Humans of TCGMC: Patrick Puckett
Patrick: I’m a “User Experience Designer” by trade. I do my best to gather all of the information that I can to make objective decisions about how to, in my case, create digital experiences that help people manage their finances – either better or properly – or make things behave better than they’re expected to so they’re easier to use. Today, we use a variety of research methods to learn about people. We’re using prototypes, we’re having conversations with them, and working through their thought processes in real life. Because I do this as a profession, I’m not over on the other side of the table generally, where I’m giving my feedback about how something should work. That’s a pretty exposed feeling, and it takes a lot of trust.
So one of the things I was thinking about is how we were going to sit. One of the things you’ll probably notice is that I’m trying to twist on this stool, and I keep bumping into you. When I’m having conversations, I like being at right angles to people. I’m okay with sitting right across from one another, but I should be at a 90 degree angle to you at the table. It feels like I’m at an interrogation when I’m across from you. I think that goes into building trust and rapport with people when you’re trying to have very empathetic conversations. Establishing a posture that we’re equals.
JOSH: WORKING WITH USER INTERFACE, YOU’VE SURELY LEARNED LESSONS ABOUT HUMAN PSYCHOLOGY. WHAT ARE THE MOST PROFOUND?
Patrick: One of the important things to understand, that is still incredibly infuriating, is that you’re not going to make something that suits everyone. And I think that might be changing as time goes on, but technology is moving faster than it ever has. We have a significant population that didn’t grow up with personal computers. Fortunately, I had the experience of working in user research while in college. At the time, I had this goal in my mind that “I think my career will be completely satisfied if I’m able to create an experience that literally everyone can use.” I don’t lose sight of that as an aspiration, but it is very elusive.
JOSH: YOU CLEARLY SPEND TIME OBSERVING BEHAVIOR AND LEARNING HOW PEOPLE OPERATE. WHAT MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCES IN YOUR LIFE AFFECT THE WAY YOU OPERATE?
Patrick: I come from a family where we didn’t realize my dad was cheating on my mom for years, until after he left in 2004. He was probably embezzling money from our family, based on going with him as a child to deposit money at the bank, where we didn’t normally bank. My mom had about 4 months to figure out how to get her kids back in school and figure out, “Are we going to be able to pay the bills as a single-parent family?” I started going to the University of Minnesota as a junior in high school, full-time. I earned 2 bachelor’s degrees in 4 years. One is in graphic design, and the other is in journalism. I know myself, and I’ve fought for everything that I have.
I’m sorry – I’m misty. That was a lot. You know what’s funny is that on the way here, I said, “I wonder if I’ll become one of Josh’s subjects, who get so moved that they start crying.”
JOSH: I’D SAY IT HAPPENS TO ABOUT A THIRD OF THE PEOPLE I TALK TO. I’D LIKE TO VALIDATE YOU IN SAYING THAT YOU’VE DONE SO WELL FOR YOURSELF, AND YOU SHOULD BE PROUD. CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE JOURNALISM PIECE?
Patrick: Well I hope it’s an interesting turn. Growing up, one of the things my sister and I did to keep busy was to write. Actually, I accidentally destroyed 17 chapters of a novel my sister was working on when we were young. I think my mom still cares, because she brings it up occasionally.
In high school, I started writing for the newspaper, and I really liked writing hard news stories at the time. I was a freshman and I was reporting on referendums that were being voted on, and school expansions and things. I volunteered to be the art director, and so at the time, my notion of my career was like, “Oh, maybe I’ll do page layout.” In college, I took a course called “Text and image,” and I became aware of the fact that the words you use to convey a message can persuade behavior. My advisor told me I could do a double major. I thought my career would go towards art direction, but fortunately I was able to start a career in digital experiences.
JOSH: I WANNA TAKE US BACK TO THE PRESENT. CLEARLY YOU’RE AMAZINGLY TALENTED, BUT I ALSO KNOW YOU MARRIED THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE RECENTLY. HONESTLY, I’M GLAD I GOT TO INTERVIEW YOU INDIVIDUALLY, AS SO MANY PEOPLE REFER TO YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND AS “THE PATRICKS.”
Patrick: For this interview, you asked me to think about “contributions.’ His is significant. Sorry – I’m getting emotional again. He and I ran into each other physically at an internship open house. I apologized profusely, but he didn’t say anything to me that day. When we went on our first date, we realized how we knew each other, and I said “You were not very nice to me that day!” And the date didn’t end. And we kept going on dates. He taught me a lot about confidence, and I think I’ve taught him a lot about vulnerability. We just crossed 7 years on February 2nd.
JOSH: I SEE THE TWO OF YOU, AND IT ALWAYS GIVES ME HOPE – EVEN BEFORE I MET SOMEONE. THROUGH YOUR RELATIONSHIP, I CAN HONESTLY SAY YOU HELPED ME BELIEVE IN LOVE. I JUST HAPPENED TO MEET SOMEONE WITH THE SAME NAME AS WELL! I COPIED YOU. IT’S SO LOVELY TO HAVE YOU BOTH IN THE CHORUS. BUT YOU CAME TO US THROUGH COACHING US ON COLOR GUARD THE LAST SPRING CONCERT. BUT… HELP. WHAT EXACTLY IS COLOR GUARD?
Patrick: It’s something I’ve been doing for 15 years. Like marching band and drums corps, it’s a type of pageantry. It’s become a visual representation of what’s happening in the music. It’s a way to expand and show mood, or convey a concept that’s difficult to show through music. It’s flags, it’s props, it’s rifles, it’s dance. I started doing it as a joke. When I was younger, it was my main mode of travel. My band traveled around the country in high school and with the University of Minnesota. I actually missed my first concert with the chorus because I was performing with my drum corps in Austria! It’s had effects on my life that I didn’t expect.
Before the interview, you’d asked me about curiosity. I’m curious through observation. I have learned how to carry myself and convey messages with my body or my face. I genuinely gather so much information from watching people. It’s what I do for a living.
It’s all taught me a lot about how to be open. Who cares? Just do something crazy! Do something over the top! Be a sissy! Who fucking cares?
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