Connecting with human experience

Alumna Charlotte Nesbitt on the importance of learning constantly and being open to opportunities.

When Charlotte Nesbitt graduated from the Alberta School of Business bachelor of commerce program in 2007, she didn’t have a clear roadmap for the next ten years of her life. 

Like many university students and new graduates, she felt a sense of urgency to be immediately successful. But she didn’t know what career she wanted to pursue.

An attitude often stigmatized in universities and the workforce, it’s normal — and perhaps beneficial —  to not have a clear career path immediately after graduation, said Nesbitt. It’s her experience that the role of a university is to teach lifelong skills, like communication, critical thinking and leadership, as well as to provide a safe environment to make mistakes, learn and grow. 

“A university’s job is not about workplace readiness; you go to university to teach you how to think and grow,” said Nesbitt. 

"The thing that I have learned is that what you learn in your undergraduate degree becomes very useful to you ten years after you graduate.”  

Nesbitt is a senior UX (user experience) writer at Spotify, meaning she works on building the tools and systems on Spotify’s platform that make up what people interact with while using the app.

Often referred to as a content strategist or content designer, Nesbitt writes and designs user-interface content for Spotify’s ad platform and the listener-facing advertiser experience as well as the podcast ad buying and the podcast listening experience. 

“Whenever you're in an app, or in a web experience, there's a lot of content there, and someone has to write that,” said Nesbitt.

While there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work as a UX writer, a large part of her job relies on understanding and connecting with human experience.  

“The whole point of it is that you're building for human beings, so you need to be particularly attuned to people's unique experiences,” said Nesbitt.

“You have to be thinking about what people are going through when they're using your product.”

But finding a balance between being vulnerable and reserved about what she shares with her colleagues at work is not only echoed in her role as a UX designer but also her day-to-day work life. 

As a woman of colour working in the tech industry, Nesbitt is often the only woman of colour in the room. 

One of the reasons Nesbitt likes working for larger corporations like Facebook and Spotify is that they’re often at the forefront of pushing boundaries and creating change. But while she recognizes the good intentions behind larger tech companies diversifying their hiring process, she said companies still put the onus on marginalized employees to be open and vulnerable in speaking about their experiences. 

“It’s a lot of extra emotional labour when companies put that pressure on diverse communities to be vocal and bring their vulnerable self to work because their life experiences are very different from others’ ” said Nesbitt.

But creating environments in which people can be human is important, something that’s on Nesbitt’s mind even more since returning from maternity leave in January 2020, after which she felt added guilt and pressure to make up for time away from the office 

“There’s this pressure to be high performing and very productive all the time, but I’ve realized that real life is not like that,” said Nesbitt. “I think it’s entirely possible to balance both a career and family life, but it does require ruthless prioritization and trade-offs.” 

When Nesbitt was completing her degree, she wasn’t aware a position like hers existed. She got her first taste of content strategy when — moving back to Alberta after a year working abroad in the United Kingdom — she took on an internship through the province’s municipal affairs department. 

When she decided to further her education with a communications degree at Grant MacEwan University, she began to learn more about user experience design as a possible career choice. It was a mentor of hers who persuaded Nesbitt to apply for an internship at Facebook, where she stayed for almost five years working on their ad platform before moving over to Spotify. 

“I love that my work is grounded in real problems affecting people and businesses and that there’s so much opportunity for growth,” said Nesbitt.

Her advice for graduates convocating in June? “Be open to new opportunities, try new things, meet new people and always be learning.” 

“Just because you have a degree in one thing doesn’t mean you’re required to work in that field the rest of your life because the job you’re doing ten years down the road may not yet exist,” said Nesbitt. 

And read, she said. As many books as you can, because there’s no greater way to learn.

Charlotte’s curated book list:

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