Shannon Slocum on blending creativity with business sense and asking the tough questions

Growing up in New York in the Bronx, Shannon Slocum had the heart of an artist, and the practicality to know she didn’t want to be a starving artist. So, when an inspirational high school teacher introduced her to graphic design, she knew it was the perfect fit. “My teacher explained that graphic design is utilitarian; that I could help people navigate the world and be creative at the same time,” says Shannon.

She went on to major in design with a minor in business, and then moved her way up at global retail brands. “I started in graphic design, but the combination of creativity and a business mindset helped me stand out. I moved into the UI and UX space, where I was always asking about the full experience, and how that would impact consumers. I always wanted to be in the room with the rest of the business team, so my eventual evolution into product management felt very natural.”

When the pandemic gave Shannon a pause to re-evaluate her career goals, she realized that she was ready for a change, so she reached out to a friend at Adobe to find out about opportunities. “I had friends who worked here, and they’d been trying to convince me to join. They kept telling me that everyone was here to do right by their customers, and that really appealed to me.”

Now, as director of product management for Adobe XD, Shannon uses her experience to get inside the mindset of the designers whose tools she’s helping to shape.

“There’s so much going on in product design, and so many challenges with new technologies, like AI and ML. So, I’m thinking about how Adobe can lean into helping those designers, especially smaller companies that don’t have as many resources. I want to give that Adobe feeling—that we understand you and we’re focused on your needs—to the people in the product design space.”

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As a leader at Adobe, Shannon is also focused on nurturing the people on her team. “I enjoy helping people, and seeing how I can impact another person’s growth. If I’m helping build up the people who report to me, that’s what matters.”

How designers can build a more ethical future—and why they should always ask questions

As Shannon sees it, designers are uniquely positioned, not just to tackle the future of design with AI and ML, but to influence how these technologies shape of the shape the world. “We can be advocates for diversity, inclusion, and ethical use of data in the products we design,” she explains. “For example, we need to be asking big questions, like why self-driving cars showed evidence of algorithmic skin color bias. We have a role to play there.” As a leader at Adobe, Shannon hopes to help the company advocate for a more ethical future, too.

And, just as she believes that creative people have a role in advocacy, she also thinks they belong in the rooms where decisions are being made. Her advice to young designers? “Don’t be afraid to step into business meetings and ask ‘stupid’ questions, because there are no stupid questions. Even if you didn’t go to business school, the natural curiosity of designers is always good thing.”

Source : Adobe

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