Riffyn Spotlights with Jess Dillard
At Riffyn, we take pride in the fact that we are a scientific partner with our customers, not simply a vendor. We are a dedicated group of people with our customers’ interests in mind – we’re here to help time and again, as often as you need us. We’re all about deep personal relationships as fellow scientists and engineers.
In our “Riffyn Spotlights” blog series, we’re giving you the chance to get to know the Riffyn team a bit better. In this installment, we talk with Senior Designer Jess Dillard about her expertise in content management and web design, her food prep blog, and her hopes for destigmatizing mental health issues. Please note that answers have been edited for clarity.
Q: What is your greatest success story for helping a Riffyn customer?
A: "Last year I had 12 or 15 one-hour interview sessions with users across different organizations to get their general impressions and experience with Riffyn, which has been immensely valuable. From those interviews I’ve been working on product personas that will help us understand our users and make product decisions. I also simplified our navigation in the app by consolidating two navigation bars and multiple menus. It looks and functions better and affects all of our customers positively."
Q: What is your background -- what did you do before joining Riffyn?
A: "I've had a pretty non-traditional career path. My educational background is in journalism. I graduated in 2013 and I really wanted to write for magazines, but that was around the time that magazines were becoming not a thing anymore. I realized I should probably go a different route, so I went into marketing. I worked for a design firm in Chicago doing content strategy and management and worked with a lot of really talented design-minded folks. After working on several website redesigns, I realized that I found design more rewarding, and joined the UX team at that firm. I liked that, but still wasn’t crazy about marketing. I then switched into a product design role at a company that developed analytic software for farmers.
I then took some time off to start my own company. My passion is cooking, meal prepping, and organization, so I started a recipe subscription service called Salt and Prepper. After a year of working alone, I wanted to get back into a more traditional office setting, and word of mouth led me to Riffyn."
Q: Why did you decide to join Riffyn?
A: "Up until I learned about Riffyn, I had been troubleshooting what I wanted career wise -- I knew I liked product design over marketing design, but also knew that I probably didn't want to work at a large company. I talked with Alan [Hanley, VP of Product] and realized Riffyn was a great fit. I started as a contractor, but as I got to know people I quickly realized that Riffyn was a place that I wanted to be long term. Everyone is crazy smart but not egocentric. I feel it’s so rare to find that intelligence without all the ego. So I became a full time employee last June and moved from Chicago to California in September."
Q: Describe Riffyn in three words.
A: "Intelligent. Dedicated. Fun."
Q: What personal values do you get to fulfill through your work?
A: "I always want to be impactful in what I'm doing; help people and make a greater impact on the world. Riffyn absolutely lets me do that. I think that's why I felt unfulfilled in marketing -- I didn't feel that connection to, ‘hey I'm actually making something that is helping people and helping the world.’ Riffyn does that. Also, I’m definitely hardworking and dedicated, and it's easier and more enjoyable to get your work done when you're surrounded by people that work the same way. Everybody is really dedicated to working together and doing the best job that they possibly can."
Q: What does “a day in the life of Jess” look like?
A: "It could be a lot of different things. I really enjoy the variety. Usually Alan and I are working on a product feature, so depending on what phase of the feature we’re working on, I could be doing anything from talking to users to figure out what their needs are to spending a day sitting at my desk putting designs together. I work most closely with Alan, but I also work with developers to make sure everything is functioning correctly and with [Riffyn] Science to get their feedback on what they're hearing from our users and also teach me about science!"
Q: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
A: "I do a lot of cooking, and since I moved out to the Bay Area I also do a ton of hiking with my dog, Juno."
Q: If you could solve one major problem, what would it be and why?
A: "I’m a big advocate for mental health awareness and de-stigmatization. I think generally society has made some strides in the past few years, but I wish I could help fix the culture of shame that still exists when talking about mental health issues. Your brain is an organ that needs to be cared for just like any other, and sometimes that includes a medical care team and medication. I wish we talked about it more! I think if there was more understanding and awareness around mental health we’d make a lot of positive strides towards fixing some of the bigger issues – homelessness, intolerance, gun violence, to name a few – that most readily come to mind when you start thinking about solving major problems."
If you're interested in joining a dynamic group of people passionate about helping scientists discover more, please visit our Careers page at riffyn.com/careers or send a letter of inquiry to email@example.com
Embriette is an academic-turned science writer with a passion for spreading responsible science. She holds a PhD in microbiome research from Baylor College of Medicine. After a 4-year post-doc, during which she managed the world's largest citizen science research project (the American Gut Project), Embriette became a full-time science writer and research consultant. You can find her work at riffyn.com, synbiobeta.com, and her personal webpage: drhydenotjekyll.com