Making Tech and Art Work Together
Lenora Porter - Senior Product Designer at Salesforce
As a kid, I was fascinated by art and technology. When it was time to go to those classes, I literally ran to the classroom. The schools in my neighborhood offered classes like "computers" where you would play educational games or "art" where you would paint; however, I didn't realize how both could play together until my father purchased my first gaming system: The Nintendo 64. I fell in love with video games especially life simulator ones like Sims and Second Life. I would draw clothing in the games for the characters and realized I would have to learn a scripting language to get the clothing to move in the game. I wanted the dresses to sway and my character’s hair to blow in the wind and that’s what got me interested in technology.
My mom noticed my passion for technology but she couldn't afford the tuition at the tech-focused private schools in our area. There were a few public schools offering programming courses but they were miles away from my Miami Gardens home. I attended Miami Norland Senior High School and the closest thing we had to programming courses was a Web Design class that taught HTML and CSS. I vowed that I would give tech my all when I went to college. Unfortunately, in 2012, I came to the hard conclusion that college wouldn't be the path to help me pursue my true passion so I graduated from University of Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Family, Youth and Community Sciences. Even though I felt pure defeat, this degree helped me learn about the beauty in human behavior, psychology, community building, and human triggers. Even though I couldn’t pursue tech in college, I didn’t let that become a roadblock in my technical education. I focused on using websites like Code School, Treehouse, Codecademy, Udemy, and YouTube to learn as much as I could about web development, UI and UX design. I called this process "Bootcamp Lenora". I learned in my way using rap lyrics, art, and pure creativity. I attended meetups, cultivated relationships and focused on my network. I took my learning into my own hands and created fun projects to work on for learning purposes. In 2015, I finally landed my first job as a User Experience Designer.
The person to give me that shot was a guy named Jeff Fudge. When I started working for him, I had no formal training in UX or design and he allowed me to learn that at his facility. For a male to give me that kind of an opportunity was amazing. After that, I ended up at one of the most challenging jobs I’ve ever had at a telephony company. It got acquired after I started working there and we went from 18 employees to 200. I had never seen such hyper growth before and was tasked to take two different worlds and to turn them into one cohesive brand. It took months of hard work and late nights to get the app launched. I remember when it was finally live, the first call I made from the app was to my mom. She answered the phone and I saw my design and her name on the screen and started bawling my eyes out.
It’s taken a while for people to realize that I am a senior at work. I was stuck at the same pay and title for longer than I should have been and I couldn’t understand why. I would come across internal opportunities that needed over three years of experiences. I came in with four years with a background in coding, art, illustration, and design and would still be held back. I had promised myself early in my career I would focus on building relationships so I would never have to ask for a job again. That framework has enabled me to pursue new and exciting ventures and I have finally gotten my first Senior Design role at Heroku. Even though I have only been working for four years, I feel like I have learned a lot and I hope to use my experiences to help other women of color navigate the tech world.