Shaun Mosley is one busy guy! By day, he's a software designer and interaction designer, and as part of Intuit's Design System team, he helps build the components and interactions for popular financial apps like Mint and QuickBooks. Outside of work, Shaun is a relatively new resident to the Bay Area, a podcaster, and a proud papa!
We spent a good bit of time talking about Shaun's journey as a designer, what he's looking forward to in 2019, and he shared the best advice he's gotten which has helped him grow. Shaun's motto is to "trust the process", and I think doing that has really helped him succeed!
Maurice Cherry: All right, so tell us who you are and what you do.
Shaun Mosley: Right, so my name is Shaun Mosley, and I'm an interaction designer. Right now I'm living out in the Bay area, getting my experience inside the tech mecca. But other than that,, I'm a busy dad trying to keep up with my daughter and I also run my own podcast, Successful While Parenting.
MC: Okay. We'll talk about your podcast later. I'm interested to know kind of what it's like for you working out there in the Bay area. I know that we hear a lot just in the news and of course through personal anecdotes on social media about what it's like being a black person in tech, being a black person in Silicon Valley, etc. What has your experience been like?
SM: So it's been interesting. And I mean, just up front, I think for the first while, I've been pretty much the only black person around, depending on the different teams I've been working on. And even inside the company. So even if I'm on a team of five and no one else is black, around the company, I'm still very rare. And so lately I've gotten a manager who's also black, and then we've also hired someone else who's black. So it's really kind of cool and interesting to see. As long as I've been here in the Bay area, and I haven't been around that many black people, it was kind of interesting seeing once you do have it around you, how much that changes the environment. And it changed it for the good of being able to have someone you can relate with. Being able to have someone that understands your mindset and your mind frame.
SM: And I mean that's not to downplay my other coworkers who are of different race and nationality. But just to say that there's differences, and I mean I appreciate and respect theirs, but it's definitely something different when you have somebody that looks like you and knows a similar background. And it's also kind of interesting, coming from outside of tech, but still in the Bay area, it's really tough because the homeless problem here is really rampant. And sadly a lot of the times, most time that I would see black people are if they are homeless. And so, I mean that's also another hard pill to swallow, being here in the Bay.
MC: Oh wow. I was out there back in October, and I noticed that too, how large the homeless population is. And every time that I've been back, I went back in 2016 or so as well. And I was just surprised by how huge the homeless population is there. And a lot of them are people of color. That's really sad to see.
SM: Yeah, yeah, it definitely is. And I don't know if it's that it's gotten worse over the short period of time I've been here, because I moved here from Atlanta in 2015. And so I've only been here a little over three years, getting close to four. But I can't tell if it's gotten worse or if it's just I'm now seeing more of the Bay area. But it's definitely a hard sight to see and a hard pill to swallow of living in the Bay area right now.
MC: Yeah. Because you're on this path where certainly it's upward mobility, you're taking care of your family, and then the only other people you see that look like you are in the opposite position, you know.
SM: Yeah. And it's also that weird, I guess, catch 22 where it feels like they are also homeless because people like me who have flocked out for the tech industry are coming out and displaced them. So it's a lot of feels there.
MC: Yeah. No, I understand. That's like a weird level of double consciousness in a way where you're like the problem and the solution in a way.
MC: It's, yeah. I, yeah, I know exactly what you mean there. Talk to me a little bit about the kind of work that you do, like what's a typical day like for you?
SM: So I guess a typical day is not typical. But right now I'm on the Intuit Design System team. And so right now we are building out all of our components. And so I think a lot of other companies have design systems that are already built. But one thing that's kind of interesting with Intuit that some people may not recognize is Intuit's been around for 35 years. And in tech speak, that's like ancient of ancient. And so it is super interesting to see how they've kept in front and been a front runner in the tech industry. And as we're building up that now, so I'm working on that.
SM: And then also as a another thing that I'm trying to push for is bringing awareness around quantitative data efforts. Because again, going back to the point that we're an old company, when a lot of our legacy software was built or it was built a while ago, analytics wasn't a thought. It wasn't a, "oh we need tracking in the software." It was we need the software built. So now as we're kind of improving and getting better around these different things, I'm trying to help drive how do we surface it? How do we make that information available? And so those are pretty much the two main things that I'm tackling on a day to day.
MC: And for people that are listening that might not be familiar, Intuit is the company behind QuickBooks, TurboTax, I think fairly recently Mint. Although I think they acquired Mint 10 plus years ago or something. But they do a lot of financial data, taxes, stuff like that.
MC: And that's interesting. I guess a lot of the design work that you do tends to deal with data, it sounds like, as an interaction designer, is that true?
SM: So I'm not that deep in the product. So when I first came here, I was actually helping with our customer success team. So basically if you ever needed to call QuickBooks or ask for help or anything, I was designing that process. Helping with figuring out how to improve our website, or if you're using our product, how do you use that. So that was pretty much it, which is a completely different flow than your typical, like actually using and fronting with your data. And then recently I've shifted, and I'm now helping with the design systems. So again, it's kind of I'm abstracted. I'm in this company that's data rich, but I'm attracted to an area where my main focus is not on how do customers see this data, but how can I help the designers by giving them different components that they can pick up and use quickly.
MC: Interesting. Okay. And then, like you said, being out there in the Bay and being such a long-standing company ... because the company has been around for a long time, maybe it's just more of a stable work environment than say if you were at some Silicon Valley startup or something like that.
SM: I would definitely say so, yeah. You definitely have the stability of this being a larger company compared to a startup. So yeah, I would say, yeah.
MC: All right. So you said before that you moved out there from Atlanta. You moved out there for the job, or did you just move for just better career prospects in general?
SM: So a little bit of both. My wife is a resident to become an OB/GYN. And just a heads up to any listeners, if you know somebody that wants to be a doctor, make sure they want to be a doctor. That is the toughest career path, and you have to know that you want it. So yeah, off that tangent. So I have family in south Florida, my wife has family in Georgia, and I have some family that's also in Georgia. But we were looking for places for her to do residency, and Florida and Georgia weren't great options for us or not available. And so we were like, all right, well this will be four years where we can go out, experiment, and either (A) learn a new city, or (B) just to do something we want to do. And so we thought on it, and I've always wanted to come to the Bay area for tech, and my wife was cool with it, and she found a place out here that was a fit for her. And so we did it.
SM: And I actually didn't even have a job lined up. We came out here. We had a three month old, we had our daughter, we drove across America.
SM: Yeah, it was a fun trip. We drove across America, came here, and I didn't have a job. So I was hitting the ground running. My wife had her residency set up and she was doing that. So during the day I was taking care of my daughter and looking for jobs. And at first I honestly came out here arrogant and was like I'm a Georgia Tech grad. I'll have jobs coming after me. It's tons of jobs. This is the Bay area. And reality hit and humbled me, and was like, you're going to have to earn this kid, this don't come free. And so-
MC: What kind of experiences did you have when you were looking for jobs?
SM: So I had worked at Lockheed Martin as a software developer for a year or two and then went to grad school at Georgia Tech. And I think I just under estimated what it would take to do a job search. Plus it was also a bit more difficult because nine times out of ten, I was home alone with my daughter. So anything that I'm trying to do, I have to also balance taking care of my daughter at the same time.
MC: Mm. Okay. I got you. That makes sense. I was wondering if it was just difficult because maybe they didn't recognize the school or something like that?
SM: I think sometimes that happens. Honestly, it's kind of interesting to where, you know, over on the East coast, you mention Georgia Tech, no one questions it. But I felt like over here, I think everyone's used to Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, UCSD. But I mean I could be talking from my own perception, but I would say it's not as large, largely renowned as I expected.
MC: I got you. Now that's what I was hinting at. I went to school here, I'm in Atlanta as well, and I went to school there. I went to Morehouse, and it was surprising to me, even from other places in Atlanta, people that didn't know Morehouse or had never heard of it. They assumed that I meant Morehead State University in Kentucky or something. They didn't think that I meant Morehouse, or they had never heard of it for some reason. Certainly, I interned ... actually, I interned not too far from San Jose. I interned in Summer 2000. I was at Moffett Field right outside of Mountain View, and I remember talking to people there and nobody knew, had never heard of Morehouse. Didn't know what it was. These are black people too, which was really interesting.
SM: Oh, I'm sure.
MC: I was like, okay, that sounds like it's a big, you know, Martin Luther King Jr. went there. Does that ring a bell? No. Okay.
SM: Yeah. That's kind of funny though. Yeah. My wife actually went to Morehouse med.
MC: Oh, nice.
MC: Nice. So what was your kind of career like out there? I know you said you were looking for jobs. Where did you kind of start out at? Was it at Intuit, or did you work somewhere before that?
SM: No, so I had two jobs before Intuit, and the first one was kind of an internship. And that one was kind of quick or whatever. But then I went and landed at a small, I'd rather say medium-sized company. It was [24/7 Ink 00:12:24], and it was a really interesting experience. My manager at the time was fantastic and pretty much exactly what I needed at that time of life, someone that was going to guide me, to see the best in me, and build me up and let me learn it and figure out, and building up that confidence of like, look, no, you're a good designer. You do things very well. You think it through. You prove your reasonings, and you are also able, you're familiar with code, and you're able to build it up. Like that's a very strong set that some people don't have.
SM: And so that company was focused around customer service solutions. So basically your IVRs or your chatbots and even up to your agents. But what I was focused on was the digital design for what we called multimodal apps. And what it was is you'd call into your typical phone system, and as it would be talking to you, it would recognize like, oh, you're on a cell phone. And so we'd send you a text, and in that text would be a link, and you could click the link and then open a website. But it was super interesting because with it, you have the website open, but you're still on the phone. And so what that meant was we were able to parse your voice and you were also still able to type. And so we were experimenting and seeing what is that like, how does that flow, how are we able to help someone actually achieve something. And so it was really cool. We were one of the early experimenters I think in and with multimodal and that type of design and stuff.
MC: Yeah. Now I feel like that kind of interaction is pretty standard. If you're on a mobile website, it always tries to push you over to the app or something like that.
MC: Let's kind of go back a little bit. Let's go back to your time here, when you were in Atlanta. You said you went to Georgia Tech for graduate school and everything. When did you know that design was what you wanted to do for a living? When did that strike you?
SM: That struck me probably while I was doing software development at Lockheed Martin. I often describe some of that period to where I came out from, I went to UCF, go Knights, where my undergrad studies was computer engineering. And I just knew, I was like ... At first when I went to UCF, I was like, all right, I'm going to go ahead and by UCF, I'm using acronyms, that's University of Central Florida.
MC: University of Central Florida. Yeah.
SM: Yup, yup. The team that keeps getting disrespected in NCAA football. That UCF. But when I was first going in, I was like, all right, I want to do video games. And then I actually watched a movie Grandma's Boy, which kind of showed the video game industry. And I had heard up to that point it was rough in the video game industry, but I kind of saw it that movie. And I was like, eh, if this is anything like reality, I'm kind of not interested in doing video games, but I still want to build stuff. And so I learned software development at UCF, graduated, went and worked at Lockheed Martin. And the thing I always say is when I was building the software, there were somethings that felt good, and it was cool to work my way through the different problems. But sometimes it was also just like ... it felt like I was just pushing ones and zeros. And I often say, it was like laying bricks but not really knowing why you're laying bricks.
SM: And I was like, well what is that? And I got kind of interested in that. And so I started looking to grad school, and I was in between Georgia State and Georgia Tech. But then once I learned about Georgia Tech's Human Computer Interaction program and the fact that it got deep and it was like not just getting to how do you build an app, but getting to why you would even need to build an app, and who you would be serving, and getting to the user and the person behind the keyboard, it really changed my mind in the way of how I looked at software.
MC: I had to look up Grandma's Boy as you mentioned that, because I heard of the movie. I was like, I have a vague recollection of it. Wow. So this is the movie that kind of talked you out of it, like yeah, I don't think this is it for me?
SM: Yeah, it was just like having the insane deadlines and it wasn't much glory to it and stuff. And so I was like, eh.
MC: Fair enough. I'm not gonna lie. When I was working for the State of ... I was working for the State of Georgia in 2005, and I think that was the first time I saw Office Space.
SM: Oh yeah.
MC: And that completely turned me off to working for any kind of very large company because I wasn't working for a big company at the time, like working for the State of Georgia. I had my own office and everything. It was small but big in a way, but there were some of those same elements of like there's cubes, there's the annoying receptionist, that sort of thing. They'll say kind of tropes existed. And I was like this movie is strumming my pain with its finger one time. You know what I mean?
SM: It's too real. It's too real, [crosstalk 00:18:03].
MC: You know what I mean?
SM: It's too real. It's too real man. It was way too real. That's been the office joke pretty much any and everywhere I go. Yeah. And if they come out with a sequel they'll probably just have ... It'll be like the same movie, but instead of cubicles everyone will be in the open floor, the open floor plan.
MC: Open floor plan, or at least in some way working like remote workers, like the company I work for where we're like half remote. It would be interesting if there was an office space too. I like to see how they would spoof current work culture, because I feel like it would be just brutal.
SM: Yeah. Yeah. You'd have all the weird behaviors from online conference calls to "uh, oh, yeah, no, no, you go Bob, Bob"...
MC: Yeah. "Oh, wait, wait, you're breaking up. What was that? What did you say?"
SM: "Can you see it on screen? Can everyone?" Okay.
MC: So, talk to me about your creative process. As much as you can, with the work that you're doing at Intuit, I know it's probably mostly confidential, I'm sure, but how do you approach a new project at work, when it comes to something that you have to do?
SM: Gotcha. So, right now for us, like I said, we are building out our design components and the one thing I guess that we look at first is figuring out our ... we have two customers. One, the actual end user, and then two, actual product designers that are actually going to consume our product in order to build and solve for their need. For us it's kind of starting and looking through those two lenses, and seeing one, what customer problem will this component solve, and then, second, how are product designers solving for that today?
SM: And so, we start off like we look at it existing patterns and try to figure out what are the best practices for these situations. And to make it less abstract, I guess I can give more of an example for something like a modal dialog. How are we using it? What are the reasons that a dialog is popping up? For a user problem, what reason would we want to pop up a dialog? Why would we not want to pop up a dialog? And with that, like I said, Intuit as a whole does not have its own design system. Each of the business units, we have our own design system, but we're working ... because all of our different products or groups were different companies, once upon a time, and brought together, we're working now with being more of one company and working towards that.
SM: And so as we are building out in the components, we're figuring out like, how do we also communicate it to all of the designers here and make sure that as we're building it out and thinking of these different things, we're also communicating why we went a certain way, and how they can follow along, and stuff like that. So I hope that answers the question. I'm kind of ... I know it's a bit abstract and high level.
MC: Well no, it sounds like there's just a lot of cross-team communication as you're building just to make sure that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing.
SM: Absolutely. Absolutely. And we're like a four-hand monster, if not six, at different times. So, a lot of cross-hand conversations going on.
MC: I gotcha. Okay. So let's switch gears here. Now, we're recording this kind of near the beginning of the year. What do you want to accomplish for the year? Have you thought about the goals that you want to accomplish?
SM: Actually, exercising more grit. And I'll elaborate on that term. It's a term that's been coined by Angela Duckworth, and I heard about it on a Freakonomics podcast. And it's basically about your ability to make it through tough things, and how to stick with things. Back before, I used to joke and say I'm a professional quitter. Being able to say when something's not working for me, I would quit it and move on to the next thing.
SM: So, for example, when I was at Lockheed Martin I had issues with work and I was ready for the next stage of life. At the time I was debating, should I stay at work and go to school? But then I'm not going to finish quickly, I'm going to take longer, and blah, blah, blah. And then once I went to school, or, I did a tour ... they had us do a tour before the actual semester started, and I was just blown away by everything I saw. We sat in on a class, we sat in on a presentation by Aaron Walters and he was at MailChimp at the time, and was just blown away by the intelligence, the conversations and everything that was going on there at Tech. And I was like, I'm gonna miss the majority of this stuff if I do school while I'm at work full time. And I was like, no, I'm going to quit. I'm going to quit [inaudible 00:23:30].
SM: Looking back, I would definitely say it was the best thing for me at that time. But I've had that kind of often, to where ... and I'm pretty sure other people can relate, to where it's like, I'll have a quote-unquote "awesome idea" that I want to make for an app or something like that, and I'm like, I'd do it as a side project. And I'd start, but I wouldn't finish. And I would quit. So now, I'm looking back and I'm like, if there's one thing that I want to improve and change, it's that grit to, one, pick the right problem and make sure that I'm doing it so that I'm not distracted and I'm focused. Then second, once I'm in it, I'm sticking it through and seeing it to the end.
MC: Okay. Now, of course I ask that because you mentioned you have podcast. Your podcast is called "Successful While Parenting", and on the latest episode, you talked about failures. You talked about ways that you had ... I'm not trying to dredge it up some bad things, but it's related to what you just said about how you wanted to exercise more grit. And so, with that instance there were projects that maybe you started and didn't finish, and you just kind of wanted to sort of see it through. Since you've recorded that episode and everything, how have you been making progress on that?
SM: So, for that one, I've not.
SM: But that's just because... well, I mean, the holidays was a busy time, which, big shocker there. But it's been a bit of "I've been busy" and a bit of "I'm making excuses". Some things I ... I'm still working on it all. It's just pushing myself and making sure I'm sticking with it, so, going through... yeah. Going through that. Yeah.
MC: Okay. Now what made you decide to start the podcast "Successful While Parenting"? Tell me about that.
SM: Gotcha. So, when I moved out here to the Bay, the whole time I've been in the Bay I've been a parent. And so, living has been interesting, of seeing different lives that people lead. I guess back in the days ... I don't think it's as much so now, but in the Bay area, one thing that start-ups and tech companies love to do is this idea of Happy Hours and all this other stuff. Which, it works when you're a single 20-something-year-old, but if you have to run home and take care of your child, or, there are different times where your child is sick, and things like that.
SM: You have to juggle new responsibilities that your co-workers may or may not relate with and understand. That was always a constant thing going for me, and I would listen to the Tim Ferris podcast, and read different self-help books, and I think all of it was catered again, to that single person who was an adult and essentially responsible for themselves and didn't have to answer to anything else, or didn't have to worry about dance recital or dropping everything at the drop of a dime because they just threw up at school. Your kid threw up at school. All of that. And so, I was just interested, and I just talked to people about it. I was like, what are people doing for it? Where are they going?
SM: I think it was my old manager who bumped me, and he was like, "You should make a podcast about it." And I was like, "Me? A podcast? Why? Who wants to listen to me? That's not likely". But from there it was like a year plus in the making and me thinking through it. And like I said, I wanted to make sure I didn't just jump into it, I wanted to make sure that I was going to actually do it and stick with it. So, after a while of sitting and ruminating on it, I thought about and was like, yeah, this is actually an ideal thing to do. So I do it now and I meet with different parents that inspire me about the way that they live their life as a parent and how they manage it and stuff. It's definitely been a great experience of learning and seeing what other parents have experienced. I mean, I've even talked to my parents and asked like, for you guys, how was that? And it's interesting, because I learned more about my parents that I didn't know before. So, it's been a fun journey.
MC: I would love to get my parents on a podcast. That's never gonna happen, but I can dream about it at least. I just think they would [crosstalk 00:28:27]
SM: Never say never.
MC: No, they won't, they're Luddites, it's not gonna happen. As much as I would think it would be great just to kind of get their perspective, I would have to sneak and record it or something. I could just tell them "Hey, we're gonna record a podcast" and I show up with a Zoom H6 and a shotgun mic. It's not gonna happen.
SM: Just tell them it's like radio. [crosstalk 00:28:49]
MC: I'm still trying to explain this podcast to them, let alone do something where their voice is going to be on the Internet. Oh my god.
SM: Like, look, it's basically like, imagine you're talking to Tom Joyner. It's the same. It's no different.
MC: Okay. I'll see if they'll go for that. We'll see if that happens.
SM: Never say never.
MC: So, with this podcast, it's kind of like a second creative outlet for you outside of work that also ... it sounds like it lets you network a little, too. 'Cause you're meeting other parents, other working parents at least, out there in your area.
SM: Yeah, absolutely. And I've not even restricted it, and actually, I've not restricted it to people that are local. Honestly, I've done more online interviews than I've done in person. And so, I've had the podcast a little over a year. I started it December 2017. I'm growing and working out the kinks and figuring out this whole podcasting thing, like, running it and figuring out, like, it's its own business. You have to think of it that way and make sure that you're meeting deadlines in order to keep your fans happy and served.
MC: Yeah. I don't think people realize that at first when they get into podcasting. They think it's just, oh, we can sit behind the microphone and talk, and it will just magically go on the Internet and people will love it. And it's so not that.
SM: Yeah. I can definitely say I am in that guilty party. I was like "Yeah, how hard could it be?" And then I started getting into editing. Yeah.
MC: Yeah. Say no more. Say no more. It's not even so much the time with editing. I mean, that's part of it, but it's also you hearing your own voice back again over and over and over and over. You either get used to it, or you still cringe every time you hear it or something.
SM: I've gotten used to it. Some people that I talk to about podcasting mention the voice thing, and I was like "Honestly?" There was, what is it, Pauly Shore? The guy with the annoying voice, the celebrity? I was like, "Look, if people haven't said that my voice is annoying or told me to be quiet yet, my voice can't be that bad. I need to just suck it up, deal with it and roll. So, I've gotten with it for that, but the issue for me is definitely the time.
SM: So, outside of work, my day-to-day schedule is: drop my daughter to daycare, go to work, pick my daughter up from daycare, and then go home, figure out how to take care ... I've got to take care of the dog, feed the dog. Gotta feed my daughter, who constantly reminds me that she's hungry. Make sure that she doesn't do anything. We're at the potty training phases, so you have to check up on her constantly. Then, not dealing with the guilt too much of I'm just plopping my daughter down in front of a TV for a little while. And then my wife will come home and I mean, my day's busy, but her day's also busy. She leaves at 6:30 in the morning, comes home at like 7:00 PM on a good day.
SM: And so, I might get her help to do it, and then sometimes she'll be working weekends. I literally mean the whole weekend. So, time is one of the big issues for me for keeping up with the podcast.
MC: You gotta get an editor, man. You gotta invest in an editor. They're cheaper than you think. I'll preface by saying that, it's much cheaper than you think it is.
SM: Okay. We'll connect offline.
MC: Yeah, we'll talk offline. I'll actually connect you with my editor, 'cause I know that he's looking right now, and he is quite affordable. So I'll do that.
SM: All right. Awesome. Thank you.
MC: Yeah, no problem. So, what advice has really sort of stuck with you over the years throughout your career?
SM: I think it's not even something that stuck with me through the years, it's something that's been new for me. And it's "Trust the process." I think it's the funniest thing, how I just stumbled upon it. Ace Hood has an album called "Trust the Process." And I never would have gone and listened to a rap album, as much as I love music, I never would have expected a rap album to truly change the way that I think. But, that project from Ace Hood is so good. I kind of say that it's in a genre of its own of motivational hip-hop. Or, motivational rap. It's not your standard "I got money, I got this, I got that."
SM: Ace Hood came and talked about his struggles and how he went through it, and how there were ups and downs that he had to go through, but nonetheless he stuck it through, he stayed loyal, and he kept pushing. And when I first came into it, it honestly was kind of a bumpy start, as I was shifting from a smaller medium-sized company where I had more control over everything that would happen in my domain, to, I switched to Intuit, which is a larger company. There were way more stakeholders that I had to work with to get buy-in, and talk through with what they were going through.
SM: Some of that culture shift caught me off guard. I guess again, I came in probably arrogant of I'm a good designer, I could do this, but, reality check. Knocked me back on my butt a little bit. It was because I was listening to Ace Hood at the time, I would make sure that I just stayed humble and would actually listen to the feedback. That's one thing that I've heard from my managers here, that would say the fact that I've listened to the feedback and not gotten defensive and trying to do that, those are strong suits for me that they don't see often in others. So, I was just trusting the process, was just like, look. One line off the album that Ace Hood says, and it stuck with me, is "When good things happen, thank God. When bad things happen, thank God." That's definitely stuck with me, and pushes me through.
MC: What keeps you motivated and inspired these days?
SM: When you say "motivated and inspired," which way are you referring to it?
MC: Just in general. What keeps you motivated and inspired?
SM: That's kind of funny; I don't have an answer.
MC: Really? I thought you were gonna say like your daughter or something, or your wife or something. Not to put words in your mouth there, but I was just curious.
SM: Yeah. No, no. And the reason I say I don't have it, because I don't want to be what I feel is clichÃ©. But you know what? Honestly, I guess it comes two ways, to where one, I've honestly struggled with finding motivation sometimes. I've had bouts of depression and stuff. Looking at the world today, it can get very bleak and you can get very upset and then--
SM: Bleak, and you could get very upset and then feel like you don't have any control over what's happening in the world, and then I can get pessimistic, or just a negative outlook of, "Well, we're all going to die one day, so why try?" I can get very down and negative about it, but I heard this quote yesterday while I was listening to a podcast, of course. There's an apparent theme here. I was listening to a podcast and the guy was saying to look at the world and see that it's bad but then think that I'm going to leave this world worse off than it is for my kids. That's a shit excuse. You shouldn't do that.
SM: If there's something wrong with the world, try to find some way to do it. I think that's it. I guess the other issue for me is to not say my daughter. I feel like that's, and not to knock other parents, it's just the way I viewed it myself, but it's like when people say, "That school's not good enough for my kid." It's like, so your kid doesn't deserve to go there but you think other kids should go there. Why are we not helping to make it better for all kids?
SM: I don't think it's just for me. I think it's just my motivation is I want the world to be better than when I left it.
MC: That's a fair answer. I like that. Earlier, I didn't mean to put words in your mouth with that answer.
SM: No offense taken, and, of course, nothing personal taken, trust me.
MC: I do have some questions here that come from our audience here. The first question is actually related to what we talked about earlier with the type of work that you do. Have you ever used service design to address the criminal justice system?
SM: Not yet. One project that I'm looking to start up and get rolling in 2022 is what I'm calling seed homes. The basic idea is working with citizens that are returning from incarceration and helping them get on their feet with employment, education, and skills training. The way I plan to do that is having a company, seed homes, where we would build tiny homes and then sell them. Again, I'm looking at 2022 to start actually shipping and selling houses and seeing how that works.
SM: It's a castle in the sky right now, but once I do get to that point and I am looking through it, I will be employing my different skills that I've learned throughout my entire career, and service design being one of them.
MC: What is it about that particular cause that speaks to you?
SM: I fell into the criminal justice system as an interest, I think, by chance. When I was in Atlanta I was in my fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma. We had monthly meetings and we'd have it at the Fulton County Juvenile Justice Center. One thing was that I was like, "This is a great place to volunteer," and so some of the weekends I would end up going up there, and what they had was this group called The Learning Club, TLC.
SM: It was, I know that words definitely have meaning and you have to be cautious with it, but I can't think of a better term, but what we would call at-risk youth, which was basically, and bluntly to put it, black boys, black teens who were having issues. You would probably see a girl in there here and there, but you would never see any other race. That opened up my eyes, and it was just known as there was the high school to prison pipeline, which was it's known that it's there and no one's really doing anything about it.
SM: I started getting into it with that, and then I read Michelle Alexander's, The New Jim Crow, and was entirely moved, recognizing what mass incarceration has done to the United States and to people of color. Once you get a felony, good luck. Any and everything after that it's you struggle to get a job, you struggle to get a house.
SM: It's like if we had people in jail and they supposedly already served their time, and they're supposed to be rehabilitated, when they come out and they're trying to do better for themselves but they can't get a home, they can't get a job, where do you think they're going to do in order to get money in order to survive? They're going to go back to possibly doing different illicit activities. One of the big ones in our country is the war on drugs, where, again, people of color are disproportionately targeted for those issues or those offenses and then the crimes, or not the crime but the penalty for it is massive.
SM: Ever since then, been interested, and I've always done a little volunteering. Even now I go to a local jail out here, and we have what we call a reentry resource table where people that are coming out of jail, we hand them pamphlets and say, "There are reentry sources that the county is providing, so if you want help getting on your feet, helping with substance abuse, helping with finding a shelter, we have different things available. Please just call this number or go to this place and get that help."
SM: Even now I'm still just volunteering. In the end, I know that I can have a larger impact. I think with the seed homes this is that channel for me to make that impact.
MC: Wow. That's really powerful, man.
MC: Congratulations to you. No. Seriously, because it's funny you mentioned that because it just reminded me about how so many people that had criminal convictions in Florida just recently got their rights to vote reinstated. When you talk about, like you say, you get into the criminal justice system, you lose so much. It's something that affects me personally because my older brother has went through that. Let's see, I'm 37, he's 41 now, and he's been in and out of jail I'd say probably for about the better part of about 15 to 20 years.
MC: Now it's at the point where getting jobs is difficult, just reentering back into society after you've paid your debt, after that is such a monumental barrier in so many ways, not even just for basic things like getting a job or finding a place to stay, but even just the stigma from society. You know?
MC: Being able to give back in that way, I think, is really powerful, man. Congratulations to you.
SM: Thanks. Like I said, I was reflecting on it recently and I was like, "How did I get interested in criminal justice?" I traced it back to going to the Juvenile Justice Center in Fulton County and going to the Learning Club, and then seeing the reality, and recognizing these are kids that are, A, like me, and they've made a mistake, and now we're not trying to help them correct the mistake. We're trying to tell them forever, "You're bad and you're less than a person, and you need to be treated as such."
SM: It's just like, well, if you're going to tell somebody that they're bad, what do you expect from them? We're not going to change anything. It's just lit a fire in me. I've seen myself in those kids. I've seen my friends in those kids, and it's just like I just know I can't always complain about situations. I got to get up and do something about it.
MC: What does success look like for you?
SM: Success for me and I'm going to steal this from Master P on Solange's ...
MC: Oh God.
SM: ... A Seat at the Table album. No, but it's good quote.
MC: No. Go ahead. I want to hear it. Go ahead.
SM: It's a good quote. Success is being able to go to sleep at night, and not just like you close your eyes and went to sleep, but going to sleep feeling proud and being happy with whatever you did. One thing for me, I think in American society we put a price tag on success and try to say if you don't have a BMW in your driveway you're not successful. That just doesn't register with me. Being attached to material goods and being caught up in the never-ending rat race of capitalism, that's not success for me.
SM: Success is I'm content with the life that I lead and I've not hurt anyone, I've not done anything wrong, and I'm doing the best that I can for my family. That's what success is for me.
MC: Do you feel like between work and between the podcast and even volunteering with what you're doing, are you satisfied creatively? Do you feel that way?
SM: When I get to run the podcast, and I'm deeply involved in that, typically I'm able to reach that level of satisfaction. Excuse me. Sometimes I do look for other outlets to do different things, because, one, being at a larger company you don't get the ability to create your own thing. If I decided one day, "Man, QuickBooks would look great if it was in hot pink, and we'd get a whole new batch of customers," that doesn't mean anything. My creativity may be valid, which in this case it's likely wrong, but you're not in full control at a larger company.
SM: It's definitely something I battle with. One thing I do to keep my creativity going and have different outlets is either, A, finding smaller projects that I can do at work that are contributing to the company, but yet I still have more creative reins, hold control over the creative reins, or I'll try to do something on the side. I've honestly not been great with side projects. I guess that's why I said [inaudible 00:46:57] kind of flaky. I guess those are probably some of my creative outlets.
MC: What advice would you give to somebody that wants to follow in your footsteps?
SM: I guess depending on who's asking it, I would say if you're coming out of college and you wanted to follow in my footsteps, I would say, one, don't just look at what I did and see what you can mimic. I would say, one, shoot higher. I just expect that of everyone. Two, also just be patient. A lot of my life, what do people say, it's like wishing my life away. When I was an undergrad, I was like, "Oh, man, I really wish I was done with college so I could go get a job."
SM: Then after that, it was working. After a while it's like life is life. It's going to be there. You got to take your time and go through it and figure it out. That's for someone that I'd feel is coming out of college. For someone that's either, A, older, or, B, just been in the field for a while, I think it goes back to trust the process of know what you have to do in order to climb the ladder of success, however you look at the ladder. Know that you have to take those steps to do it and push through.
MC: Where do you see yourself in the next five years or so? What kind of work do you want to be doing?
SM: In the next five years, like I mentioned before, I definitely want to be fully involved in the seed homes work, and helping my community through the criminal justice system, and having an impact on that. I don't know how much it applies out in Atlanta anymore, or whatnot, but I've seen it out here to where it's like work in tech, get your tech money, and then bounce, and then go do what you really want to do.
SM: I think that's where I want to be, to where I do it and then I'm out doing my seed home projects, which I'm still battling with and trying to figure out. I love tech and designing software, and so how am I going to make that transition happen? Will I still work part-time? I haven't thought of all that. In five years I want my seed home business to be up and running and changing lives.
MC: You said on the podcast you would try to bring it to Atlanta, right?
SM: Yes. I will be back in Atlanta this year, once my wife finishes residency.
MC: Certainly, I think we could use it out here. I definitely think that.
SM: I'm kind of interested to see where the criminal justice system falls and what it's like back in Atlanta. Most of my experience was with the juvenile system, so I don't know how the adult system is. Also, one thing of knowing what resources the county provides. Some counties are great and offer different things for people to get on their feet, and some counties, A, don't have it, or, B, don't care. Just figuring that out.
MC: That's true. Well, Shaun, just to wrap things up here, where can our audience find out more about you and about your work online?
SM: You can find out more about me at my website, shaunmosley.com. It's honestly not much up there right now. It's just pretty much a picture of me. If anything, you're also interested in the podcast, then you can go to successfulwhileparenting.com, and you can learn about the show. Those are pretty much the best ways to follow up and learn more.
MC: Sounds good. Well, Shaun Mosley, I definitely want to thank you so much for coming on the show. First, just thank you for just sharing your story about what it's like working out there as a designer and being out there with your family. Also, this work that you're doing with helping out the criminal justice system, I think, is something that is super-powerful right now, and I really want to see where you end up going with that in the future. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.
SM: Thank you for having me. It was an absolute pleasure.