We had the good fortune of connecting with Jyothi Shankar and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jyothi, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
After having spent several years in Learning and Development organizations, I had a first-hand knowledge of how difficult it is for employees to receive professional development training. This has much to do with budgets constantly tightening, and making it harder for anyone to attend training. This deficit is more pronounced in the areas of leadership and soft skills than in functional or technical topics. I was aware of many pain points which made me want to create a better and more cost-effective way to provide training that would actually create retention of content and start behavioral change! I had enough of a background on the social, cognitive and adult learning theories of instructional design to create training that is different from the norm. I knew it would appeal to all age groups but my passion was to specially work with young adults in the workforce whose behaviors could be more easily influenced. This was the thought behind starting Mind Your Gaps (MYG).
MYG has evolved quite a lot since that idea, expanding into the realm of Design of Experiences such as, learner experience, user experience and customer experience. I have taken on projects to improve and enhance experiences in so many different areas, be it the shopper experience, voter experience, employee experience, new hire experience, web interaction experience and more. I named my business ‘Mind Your Gaps’ because I found it a catchy phrase and it seemed to fit my goal of closing gaps that hinder performance. You may have noticed the words, ‘Mind the Gap’ if you have been on the trains in the UK and Australia, to caution people to be careful as they step from the platform into the train. Although based in the US, I have had the invaluable opportunities to live and work in the UK and Australia, during which time I became very aware of the differences in work cultures, though it fell into the broad definition of ‘Western Culture’. I realized how work culture could play a big role in increasing or hindering our effectiveness. This was even more evident when working with my French and other European colleagues, and with the teams in Thailand, Singapore and APAC countries. I was convinced that a superficial cross cultural training did not cut it and we need something deeper to improve global team dynamics. I wanted to use my experience to educate leaders who were moving to different countries, or those who managed global teams, so that they could assimilate quicker into a new work culture with minimal pain points. Not knowing cultural nuances can make or break one’s success in a new global role.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
My business, Mind Your Gaps, has grown with two different offerings. I have already talked about the coaching and training aspect of it. The other is called Customer Experience Design (or Service Design, User Experience Design at times). This is about crafting the best experience people can have with the services they receive, the interactions they have during this service and the products they use. I work with the providers of the service or the creators of the products when they hire me to enhance the experience. High profile examples of great design are the iphone (product) and Airbnb (service). The design offering is formally the newer part of my business though I have worked on several UI/UX projects over the course of my career.
We all have at one time or the other, been frustrated customers of a service or irritated users of a product. When we call customer service, we find ourselves arguing, we spend a lot of time with one agent, only to be transferred to another and we have to restate our problem again! Even the best of companies with the best people and best intentions can be blindsided and deliver less than optimal experiences to their customers. That hits the business’s bottom line. So investing upfront in User-research, Human-Centric Design and Testing, with keeping the user in the center stage of design, is the key to creating an awesome experience for the customer. As a designer, my job is to create and deliver the optimal user experience. With the continuing pandemic, businesses are trying to adapt to new reality. Several have responded by moving to a digital space, in some cases simply by tweaking their websites and starting to sell. Oftentimes these efforts are falling short in keeping customers or attracting new ones. This is where a designer like me would step in to create that effective digital transformation of the business. As a business, are you hiring new people and want them to hit the ground running? Make sure you conduct a smooth onboarding for the new hires. It is known that the experience of the first few months on a job greatly determines the satisfaction and retention of new hires. Mind Your Gaps offers the most effective Onboarding for new hires which has become more crucial if a part or all of it is being done virtually.
What sets us apart as a business is that it is fairly unique, our method is very different from what every other training outfit offers. The design practice takes on small projects needing Usability testing to large projects that need User Research and Design from scratch. Our knowledge expertise in these areas that come from years of practice and higher education in Human Factors, Design and Learning, provides the theoretical backbone.
The road has not been easy but patience, perseverance and keeping up with professional growth, are the keys to successful outcomes and personal satisfaction. Recently, I worked on a project which was to improve the onboarding experience of staff in a pediatric therapy office. I learned so much about the day to day functions of the staff and developed appreciation of the dedication they have in improving the lives of their patients and their families. Another project I worked on was a design to improve the experience of shoppers in a grocery store post-pandemic. I am working on two volunteer projects that enable disadvantaged youth to get an education. The year 2020 has let me grow tremendously on a professional level, attending virtual talks and conferences. One in-person workshop in Amsterdam this year has given me the platform to see and share projects with my colleagues in this continent and in Europe. It lets me understand and appreciate the explosive ways design is being used. My brand story now is about transforming experiences for the better, for the customer, user, learner, employee or the business as a whole.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Shops at Legacy and Legacy West in Plano after a day spent in one of the Plano parks like Oak Point or Arbor Hills, or Watters Creek after part of the day spent in the Connemara Park in Allen. We also go down to Downtown McKinney and uptown Dallas at times. In Dallas, I really like dining at Malai kitchen. All these spots have some great restaurants and ice-cream spots. My personal favorites are Mexican Sugar in the Shops of Legacy, True Food Kitchen and Amorino Gelato in Legacy West.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The person I will give credit to, is my husband. I sound any ideas off him, at any time of the day or night. He always has feedback that makes me think along other dimensions. I discuss details of the project I am working on to get his point of view, to add to the multidimensional perspectives that every design needs. I also want to give a shout out to the people in organizations I am volunteering in, dedicated to providing disadvantaged youth a means to get an education in college or in a vocation, and build an entirely new life for themselves from the one they have experienced. A shoutout to my overseas colleagues whose design work is geared towards the betterment of our lives and that of the planet.