Creating a Design-First Culture

By Emily Peck January 28, 2021

Despite earning a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, Matthew Mayers knew he wanted to be in the tech industry. So after a few years of side-hustles and working as an Engineer, he applied for the UX Design Diploma Program BrainStation.

We spoke with Mayers about his foray into tech, how the BrainStation experience bolstered his entrepreneurial spirit, and what it’s like to be a Co-Founder of Rally

Picture of founder, Matthew Mayers.

What does a typical day look like for you as a Co-Founder of Rally?

Every day is different and that’s why I love my job. As a Co-Founder, my responsibilities range from product design, to customer success, to accounting, to recruitment, to development. Some days are filled with meetings, others are quiet and focused. I start every day by asking myself, “What set of actions can I take today to add the most value for my company and team?” Sometimes that means weighing in on a high-stakes product discussion, other times it means running to the post office to buy stamps.

How did the idea for Rally first come about? What problem does it aim to solve?

Shortly after completing my program at BrainStation, I was approached by my co-founder Daniel Di Maria (a fellow BrainStation graduate) with an idea. Based on his previous experience as a lawyer, he believed that there were many opportunities to drive improvement within the legal industry. He envisioned a world in which entrepreneurs could affordably manage the legal state of their companies in a streamlined, digital fashion. Automation could be used to help their lawyers and paralegals get work done faster, more accurately, and more enjoyably.

Graphic showing the interface of Rally.

Having already experienced my first shot at entrepreneurship, the idea immediately resonated as I had struggled to find affordable legal services. I ended up doing much of my legal work myself and incorrectly.

We soon met our other Co-Founder, Scott Stevenson, who was serendipitously developing a similar concept. Now, three years in, our ideas have grown and evolved but we still aim to solve the same problems – legal services remain too expensive, inefficient, and inaccessible.

What has been the response you’ve received for Rally? 

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Legal service providers are feeling a tremendous amount of pressure (especially in a post-COVID world) to adopt technology which enables legal work to be done better and more affordably. Purchasers of legal services are fed up with the antiquated ways of operating and are pleading with their providers to catch up with the modern, digital world.

More and more forward-thinking service providers are approaching us with a desire to provide a better client-experience and it’s highly rewarding to be equipping these drivers of positive change. We sincerely believe that this is just the beginning for the legal industry. Massive transformations will be demonstrated in the coming years and we look forward to doing our small part to help. 

Graphic showing the interface of Rally.

What made you decide to apply to the User Experience Diploma Program?

I have always been deeply fascinated by the intersection of human behavior and technology. User experience design is so much more than the selection of fonts and colours. Digital design has the power to alter how people see themselves, interact with each other, and engage with the world around them. Through BrainStation, I aimed to achieve a deeper understanding of how to harness this power. I wanted to develop both my creativity and technical acumen to improve people’s lives through innovation. 

How did the skills you learned at BrainStation contribute to how you designed your product?

At BrainStation, I learned how to take a step back and ask the right questions before starting to build. Who are we building for? What are their biggest pain-points? Where are the greatest opportunities to improve people’s workflows? What do they want, not just from products but from their lives? What do they need?

We spent several months speaking with potential customers, asking these questions and iterating on mockups before writing a single line of code. We have since developed a design-first culture and answering the ‘why’ always comes before the ‘what’ and ‘how.’ We’re proud that even our talented development team is involved in the process from the very early stages of design to help ensure we’re building the right tools for our customers.

What challenges have you faced in creating a seamless user experience? 

One of the most challenging aspects of designing Rally is accounting for multiple, distinct user types, each with their own unique goals and behavior. While our customers are legal service providers, they use Rally as their client-facing interface. It’s a two-sided product – similar to a marketplace with buyers and sellers. Accommodating the various “jobs-to-be-done” of each persona while providing a frictionless, unified experience necessitates working relentlessly with our customers and their clients to continuously gather insights.

Every Designer learns about the value of customer feedback but sorting, filtering, and prioritizing insights is a highly nuanced and ever-evolving process.

What was a highlight of your BrainStation learning experience? 

While learning the core executional skills of UX Design was one of the best educational experiences of my life, I particularly enjoyed the group discussions focused on the philosophy and ethics of design. Thanks to my instructors, Alex Chong and Brad MacDonald, there were many opportunities to dive into the rich, existential questions of what it means to design. These conversations forever changed my understanding of how the application of science through technology impacts humanity. 

Group of young students gathered around a computer in class.

You hired Tiffany Chan, a fellow BrainStation graduate. How did you connect?

We did! We recently had the opportunity to recruit for an entry-level position and couldn’t think of a better place to look than the bootcamp ecosystem. We got in touch with Michael Bennett, BrainStation’s Career Success Manager, who connected us with Tiffany. With her experience both as a student in the Web Development program and then as a TA, she was able to hit the ground running at Rally from her first day. Our team is now almost half BrainStation graduates! 

What would you say are some essential digital skills needed to succeed in business? 

The single most essential digital skill I would suggest for anyone in the tech industry is developing a foundational understanding of how code works. You don’t need to become a certified Software Engineer or even gain true proficiency – but you will have a massive advantage knowing a bit about what’s under the hood to confidently assess feasibility and effort requirements for new functionality. This applies to Designers, Marketers, Product Managers – everyone. Learning the basics of code has made me a much more effective team member even though most of my job doesn’t require any coding at all.   

What advice would you give to aspiring UX Designers?

Designing for an idealistic world with rigid processes will only get you so far. In the real world there are technological constraints, market sizing concerns, budgets, and timelines that all need to be considered. Learning to understand everyone else’s role within a team (such as marketing, finance, development, etc.) and their requirements is as important as designing for the end-user. This is how you move beyond pipe dreams and toward product designs that actually get built and used in real life. By gaining a sense of the big picture and approaching your process with an appropriate level of flexibility, you will find yourself integrating business and technical requirements into your designs at earlier stages. 

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