My Name Is Chris Swenson — This Is Why I Joined Aha!
It was my own personal robot. As a kid, I had a Kronoform transformer watch that went from timepiece to toy with a few twists and turns. Although the watch itself was pretty cool, I had more fun trying to understand how the parts came together. I would manipulate it from watch to robot over and over — trying to learn the logic behind the complex design.
I knew early on that I wanted to be part of creating experiences that were interesting and impactful to others.
While attending college, I worked at Trader Joe’s as a sign artist. My job was to hand-draw the chalkboard signs and design murals. After graduating with a communications degree, I stayed on and helped create concept renderings for new stores and remodels. The experience showed me how design is integral to creating a customer experience. This is what led me to enroll in art school.
After art school, I started working as a graphic designer at an agency in San Francisco. We did a lot of brand extension and strategy work for clients such as Nike, HP, and Apple. While I liked the creative side of the work, I found myself wanting more.
I did not just want to make things look good, I wanted to design experiences that would improve how people accomplish what is important to them.
I made the transition to UX design and worked as the director of user experience for a company that created mobile social games. This is when I first learned about product management. I worked with a great product manager there who taught me the importance of strategy and working closely with development. I saw how a hands-on product manager was integral to creating real value for people.
Serendipitously, it was around this time that I joined a cycling group in Palo Alto, California. This is where I met Aha! co-founder and CEO Brian de Haaff. We got to talking and he mentioned that Aha! was looking for a visual designer for their product roadmapping software. I was interested, but the timing was off — I was about to start a new job.
I had been hired as a UX design lead at Rambus, a well-known company that creates innovative hardware, software, and services that drive technology advancements from the data center to the mobile edge. My focus was on transforming proprietary, intellectual property into business and consumer product experiences. The work was complex and interesting, and I loved the team. When I saw an opportunity to help improve our product development process, I thought back to that conversation with Brian de Haaff. Could Aha! help? I started a trial to find out.
Aha! was exactly the tool our team needed — I could immediately see how it would help us design features in an organized way.
After a few years, I was ready for my next challenge. At first, I thought about building my own business as a freelancer. I was headed down that path when an open design position at Aha! popped up again on my radar — it was too exciting to pass up. I applied and quickly began interviewing with the team. I was impressed with the conversations I had with each person about the company culture and values. The conversations were honest and transparent. I knew I wanted to join.
Now that I am part of the Aha! team, I get to work on a wide range of projects — from designing new features to developing tools that improve our design processes.
There is never a question of how my work contributes to the company goals. I know it is making a real impact and that customers are excited about the problems we are solving for them. This is something I recently got to hear first-hand when our team conducted user interviews to help fine tune a new design.
In a way, it all goes back to the robot watch I had as a kid. I am still fascinated by what a clever design can accomplish. Only now my focus is on a different kind of transformation — helping people change the way they innovate and build products.
That is why I joined Aha! — and why you should too.