Design Leader Insights - Emilie Mazurek on UX Design at Barstool Sports

February 21, 2023


Alex Smith: Design leader Insights is brought to you by Fuego UX, a UX design consultancy focused on creating simple and intuitive digital experiences. Hey Emilie, thanks so much for joining the show today. 

Emilie Mazurek: Thanks for having me. 

Alex Smith: Yeah, of course. And to get started, can you give the audience a little bit of background on your journey into UX design?

Emilie Mazurek: Yeah, for sure. So my background is actually in biochemistry and hospitality, which is a bit of an unconventional path. But I actually was certain for a long period of time that I wanted to pursue medicine. So I studied biochemistry, worked in a microbiology lab, took the MCAT, volunteered, did all the applications. And then I was actually recognizing that I was probably going to get a spot. And I was terrified that I would get in rather than get rejected. So that was probably my first clue that maybe I was going down a path that wasn't the right one for me. So I decided to do some career counseling. Just make sure I had all my ducks in a row and was making an informed decision. And one of the items that came up as a potential good fit was UX design. And I'd heard a little bit about it before, but wasn't too sure. But after doing some research, it kind of dawned on me, I was like, okay, so you have this analytical and data driven side about making informed decisions, which really speaks to my strengths as a scientist, but also this creative problem solving aspect, which I always loved working in restaurants. I worked in the hospitality industry for over a decade. And that was my favorite part of it, meeting new people every day. And every table has a problem you need to solve for them. They have an allergy need to deal with, what can they order, they want to sit over here, but that spots already dirty or occupied, or you know they have a reservation for 8 but they actually have 12 people. And I really love that, but was just looking for something a little bit more fulfilling. So that all kind of came together with the whole idea of UX design is ultimately advocating for the user and helping people, which is why I was excited about medicine in the first place. So I was like, okay, this seems like an avenue that might be worth checking out. So I decided to enroll in a boot camp. It was a 12 week full time program, gave me a good foundation to jump off from. I built my portfolio and started applying for jobs from there. Took me about three or four months before I landed my first role, full time as a product designer. And I worked there full time and also call me ambitious or stupid, I also picked up a part time gig, contracting for another UX, or as a UX designer at a startup, doing their branding and design. So I was balancing both of those learning as much as I could before ultimately, just a couple of months ago, I got an amazing offer from Barstool Sports. And I'm working there now as a Senior UX Designer. And that's kind of the short of it.

Alex Smith: Awesome. Yeah. I always love hearing about people that transitioned in and successfully kind of move from a different field, medicine that's interesting to UX. So congrats on that. Tell us about Barstool, working in sports. What exactly is Barstool and kind of how does UX apply to that to their business?

Emilie Mazurek: So initially, maybe I was just living under a rock, but I wasn't that familiar with Barstool Sports. So I'm a recruiter reached out to me, asked me to interview and I always want to take the opportunity to chat with people and learn more about companies and different positions. And that was actually one of the questions they asked me, ya know, what do you know about Barstool Sports? And it's like, oh, to be honest with you, not really a huge sports fan. And pretty embarrassing looking back now. But they were like, that's not all we do. You know, we're actually a lot more focused on comedy and media. And that totally rings true. Now, in the position I'm working in, they have several different digital products. And that's what's really awesome about my role is I get to kind of dip my toe into each one. So there's a huge variety. And the team is super ambitious. The pace is really fast. And it's exciting. So I was working on a game show landing page and a schedule for them before Christmas. And now I'm working on their store and making sure that the collections pages feel more personal and have branding to them. So a huge variety of things I get to work on and it's not really just sports or really, you know, to be honest, like there's just so many things that I get to work I'd call it more a media company than a sports company, to be honest.

Alex Smith: Yeah, Emilie, any examples of like, some of the fun, quirky things, Barstool is up to? I know they're doing a lot of stuff. And as you mentioned, even outside of sports and comedy and entertainment, things like that.

Emilie Mazurek: Yeah, I can actually think back to one of the first projects that I was working on or help collaborate with and it was Stella Blue Coffee, which for me, again, didn't know much about but it got to learn the backstory as I was building the about page for the project. And it was really funny. So Big Cat, he's one of the celebrities that is affiliated with Barstool Sports. And he's one of the hosts on Pardon my Take, which is a popular podcast that they host. And kind of on Twitter, it was like a running joke that he was going to start his own coffee company, like almost for a year, I think. And he was putting out memes, like, you know, the ones that your mom or your Aunt puts on Facebook, if I haven't had my coffee, don't talk to me yet. So he was kind of like making a joke at that. And then, you know, we actually decided or he decided that he wanted to launch this coffee company. So we were fortunate enough to get to build this website for him. And, you know, you would think, oh, it's just kind of a joke. Like, this isn't... no, it's like a successful launch, like they had projected, you know, an estimate of how much they would make in revenue by the end of the year. We actually hit that target in one day. So it's kind of unbelievable. That how far like comedy humor can kind of play into the E-commerce space, and just like really exciting and fun to get to work on projects like that.

Alex Smith: What advice do you have for new designers that are entering the field today?

Emilie Mazurek: It's a really competitive market, to be honest with you. It's people seem to have discovered UX design, much like I did very recently. And everybody is really excited about it and wants to get into it. And unfortunately, that does make it quite challenging for juniors or aspiring designers. So if you're in that boat and you're trying to get into UX design, that's not to say it can't be done. But I think it's really important to focus on what sets you apart from the rest of the bootcamp grads or other aspiring designers. And for me that like totally rang true. I remember in my boot camp, I was really intimidated. You know, there was graphic designers in there they have experienced designing for websites, for apps and their stuff they're making looks beautiful, like how can I compete with that? And it was It's so funny because you know, my backgrounds in science, like, how is that relevant? You know, I've worked in biochemistry. And it couldn't be further from the truth, actually, when I was interviewing for my first position. And the reason they picked me for that job, they actually picked me over someone with five years of experience. It was because of my background, I was a scientist, I was a researcher, I was analytical. And because I was able to showcase those skills and kind of bring those to the forefront, I became the ideal candidate with relevant experience for that role. So it's all in how you tell your story. But the other thing, and the more common thing that maybe people don't want to hear is just really focus on your portfolio. It's a lot of work, but it's really important that you storytell and have your personality shine and make your page exciting and memorable. Because that's the other clear way, if you have something exciting and interesting, you're gonna stand out from the rest.

Alex Smith: Yeah, no, that is great advice. And what about like, when you're looking for that job, what advice do you have and choosing companies to apply to?

Emilie Mazurek: For me, the most important thing is always going to be culture and fit. So I'm always going to be asking, you know, how do you collect feedback? And how often do you collect it? You know, what does company culture mean at your company? And you know, if they start talking about ping pong tables and pizza on Friday, you know, I know that some people really love that. But for me, I want to hear about work life balance, and vacation days, and things like that, that are really important to me. And that can be a deciding factor right there, you know, oh, okay, I can see that maybe the way that they think about this is not in alignment with how I think about this. So just having really good questions and having a conversation during the interview, you can, you know, decide if it's really going to be a good fit or not, or at least make an informed decision.

Alex Smith: Any resources you would point designers to?

Emilie Mazurek: Yeah, especially for junior designers, aspiring designers, or even people in my stage of the career that just want to collaborate or chat with other designers. ADP list has been like a godsend for me. And I'm actually mentoring now in ADP lists, which is super exciting. You can chat with UX designers, product managers, engineers, graphic designers, it's gotten so wide and so diverse now. And it's free, totally free, you can just type in what profession you want to talk with. You can even search by company. And a list will just populate of people who are willing and available to chat with you.

Alex Smith: I have a question about like something that just going back to that educational piece, or the educational piece of boot camps, like, I think one of the things that I see, maybe omitted is like how UX actually functions in a modern software company and who you're working with. So how do you recommend designers learn that? Like I talked to some emerging designers, and they're, they're maybe unsure what product does or how they're going to work with engineering. Any advice there?

Emilie Mazurek: Yeah, absolutely. I couldn't agree with you more. That was something that became jarringly obvious to me once I had graduated, as I knew the whole process from start to finish. And since graduation, I have actually never followed the whole process from start to finish. So I think it's really valuable to look at those skills you learn as tools in your toolbox. It's never gonna go A to Z. But for the task, and for each, you know, opportunity, you're gonna have a different tool that you can use for that. And in terms of figuring out how that process actually works, I know I already mentioned it, but I'm going back to ADP lists, you know, you can talk to people in the profession working at companies you want to work at and see how does that work in their life? What was the last project they worked on? And what tools did they use to help accomplish that?

Alex Smith: Well, Emilie, thanks so much for being on the show today.

Emilie Mazurek: Yeah, thanks for having me. It was great.