039 | A Candid Conversation About Design, Parenting And Prison Reform, With Shaun Mosley

Shaun Mosley - Podcast Guest

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” 

We often come across so many choices, so many tasks to be acknowledged and worked upon in day to day life. There are so many things that we want to accomplish in our lifetime. Without prioritizing we cannot get any of them done. Our guest Shaun Mosley is one such person, who prioritized his passion and found a way not only to satisfy his inner-self but also to give back good to the society. He’s an interaction designer by trade, but a podcast host and criminal justice reformer by passion. Shaun holds a Bachelor of Science, Computer Engineering from the University of Central Florida. And he also holds a Master’s degree in Human Computer Interaction from Georgia Institute of Technology. 

Hi, everyone, and welcome to this new episode of bootstrapping your dream Show. I’m your host, Manuj Aggarwal. And today I will be talking with a multi-faceted man. His name is Shaun Mosley. We are so excited to have you, Shaun.

Very excited to be here.

Yeah. All right. So let’s get started. Why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you do your experience and background?

Yeah, so I am an interaction designer. And so for most people, like how I would describe it to my parents, I designed software, and that’s my day job. So I’m focusing on how do you make the software easier for people to use. And recognizing that we’re not building these, all the software and code and things for the machines to use, it is for us to use it for us to live a better life. So that’s what my day trade is. And like you said, by passion, I am a podcast host and a criminal justice reformer. And so with the podcast, I have my own show, which is “Successful Well Parenting.” And in it, the focus of that is to explore what is it like? Or how do parents still somehow managed to do great things as an individual? How do they still pursue their own individual passions? How does that work out? So I really wanted to explore that, because once you have a kid, it’s just like, the individual becomes second.

That’s like, dude, there’s a secret sauce that I don’t have. And so that’s where I started with the show.

Awesome. That’s great. So, you know, you have all these various interests. And, you know, one can, one can argue there is not a huge amount of overlap between these. So how did you develop a passion for these various things? And how are you managing juggling all these priorities?

So that’s definitely a great question. And one that I’ve like, arrived at recently, which was, I had to actually cut some of my interest. I mean, these three are now my top focuses outside of taking care of myself and taking care of the family. My three personal interest, our design, podcasting, and criminal justice reform. If it doesn’t fit in those three, I’ve had to drop it. And some of the ones I’ve had to drop are gardening and rapping. Like I had an interest in rapping, and I was like, I’ve always been interested in poetry and had a huge, not even “had”, have a huge affinity for music.

I had to look at it and say which of these passions are going to bring me the most joy and are going to be the most fulfilling to me. And so I had to make those decisions to cut out the ones where it’s like, all right, well, I can do a garden part time, but I’m not going to be the best damn gardener I’ve ever could be. But I had to make that trade-off. And so for design, I got into it starting off as a coder. And I was like, I wanted to bring back the human element and really understand who I was building code for. And so then I got into design. And with criminal justice reform, it started off as I was volunteering for, with part of my fraternity. And it was at, down in Atlanta at the Fulton Juvenile Justice Center. And on the weekends, we would mentor young black youth or maybe not necessarily just young black, but young youth that entered into the juvenile system. And the reason I did call up the young black is the fact, for most kids, once you get into incarceration, or for young black men, once you get into incarceration is a pipeline that just from the juvenile justice system into adult jail, and it’s a continuous cycle. So I got in there and learned about it. And I said to myself, look, rather than just complaining about how bad things are, and how some people are just so unfortunate, I’m going to do something to change it. And one book that really lit the fire in me is the new Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander. And it’s a fantastic book highlighting the war on drugs and mass incarceration in the current age now. And so yeah, so that sparked me into that. And like I mentioned, for the podcast, that was kind of, I have a kid. That’s how I got the interest. There’s your way.

I can relate to that. For sure. Yeah, I mean, I have two kids and definitely, once you have kids, you know, your life takes a second role in the family’s life. Yeah, I want to talk about, you know, the prison reform, this passion that you have. So it almost feels like this is, you know, a community service you’re providing like you’re doing it with no expectation of anything coming back to you. Right, like, so. Is that correct?

Yeah, I would say it’s not with the intent of a personal game or a direct game. It’s more of a, helping the community do better.

Yeah. So you know, the satisfaction that you get, by helping the community and helping others and giving your time? How does that play into your overall life quality and your entrepreneurial journey?

So for me, it feeds everything into it, because I’ve read the book, “The One Thing”, are you familiar with it?

Manuj 

Yeah. Evans, book?

Evans, is it?

Yeah, isn’t it written by Evan Carmichael?

Ah no, it’s Gary Keller, I believe, okay. It’s something I think it’s Keller,

Okay, maybe it’s a different book then.

But the whole thing is that we draw our life down to one primary goal and purpose. And for me, it was the fact of, I need to be able to share the wealth of my privilege. And, what that means is the fact that I’ve been born into a middle-class family in America, although I’m not perfect, and said ahead, I do have a lot of advantages that a lot of other people don’t have the chance to. And so I think wanted to share that. And that’s been my life goal. And what I’ve recognized, like, my purposes, what I bring it all back to my purposes, helping out and sharing out the wealth of the privilege that I have. And so yeah, so that this criminal justice reform lines up right with it.

Yeah, that’s awesome. You know, we have audiences worldwide. So I just want to mention, in the US there is, you know, there is this issue, ongoing issue of incarceration of people, of criminals, and, you know, proportionately speaking, the US has the most people in jail as compared to the population that the country has. So it’s a big problem. And that’s what Shaun is talking about. And, Shaun, I completely agree with you, you know, giving, you know, helping the community, it actually comes back, maybe not in monetary terms, but in terms of, you know, your personal satisfaction and your vigor and your happiness. And I’ve experienced the same, you know, when I give, I get that satisfaction, and sooner or later, you know, in many ways, it comes back tenfold.

Yeah. And, I’ll also be honest, and say, I heard it on another podcast, that was talking about giving back to support communities and helping them get up is, and I was tackling white supremacy by Tim Wise, and he was saying, you know, honestly, a lot of it is selfish. It’s, I’m also tackling this so that the world will be a better place for my kids to enjoy. And, it’s also something that it’s like, if I lift up my community, that means everybody around me will enjoy it, including my kids. So, I mean, I guess you could say it’s also part selfish.

No, I mean, well, I mean, it’s not selfish. But yeah, I mean, in a way it does. But in all, you know, in short, you know, to, to sort of summarize it, giving is not giving as much as people think it is, because it’s basically investing, right, investing in your own journey, in your own destiny and, people around you. It’s a wonderful thing. Alright, coming back to a little bit more sort of tactical topic about design. So tell me how important this is, for tech entrepreneurs to take into consideration this concept of design, how much time they should spend on this, how much resources they should spend on it when they’re launching their company.

So design, I would say, and I mean, this is my super biased opinion. I would say design is super important for the fact that, at the end of the day, no matter what your product or services, it’s meant to serve people. And the design is about figuring out what are the actual problems that people have and they are trying to solve. And with the right amount of research, you can get very far and make sure that your product or service is successful. And so if you look at anything as far as either the lean startup that is similar to the design in the fact that you’re going out and testing the market before you even try to create a product because you could spend two years trying to develop this product. And it turns out, nobody even needs it. Yeah, so the main thing with design is if you put that cart, or you put that at the front of the cart, and you make design, the horse that will pull your product or service, definitely flourish, because you’re going to go and figure out where the people are, what they need, and then you’ll be able to actually know how to meet them there.

Sure. And can you share with us any interesting stories of people who really failed at design, and thus, you know, basically went under or their company did not survive because of serious design flaws?

That’s a good question. I can’t think of anyone that has done poorly with design. I mean, I think, by nature, we’re going to avoid the ones that are not well designed. But what I could say is a company that has changed and gone pretty much about face because of design is Microsoft. I mean, if you think back to 10 years ago, the iPhones coming out, androids coming out, and we’re going from a world where Microsoft Office was the leader. And, and there was even though, the Windows phones, they were cool at the time, yeah, that started to get out paste and everything Microsoft was secondary. But now, Microsoft has taken a lot of time reinvented themselves, really thought about who they’re solving for. And now, not only are they creating great products that are changing, they’re improving the old ones and their thought leaders in the accessible design space. And for anyone that’s not familiar with accessible design. And I hope I’m using the right terms. So I know that there’s accessible design, inclusive design, and universal design. And they’re all very similar, but yet have its own unique thing. So hopefully, I’m saying the right one. But the whole point of accessible and inclusive design is to say, it doesn’t matter what your abilities are, or if you are blind, hard of hearing, or have any other disability, you are still able to use that product or service. And as a business, there are two reasons you should consider accessibility. Again, up front is one, if you’re not going to consider how a one person, one armed person would use your service, then you’re one – losing out on potential customers, then two you can also be held liable for like lawsuits and thanks for not being accessible. ADA compliant. So

I’ve been just looking at Microsoft, again, turning the ship completely about phase to go out and go from being the laughingstock of what bad software was, to now being a thought leader in the design space is, is kind of it shows their work.

Awesome. That’s great. I mean, I’ve had I had some interesting stories about Apple, you know, when, when Steve Jobs left Apple in his sort of the first term, and then they started designing some products without him. And there were some terrible, terrible products that Apple came out and nobody talks about that. Then, you know, in I think ’95, Steve Jobs came back. And then I think he launched iMac as his first product, which was a good success. Those are interesting stories. Anyway, so tell us a little bit about, you run a design consulting company, is that correct?

No.

My mistake then. So know, do you work for a large corporation and a startup? Or what’s kind of work that you do?

Yeah, so I’m at a large corporation, I’m in Intuit. And so I’m working on our design system there. And our whole focus in mission is being able to help and accelerate the designers and developers around us in order for them to solve the customer problems more efficiently and effectively.

And how important or what is the difference between design approaches for a mature company like Intuit versus a startup?

So I think the main differences that you’ll see are the time available, for a larger company, you have the ability to stretch out the research, move a little slowly take a lot more things into consideration. You have to consider your brand name and things were as with a startup or something self-funded, you have to move quickly. And you need to be able to do things cheaply and get that feedback quick. Yeah. So yeah, I think the time is the key difference. And I mean, that’s not to say that one is better than the other. Because as with any and everything, both sides have pros and cons.

I see. And so, you know, okay, so the time and resources, obviously that, you know that in short supply in a startup. So if you were to design, let’s say, you know, you needed to do the exact same thing for a startup that you’re doing for Intuit, which is to, you know, design the software and make it easier for the customers to use it. How will your approach change? Like, will it be a little bit more sort of brief in terms of how much time you devote to each component? Or how will it be different?

Yep, so the key difference that I would do there is keeping things way, much, much scrappier and being less in the mindset of everything needs to be perfect. I know that that can for myself, at least, I can lead myself to paralysis analysis and not get anything done, and waste that quality time. Whereas with just accepting the fact that, look, it’s not going to be perfect, but I’m going to go out, I’m going to meet with the users, I’m going to see what they need. And then I’m going to improve my product based on that feedback that I’ve got.

Okay. And, you know, I think, in my opinion, there are a lot of misconceptions about what design is. A lot of people think about design being you know, more sexy images, colors. And, you know, I think the design is much, much bigger, and it should be taken into a larger context. So, what do you think about that? Like, what do you define designers?

Absolutely. So it is way more than just visual aesthetics. The thing that I’ve come to grips with recently is recognizing, if you look at the term designer, it can be used anywhere, you can be a landscape designer, you can be a party designer, you can so a word that, like, as you said, has such a strong meaning. It can be so confusing. And I mean, I don’t want to disrespect anyone else’s craft, but it can, it can become watered down. And the other thing too is a lot of people when you mentioned Oh yeah. I’m a designer, they’re like, oh, you’re into fashion? And it’s like, No, no, no, not that type of designer. Like, again, it’s a lot of confusion in what that is.

So yeah, what was the other part of the question of the value?

Yeah, so how will you define design? Like, you know, in my opinion, when you say, you know, we designed the software to make it easy, it may actually involve, you know, taking out all the colors and making the interface, you know, totally black or black and white, or gray or whatever. So I just wanted to get your opinion, like, you know, how do you see a well-designed product? Like, you know, what are the characteristics of a well-designed product, or?

Gadget? Yeah, so for a well-designed product, it’s, it’s going to be one example that, that we often hear around as designers are, the well-designed product is the one that you don’t really notice. And so if you think about pen and paper like that’s something that is ubiquitous, and we use it all the time. And it’s been around for so long. So it’s been approved, we don’t have the ink in one spot. And then a quill and the other side, have like a lot of these things are not synchronized. Yeah. And another good example, which I don’t have envied, and I wanted to get what I’m going to rental. So I haven’t gotten it, but it’s the nest home thermostat, which is something that you can set it and not think about it after, like forever, for a while. And that’s good design, in that you get the job done, which the job at that point for like the Nest thermostat is set the house to a comfortable temperature, and it’s done easily. Or if you want to take notes and make a reminder, you can quickly do it with pen and paper without thinking about, oh, the pen needs to start up or I’m not getting any signal on this paper. It’s very easy and direct.

Yeah, that’s cool.

All right. And have you found, in your experience, the design principles that you apply on software? Are they transferable to other domains or other industries? You know to take an example, auto, auto industry or, you know, construction industry or any other industry for that matter?

Absolutely. The reason why I say absolutely is that with true design, you’re focusing on the human. And so in all of these industries, whether it’s a service industry, automobile industry, humans are still at the core center of it. And by being able to think of the people involved and what they want, and how you can deliver delight, it really opens up a lot of opportunities to see, to meet that and provide it and take it to the next level. And once you’ve exceeded someone’s expectations, that leaves a much more positive imprint. And they are way more likely to come back and say, Wow, I want to go back to that business over there. Not only did they deliver my food on time, but it came with a free drink or something just to, just to, again, improve the design and think of what would make this experience extremely quality.

That’s great. All right. So earlier, we talked about Apple, and you know, as you know, Apple sort of blossomed into a very well known company with the invention of the PC and everything. But then during the 90s, it sort of started to die down and it almost went bankrupt. And then now Apple is one of you know, the most valuable companies in the world. How many roles did design play in its ascent?

So that one is tough.

I’ve heard mixed things because of course, this is me on the outside of what they were able to do. Yeah. But from my perspective, I think what they were able to do. One, they did do a lot of thinking about how people would use the products.

And so it was very user-centered, then the only reason I hesitate is that I don’t know how much testing they did I know apples very secretive, and all these other pieces. So it’s very complex. But for as far as what they did, I think one thing that really helped them was their intentionality and focus. One of the things that was famous about Steve Jobs coming back, was him cutting out so many different products and saying, no, we’re not going to be distracted, doing this, this, this, this and this, we are going to focus and start nailing home and truly delivering an excellent experience when you do this. And so I think I don’t know what they did for tourism. So I can’t really speak to that. But it’s definitely that intentional focus. And that laser vision, it’s what I think has led them to such massive success.

Yeah, that’s a very interesting observation. So, you know, again, I think this was my misconception as well. And I’m sure a lot of people think that way, the design, in my opinion, was focused on the software. But I think you rightly pointed out that the design should be actually focused on the, on the human who’s going to use it, and then work backward and, you know, implement all the bells and whistles that need to go into the software to match that expectation.

Exactly. And as any designer will tell you, it’s a cyclical cycle of what do users want? Let’s build it. Let’s test it, see how they like it. Let’s ship it. All right. Now, what do users want on that? And you just keep going on over to him? Design is never done.

Awesome. Can you share with us any, you know, a specific design that you’re proud of? And that was very well received by the users?

Hmm, that is a good question. So I’d probably say one that I’m particularly proud of was a multimodal experience. And I will explain. So it’s a multimodal experience was the fact that if it’s a multimodal experience, is one where you’re using multiple modes of input. And, and for our case, it was using your voice as well as using a touchscreen. Okay. And what happened was, you would call into an IVR or the computer that you would talk to on the phone. And we would say, Hey, we know that you want to send your car in for repair. In order to help expedite this process, can we send you a text and start this new journey? Yeah. And so we’d send you a text with the link, and you click it and open it up. And while you’re on the website, you’re able to still use your voice with it. And I think being able to add it, because we all know, using the IVR sometime are painful, whether it doesn’t understand you appropriately, or whether it’s painful waiting for it to go through that list of numbers before you get to the actual thing that you want. But with this, it was able to communicate so much and still be able to use your voice to do a few things. And so that was a very fun project. And I was glad to be a part of the design of that.

That’s great. That sounds very intriguing. Like ready, innovative idea. Yeah. Thanks. That’s great. All right. Thank you so much for sharing all your wisdom knowledge with us about design. I think a lot of people got a lot of value out of this. Now, before I let you go, can you tell us once again, a little bit about your podcast about your website, and how people can reach you. And you know whether you are able to help them on any design related questions on projects.

Yeah, absolutely. So for my personal information, you can go to Shaun Mosley dot com and you can reach me there. You should have my email available for you to reach me. If not, you can email Hello at Shaun Mosley dot com, and I’ll get it in respond as quick as I can. And for my podcast, It’s about being successful. Well parenting, and I’m trying to explore all of the different ways that people are able to be successful as an individual even as they are up there.

All right, great. Thank you so much on. This was a fun interview. Do come back again sometime. All right. Thanks.

Thanks for having me.

Links & Mentions from This Episode:

Shaun’s website: https://www.shaunmosley.com/
TetraNoodle consulting services: https://go.tetranoodle.com/boot-podcast
TetraNoodle professional training: https://courses.tetranoodle.com

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