Chas Upskill


Chas Upskill

Chas Talk with Jared Fossey

When curiosity leads to an exciting career in design.

Jared Fossey

Jared's career is a journey driven by relentless curiosity. He's explored various design roles across multiple countries, currently serving as a UX Lead for Swedbank's Communication Solutions team. His passion lies in integrating AI into finance, emphasizing human-centered design and the importance of continuous learning and documentation to demonstrate value in the ever-evolving design landscape.

Please tell us a bit about yourself. You mentioned all the countries you've worked in; could you elaborate on that?
When I was a kid I would always disassemble my dad’s ballpoint pens because I just had to know how they worked. I think that kind of innate curiosity is the red thread through my career. In design school I studied product design and manufacturing and started my career in that direction, but that quickly shifted to graphic design studios learning about visual communications, then to Customer Experience design and into healthcare – where some design decisions literally are life and death! I worked for a few years in multinational telecoms, learning about the humans and emotions involved in B2B products and designing target state experience journeys. We took these journeys and worked with design teams in 19 different countries to bring them to life, and when I wasn’t doing that I was delivering design training to different teams in different countries to help raise the level of design maturity and capability in the organization. Later, while waiting for my Swedish residency to process, I was even lucky enough to spend a few years working with gangster design studio, Josephmark, who have offices in Los Angeles as well as their home studio in Brisbane, and I continued to work with them when I did eventually move to Sweden.

So yeah I guess my career has been a series of “I wonder how that works?” questions, followed by jumping in and getting completely out of my depth, before learning a ton of interesting new things and then asking that same question again about something else.

When I joined Swedbank I was very up front that I’d never worked in finance, and never worked in chatbots. And that was super exciting for me. Now I’m wondering how AI works, and absolutely loving going down that rabbit hole.

Could you tell us more about your current role and what makes the job so enjoyable?
My job title is UX Lead for our Communication Solutions team. I work with a small team of UX designers, but we also collaborate with a wonderful team of Content Managers who write every word our chatbot speaks, and some of the most talented developers who bring our ridiculous designs to life. It’s a big old fashioned corporate, but it’s also the biggest design team I’ve ever been a part of – aside from the four of us who work specifically on UX for the chatbot, we have about 100 people in our design community, from UI to UX to Research specialists or Service Designers. We have iOS specialists, Android specialists, visual designers, UX Writers – you name a discipline, we probably have someone who does it.

The ability to learn from people who’ve had such wildly different life experiences to me, the ability to work with colleagues across the four countries we operate in, the amount of attention design gets in this big company – it’s pretty special.

Rarely does a day go by that I don’t learn something new, and that’s always been important to me with my workplaces.

In your talk, you discuss the impact of your work on the chatbot and how your role as a UX designer involves a lot of consideration for customer behavior. Could you expand on that?
I’ve said for ages that people don’t hate robots – they just hate bad robots. The self service checkout machine that says “unexpected item in baggage area”, even though the item you put in the baggage area was the item you literally just scanned a moment ago. When robots automate tasks that were previously simple, and suddenly make them complex, we have such little patience! It frustrates us!

At Swedbank we’re leaning heavily into using our chatbot for customer service, and it’s really challenging because it’s one of those experiences where often it’s just simpler to speak to a person about it. I see this as a design challenge: to understand how to make that experience a positive one. In the past, most chatbots have been limited by a number of things. Technology,  legal interpretations, investment, or a fine line between what is “personalised” vs what is “creepy”. And most chatbots have been great examples of bad robots.

So we need to intimately understand customers, and understand where customer expectations are, so that we can understand what a good robot even looks like in the first place, and then close the gap to get there. Ideally exceed the gap. But we’re focusing on closing the gap first!

How has the role of a UX designer evolved in recent years?
To be completely honest, this is my first strictly ”UX” role. I’ve been in the “design” industry for about 15 years, and I’ve gone through Industrial Design to Graphic Design to Customer Experience Design to Product Design or Product Strategy, and the differences are so broad it’s difficult to name them all. But I think it’s actually not that interesting to name the differences, because each designer will find their way into their particular role and company and find out their way of practicing in that context. What is more useful is the things that have stayed the same, and are likely to stay the same.

From my experience, that is that at the end of the day, there are always humans who consume the work we produce. 

That human might be a customer, might be a boss, might be an investor. The “work” might be a consumer product, a B2B product or service experience, it might be a pitch deck. But there are always humans involved, and humans always have needs and unmet needs.

The better you can understand people, and convert that understanding into requirements for your design work, the more resilient you’re going to be, and the more flexible you’re going to be with whichever segment of the industry you end up in.

You talk a lot about AI and new trends in it. How has AI influenced your work?
A lot of leaders in our organisation have become very excited about what could be possible with AI, and a lot of colleagues have been very concerned that AI is going to take their jobs. The truth of how we will put AI to use, at least in the short term, is more like as “part of the team” rather than “replacing the people”. So for us in our work, we use generative AI to take an answer we might have to a given customer question, and help us find various different ways of answering that quickly. But ultimately, it’s still humans who are making that final decision and at the end of the day accountable if it goes wrong.

Last but not least, something we ask all our speakers, for all our students studying to become UX designers and anyone looking to start studying it: What advice would you like to share with them?
This is something one of my lecturers told me when I had just graduated from my Industrial Design course: There is no such thing as job security. Only value. If you can deliver more value than you cost in salary, then you’re good.

I translate this into a challenge: Always learn. Always grow. And use what you learn to demonstrate the value you can deliver. And the best way to remember what you learn is to document it – every week when you close the computer and get ready for the weekend, write a journal entry with one new thing you learned that week. You might have more than one, that’s great. You might miss a week, that’s ok. But make a habit of writing down what you learned. Because that’s what will help you remember what you know, and remember how you can create or add value. 

Thank you Jared for coming and inspiring us! 

Chas Talks


2023-11-09 — Sofia Jönsson

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