Product Designer at OpenTable

Greyson MacAlpine is an Oakland-based founder and product designer focused on creating inclusive and responsible experiences. She’s currently collaborating with OpenTable, designing tools for restaurants.

Oakland, United States • April 3, 2023

What led you into design?

I’m a product designer by accident, I think. I was born with an entrepreneurial drive and my unconventional childhood was fuel for that fire. I laugh when I look through my memories, remembering that all the games of pretend with my brothers were of me being the founder of a company, whether that was a law firm, a banking institution, a health clinic, or even a theatre troupe. I simply loved to learn and I loved to create, driven by an insatiable curiosity and a will to thrive. I spent my early adulthood pursuing creative interests in writing, music, and eventually photography and film. My home environment wasn’t a safe space where those interests could be nurtured or supported, especially as a woman. If I wanted to realize a serious vision for my future, I would need to do so on my own. With no familial support or much financial means, I moved to a new city to build a new life.

My love for storytelling drew me further into photography and film production, which I ardently pursued for a season with the ambition of becoming a director. Perhaps as fate would have it, I dated a visual designer and was exposed to the world of design. I spent a brief time in San Francisco, met a few interesting folks, and got to see the inner workings of early-stage startup life.

Like with most things that piqued my interest, I thought, “Why not?” and became a woman obsessed. I spent the next several months studying and developing my craft. Within less than a year I had a passable portfolio and was offered a product design role by a small agency. Larger opportunities began to unfold and I soon found myself settled in California pursuing a newfound career.

However, the entrepreneurial drive wasn’t satiated and in 2019 I rebranded my freelance side hustle into a creative studio, co-founded with two other partners.

What does a typical day look like?

A typical day starts with my alarm going off at 4:00 AM. I’m an early bird by nature and center any chance of productivity around my morning routine. Upon waking, I immediately head to the gym, followed by cooking a savory breakfast, and pouring my first cup of tea; (I have lifelong penchant for Earl Grey, if you’re curious).

Last year, I joined OpenTable after a year of collaborating with the company on a contract basis. Prior to this, I had dedicated my time to working full-time roles while simultaneously freelancing, then also running a creative studio. Needless to say, the workload wasn’t sustainable after a few years and negatively impacted my health. The studio is now in the capable hands of a co-founder and I’m grateful for this intentional season of rest and recalibration.

With OpenTable, most meetings start around 9:00 AM, which means I block the early morning hours starting around 6:00 AM to prioritize a focused working session. Being neurodiverse, this is critical, as these undisturbed quiet hours of the morning are key for accomplishing key tasks prioritized for a day well spent. Though the context of my day is dependent on the stage of each project, I’m generally moving between user research, UX work, strategy discussions with stakeholders, and pairing sessions with our engineering team.

By 5:00 PM, dinner preparation starts. It’s also around this time that I begin to transition to ongoing personal projects, perhaps spending a little of the evening doing market research for review with my business partner (the pot is brewing for a future venture) or an hour or two spent completing course work for educational programs that I’m enrolled in. On other evenings, I might watch a couple of TV show episodes or listen to a podcast while sipping on my final cup of herbal tea. By 8:00 PM lights are out.  

What's your workstation setup?

Where do you go to get inspired?

I’m inspired by nature and find it incredibly therapeutic. I enjoy hikes along the coast on weekends and will occasionally swap a gym day for a sunrise walk in a local park. I am admittedly still in the process of deconstructing the drive to always be busy, recognizing that inspiration comes best when the mind is allowed space to be present in the moment, unburdened with the constant onslaught of day-to-day demands and distractions.

Personally, I don’t feel that our present society values or optimally facilitates taking breaks to rest or repair. Time has become a commodity. And when you’ve reached an inevitable point of burnout, you either hobble through while feeling (and likely being) less “productive” or you quit out of sheer necessity because your mind and body simply can’t be pushed any further. This is why I spend so much time in nature; it’s my preemptive rest and repair strategy. 

It might seem cliché to say that inspiration can be found just about anywhere, but I believe there’s truth to that statement. I love to travel, as one never knows who they’ll meet, what conversations will be had, or what life-long connections might be made along the way. That sense of the unknown, the serendipity, I don’t know. I’m drawn to it.

Lastly, I’m inspired by the folks I work with at OpenTable, particularly my team. I’m deeply appreciative of our earned trust and rapport, the way we support each other day-to-day, and our dedication to excellence for the work we own. We continue to learn from each other’s experiences, perspectives, and processes and that spirit of openness is amazing. They’re the kind of coworkers that I would happily hang out with after work, which I suppose also means that we're friends.

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

In preparation for a trip to Europe, I stumbled across a unique product that I’m excited to use for my travels. Founded by Steph Hon, Cadence is a beautiful system of modular hexagonal containers made from recycled plastic and connected by magnets. I love her story and the company’s commitment to sustainability.   

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

In the grand scheme of things, I would say that I’m proud of having survived founding a creative studio. Running a business—no matter how small or how large—is not for the faint of heart. On reflection, there’s much that I wish I had done differently throughout that journey, but those stories of both wins and failures only serve to deepen the wisdom, experience, and resilience needed for the next venture. That’s something to be proud of and a future to look forward to.

What design challenges do you face at your company?

Recently, my team has taken ownership of a long-neglected product. Balancing the knowledge transfer process, guerrilla user research, incremental releases within tight deadlines, while also planning a strategic product vision for the long-term has kept us on our toes. We’ve been hard at work identifying and prioritizing the key outcomes within this new domain that will contribute significant impact and value for both the business and our customers. It’s demanding work, but I appreciate a solid challenge and am excited for everything our team will continue to accomplish together.

What music do you listen to whilst designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

When I first began my design career, navigating the industry as a neurodiverse woman of color was challenging. I didn’t have mentorship in those early years and as with every other pursuit, dogged determination and fierce optimism paved the path forward. Sometimes I even got lucky. But most of the time, I simply invested in self-directed education and practice, day after day. There’s a saying that’s always resonated, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

 In short, establish a good work ethic. Visualize what you want for your future, stay the course through hope and discipline, and invite guidance and perspective with humility and a learner’s mind. My guiding ethos is that you’re never too young or too old to begin anew, to change paths, to pursue a passion with all your heart. Take it from someone who came from poverty and violence, someone who never attended college. Yes, there are certainly other contributing factors to discovering what success might mean for you, but the commitment towards growth and opportunity through a disciplined work ethic? I promise you, it will only help you on your journey.

Lastly, while you’re busy bringing dreams to life, don’t forget that life is also all around you. This is the mistake I made over the years that I’m now learning from. Make time for community, for wellness, for the little things that make you feel integrated and connected to yourself. Set those boundaries. Learn to say no. And make more memories with those you love.

Also, probably drink more water.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

I’m always happy to say hi, so feel free to reach out either on LinkedIn or on Twitter (where I’m most active and where you can stay posted on what I’m up to)! ✨