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Tandemite Tuesday: UX Research, Anthropology, and Running

Kelsey Pierson Tandem Alum

We’re back with another edition of Tandemite Tuesday, where we take some time with our employees to discuss what they do, what they like or dislike about it and how it fits into their lives.  This week, we talk to Elena Putt who has a background in anthropology and joined Tandem in 2018 as a Product Designer and consultant.

How did you come to work at Tandem? 

I met a former employee at a panel discussion I attended, and we went to get coffee while I was still in school.  We kept in touch over the years, and once I moved to Chicago, we were able to figure out how I could come work at Tandem.  I came in to the office a few times and was able to take a look around and check out the space. And we did a soft interview and I ended up interning and working on a contract for a while before coming on as a full-time employee about a year ago.  I ended up here basically because I was offered work in UX research, and there weren’t a ton of positions available with that title at the time, and I had enough of a design background to put together a portfolio and mold it to say “I know a little about this, and I’m happy to learn and grow to do these things better.”   

How would you say you’ve evolved as a designer over the course of your time at Tandem? 

I came in being much more specialized in research.  I have a background and a degree in anthropology, and I did a little bit of dabbling in visual design during college.  I think Tandem has opened up a lot of opportunities for me to learn how I can combine the two and use some of the things I’ve learned in research and apply it to the way we’re building systems for products here.  

Visual design was probably my weakest spot within the skills profile you need to have to be on the team, but being on different project teams and pairing with different people has shown me really unique ways to use my skills to our advantage, which has strengthened my visual design skills. 

What do you like about consulting? 

I have a background in Anthropology, so it’s really interesting to understand a client’s culture and what their baseline is, and what motivates them.  I like knowing what things they like and don’t like about what they currently have, and how can we as consultants understand how best to communicate with one client versus another in a way that successfully communicates to them our goals and what we’re trying to help them build? You learn to prioritize how you communicate to them so you can focus on what you think is really going to work and downplay what you think won’t, but in a way that doesn’t upset anyone.  

What does an average day at Tandem look like for you?

I get here really early, just because my day starts really early.  I come in and it’s nice and quiet. I flip on the lights, make my coffee, relax for a minute and get settled in.  I usually start the day by checking emails and then people start filing in by that point. Typically, when you’re on a project, your day is somewhat regimented.  I have the same quiet start to my day, but usually we start with standup for the project I’m on. We’ll probably have some client meetings, and some solo time to get stuff really cranked out.  

How would you describe your work-life balance? 

I feel very strongly that if you’re given a specific amount of work, you should be able to get it done in the time you were given.  So, to me, that means you can shut off work in the evenings. I do a lot of training and running, and all these other things that take up a lot of time.  I can’t really do both at the same time. I can do them both in life, but not at the same time. So the partitioning I can do is very nice for me. 

What do you like to do when you’re not working? 

I really like running and cooking.  They kind of feed into each other. I fuel my body to be able to do long runs with my friends.  I run with races in mind. As of right now, my goal is to balance running and racing so that it’s always fun for me.  So if racing becomes un-fun, then I’ll stop doing that and find a different way to enjoy moving my body.  

I’m part of a gym that I love going to very much with people that are super supportive, whether it be your career, your goals, or maybe you just want to blow off some steam.  If you’re like “hey, do you want to go pound out 20 miles this weekend in the forest?” everyone is in for it. I think that, honestly, that helps me at times at work to know I have something to look forward to, and to be able to get all my energy out.  Plus there’s cute pugs I get to play with there, too. 

What color is a tennis ball? 

Highlighter yellow.  But it depends on the light!


Tandem is currently hiring!  Check out our open positions here!

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