their goals. I also facilitate discussion groups at tech conferences and I’m always looking for opportunities to speak and teach. The director of the Hexagon Mentorship Program in NYC, Janine Toro, teaches at Pratt and will sometimes pull me in for guest lectures, which is such a joy. It’s especially rewarding when people are starting with a graphic design background and you give them a few UX tools—even the power of proper research interviews can be game-changing.

Who or what inspires you in your career?

  • First and foremost, my colleagues. They inspire me all the time, every day.
  • Dr. Lesley-Ann Noel, Rachael Dietkus, and Victor Udoewa. I’ve encountered the three of them at different meetups, conferences, and articles and have been inspired by their work around the importance of understanding the limits of our empathy as designers and researchers and providing methods to co-design with the communities we are serving. It’s inspired me to look into ways we can start to explore that here at Procore.
  • Debbie Millman. She’s the design hero of all heroes, a writer, educator, artist, brand consultant and host of the podcast Design Matters. The way she talks about branding is so inspiring because it’s really about the culture and the promise a company makes to the people they serve. Her work reinforces the message that businesses need to care about their people, and to put that above profits.
  • Simon Sinek. He’s best known for popularizing the concept of “why?” (the compelling higher purpose that inspires us and acts as the source of everything we do) in his TED Talk. He’s also the author of best selling books such as Start With Why, Leaders Eat Last, Together is Better, and The Infinite Game.

What is your joy?

My dog (Raphael), my cat (Luna), and my girlfriend (Kate) bring me a lot of joy. So does being outside in general, and activities like hiking, camping, gardening, biking, or going to the beach. I learned how to ride a moped last summer, and that brings as much joy as I could ever ask for. Records too. My abuelito was more than a collector of records, so following in his footsteps there is some joy I get out of older forms of media versus playing something on my Spotify account over bluetooth. You never know what you’ll discover!

Left to right: Kristen with her dog (Raphael) on the way to the beach, and out exploring the Vermont wilderness. 

How does Procore support your values and the change you'd like to see in the world?

The people-first approach is a big value I share with Procore. The same goes for innovation, because I don’t think Procore is looking to do things the way they’ve been done before—we don’t sell filing cabinets with paper forms. We’re trying to improve the process so people feel less friction in their daily lives.

I also love the work that Procore.org is doing. Knowing that I'm helping to support their initiatives through my own work is really good for my soul. I find it important to work for a company that is not solely about profit. It’s a tricky thing and I’m privileged to have a choice because not everyone does. Knowing we are giving back to our communities is something I really love about Procore.  

Any tips for aspiring Procorians?

If you can, reach out to us. We love to talk to people about what their potential could be here. I’m in a conversation at this moment with someone who wants to change careers. She’s an architect and is looking to get into product or product design, so talking to people about how their skills can transfer is something I think is really helpful when people are trying to imagine themselves in a new role.

A career change is not starting over or starting at zero; the skills you’ve built and proven are very relevant to a lot of parts of design. Organization and communication are both big pieces of design, but are also transferable to a lot of other roles. I spend not even 10% of my time designing—it's about a lot more to it than what ends up on the page.

There’s a ton of educational resources out there. I had a traditional educational background where I went to art school and majored in graphic design, got an associates degree in web design, and then went off to do freelance projects for a while. That wasn’t the smoothest path to design, so I love to try to help people figure out the easier way.

Conclusion

A big thank you to Kristen for walking us through her journey and all the incredible work she’s doing!

We’re always looking for Groundbreakers like Kristen to help us continue to improve the lives of everyone in construction. Come explore a career with Procore today or join our Talent Community to stay connected.