Kenrick Ramsay is currently working as an Associate Product Designer at The New York Times. He earned his MFA in Interaction Design at SVA in May 2020. He is extremely passionate about using design to positively impact people’s lives and leaving the world a bit better than it was before. Outside of work, he loves to implement healthy living by working out and eating healthy. One of his favorite hobbies is playing and exploring indie games, which has helped him understand how games make the user experience better. The process of creating games and understanding the design space truly intrigues and sparks Kenrick’s design thinking. During our chat, we talked about his life after graduation, day-to-day tasks, and advice he would share with current students in the program.
Why did you decide to be part of The New York Times?
Well, to be honest, The New York Times was not on my radar. I initially scoped around different companies and was more interested in working for technology-focused companies since I have a publication background and wanted to step away from those areas. I wanted to work more on physical or digital products but when I found out The New York Times had digital products, I realized that users were not only getting physical products but also receiving digital products such as electronic newspapers and podcasts. It made me feel like I was playing a major role in contributing to The New York Times.
Tell me about your daily tasks at the New York Times.
My daily tasks consist of redefining users’ access to their accounts through utility management (settings and passwords), understanding how users access their accounts, and crafting personalized touchpoints for every new user who signs up for The New York Times in both the physical and digital realm. At the core, I try to understand who our users are, the reasons for their subscription, and the best ways to create a seamless signup experience.
What would you say is your favorite task?
My favorite daily task is checking in with my manager, Evan. We connect deeply on a lot of things and resonate with each other because we know each other well enough. He tries to understand my perspective even though I am a new hire. He knows what is at stake and understands that sometimes work can get overwhelming, but he makes sure I appreciate how wonderful it is to be part of something greater than yourself. I think I resonate deeply with him because he recently became a manager and is trying to gain insights on how to become a good leader. Since I am a new hire, he always makes an effort to understand where I am coming from.
What advice do you have for students who are currently in the MFA IxD program?
One piece of advice I would give to current students is to take things slow. There is no need to go too fast and not rush into something you want to learn about. Everything comes at its own time and pace. It is easier to understand everything if you take your time to be in the present. I would also encourage students to embrace their imposter syndrome because that is one thing that every designer feels. We have to remember that not everyone knows everything, and that is a good thing because it trains you to be willing to learn, adapt, unlearn, and be resilient. It helps you change your mindset towards focusing on challenging yourself, and that’s what most designers should focus on. As a student, you are learning about yourself and others, and are constantly trying to focus on adapting your abilities to build products for users based on their behavior and psychology.
Advice for life during the pandemic?
It was a major shift for me. I had to change my entire mindset from working in a physical place and transition to doing everything online. My thesis relied heavily on building a physical product and when the pandemic hit, I was so scared and worried because I didn’t know how I could complete it without interacting with people face-to-face. My users weren’t able to physically touch my artifacts because of the lockdown. Thankfully, I pivoted at the last minute towards crafting a digital product. I had to do what I just advised, to hone in my adaptability and resilience and make sure I did not give up. From there, I rethought my thesis direction by digging into ways to make it more digital. This worked in my favor because my colleagues and advisor, Eric, truly supported it. My product felt authentic and genuine because I continued to use the research I had already done, but at the same time, adapted to the changing times by making it flexible for parents, students, and teachers.
What was your favorite class during your time in SVA’s MFA Interaction Design?
My favorite class and the one that I felt was the most useful was Karen McGrane’s “Design Management” course. Her class helped prepare me for working in the real world, including résumé and cover letter preparation, how to prepare yourself to become more approachable on the job you want to focus on and to carry out responsibilities through the job application process. It helped me realize that a cover letter is not simply used to introduce my skills and abilities, but also to understand what the company is looking for through its mission statement. Karen would always remind us that getting a job is a two-way street. It is our job to understand what the company’s worth to you, and how you can play a major role in the company’s mission statement and values. After understanding that, it will incentivize you to become a better designer, as you will truly understand your role and responsibilities in the real world.
Overall, I felt like this class was the most fun because it helped me understand how to market myself and convince people to hire me. I realized how important it is to know my strengths and weaknesses. It’s all about redefining yourself as a designer and structurally updating your portfolio, resume, and cover letter. All in all, it was wonderful to work with Karen, because it felt like I was owning my experience by treating myself as a designer in the real world.