Technically Speaking
Technically Speaking with Harrison Wheeler
The Business of Design and Creating Opportunity Through Side Projects with Netflix Design Director Kristy Tillman

The Business of Design and Creating Opportunity Through Side Projects with Netflix Design Director Kristy Tillman

I'm joined by Kristy Tillman, Director of Design at Netflix, as she shares invaluable insights on career growth and the pursuit of creative opportunities. Kristy challenges the traditional emphasis on job titles, urging listeners to prioritize personal growth and learning. Drawing from her experience as a Director of Design, she highlights the diverse scopes and possibilities that each role can offer. Furthermore, Kristy emphasizes the importance of designers developing strong business acumen to thrive in their roles.

The conversation then delves into expanding one's horizon of opportunities. Kristy emphasizes the significance of building connections and making oneself open to different people and experiences. By broadening networks and creating opportunities for others, individuals can unlock unforeseen collaborations and pathways to success. Kristy addresses the ongoing question of designers' presence at the decision-making table within businesses, stressing the importance of fostering relationships and making a lasting impact.

The episode also explores the concept of personal detachment from work and the value of pursuing side projects. Kristy shares a valuable lesson: the work done at one's job ultimately belongs to the company, but side projects offer a realm of personal freedom and creativity. By taking charge of these projects, individuals can craft their own opportunities, collaborate with like-minded individuals, and lay the foundation for future endeavors. Kristy highlights the importance of networking by giving back and creating opportunities for others, as it serves as a gateway to entering new networks and expanding professional horizons.

About the Guest:

Having worked across industries for over 15 years, Design Extraordinaire Kristy Tillman is currently the Product Design Director at Netflix.

Through her experience as Head of Global Experience Design, Head of Communication Design, and Design Director, she acquired a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to be equipped for a variety of design challenges and development.

As part of MICA's Flexible Design Studio workshop, she teaches a module on social impact design. She studied design at Kansas City Art Institute and is a proud HBCU alum of FamU - Florida A&M University.

As a design leader, she has built design teams from scratch and transitioned talent from entry level to design leadership. She is an Advisor for Designer Fund and sits on the board of Design Advisory Council for the University of Texas at Austin.

A designer, investor, and cultivator of a different kind of tomorrow, one that harnesses the exponential addition of talent in the gaps, she's learned a lot along the way around growing her own talent and those around her in the realm of design.

Connect with Kristy Tillman:


(02:28) - Icebreaker: Kristy's current obsessions from work and personal perspectives

(03:43) - Her journey from nervousness to excitement over the size and scope of her organization and role within Netflix

(05:22) - What makes each of her job titles as a director unique and the end goal in mind that’s being set up by her current role

(07:58) - Understanding the multiple layers in Web3, why it is considered Wild West, and how it can be improved and made safer through UX and Design

(11:24) - Icebreaker: Her current playlist and how visualizing music can change your experience 

(12:47) - Icebreaker: The two obvious problems about the design industry that's worth turning around. And no, it's not the D word or having a seat at the table

(17:30) - Her long and windy design journey, the best thing about going to design school later than at 18, her exposure to the process of design and its ability to affect and impact business and industry, and why your portfolio should always be up-to-date

(21:49) - The difference between a 'Maybe?' role and a ‘Hell yeah!’ one and the one thing she always considers when taking on a new role that has helped her land the best jobs in Design and Tech industries 

(27:43) - How Kristy gives back to the community through her side projects and the important lessons she's learned from them

(32:43) - Her advice to mid-career and senior-career level designers on what to focus on


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Technically Speaking
Technically Speaking with Harrison Wheeler
Technically Speaking is a podcast by Harrison Wheeler about BIPOC designers, entrepreneurs & technologists sharing their unique stories of triumph and resilience at the intersection of product design.