It’d be amazing for us to one day get to a point where we don’t have to bring this up anymore. But for now, I’d really love to see more women in leadership/senior roles. I think with more women up in those roles, we’ll have more women entering the industry and leveling up in our careers.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Fiona Yeung, UX Designer at Google and CEO of Hexagon. Hexagon is a non-profit that empowers women and nonbinary folks in UX through events and mentorship. Hailing from Toronto, Fiona has a BDes in Graphic Design from York University / Sheridan College and now lives in San Francisco. She is an active voice in the UX design community, speaking at events like Google I/O, and at smaller conferences at UC Berkeley, Duke University, and University of Waterloo to name a few. In 2019, Adobe named Fiona a UX Designer to Watch.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Fiona! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Currently, I’m a designer at Google, and the CEO of Hexagon, a non-profit that empowers women and nonbinary folks in UX through events and mentorship.
But let’s rewind a bit… I grew up in Toronto (yes, I’m Canadian!) taking art classes at Little Big Art School among a variety of extracurricular classes. It was here where I learned all the fundamentals of art at an early age. This led me to submit my portfolio into the fine arts program at my high school formerly known as Arts York at Unionville High School. We even had to draw in-person as part of our audition. The program was amazing, and I got to do a variety of art projects from clay sculptures to paintings, to live-figure drawing (which was rare for high schools to offer!)
From there, I ended up preparing my portfolio where I got accepted at York University Sheridan College’s joint program of design for my undergrad degree. YSDN is really where I got introduced to digital and UX design. Internships were mandatory in our program. I wanted to make sure I was becoming a well-rounded designer, so I got out of my comfort zone to learn more about UX, eventually landing several UX internships including a summer with Google.
What do you think makes your work and/or company stand out? Can you share a story?
There’s a lot to be said about Google. For starters, the mission behind Google is ultimately to make information accessible for anyone in the world. To me, accessing information is synonymous with access to some form of education. So, the work that Google tackles has a strong mission and reaches billions of users, improving lives. I don’t think there are many companies that can have that type of impact.
On top of that, the people here are incredibly smart and talented, and have an entrepreneurial drive that I deeply admire. We’re not afraid to speak out and we have an open culture that makes me feel safe, respected, and valued. I’m grateful that I get to work at Google. I’ve learned a lot of strategic thinking and people skills that I’ll carry with me moving forward.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
For the past few years, I worked on Fuchsia, a new operating system. However, I recently joined Google.org, the philanthropic branch of Google where they run a Fellowship program allowing Googlers to take full-time working sabbaticals to work on an external 501c3 non-profit grantee before going back to our previous time at the end of the fellowship. So, for the rest of 2019, together with six other Google fellows, I’ll be partnering with TalkingPoints, an educational-technology nonprofit aimed to narrow the underserved student achievement gap by first improving teacher-parent engagement especially for multilingual/non-English speakers.
Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in tech? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
Not really, no. It’d be amazing for us to one day get to a point where we don’t have to bring this up anymore. But for now, I’d really love to see more women in leadership/senior roles. I think with more women up in those roles, we’ll have more women entering the industry and leveling up in our careers.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many people that have helped me get to where I am today, and for that I will always be grateful. My boyfriend Eric and my best friend Jen are two people that I can always count on to hype me up or reassure me if I’m feeling down or doubtful. They know exactly what questions I need to ask myself and they are incredibly driven themselves, which helps when we all work on our side hustles. There’s something really special when you find the right people in your life that help you along the way, while also being a part of the whole ‘figuring it out’ journey.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Hm, I know that deep in my core, I ultimately I want to help people. I want to help people achieve their dreams, I want to help bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. I want to help people find hope. I don’t think it requires success to bring goodness to the world, but really just a heart that can empathize and care deeply for others.
One way that I’m trying to bring goodness into the world is through Hexagon UX, my non-profit that’s aimed to empower women and non-binary folks in UX. We are ultimately a global community that provides a mentorship program as well as rich resources for our members to get into the UX industry, and level up. It’s been really special for me to hear about the impact we’ve been able to make on our community members’ lives. Being able to empower others while watching them confidently achieve their goals is extremely rewarding.
Beyond the many different volunteer roles that I’ve taken on, I have a feeling that it’s my positivity and open heart that’s allowed me to bring goodness to the world. Deep human connection can change someone’s life and I hope that it continues to spread from one person to another.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
There are two things outside of design that I’m really passionate about; sustainability and mental health. One is taking care of our planet, and the other is taking care of ourselves. Both are incredibly important.
Mental health has been a buzzword topic lately, which is great because I’m glad we’re finally talking openly about it and how many of us have gone through some type of mental health illness whether it be an anxiety attack, or severe depression. I love the direction we’re moving with it and I definitely want to find more ways to contribute to this movement.
For the climate change movement, I’d love to find a way to encourage people to take action understanding our impact on the planet and the small changes we can make every day to help. I know that in order for us to really make a difference, it has to change at the top corporate/government level, but our first step as individuals is to educate ourselves and understand why this is important in the first place so that we can make those small changes in our everyday lives.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
This question is one of my favorites but also SO hard to choose from. I have so many that I used to write down my favorite quotes onto cue cards that I’d flip through. I have favorites from different occasions/feelings but some that I always love are: ‘What if I fall? But, darling, what if you fly”. I love how this encourages a mindset change, especially when we get fearful or doubtful of our abilities.
Another favorite is, “For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” by F. Scott. Fitzgerald. I love this quote as a deep reminder that there really are no rules to life, we’re all figuring it out each day and we have the power and strength to change our life if that’s what we want.
Thank you for all of these great insights!