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Alumni Spotlight

Catching up with Kris Mendoza, Product Designer at Dropbox

Kris Mendoza sitting on front steps

You graduated from the Design program in 2015, how did you end up at Dropbox?

Back in 2014, I had the opportunity to intern for a small Bay Area startup as part of the summer internship program, where I got introduced to product design. Fast-forward a year and I got offered to work there full-time; so shortly after graduation, I basically sold everything except my clothes and a few things and moved to San Francisco. The first year out of school was a little insane — working full-time at a startup, I ended up wearing a lot of hats, from doing all the branding, to the UI, to coming up with prototypes to show our engineers. About a month later, Pinterest began acquisition talks with our company. Personally, I was very excited about the possibility of working with a larger design team and finding mentors that could help me along in my career. I ended up working there for about 2 years, learning and growing from those around me. I also made a lot of great friends and gelled well with a particular manager there. When she left to go become a director of design at Dropbox, I ended up leaving the company and joining Dropbox about 8 months later. The story continues..

Type specimen
Kris' typeface design from Type@Cooper West
Type specimen
Type specimen

What does it mean to be a product designer at Dropbox?

Being a product designer at Dropbox—and hopefully also at most internet companies—is a constant practice of solving problems for your users. For us, it’s about how we unlock the potential of the people using our product to get their work done. There are many user problems to address, and so all of us have a different specialty and context with a part of the product, or even the type of user we focus on. I work on the growth team, on what we call ‘Activation’. Or, as I like to call it, taking the users on dates with Dropbox, so that they eventually like us enough to use us and hopefully, pay us for our services. But this comes with a lot of complexities, like understanding the emotional state of the user and why they’re coming to us in the first place. People are complicated, and knowing what they’ll want and when involves looking at user research and data analytics to paint a picture of your problem.

What’s one memory from your time in the design program that has stuck with you?

There are many. But one memory I look at fondly is taking my first class with Brittany. During that time, we not only designed a full website, but coded it from scratch—it was intense. And I had to figure out how to shoot custom product photography for a fake vineyard and fake a lot of things along the way. It was cathartic in so many ways. While I don’t advocate for all-nighters—and inevitably, they happen—many bonds are formed when you’re on the precipice of an emotional breakdown, as well as wearing the same thing you were the day before. I met new friends and fostered great relationships with others during this time and I’m grateful.

"...many bonds are formed when you’re on the precipice of an emotional breakdown..."

Who or what has been the single biggest influence on your way of thinking?

I’m not sure if I can point to a single influence, but I generally believe that art in all forms create a point of conversation for me. I love paying attention to new trends in fashion, reading something well-written, listening to music that manages to encapsulate an emotion or situation very well (music from Tyler the Creator, Frank Ocean, and Beyonce are classic examples for me), or seeing photography that plays with concept and form. I have a lot of opinions about things, and I think that the common thread that any great work has is having a strong opinion. Along those lines, I lead with some intuition about how things should be; if something feels right, you know it. Otherwise, it just feels off. In that regard, design school helped sharpen how to articulate why. To bring it back to influences, I’m very much into these people right now: Coco Capitán, Irida Mete, Ryan Pfluger, Micaiah Carter, Geoff McFetridge, and James Turrell.

What are some popular places or hidden gems you like to go to in SF in your spare time?

Bernal Heights and the Mission are places I end up often; there are good bars and restaurants in that area that are in constant rotation with my friends. True Laurel in particular, is oft-frequented. During Drag Race season, a popular place to go with all your sassy friends on Thursday/Friday nights is High Tops or Beaux in the Castro.