Carnegie Mellon University

Integrated Innovation Institute

Engineering + Design + Business

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Alumni Spotlight - Ruolan Xia (MIIPS Advanced Study '16)


Connecting Customers and Cultures Through Design

“I want to refresh how people think about Financial Tech. I want to design fun FinTech projects that impact people’s day-to-day lives,” says Ruolan Xia (MIIPS Advanced Study X), Senior Product Designer at Intuit, the financial technology (or "fintech") company home to QuickBooks, Mint, and TurboTax. Xia is designing user-friendly features for QuickBooks Self-Employed, a mobile application that helps over two-million freelancers and self-employed business owners manage their finances. 

“Working on an app is really gratifying. You can see how people are reacting on the app store or Google Play, and you can respond immediately to their feedback.” says Xia, who also has experience designing for desktop applications. She explains that, with mobile applications, her team isn’t bound to legacy design and have the freedom to experiment with new features. Within two months, they tested and launched two new updates, and have implemented customization features for users as they navigate the app. 

“The main reason chose to work on this product because I like to connect with people,” Xia interviews customers to understand how they engage with different features. She explains that freelancers face unique and often stressful financial challenges, so understanding their needs is critical. “In my role, I get to know how customers are really feeling, and I empathize with them as I return to my designs.” 

Xia has advanced from Design Intern for QuickBooks Online Accountant to Senior Product Designer for QuickBooks Self-Employed, having first joined Intuit in 2016. She’s worked in their California offices and has also spent time working in Sydney, Australia. For Xia, Intuit has been a gateway to new design opportunities and great place to learn and grow.

“I love the culture of Intuit. It’s not at all how people stereotype might a financial company: it’s a really vivid and playful environment, and we have a lot of fun with one another. My current team is like a start-up within the company, so we’re free really innovate. Our team leads design trends for the whole company.”

As a self-described “visual design nerd,” Xia works on her craft outside of the office, too. While living alone in Sydney in 2017, Xia filled her time by drawing interpretations of Chinese four-character words. Xia analogizes the four-characters as bento boxes, wherein one uniform container can hold a variety of meals. Soon, what began as simple doodling grew into a full-blown project: Four Chars. 

"我心于业: My heart is in the work” from Xia’s Four Chars project

“Another reason I wanted to kick off this project was my concerns with interpersonal communication. I sometimes fall short when it comes to conveying complex meanings to native English speakers. No doubt that I’ve left an impression of being too quiet or aloof, even though I don’t mean to!” Xia explains. “With the mission of making the Chinese language learning experience more accessible, digestible, vivid, and young-generation-friendly, Four Chars bridges the gap of communication between Chinese learners and native speakers.”

Xia shares the project on an Instagram account of the same name, reaching over 9,000 people.

“People have begun to regard Four Chars as a language learning tool. Each post is like a flashcard for Chinese learners worldwide,” says Xia, who believes in using design to connect people.

“Being a designer isn’t just about illustrating work but about storytelling and communication,” Xia says. “I want to use design to tear down barriers of communication, so people can better understand each other and different cultures.”

The Integrated Innovation Experience

Ruolan Xia (MIIPS Advanced '16) joined MIIPS directly out of her undergraduate program. As a MIIPS student, she collaborated with classmates of different backgrounds and learned how to operate on interdisciplinary teams. She shaped her professional focus and launched her career with a summer internship at Intuit. Upon graduation, she was hired as a full-time Product Designer for QuickBooks at Intuit.  

"The MIIPS program helped me become a design specialist with a product generalist's mind."