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Story

michelle zassenhaus

 

I have been working in the digital space since 1998. (Whoa, old timer!) – I began my career amid the first tech bubble, as a recent college graduate from Syracuse University's Fine Art program.

I was fortunate to work for a tech consulting agency that was rife with top talent and eager for more help, and I was immediately taken under the wings of some of the best creative minds in the field. There, I learned what turned out to be best practices for how to conceptualize, design, and present what was then advertising and marketing based digital web content. Among myriad opportunities, in 2000 I was fortunate to be sent to Paris, France to help lead a major effort to redesign Renault.fr - a site for the country's top auto manufacturer.

It was there I rubbed elbows with peers from Silicon Valley (also stationed on the project), and broadened my understanding of both design and user experience. Upon returning, I ventured off independently, working with star teams at agencies such as R/GA, Stone Yamashita, Hornell Anderson, and Ogilvy.

In 2006, seeking a completely different opportunity, I took a gig in the financial space – at TD Ameritrade – where I learned to design products, not just advertisements, and I was surprised by how engaging it was. Here, I was designing for extremely complex behavior (active trading), not just sales – and thus was born my passion and talent for User Experience Design. It proved to be my true calling.

In 2009, I joined the startup scene, as the first designer at Knewton (an edu-tech adaptive learning company), and went on to lead a UX practice there, in addition to conceptualizing and architecting their entire product platform, which remains what they build upon today. During this time, I completed training in UX design at Cooper, the world-renowned UX consultancy started by Alan Cooper, the author of the tech classic The Inmates are Running the Asylum.

In 2011, eager to expand my learning in agile ux, I moved to TheLadders, where Jeff Gothelf was running the UX discipline and effectively using his team as a lab for his ground-breaking Lean UX methodology, after which he wrote his award-winning book. It was here that I learned how to work fluidly, quickly, with a multi-disciplinary team, and achieve real business outcomes. I eventually took the reigns of the UX group myself, and oversaw the foray of that company into the mobile space, as well as a redesign and re-architecture of their web platform.

Today, I leverage all of this experience through independent engagements with clients in all types of spaces, though mostly startups, as my methodology is most conducive to a company that builds products quickly, collaboratively, and with agile development methods.

I care a lot about the products I build; I want them to be effective for both the business and the end user, as well as beautiful and delightful. I am constantly learning and love the tech scene for the opportunity to do so.

I am also a professional photographer, both as a fine artist, and a contributor at Getty Images

I welcome conversations to explore if I'm the right match for your needs. Please reach out so we can chat!