Jen
Pomphrey

Jen is Cofounder and Head of Product at Byta, a platform that enables secure sending and receiving digital audio. Originally from the UK she is currently working remotely from a beach town just outside of Melbourne, Australia.

Melbourne, Australia • August 20, 2021

What led you into design?

Like a lot of designers out there I was always the kid that rocked up to an event with colouring pencils and a big pad of paper and would just sit happily doodling away. Then hit the late 90s my family got a PC and my eyes were opened to an entirely new world of creating.

I can't really remember how I happened across my first fan site site but I remember deciding that I wanted to make one for my favourite horses (yeah, pretty cool hey?) so signed myself up for a geocities account aged 13 and from there began a love for digital design. Initially I was just fiddling around with page builders but got frustrated with the restraints they placed on me so started reading about basic html.

I moved from horses to personal blogs by the age of 14 and still have a stack of old screenshots of old sites I designed in Paintshop Pro, a skill I honed over the next 4 years before I went to University at Cumbria Institue of the Arts to study a degree in Graphic Design. I went there thinking that I really wanted to work as a book or magazine designer, having obsessively collected and disected magazines like The Face and iD, little did I know that when I graduated in 2008 just as the financial crisis hit, design graduates were struggling to get placed in graduate roles, let alone ones in an industry that was really struggling. As our degree shows were going up I got accepted for a role at a book publishers, that then was quickly recinded when they realised their budgets were getting cut and that there was no longer a role for me. I eventually landed a role as Junior Digital Designer at Wallpaper* Magazine in London, which was actually a blessing in disguise as it actually led me back to what I truely loved, which was digital work. From there I moved through a number of agencies, in house design studios and music companies focusing on creation of websites, until I finally ended up starting Byta, a product that allows users to securely send and receive digital audio, back in 2014.

What does a typical day look like?

When we started Byta, we were determined that we would always be a fully remote company. It meant that in 2015 I was able to move from London to Australia, which was a dream come true. The flipside of that though is that, as someone who works remotely with a global team, I tend to have team meetings that top and tail my working day. I often wake up at 6am, catch up with any chat that has been happening on Slack over coffee and breakfast, then get to my computer for any scheduled 7am team catch ups with team members who are in Europe and Canada. Once those are wrapped up I will take the dog out for a walk down on the beach before driving over to my new co-working space.

My mornings tend to be fairly admin heavy. I tend to be running through feedback for my junior designer and frontend devs, working through emails, looking over metrics set up jira tickets for any upcoming features, pull together any docs that the team are requiring and work with team members in Canada who tend to still be around at that time.

Lunch tends to be fairly quick, sometimes with a walk down on the beach, then I get back to afternoon of quiet work because the rest of the team is offline at this point. Depending on where we are in a feature cycle I will either be spending this time designing or working through frontend changes. Over the past 6 months we have been overhauling the whole site so these afternoon blocks have been pretty intense with a lot of time in Sketch getting interface designs squared up to hand over to our frontend devs.

As mentioned earlier, once evenings hit I tend to catch up with the team as those in Europe start their working day. This can be WIPs, feature meetings, business discussions with my co-founder or catch up with leads from other teams. Then I try and get a list together of what needs to be done the next day before signing off for the day. Those evenings that are lighter on meetings tend to involve Aussie Rules football training (an incredibly confusing game that is great way to let off some steam), going to gigs and watching a few too many TV series (currently very immersed in Mare of Easttown).

What’s your workstation setup?

After moving down the coast just before the pandemic hit I was basically working from home for a year. It quickly made me realise that I am not only more productive if I have a seperate home/work setup but I am also much more content being around other humans. So in April this year I moved into coworking space Horizon House in a nearby Kilcunda. The views out over the beach were the biggest selling point for this Brit who spent years living in the middle of London. Workstation wise I am pretty minimal, I have my laptop for moving between home and the office but tend to mostly be at my iMac. I basically work most of the time in Sketch with a fair amount of coding done in VSCode.

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Where do you go to get inspired?

I am still a huge fan of blogs, and often find myself perusing them if I am feeling a little lacking in creative drive, ItsNiceThat has been a long time favourite but for aesthetically pleasing posts that aren't always design related I will head over to MissMoss.

Podcasts also tend to spark up my brain too, I tend to head out for a walk and pop them on. The combination of outdoors plus great minds always inspires me. The DesignBetter podcast from the folk over at Invision is consistently good. I loved the Marty Cargan episode in Season 4, his insights into Product Management were fascinating, I would highly recommend listening. Then Overtime from Dribbble always tickles me. Meg Lewis is great.

Otherwise it helps for me to just get of the house, the countryside is great but sometimes I really need to just go immerse myself in the city with all the sensory delights you get there. Throw me into the middle of Melbourne during a street festival, a gig or an exhibition and my brain just buzzes with ideas.

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

After spotting it months ago on a blog I was super surprised when "Parks, United States National Park Service Maps from the Collection of Brian Kelley" from Standards Manual showed up at my door. A very kind friend of mine had clearly been paying attention and sent it my way. It is such a beautiful collection of design, covering a collection of over 300 United States national park maps, ephemera, and brochures spanning over 100 years. The work featured is beautiful and a fantastic walk through the history of the parks. Additionally the quality of the book itself is just gorgeous. The silk screened yellow cover is droolworthy. I love just dipping in and out of it so keep it by my desk all the time.

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What pieces of work are you most proud of?

I've worked on some great products and campaigns over my years as a designer but without a doubt Byta is my greatest achievement. Considering it was built initially as a side project we have managed to turn it from 3 founders building an app with next to no money into a funded company with a team of over 13 people and paying customers.

After 5 years with the same design and an evolving user base we decided last year to tackle a full redesign of the product. We got to sit down and spend a solid amount of time speaking to customers and the music industry as a whole about how they send and receive music. We also spent a lot of time looking at other products (not just music related) to see how they were tackling specific issues that we knew our customers have. That research has then been used to flesh out new branding and interfaces for the whole site, fully overhauling the user experience and making a site that not only works better but actually improves our customers workflows.

I've also been working closely with the marketing team to look into their strategies for the year ahead and how it all interlinks with our new look and feel, learning what their needs are and how they want to approach customers has been really eye opening and helped inform our designs too.

It hasn't been easy but we are really excited about it being out there now and I am proud not only of my work in designing it all but how we all pulled together as a team, from sales all the way through to devs and made these ideas a reality.

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What design challenges do you face at your company?

Byta tends to be used at particularly high stress times for our customers as they are working on music releases which are often super high security and time sensitive. As such they want a product that delivers their audio to their recipients seamlessly and they want to know that they can rely on us. Ideally they should never really need to think about the product but simply use it and know it will get the job done. Creating that relationship with our customers through product design is both incredibly challenging and rewarding. It is a huge priviledge to have someone place that trust in us to get the job done and one that I feel very lucky to be able to take on.

What music do you listen to whilst designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

Iteration is key. Don't worry about things being perfect. Don't be scared to release your creations to the world, feedback will always help you progress. Just make sure that you are never settling for "good enough". I think if we are always striving to be working on making it (whatever "it" is) better then we are doing a good job.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

If you ever have the need to share digital audio then please head to Byta. Signup is free and you get a pretty feature packed service without it costing anything.

In addition to Byta's new redesign we are also now running monthly live events with music industry folk as part of our #HowWeListen site, we have links to up coming events on the site plus an archive of our previous chats along with other music industry resources.

If you want to keep up to date with anything I am working on at the moment then you can follow along on my Instagram (@jenpomphrey)