January 24, 2020
Divergent Path: Joining Engineering and Creativity
There are two distinct parts to Jolita Mo’s job as a product designer with online high-end retailer Net-A-Porter: mapping the experience of users while they are on the website, and addressing the visual interface the user sees while navigating their shopping experience.
Her job allows her to merge both her engineering and analytical skills, with her passion for design. For Mo (CEE BS ’13, MS ’14), it has been a circuitous path to merge her passions in the professional arena.
Typically, she says, in her field of work, people are either analytically oriented or design oriented. The challenge after leaving academia, she says, was to demonstrate that her engineering/analytical skills could inform her design skills in such a way that an employer would benefit from hiring her.
“I am more like a ‘T-shaped person,’ so I have some design skills but my background is not in a traditional field of design,” Mo says. “The ways I approach problems are a bit different. I can bring unique skills to the table to approach the job from another perspective.”
Mo first came to Carnegie Mellon from her native Hong Kong as an architectural student. But she soon realized engineering was a better fit, specifically sustainability and green design. Mo enjoyed the room to innovate and explore new ideas that came with studying sustainable engineering.
She says the vibe at CEE emphasized collaboration and teamwork, providing the support she says was vital to better understanding where her passions would lead her, especially as a graduate student. Research case studies pushed her and fellow group members to be innovative and cooperate to develop solutions for problems – many of which were undefined or ambiguous. Mo enjoyed these group projects and says they helped her understand her own strengths and interests.
Yet, she yearned to find opportunities where she could focus as much on the creative as on the analytic. After earning her CEE master’s degree, Mo moved to London to pursue dual masters’ degrees (MA ’16 MSE ’16) in Innovation Design Engineering, through a collaboration of the Royal College of Art and the Imperial College of London.
At Net-A-Porter, Mo and her colleagues work collaboratively with data teams to look at how a user moves through the site - including any problem they encounter or if they get stuck before completing a sale. Based on that information they make improvements to the experience. She very much utilizes the teamwork and problem-solving skills she honed at CEE for this part of her role, she says.
“It’s a little reminiscent of CEE, with the diversity of skills and the supportive environment,” she says.
In addition, she is working on some of the company’s new initiatives – including a joint-venture with Alibaba, China’s biggest online commerce company. She is additionally working on revamping the overall site, and making improvements to the customer experience.
While she is interested in future opportunities to explore her more creative side, she anticipates engineering and analysis will always inform what she does.
“I always want to know how things work,” she says. “It allows you to understand the world you are in.”