“Here at #SesameHQ, we believe in the potential for entrepreneurs to change the world, so we make sure our Sesamers are meeting the right people, at the right event & at the right time. We’re proud to have an international pool of mentors & experts helping us support our startups.
Joining this group of #RockstarMentors, we’re excited to introduce you to Jennifer Kanyamibwa, Senior Design Program Manager for the Design and User Research Team at Twitter!
Serendipitously, Jennifer and Suzanne first met in San Francisco during a visit to #SlackHQ, where Jennifer was previously working as Design Studio Manager.
Check out our recent #MentorSpotlight interview with Jennifer 😉
Let’s start with a quick snapshot of your academic & professional background; what path did you take?
I lived, worked and studied in New York City, Brussels, Berlin and San Francisco and hold a Master in International Affairs with a focus on Technology, Media & Communications from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and Master in Public Policy with a focus on Public Management from Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, Germany. Both my academic and professional experiences provided me with a global understanding of how technology works in every facet of human life.
Tell us more about your experiences in government and finance and how they relate to tech?
Well, I started my career working in the New York City Mayor’s Office in the Bloomberg administration for the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services so all of New York Cities agencies and programs that have to do with public assistance, homelessness services, public hospitals as well as the research and evaluation components of understanding if programs were effective in serving the citizen of New York City etc…these were major programs with many challenges and opportunities and since it was the Bloomberg administration, I learned about the importance of using research and evaluation to solve problems and understand metrics — similar to many approaches used to understand users and metrics in technology.
In terms of finance, I worked as a Global Project Manager at Bloomberg LP where I received my formal project management and operations skills. I managed global finance projects including an award-winning, year-long project where I led Engineering, R&D and Global Payroll teams in São Paulo, Tokyo, Hong Kong, London and New York City in the design and implementation of a new global payroll system. After this project I had such a world of experience in (1) Working cross-functionally (2) Breaking down complex issues in order to achieve big results and (3) Understanding the global impact of improved technologies and the cultural competency needed to manage and inspire global team — -these are lessons I have brought to every job and tech since then. Whether it be the consultative work I did with Nike, my current board work as Ambassador Council member for International Crisis Group or even the academic work I did in grad school at Columbia University and the Hertie School of Government in Berlin, Germany — these three lessons are my guiding lights.
Since you are new to Twitter, what are some things you are looking to achieve with your role?
At Twitter, we (my manager and myself) are building up the Strategy and Operations arm of the Design and User Research Department. What this means is that as the Design and User Research Department scales, I am building out the processes and cultural components to ease collaboration and amplify effectiveness, not only across product disciplines, but also between the increasingly complex world of Product Design and User Research. We are the arm that does all the strategic and operational things to retain and find talent and to scale and buildout a world class design org at Twitter. It’s a very exciting role that combines my passions and expertise in design ops, program management, operations and strategy.
What are some of your favorite books, magazines or podcasts that inform and/or relate to your work?
In terms of magazines, I love Communication Arts it’s an amazing publication that covers the best in graphic design, advertising, photography, illustration and interactive media. Its very creative and really inspiring. I also love the book Designing Design which is a great book on design thinking by Japanese graphic designer Kenya Hara.
My favorite design podcast is Revison Path which is a weekly showcase of the world’s leading Black creatives, graphic designers, web designers, product designers and web developers. My love for learning more about design was a direct result of working with extremely talented designers at Slack and Tech Open Air. Particularly Angelica Mckinley, Chris Reath, Viet Huynh (all based in the Bay Area and NYC) Amit Barnea and John Michael (both based in Berlin)
I am also super inspired by the cultural and artistic writing of Antwaun Sargent (who is a prominent art critic, prolific writer and a friend) his work is creative, passionate and forward thinking — all things I believe are also critical to good design.
Last but certainly not least, what is your experience with Tech events?
I actually got my start in tech with Tech Open Air (TOA.life Editorial) in Berlin, Germany. I had a position as Special Advisor to the CEO/Founder Niko LeWoi (aka Mr. TOA) (great boss and mentor!). I started off doing research around tech policy issues for example driverless cars and then I ended up working on presentations about emerging tech ecosystems and finally working with the Program Team, Production Team and the Design Studio at TOA with projects and during the entire festival, I shadowed the CEO it was AMAZING!
I also got to speak at Pirate Summit in Cologne, Germany. I spoke on two panels: Getting More Women into Tech and The Future of European Tech Ecosystems: London, Berlin, Paris. Pirate Summit (PIRATE.global) was such a unique and exhilarating experience; and I had A LOT of fun and learned so much from all the international presenters and attendees.”