A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure to chat with Paul Haupt, one of our beloved ADPList mentors living not too far from me in Philadelphia. When he is not directing the experience designed for the country’s largest security company, ADT, he is listening to movie soundtracks while working or spending his free time building lego with his son.
Are you curious about what it is like to be mentored by him? Then don’t stop reading and enjoy today’s Inside Scoop with Paul Haupt.
Sure! I’m a technologist and a future thinker. I kind of look at myself like Dr. Frankenstein, where I’m building stuff, tearing it down, and then rebuilding it again. That started really early when I was introduced to Legos as a kid. Until this day, I’m still obsessed with Legos. I look at Lego as being probably the greatest toy that was ever created, but also one of the greatest ways to understand modularity and how to build things. To this day, Lego is forming my thinking, the way I build stuff, and the way I deconstruct and improve things. Today, I’m building out both software and hardware and using that level of modularity and connectedness, and that option to change and grow as a foundation.
Another big influence was my grandfather who worked for Bell Labs after World War Two. He was an engineer and taught me how to build computers. I was eight years old when I built my first Apple clone, and from there I got my love for technology. He challenged me to figure out how to make things work, learn how to break and rebuild them.
I taught myself graphic design early on, but with my love for technology, it was always around the computer aspect of it. It wasn’t just about drawing and illustrating, more about learning what the tools are.
My career started for the most part in publishing. I was art directing and creative directing for magazines and newspapers throughout the 90s. But I was also learning about technologies through the internet and exploring the internet in its infancy. I built websites, learned HTML/CSS, and started building apps when smartphones got invented. I started realizing that publishing is great, but that I really love design, learning about design systems, usability, and how humans actually interact with technology. I realized that I wanted to make that human-computer relationship, which I had all along, my career.
I’ve worked at a couple of different startups. I was in the agency landscape for a little bit and now, I am directing the experience designed for the country’s largest security company, ADT.
For me, it’s about staying customer-centric, staying human in what we do, and being able to inject that human mindset into everything we do. Just by being empathetic, you can push the boundaries and try to constantly keep your customers in the focal point. Everything we do can’t be around ego. It can’t be around bias. How do we make it so that it’s a lot more balanced, fair, easy to use, simplified but without being diluted, and solving problems that users actually have, not ones that we think that they have?
For me, being data-driven is key, and being able to constantly do research and create feedback loops with customers to find out not only how they’re using it, but what problems are they trying to solve? How does it benefit them? And where we can continue to create things that benefit them? So it’s not something that’s gratuitous, but something that’s functional, pragmatic, simple to use, and something that everyone can use.
And there’s a constant moment of iteration and improvement. You don’t just build something and then kind of wipe your hands and walk away. You build something, you plant a seed and you grow and it grows and you water the plant and you tend to it. And it’s a living, breathing thing as much as the creator and the customer are. Keeping it going is is the exciting part.
I think it’s very important as UX professionals that we always stay humble and that we never look at ourselves as experts. Because when you’re an expert, that’s when the learning stops, right? I learn from those moments where it feels like it fails. It provides me with this feeling that something’s not right. That, to me, is motivation. If I’m not curious, I’m not going to take failure and do something with it. I always want there to be at least a little bit of failure because then there’s always that opportunity for improvement.
I think that it’s really important to encourage other professionals to be curious, to be humane, to be balanced, and to always push the boundaries. I think it’s our duty as professionals to really question everything in a good way. Questioning keeps you always moving and always thinking. If you’re not thinking, then you’re not exploring all of the possibilities.
I really like to encourage the folks that I mentor to go and see how far they can take it. I’m always looking for moments to challenge my mentees, give them homework, and encourage them to question each situation and say, how can you look at this differently? And by looking at it differently, what did that do? Did it provide more insight? Did it make you look back at your process and question it? We can always be on autopilot and a lot of us are, but autopilot does not really provide for us over time.
This approach forces people to come out of their comfort zone, which I think is key. We have to get out of our comfort zone and take risks. Innovation doesn’t happen unless you take risks.
Philadelphia is kind of like the redheaded stepchild of New York, and what’s great about it is that there are tremendous creative talents and awesome future thinkers in Philadelphia. There always has been. There always will be.
Philadelphia has always, always taken on the mantle of being the underdog and I think that’s fair. But as an underdog from a creative sense, how does that manifest? There are hidden gems in Philadelphia, and I love when those hidden gems really connect with each other and start working together. Because when that happens, awesome things are created.
What I really want to see in Philadelphia is more people pushing that envelope, getting out there, and not settling for the status quo. We are the City of Brotherly Love, whether we’re butting heads or coming together, there’s that connectivity that I think really can shine when it’s allowed to. When I’ve seen it happen, it’s almost blinding. It’s so good.
Do you need an extra push to be more curious or stay curious? Connecting and talking with one of ADPList’s mentors can inspire, motivate, and help you on your journey as a designer.
Why don’t you schedule a session with Paul Haupt? I’m sure he’d be thrilled to talk to you.