Unboxed's Women in Tech interview series, Michelle Isme
techUK member Unboxed is a dynamic digital agency that prizes diversity and celebrates individuality, made up of a group of developers, designers, thinkers and creatives. They recently launched a Women in Tech interview series, which continues with the story of Michelle Isme [pictured on the right], Senior Product Manager with the agency.
Read below part of Unboxed's interview and find out more about them here.
Q: To start us off… I wonder if you could give readers a little background info on yourself and your role at Unboxed?
A: I am a senior product manager and designer at Unboxed. It’s a hybrid role generated via six years in product management and 10 years, more broadly, in design. Because Unboxed is an agency, I’m able to help out on different projects depending on what the project might need. Sometimes it’s more product management and delivery focused and other times, it’s getting stuck in and designing prototypes.
Q: What led you onto this career path?
A: It’s been an interesting and random journey. I didn’t go to university. I was going to go but the design module of the course that I was interested in got cancelled. They offered me a place on an advertising course instead. I attended one lesson and immediately realised that advertising wasn’t for me. I picked up some admin work and taught myself design in the evenings.
Over the years, knowing that I wanted to land up in design, I sneaked it into my admin work as often as I could. One of my early jobs was for a mental health team and the psychiatrists would often write research reports so I offered to design the front covers for them. Eventually, my roles progressed into more design orientated and communications type roles.
Around the same time, social media was starting to become a thing and organisations were beginning to realise that they needed a web presence. I wrote blogs, redesigned websites and started doing things like testing with staff, getting feedback and designing user flows. User-centred design, basically, but I didn’t know this, I just thought that it was a common-sense approach.
Eventually, I applied for a role as a digital campaigner at a tech start-up and was hired. They promoted me to product manager within six months. It was a small start-up. Only 10 people. But my role involved working directly with developers who went on to teach me about agile development, scrum and writing stories.
So I really learnt on the ground while working very hard and simultaneously teaching myself via YouTube and by attending events. I probably burnt out quite a bit but that’s what happens in startups. Several years later, I was contracting and that’s how I first worked with Unboxed before joining them permanently and the rest is history.
Q: Looking back, would you have changed your mind about attending university?
A: I am happy with the path that I’ve taken even though it wasn’t planned. It definitely was the right decision at the time. I knew that the advertising course wasn’t for me. I am always tempted to study for a degree remotely or part-time in the future. However, only for a sense of achievement. I probably don’t need it for my career now so I’d probably choose something really random like criminology. But then also looking at how expensive it is, I think I could have fun in cheaper ways so I’m not sure. Maybe if I come into some money and I have some time, I might study one day.
Q: What triggered your love and passion for design?
A: I was really creative as a child. My parents always remind me of a tool box they bought me which I stored all my pencils in - I loved it. I used it in all my classes. I took it everywhere with me. I was shy and quiet but always drawing. So I knew that I’d always want to do something creative. As a teenager, I had all these different ideas for different types of design work - fashion designer, website designer, interior designer. Basically all types of design. So I’m not surprised that I ended up going down this path. I’ve started to move more towards product management now which is much more about working with other designers and developers to make sure that the right thing is built. I’ve become a lot more analytical and logical as I’ve become older and, coupled with creativity, product management suits that perfectly.