Five Things I’ve Learned in Five Years at ZoCo

By Sara Riedel
And how you can apply them to your work.

I recently hit my five-year work anniversary with ZoCo Design and what a fun journey it’s been. I came to ZoCo as a recent graduate from the Visual Communications Design program at Ohio State. I was excited to pursue my visual design career…but things don’t always go as planned. While far too much has happened in five years to jot it all down here, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned since joining ZoCo:

1. Research is creative

I was scared to let go of my creative career after realizing that UX research was my true passion. It felt like I wouldn’t be part of the design/UX industry anymore and that I was leaving behind all that I worked so hard on during my college years. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’ve realized that within the very rigid research process, there is still room for creativity.

There are always new ways to ask questions, methodologies to try, and ways to improve our questioning to get better insight from users. I treat every project like a new challenge to solve; how do we get awesome results out of our participants in the best way possible? One way is by being creative in our approach.

2. Google is your bestie

As much as you learn on the job and from others, don’t underestimate Google. Whether you need to understand how to run a new process or methodology, or you need to learn things about your client’s industry to write a survey, take the initiative to look it up and learn from those who have done it before! Google can be a great resource because no matter what anyone says, you’re going to be doing a lot of learning on the job.

3. Be brave

You are where you are for a reason and you have a valuable perspective; have the confidence to speak up. You, and everyone around you, will learn more when you’re an active participant in whatever is at hand, whether you are asking a question no one else has considered, sharing your opinion, or advocating for the user. There is no such thing as a dumb question, right? So ask it! Be confident, put yourself out there, and open yourself up to making mistakes that you can learn from. 

4. Don’t be afraid to try something new

I wouldn’t be where I am today without having agreed to jump into a few new things along the way. I didn’t always know what I was doing, but I kept my mind open to new opportunities when my teammates needed me and made good use of my problem-solving skills instead of sitting on my hands. Especially in the early years of ZoCo, you never knew what you’d be asked to help out on.

Little did I know that a random research project I was pulled into would point me in the direction of leading the research practice and mentoring others at ZoCo a few years later. Moral of the story, keep your options open; you never know when you’ll discover your passion.

5. Work culture is extremely important

When I interviewed with ZoCo five years ago, I was impressed by the balance between work and personal life. I had internships previously where people were working late nights and long weekends and I didn’t want that for myself. That kind of culture breeds resentment towards your team, which makes establishing relationships with those people more difficult. The opposite is true when you work somewhere with a strong work culture. It allows you to work more closely with your co-workers and really care about their success and happiness.

Over the course of my five years at ZoCo, I’ve realized how important a strong work culture is. It’s about honoring everyone’s personal life and need for space, while also having complete dedication to your work and teammates.

As I’ve watched my peers change jobs over the years, I’ve questioned whether I would ever do the same and I’ve found it hard to imagine leaving somewhere where my time, life, and personhood are so respected and valued.

Here is to another five years!

Oh, and allow me to introduce you to my ZoCoworkers!


Sara Riedel