Leveraging Diverse Perspectives and Improving Lives through Data Science and AI

Target's presenters at the 2020 Grace Hopper Celebration (Koel Ghosh, Jacob Yunker, Luisa Polania Cabrera),

Target continues to emerge as a data science leader. Whether it’s greater personalization or a nimbler supply chain, our engineers and data scientists help bring to life Target’s next big idea faster and smarter.

The 2020 Grace Hopper Celebration (Sept 29–Oct 2) gives attendees a glimpse into some of the most exciting work to result from our investments in data science and technology—and the women technologists who are propelling Target into the future.

This year, there are two presentations – learn more at jobs.target.com/gracehopper:

DevOps + Data Science: Reduce Time to Data Driven Decisions
Presented by Koel Ghosh, Lead Data Scientist, and Jacob Yunker, Lead Engineer and Software Engineering Coach

Shop the Look: Fashion Compatibility Prediction for Complementary Product Recommendation
Presented by Luisa Polania Cabrera, Principal AI Scientist, and Yiran Li, Lead Data Scientist

Read on for a glimpse at the fascinating content from the Dev Ops + Data Science presentation—plus insights on why this work matters, how it both delights and challenges those who choose it, and how Target’s commitment to diverse thought partnerships gives us an advantage from the inside out.

Can you give us a “sneak peek” of your presentation at the 2020 Grace Hopper Celebration?

Koel Ghosh: Our presentation is based on work we did in December 2018 to launch an interactive dashboard on the Target Application Platform. The solution delivered on many aspects, including accessibility, scalability and customizability, and enhanced my productivity as a data scientist. Coaches taught team members about it and it was well adopted. And we didn’t realize when we submitted the work to the Grace Hopper Celebration that the solution stack also increases productivity in remote work environments, which is so very valuable and necessary during the ongoing pandemic.

Jacob Yunker: This joint effort arose from the need to create a custom data visualization that was scalable and easily shareable with end-users—all while reducing as much engineering maintenance as possible. We have data viz solutions at Target like Domo, but they don’t always do what a data scientist needs, or they don’t do it easily. Many data scientists can make their own app, but then there are issues around where to host it for business partners to easily access it, as well as how much long-term maintenance is involved with owning a custom app. What started as an experiment has since been repeated many times by other data scientists. In fact, the solution is now a training that my team hosts multiple times a year. Having worked for years in data science and now being a Software Engineering Coach, I love helping bridge the two worlds of data science and software engineering.

Can you share a fun fact about Target’s data science team?

Koel Ghosh: It includes folks from many disciplinary backgrounds—computer scientists, physicists, mathematicians, statisticians, etc. In fact, I am an economist by training, and one of the few social scientists here.

Jacob Yunker: It’s such an innovative space, with so many talented folks trying out new ways to bring data into business decisions. As I coach, I continue to feel so fortunate to work with this organization. It’s so energizing to help data scientists bring amazing ideas to life using patterns that are as robust, scalable and automated as possible. My personal belief is that a data scientist’s time is best spent doing data science. Any necessary engineering should support this effort, not hinder it.

Why is data science important at Target?

Koel Ghosh: Data Science enables Target’s purpose to come alive more easily and efficiently. We get to leverage data, algorithms and technology to make life easier for both guests and team members. We save them time so that they can reach out for more meaning and more joy.

Can you describe a time when Target incorporated diverse perspectives to influence a project outcome?

Jacob Yunker: I see many examples of this, and my partnership with Koel over the years is a great one. We have different backgrounds, strengths and perspectives. By partnering on that original experiment (the basis of our presentation), we have realized so much value, not only from that product, but in many others based on the same solution. I don’t think this would have been possible without two people with different experiences working together to try something new.

What do you like most about data science? What do you find most challenging?

Koel Ghosh: It’s a wonderful spectrum of varied activities involving data coming from many guest-related, business and operational areas. You go from creating a simple report, a dashboard, or an ad hoc analysis, to standing up products that do automatic decision-making at scale. It also involves testing, and contributions of thought from so many disciplines. All of this collectively helps inform better business decision-making and processes that serve our guests. There is no end to the learning, and there are so many ways to approach a solution. I came in with a strong statistics and economics background, and the area that I have leaned into and learned the most about being a more effective data scientist is in computational efficiency, i.e. how to get things to run very quickly. Just keeping up is challenging. The tech stack or methods that serve Data Science evolve so fast. It can be overwhelming if you aren’t disciplined about it.

Jacob Yunker: Based on my time working in Data Science, I think my answer to both questions is the same: The questions we are trying to answer are both enjoyable and challenging. Every data science product I worked on had a very interesting problem to solve, and there were so many approaches to think through and try. Of course, some approaches work better than others, and it’s always a learning experience.

Can you describe some of the leading-edge machine learning AI technologies you’re working with?

Luisa Polania Cabrera (co-presenter, Shop The Look): There are many frameworks and libraries in the AI field, and they are always evolving. My team heavily uses PyTorch and TensorFlow for the development of deep learning models. PyTorch is an open source machine learning library for Python based on the Torch machine learning library that allows for fast and flexible experimentation. It originated in Facebook’s AI research group. Similarly, TensorFlow is an open source machine learning framework that is easy to use and deploy across a variety of platforms. It was created by Google for supporting its research and production objectives.

Finally, what advice would you share with someone considering a career in data science at Target?

Jacob Yunker: Be curious, humble and open to change. Learning is a life-long thing, so you won’t always know the answer, and things can change in the blink of an eye. Challenging yourself to be OK with this is so important for success. Partner with people who complement your skillset and have different perspectives. Diverse teams build better products!

Curious about a career at Target? Watch these short testimonials from our Technology & Data Sciences team, or explore opportunities near you at target.com/careers.

Mining for Local Tech Talent with an Intern Program that Works for Them

Target recognizes that many of tomorrow’s best and brightest technology professionals are headed for non-traditional engineering education paths including community and commuter colleges–many of which are right in our own back yard. So we set out to design a flexible spring internship program—but this was no typical program.

In order to cast a wider net into tech talent sources we hadn’t previously considered, this internship had to offer part-time schedules and tailored training and onboarding to fit busy lives with competing priorities like jobs and family commitments.

The goal of the internship is to close the experience gap with exposure to a real-world corporate environment while building technical skills and providing the professional development and mentorship that prepares students for positions in Target’s Technology Leadership Program.

In the quest for a pilot partner, Target considered local colleges based on curriculum content, courses of study, student demographics, success rates and faculty interactions. As a result, Metropolitan State University (Metro State) emerged as an ideal choice as our initial partner, with a goal of expanding to additional talent sources in the future.

Half of Metro State’s students are people of color, 62% are from lower income households and 61% are the first generation in their families to attend college. Further, the average Metro State student is 31 years old with a household, a job and other obligations. The school achieves comparable success rates while maintaining academic rigor, and has the lowest-cost bachelor degrees of any university in Minnesota.

 

For more on the program, we sat down with Metro State alum and Campus Champion, Dan, and program sponsor, Kraig, to understand what makes this internship so uniquely promising in a time of unprecedented demand for top tech talent.

How is Target’s internship program with Metro State different from others?

Dan: First, this internship takes place in the spring. Second, we prioritize accommodating students’ time. Since most students are still attending class, we are flexible with hour requirements so students can maintain their studies. We create a set of core days for interns to be on site, and then leave the remaining schedule to them and their manager.

Competition for talent in technology is fierce. Why is Target taking the opportunity to foster home-grown talent?

Dan: This program provided us an opportunity to explore new avenues for untapped talent. Before this partnership, local students may not have immediately thought of Target as a place they could start their career in technology, and Target didn’t realize the caliber of students we already had access to in our local market. Through the program, we’ve unlocked a mutual benefit to both these amazing students and Target. We value the diverse perspectives they bring to Target and the great contributions they make to their teams.

What do you find most exciting or rewarding about seeing the first class of Metro State interns grow at Target?

Dan: I am excited that we’re recognizing the talent coming out of this school. The student body is very motivated and ready to jump in and contribute. I look forward to growing this partnership.

Kraig: I have loved seeing the passion this group of interns brought to Target. They all jumped into their experience on day one just like they were full-time team members and never looked back. I believe we are at the start of a very good relationship here.

 

For the intern point of view, we chatted with Polly and Jack – two engineers who participated in the Metro State internship and are now members of our Technology Leadership Program.

What has surprised you most about this unique internship program?

Polly: The amount of support I received during my internship was phenomenal. I was surprised by how easily I was able to network with members of my team, as well as upper management and senior leaders. And I felt encouraged to take on challenging problems and improve my confidence as a young professional.

Jack: The focus and emphasis on learning and professional growth over productivity was most surprising. There were no expectations of me other than to learn and demonstrate growth in the topics I chose. I also had a say in the technologies I wanted to focus on.

Why was the structure of this program particularly beneficial or rewarding to you?

Jack: Taking time to focus on a specific area of the business, gaining hands-on development and operations experience, and deepening my understanding of Target’s infrastructure was incredibly rewarding. In my first few weeks in the Technology Leadership Program, I was already making connections and using tools that I had learned about during my internship. This program has done a lot to prepare me to be an even more successful engineer than I otherwise would have been.

Polly: Working by day and attending classes by night, I found that what I was learning during my internship was directly applicable to my school projects. This parallel correlation of events allowed for an easier transition from student life to being a full-time engineer.

What opportunities did Target provide for learning, growth and development?

Polly: Participating in groups like Target Women in Science and Technology (TWIST) and attending events such as Demo Day and begINNER Con have been great learning opportunities. It is inspiring to meet other engineers or product owners who are passionate about their work, and they offer a great way to network with others in technology at Target.

Jack: Even as an intern, I had access to the same learning resources as regular team members (Safari Books and Pluralsight) and as many internal talks and conferences as possible. From begINNER Con to the Lunch ‘n Learn events, there are a ton of avenues for developing your skills.

How have you developed your skills as a result of your internship experience?

Polly: I’ve become better at organizing my time and managing my projects. I have also improved my communication skills to ensure team expectations and objectives are met.

Jack: In the 15 years leading up to my new career at Target, I worked as a hairstylist with no background in tech aside from my undergrad and summer internship. I was indeed a novice. Right away, I challenged myself to ask a lot of questions. Even when I struggled to find the right one to ask, I still put my lack of knowledge out there and allowed myself to be vulnerable. I branched out and learned new languages like C#, Python and PowerShell. I became more familiar with Git and CI/CD, and conquered my fear of unit testing thanks to the amazing efforts of my team.

What was the highlight of the internship program experience for you?

Jack: The team I worked with and learned from. I was placed in a role that balanced learning both the development and operations-side of the business. Creating automation to support our operations and minimize downtime on POS systems in stores was quite fun, largely thanks to my team. My manager was also incredibly supportive throughout the process; giving me space and freedom to work on what interested me while also checking in often to make sure things were going well. And in the end I even walked away with some new friends that I’ve been able to hang out with outside of work.

How would you describe the culture at target?

Jack: Laid back. It’s one thing to tell your employees to bring their authentic selves to work. It’s another thing to actually mean it. I feel like I can be myself at work and ultimately, I’m judged on my performance and ability to grow in my role. Additionally, I feel like the growth mindset and “better every day” mentality is thoroughly embraced. You’re not expected to know everything, but you are expected to see those gaps as opportunities and show some willingness to learn.

Polly: Driven. Whether it be an individual or a team, it is clear that every employee is driven to define their own meaning of success and how to achieve their personal goals. I also love the work-life balance!

What would you tell someone considering a career in technology at Target?

Polly: Technology at Target is innovative, creative and progressive with a strong learning culture. As an employee within Target Technology Services (TTS), you will be able to develop your hard and soft skills while contributing to projects that support the company’s business ventures.

Jack: What are you waiting for? Target is such a large company, there is something here for everyone. You could spend an entire career here and never run out of things to learn.

 

Interested in learning, developing and contributing to our tech team? Learn more about our Software Engineering Internship – Spring Program, or explore all Technology & Data Sciences roles and apply today.

 

 

Demonstrating the Art of the Possible: Innovation, Technology and Experimentation at Target

Innovation has become as important to consumers as quality and value. Delivering consumer-relevant innovation requires getting into the consumer mindset and experiencing their journey firsthand.

Experimentation is the name of the game, according to Malyn Wrobel, Target’s Director of Technology Services, Infrastructure and Operations. We recently sat down with her to talk about Demo Day, the Guest eXperience Center (GXC) and how innovation and experimentation are at the heart of Target’s learning culture in technology.

First, describe your role at Target.

Malyn: I play multiple roles within the technology organization at Target. As Chief of Staff to the Senior Vice President of Infrastructure and Operations (I&O), my team manages key functions across I&O, including financial and resource planning, performance tracking, developing the global I&O brand and culture in both the U.S. and India, and internal and external marketing and communications efforts. My responsibilities also include organizing a quarterly Demo Day for Target Technology Services (TTS) and Product teams, as well as being accountable for the Guest eXperience Center (GXC).

How does Target foster innovation?

Malyn: Innovation doesn’t just sit with one team at Target—it’s everyone’s goal and part of our culture. The second piece is experimentation. Target creates a safe space to bring ideas to life, even if they don’t pan out. Here at Target, we like to say “tried and learned.” Experimentation helps us quickly say retrospectively what was good or what needs improvement.

What are some accomplishments that your team is particularly proud of?

Malyn: Two accomplishments stand out: the introduction of Demo Day at Target and launching our Guest eXperience Center (GXC). Teams across the company leverage these two resources to articulate the value of the products they’re developing, promote pride in our work and cultivate innovation daily. In fact, the GXC has been so successful that we are planning to launch a GXC in our India offices.

What is Demo Day like at Target?

Malyn: Demo Day began in November 2016 as an informal quarterly showcase of new and emerging innovations. It’s like a Target-only science fair—by team members, for team members—of the most valuable and exciting work delivered by Target Technology Services (TTS). Teams conduct quarterly retrospectives and choose which projects best educate fellow teams on new products and services either available now or in development.

The energy on Demo Day is very exciting. The participants pull back the curtain on projects they’ve poured their hearts into. It’s very much their time to shine—a celebration of their success.

Demo Day has become a wildly popular event. All on-campus corporate Target team members are invited, and all pyramids and solution portfolios are represented. About 1,500 team members attended the most recent Demo Day which had more than 65 booths. Sixty percent were new participants over the previous cycle, and it’s always new innovations on display—nothing anyone has seen before.

Maybe someone goes to Demo Day and gets a great idea for a complementary innovation. They see something in the works they wouldn’t otherwise be aware of, and now they’re able to iterate on the prototype and push the innovation to deliver even more value to the Target guest. This is how Demo Day builds collaboration from the inside out.

What is the GXC? How does the experimentation you do there help Target innovate meaningfully for guests?

Malyn: The Guest eXperience Center (GXC)  is a first-of-its-kind proving ground for innovation. We like to call it “the smallest Target store,” and it even has its own store number. The GXC is the “center” where we bring team members together with product and vendor partners to rally around real-world business challenges and build innovative solutions. Its mission is: Accelerate experimentation. Learn quickly. Dream boldly.

The GXC enables hands-on experimentation. It combines store fixture interaction, back room functionality, retail product and point-of-sale equipment with current store infrastructure and device technology. There are maker spaces and collaboration areas with everything you’d ever need to build something new and start testing it immediately. Then, the results of a given experiment inform the next set of prototypes. The thinking in the GXC is always stretching beyond the current construct. How do we bring our vision to life? We want inspiration and we want to engage our guest while solving some pretty difficult business challenges, like a frictionless checkout experience, for example.

What future opportunities do you see for the GXC?

Malyn: We picked a couple of key focus areas for 2019: inventory and shortage. I see that continuing because it’s driving innovation with a very positive business impact. We also want to continue building relationships like our partnership with universities like Stanford, and joint development with some strategic tech vendors.

What has been your favorite project or opportunity to see come to life as a result of the GXC?  

Malyn: We had an executive challenge: Fitting Room Experience. Within three weeks of an initial ideation session, we had a physical fitting room built in the GXC with some new technology to address the key touchpoints in the guest journey. These included requesting a different size or color, getting inspiration from seeing other options in our assortment or insights from guest reviews, and the ability to request help from a team member at any time. The resounding feedback we hear when we demonstrate this prototype is that people love it and want to see it in Target stores.

What would you tell someone considering a career in Technology or Data Sciences at Target?

Malyn: We are leading the industry. Our vibrant software engineering team is built on a culture where learning, creativity and innovation are part of our DNA. Join us.

For more on Target’s learning culture, read about our commitment to ‘50 Days of Learning.’ Interested in a role in Technology & Data Sciences at Target? Explore openings at target.com/careers.

Get to know our 2019 Grace Hopper Celebration presenters

Target is proud to once again sponsor the Grace Hopper Celebration – the world’s largest gathering of women technologists designed to highlight the research and career interests of women in computing. This year we’re bringing a few of our best and brightest to share their insights with attendees, while also showcasing how Target is leveraging data, technology and a culture of learning to drive innovations in retail.

In advance of the conference, the Pulse team caught up with a few of this year’s presenters. Read on for what excites them most about their work – and then visit jobs.target.com/gracehopper for the schedule and topics they’ll be covering at this year’s event.

 

What’s the most exciting or innovative project your team is currently working on?

Mike McNamara, Chief Information Officer: I love when we work through complexities to make things simple. To paraphrase Steve Jobs: through focus and simplicity, you can move mountains. For example, I’m excited for our work to create one, enterprise checkout system – for stores and online sales. I’m also excited about the innovation and simplicity of the new, personalized mobile platform we’re developing for store team members.

Jodie Kautt, VP Cyber Security: I truly love what we do so I find it all exciting! We actually have 12 patents pending right now, which demonstrates how we’re continuously driving innovation in the cyber security industry.

Tell us more about how data and technology innovations have enabled Target to be a leader in the retail industry.

Yolanda Smith, Lead Info Security Analyst: I have yet to encounter a company as guest-obsessed as Target. It is truly fanatical and this attitude is reflected in the unique technology experiences we provide to our guests that our peers in retail do not. We don’t just want our guests to come in when they need something, we want our guests to genuinely look forward to spending time in Target and finding that certain something that they wouldn’t find anywhere else. There’s a feeling you get when you go into a Target or shop on our website. Our data and technology innovations are critical to inspiring that feeling and driving the guest experience. It is through these innovations that we enable our guests to feel truly seen without being intrusive; to inspire creative solutions to complex, sometimes regional challenges and; to provide a unified, ‘one Target’ digital-to-stores guest experience.

Mike: For years, consultants have talked about this lofty term “omnichannel” to describe how digital and physical are coming together in retail. That’s just a reality of how we live today. And Target’s become a leader in this space with experiences like same-day delivery, Order Pickup, Drive Up and the Target App. Great technology and data are foundational for Target’s efforts to lead the way in retail.

How about a time when Target incorporated diverse perspectives to influence an initiative?

Joana Cruz, Sr. Engineering Manager: At Target, we believe that diverse and inclusive teams make the company stronger. We not only encourage diversity of thought and background, but also invest in it. For example, in 2017 we established the Engineering Management Immersion Program (eMIP), which is one of many company-led initiatives that supports women in leadership. Its purpose is to help historically under-represented talent develop skills to prepare for managements roles in technology, and I am proud to be a member of the pioneer cohort.

Mike: My favorite example of Target leveraging diverse perspectives was when we launched our new children’s clothing line, Cat & Jack, with which our product designers took the initiative to create sensory-friendly items. They followed that up with adaptive clothing designed for kids and toddlers living with disabilities. It’s just one example of work that embodies Target’s purpose of bringing joy to all families.

What advice would you share with someone considering a career in technology or data science with Target?

Jodie: Go for it! I have grown so much personally and professionally during my time at Target due to the focus we have for continued learning and development. For example, we make a commitment to our team members for 50 Days of Learning. Think about investing that much time in yourself. Imagine the progress you will make year over year.

Connie Yu, Director of Compute Services: With over 1,800 stores, 39 distribution centers, more than 350,000 team members, and hundreds of thousands of Target guests, our work has significant impacts. And that’s one of the reasons our data science and technology teams are highly engaged – because we’re passionate about delivering the best experiences to our end users.

I believe Target creates a good culture for engineers. We make continuous learning a priority and promote a “growth mindset” to give engineers the bandwidth to learn and develop. Fostering diverse and inclusive teams is important and Target gives leaders several tools to create a safe environment to incorporate different perspectives.

So if the impact of our work and our culture sound appealing to you, my advice is to connect with us. You will learn how we keep pushing the boundaries of using technologies to create value, and you may also find several innovative projects you’d like to be part of.

Mike: Apply. We’re hiring. We want engineers who are curious and analytical, who are passionate about learning and who like to solve big problems.

Finally, what’s one word that represents what Grace Hopper Celebration means to you?

Jodie: Ignite

Connie: Inspiration

Mike: Potential

Joana: Empowerment

Yolanda: Arrival

For a more on where to catch up with Target at the 2019 Grace Hopper Celebration, including a schedule of our presenters and how to register for one of their sessions, visit jobs.target.com/gracehopper.

 

How Target is Propelling More Women into the Ranks of Engineering Leadership

The Engineering Management Immersion Program (eMIP) is a development program launched in 2017 that helps to prepare engineers for leadership roles. This program is aligned with Target’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Wonder what it’s like to be an engineering professional in the eMIP program? Here’s your chance to learn more! They’re making things happen in Target Technology, and we spent some time asking them what the program is all about…

Describe your background prior to eMIP.

Millie: I studied computer science, art, and language in college. After college I had the opportunity to teach English in Spain and work for a Non-Governmental Organization in Switzerland. After a year, I came back to the Twin Cities and began looking for a job in the tech industry. I started working at Code42 as a server-side Java Engineer. I then moved to Prime Digital Academy as a Software Development Instructor, where I taught adults about full stack software development, led projects, and coached them as they entered the tech industry. I came to Target to be part of this program in November.

Joana: I have been a dedicated software engineer for 20+ years. Delivering results and rallying teams for outcomes where I am deeply involved motivates me. At Target, I have established domestic and global teams in Guest POS domains, led engineering transformation and product modernization development efforts in Supply Chain, and currently part of Enterprise Guest Services team. In addition, I am the Target Women in Science & Technology (TWIST) External Partnerships & Community Leader focusing on K-12 volunteerism and philanthropy efforts.

Sowjanya: I started my professional career working at Sun Microsystems on Solaris Cluster, a clustering solution where my interest in distributed systems began. To further pursue my interest in this field, I completed my Masters in Computer Science at University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. After graduating, I joined Microsoft on the Dynamics AX team, an Enterprise Resource Planning product. Just prior to Target, I worked at Oracle for 5 years on Oracle Hierarchical Storage Manager, an archiving and data management software. I worked as a developer and primarily in product-based companies throughout my career and I ensured to take up new technology domains at each of my roles, be it Storage, ERP or High availability and with Target, retail industry is a whole new space for me and a challenge that I look forward to.

How did you hear about eMIP initially and what inspired you to apply?

Sowjanya: A Target recruiter reached out to me through LinkedIn about eMIP. I have been contacted by recruiters previously regarding job openings, but never have I come across a position/program that is specifically geared towards your personal career development at a leadership level through a formal process. And also, since Target is based in Minneapolis, the opportunities for exploration and growth within the company are immense. These reasons were enough for me to make the decision to leap forward in spite of being seven months pregnant at the time and not let the opportunity pass by.

Joana: I heard about eMIP from a few members of TWIST, who attended an open house at Target. I then attended an online open house to get more information about the program. It took me several days to internalize if this program was for me, as I hadn’t considered management as my career path. To help me with my decision, I consulted a few leaders and co-lead engineers, researched further about women in leadership, and reconnected all inputs to my goals. As a result, knowing that the new management expectation is to maintain our technical skills, I decided that this was the right program to help bridge the gap for me. And I am glad that I applied!

What has surprised you most about the program?

Millie: I have learned so much. The days are jam packed with a mix of technical challenges, formal manager trainings, and on the job shadowing opportunities. I’m getting a lot of practice prioritizing and balancing this mixed work load. As a Senior Engineering Manager at Target, you do both people management and contribute to the tech. Finding this good balance can be hard for new leaders, so having this time to practice before being formally in the role is very helpful.

Sowjanya: Early on in the program was a constant learning period for me – the culture, resources, product, technology stack, developing leadership skills, and so on – which was both overwhelming and exciting at the same time. I was pleasantly surprised at how thoughtful and well-structured the program was right from the start. I am also appreciative of how invested everyone is in bringing the right experiences and exposure to the cohort members – from the advisory board and trainers to the hosting team, leaders, sponsors and mentors.

How have the different parts of the curriculum (formal learning sessions, on-the-job experiences, mentoring) helped to develop your leadership skills?

Millie: The formal curriculum sessions have been great pillars for management learning. These sessions have focused on a variety of topics from communication, like storytelling and assertiveness, to more tactical strategies like Target Interview Training. In between these pillars we have the opportunity to practice the skills we learn on the job. We also have shorter follow up sessions to share out how we are implementing these learnings on the job. These follow up sessions have been very useful to hear how others are applying their learnings and get new ideas to take back to our teams.

Sowjanya: The formal trainings provide a wealth of resources. And on-the-job experience has enabled me to put those learnings into practice and develop my soft skills. I also consciously apply those techniques to communicate effectively and gain credibility. The leader, sponsor and mentor relationships provide an opportunity to brainstorm and get insight and guidance on various topics. These interactions have helped me get a better understanding of what it takes to become an effective leader and be prepared for any challenges that may lay ahead.

How would you describe the culture of the cohort? Or how has having a cohort helped you?

Millie: The current cohort is all women, but we are all very different. We have different backgrounds and experiences. Being able to pull from the group’s wider experiences or rely on them for advice when facing something new is helpful. The flip side of this is that we all have different needs and perspectives. We don’t always agree and sometimes it can be a challenge to get to consensus. But this isn’t unlike how our experiences will be as we prepare for a Senior Engineering Manager role, so it is excellent practice in helping guide teams of driven, smart, and passionate individuals to common destinations.

Joana: I think the best part of the program is being bonded with strong and talented women. Having a group that you know you can trust, supporting you while you are vulnerable, and helping and lifting up each other to be successful is what I genuinely appreciate most on this journey.

How has eMIP changed you?

Joana: More than the role, it is about growing and improving myself. eMIP has opened several opportunities for me as a woman in leadership in an accelerated time frame while retaining my authentic self.

Sowjanya: In just a few short months, eMIP has already made a positive impact on me. In addition to learnings and leadership, it also gave me a chance to reflect upon myself, focus and develop on my strengths. This brought in a lot more confidence in myself and prepared me with a better approach to challenges as a leader.

Millie: I can feel that I am changing and growing by being exposed to so many new opportunities. I expect to look back on my experience in the program far into the future and recognize it as a period that changed the direction and accelerated the growth of my career.

Interested in expanding both your leadership and technical skills in engineering? Learn more about opportunities in the Target Engineering Management Immersion Program and apply today.

Meet our Data Sciences Team

EDABI team converses.

Target’s Data Sciences team employs a uniquely capable and brilliant team of engineers, data scientists and analysts. They’re responsible for creating the tools and data products that enable business partners to make sound, data-based decisions, and they help develop the technology that personalizes the guest experience—from product recommendations to relevant ad content.

The Pulse team sat down with three Data Sciences pros to find out what’s interesting and exciting about working with data at Target. Hear from Brindha, Senior Manager, Business Intelligence Engineering, Janet, Director, Data Sciences and Kristina, Principal Data Scientist on what it’s like to work on Target’s Data Sciences team.

What’s the most exciting or innovative project you’ve worked on recently? 

Janet: For the last year, we’ve been moving into computer vision, which is algorithms to understand images. Why is that important? We use it to algorithmically understand the images of our products, which in turn allows us to help guest find visually similar or complementary items as they shop. A lot of our products are very style based and since a picture is a worth a thousand words, if we understand what style a guest is interested in, we can create a far more customized, intuitive and relevant experience for them.

Brindha: Closed-loop reporting tells us about impressions and how much our ads are driving sales. We provide Marketing with the data points that help the company make sure their campaigns are planned properly, and which platforms to launch to reach the most number of guests. We help close the loop to report on campaign effectiveness to inform future campaigns. It’s pretty exciting and I can see an immediate impact on the business.

Kristina: We are working on our internal A/B testing tool. I’m giving UX feedback, taking what I do on a day-to-day basis, and turning it into a user interface. It’s almost three years in the making. We used to use a third party, and then we built our own tool which integrates with Target.com and apps. It’s exciting because when we started, we’d only use vendors for something this complex. With our own, custom-built tool we can run more tests and be more effective.          

What has surprised you most about your career with Target? 

Kristina: I’ve spent most of my career at Target, and the most surprising thing is the scope of the role, the opportunities and the different teams to support. During the first ten years, I was supporting two or three teams with different functions, never really doing the same thing twice, solving tons of different problems—and holistic problems versus an online only company. From Marketing, Merchandising to Finance, there are big financial decisions to make, and there are lots of areas where data plays an important role.

Brindha: I’m a data enthusiast, so the one thing that’s amazed me is the scale of the data that we’re working with—and it comes with an equally big responsibility. I want to build optimized products. Making sure that my team has a high-performing solution—this is part of the responsibility. We are a very fast paced retailer so we need to build high-performing optimal solutions for our business teams.

Janet: The importance of company culture and how that can fuel success. The culture of support, collaboration and team work has been a strong influence through my time at Target, and I’ve learned so much from it. While I’ve gained technical skills, I’ve also become a better team player. People really work together.

Speaking of culture, what do you enjoy most about the culture within data and technology teams at Target?

Brindha: The people are the best thing about Target. It feels very much like a family. We are very focused on our work, but we make our everyday life as fun as possible. For new projects, we always try to understand through the eyes of a guest: What do we want to see? What do we want to be served? Culture is especially important to me as a leader, and it’s so important to me at Target. We always work as a team, not in silos. We are one team at Target. That’s our mantra.

Janet: There is a real culture of curiosity and exploration so when you pair that with collaboration you have it going both ways—learning and teaching—and I think that’s really powerful. People are encouraged to explore and innovate. You’re encouraged to try stuff and to take smart risks. You’re not expected to necessarily do the same thing the same way over and over again.

Kristina: Generally, the culture is one where everyone wants to move fast. It’s a whole bunch of people interested in getting things done, but it’s not super hierarchical in terms of who responds to what—there’s always someone monitoring when you’ve got a question. It’s a lot of people who are excited about their work and what they bring to the table, and they openly share it rather than withholding. They’re driven to get the answers to the business teams faster. We’re moving fast in a good way. It’s about agility.

How does Target motivate and retain team members in your space?

Kristina: First of all, it’s just exciting work. We are invited to use creativity and build our skill set. For a lot of people, that’s important—you want to feel like you’re gaining skills rather than working repetitively. Target really does care about data and analytics as crucial to our success and believes that it’s an important investment in the company.

Janet: One big way we retain talent is the breadth of problems that team members get to work on. When a team member comes in, there are many different problems and projects to work on. After a team member has been here for a while, they can switch tracks and dig in on something else. There’s a lot of variety and opportunity to solve big problems. There are also opportunities for learning and new growth in terms of hopping onto new projects, but team members are also encouraged to learn and develop their skills.

Interested in a career in data and technology with Target? Explore opportunities at target.com/careers and apply today.

Get to know Chris, Product Designer

What was the most exciting thing that happened this month?
We recently had our huge annual all team meeting, Fall National. One of my fellow designers and I signed up to be a part of it not really knowing what our participation would entail. Turned out to be a set of 3 Minute to Win it style challenges with none other than Jonathan Van Ness guiding us through! There aren’t many companies that can bring an experience like that to you and I’m lucky to have outgoing, hilarious, and fun teammates who will sign up for something like that with me.

What should every designer be reading right now?
The best designers are passionate about helping people because, at the end of the day, that is what we are doing. We are trying to make experiences, products, buildings, UI, etc. easier to use and navigate. With that said, I would say every designer should be reading anything that gives them insight into people who are under served by society today. And more than just read or follow, talk to those people. Engage with people who are unlike yourself and try to see the world through their eyes. That will make you a better designer because it increases your empathy and ensures your product will serve everyone.

What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
Meeting the goodest boy, Bullseye.

What is the best thing about being a Product Designer?
Constantly being surprised by our guest.

What is the hardest thing about being a Product Designer?
Constantly being surprised by our guest.

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
Target is known for its beautiful design and branding, and now we are getting recognized for our innovation within digital. I love being at the intersection of these two things designing for the Target app. We are constantly pushing ourselves to think bigger and better for our guest while maintaining the high standard of the Target brand. It’s a super fun challenge and makes for an exciting environment.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I was a real showboat as a kid so I naturally wanted to be a world-famous singer/actor. As I grew up I switched gears and discovered a love for science and art but didn’t really know how to apply those skills together. In college I discovered design, which felt like the perfect marriage of the two, and instantly knew it was the field I wanted to work in.

Best career advice that you’ve received?
When I did yoga teacher training, my instructor told us that when we are teaching a class, we set the energy for everyone in the room. If we are distracted or off center, the class will feel it and in turn be distracted or off center. I find this applies to my work life as well. Taking time to center myself before a big meeting or check in with myself throughout the day helps not only me, but everyone I’m interacting with. TL;DR Self care.

Do you have a favorite patio to hang out at?
Lush in NE. And, if you stay long enough on Saturday you can catch the weekly drag show inside!

What is your favorite thing to do in Minneapolis?
Eat. I lived in New York City for about 4 years before moving back to Minneapolis (I went to school here—Go Gophs!—and my husband is from here.) and every time we came back to visit I so looked forward to eating at all my favorite spots.

Anything else you want to say?
Download the Target app! 🙂

Get to know Asher, Data Engineering Director

What is the best thing about being an engineer?
The best thing for me about being an engineering leader at Target is the opportunity to solve problems at scale that have never been solved before.

What was the most exciting thing that happened this month? 
The most exciting thing for me this month has been that two engineers on my team are now Apache contributors. This not only showcases the kind of focus Target has on open source, but also showcases our engineering capabilities. This really puts a retail company like Target with the likes of large tech companies like LinkedIn and PayPal in terms of our engineering capabilities. This sets Target apart from our competitors and also enables us to bring top engineering talent to Target.

What should every engineer be following right now?
There are a ton of exciting open source projects going on at the Apache Software Foundation. I would highly recommend every engineer to stay aware of those and understand these technologies so they can leverage them to solve their problems.

What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
Enabling engineers on my team to collaborate with the Apache community and contribute on Apache projects like Hadoop and Knox. This gives Target the ability to not only contribute to open source software but also to drive the direction and road map for open source projects that benefits Target.

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
The scale that we operate at in terms of data.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a Software Engineer. I started coding when I was 13, which is probably old for today’s norm, but it was considered a pretty young age back then.

What is the hardest thing about being an engineer?
Problem solving in ways that can make everyone (maybe most people) happy.

Best career advice that you’ve received?
Three things are most important. Relationships, relationships and relationships.

Dogs or cats?
Dogs! Even though I don’t have a dog right now. But I can see us getting one as my son grows a bit older.

What is your superpower/unicorn flavor?
I pride myself on my customer service and relationship building skills. I can find common ground with everyone I meet.

Anything else?
I’m very excited about the next 12 months at Target. We have an exciting year ahead of us and lots of fun stuff to accomplish for Target.

Get to know Randi, Lead Accessibility Consultant

What should every designer be reading/following right now?
A few resources for accessibility news/topics.
WebAIM blog: https://webaim.org/blog/
Level Access Blog: https://www.levelaccess.com/blog/
Deque Systems Blog: https://www.deque.com/blog/

What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
Helping to make accessibility part of the development process from start to finish. We are part of product teams now instead of being the roadblock at the end of the process.

What is the best thing about being an Accessibility Consultant?
The best thing about being an accessibility consultant is the variety. We’re always working on new things and having to come up with new accessibility solutions to make sure the cool things our designers and engineers want to build will work for all of Target’s guests. I like having to continually learn and grow.

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
I like working with a variety of teams and digital products. I also like working at a place our guests are so loyal to, that makes it fun to give them new things to be excited about.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
A sports journalist. I’ve always been a huge sports fan and wanted to work in that industry, then realized I didn’t have the personality for it. I wouldn’t be aggressive enough in press conferences.

What is the hardest thing about being an Accessibility Consultant?
The hardest thing about being an accessibility consultant is having to defend the need for accessibility of our products, I have a hard time wrapping my head around why individuals sometimes don’t see the importance of giving equal access for all people.

What is the best career advice that you’ve received?
Find something you love and do that. Sounds simple enough but having had jobs and a career before Target that I didn’t love I realized, given the amount of time we spend at work, it’s critical to do something you get excited about.

Do you have a favorite patio to hang out at?
Pizzeria Lola – BEST PIZZA EVER! Pair it with a cold beer and a nice summer evening and it doesn’t get much better than that.

What is your favorite thing to do in Minneapolis?
Swim, bike, and run. As a triathlete, you can’t ask for much better than the beautiful lakes and trails we have here. Minneapolis is a great place to get your exercise on, then find a good patio afterword. Even in the winter our city keeps the paths around the lakes clear for runners and cyclists.

Get to know Pete, Lead Product Designer

What was the most exciting thing that happened recently?
I took some new designs to a store and had the cashiers test them for usability. It was a huge success. It was easy to use and they really liked the new designs.

What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
My greatest accomplishment is that I’ve done so many different things at Target. I worked on Target’s first digital product, Cartwheel. I helped bring the weekly ad to mobile devices. I improved the online and mobile app checkout experiences. I designed software for team members to plan promotions and now I’m working on in-store technologies like the software on cash registers and self-checkout.

What is the best thing about being a Product Designer?
I love solving big problems. Working with business and technology partners to solve problems for our guests and team members is so rewarding. Whether it’s creating new experiences or improving existing ones, seeing the work pay off through measured results is always a thrill.

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
Target’s willingness to learn and grow is pretty impressive. Target is constantly adapting to changes and learning new ways to do better work. I have the support to research and analyze problems, strategize and define options before designing and testing solutions. This allows me to create the best possible experiences for Target. Rather than being an obstacle that I have to overcome, Target offers me whatever I need to do great work.

What is the hardest thing about being a Lead Product Designer?
When working with people who haven’t worked with a user experience professional before, it takes time for them to appreciate what we do. People who aren’t software engineers never expect that they could sit down and code a great experience. However, lots of people, who aren’t digital product designers, think that they can sketch a few things on a white board to design a great experience. It takes people time to learn that great experiences don’t come from an opinion and a pen. They come from research, analysis, strategy, architecture, design and testing. They come from trial and failure, iteration, collaboration and experience. When I’ve spent time with partners who have learned the value of the work I do, it makes the work so much better and so much easier and fun to do.

Best career advice that you’ve received?
Someone recently told me to focus on learnings and outcomes. What falls in-between can be an exciting journey but it’s those two things that matter most.

What is your favorite thing to do in Minneapolis?
I’m a lover of live music. Seeing a great band in a small club is the best. Whether they’re a national act or a local group there’s always someone playing somewhere. We’ve got a lot of great places from St. Paul to Excelsior and a lot of great music from punk rock to hip-hop.

Get to know Juliano, Lead Product Designer

Hello, my name is Juliano, and I’m a Lead Product Designer at Target. I’m currently the lead product designer on Nicollet Design System. I previously founded Cympel, an adtech startup, worked at Best Buy, led a web design meetup group, and worked as a print designer.

What is the best thing about being a Product Designer?
When I was starting my career as a designer back in the 90s, I was drawn to the art and composition of an effective piece of work. Back then, my understanding of design was very skewed toward “making things pretty” and art. Well, it turns out that a designer’s job is a lot more than creating visuals. It’s also about impact and transformation.

The best thing about being a product designer is the journey of putting myself in a position to be in the shoes of the guest while working with highly talented individuals on product teams to build (hopefully) delightful and profitable products. It’s about the transformation that we submit ourselves to. Let me explain.

Working on a team with engineers, product managers, accessibility experts, researchers, designers, and writers may seem simple and straightforward, but there’s a lot of tension and orchestration that needs to occur in order for a team to achieve a successful outcome. This healthy tension and orchestration have always made me reflect and grow not only as a designer, but as a person. Being able to admit that your idea was not the best or that you were wrong (with good intentions, of course) takes courage and humility. Sometimes we take these little things for granted, but these seemingly small moments of courage yield great results. It becomes less about the outcome and more about the journey with the team.

What was the most exciting thing that happened this year?
Nicollet Design System. We launched in April and adoption is growing every single week. We have many components now in production (thanks, Registry and Adaptive).

What should every designer be reading right now?
Earlier in my career, I thought that a designer’s genius or “talent” was the utmost important component of a successful product or idea. In fact, as Khoi Vihn’s article says, this sense of genius or supertalent has been counterproductive to our industry all along. So, it wasn’t until I had to build a product for survival that I began to understand the value of engineering, business and design working in harmony.

I’m a big believer in acquiring complementary skills as a designer and while I follow/admire talented designers and developers in our field, I believe product designers (working in a product model) should be a little uncomfortable once in a while to learn skills that will help them build better teams, products and better communities. My suggestion, no matter where you’re at in your career, is to become a bit more familiar with a complementary skill.

What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
I’ve had many accomplishments at Target and I’m proud of them all. Target has given me opportunities that have had a great impact in my career. And while I’m grateful for all projects and teams I’ve been a part of, I’m very proud of the nimble team we’ve built that is transforming how we build products at scale: Nicollet Design System.

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
My favorite thing about working at Target is the people I get to work with every day. I’m surrounded by highly talented folks who teach me a great deal of things every single day. I often feel I’m the least qualified person in the room, but I learn and grow a lot.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
It’s a tough question, but initially I wanted to be a professional table tennis player. I was influenced by my father, who would intensively teach me table tennis since I was 13 years old. But, as life would have it, I ended up becoming a designer.

Growing up in Brazil, I was exposed to design very early in my life. My father owned private schools in the northern part of Brazil, and my cousin, Alex, was responsible for my dad’s entire business’ visual identity. He was very talented and highly respected in our region among many businesses, local TVs, and design firms. He gave me an opportunity to work with him for a little while and told my parents to enroll me in a local school to take design lessons. My parents followed his advice. His work and mentorship inspired me to what I am today. So, besides a tennis player, I want to be a designer when I grow up. (I’m working on it.)

What is the hardest thing about being a Product Designer?
Perfectionism and compromise.

Best career advice that you’ve received?
The best advice came from my then graphic design professor, Karen Alves. I was graduating from her class and getting my first job as a graphic designer in America. I was very nervous but this is what she said: “Juliano, you’re young and very smart. You take this job, if it doesn’t work out for any reason, you’ll leave and find another job. But, the most important thing that will happen to you is you’ll meet a lot of people in your journey. Some people will become part of your life for a long time and some won’t; some people will hurt you and some people will make you feel at ease and confident; but, what you’ll learn from them will help you grow as a designer and more importantly as a human being. You’ll have a great impact in people’s lives, and people will have great impact on your life. You’ll grow and all of these learnings and experiences are priceless.” I confess that I didn’t fully grasp what she meant and I couldn’t connect dots in the future, but as I reflect today about my life, I can certainly connect the dots in the past. I felt vulnerable to my own skills; I didn’t feel confident but I was happy to be taking the next step in my life. Every time I’m faced with a new change or challenge in life, I think of what my professor said to me. And she was right. All these years have been priceless.

Dogs or cats?
Dogs. I love dogs.

What is your superpower?
Well, this is a tough question. I don’t think I have a superpower, but I’m always looking for ways to grow. My ability to understand and contribute to how designs are built, and speed up the process of building digital products is very helpful for me as a designer.

Anything else you want to say?
The most fulfilled and effective people I know—world-famous creatives, billionaires, thought leaders, and more—look at their life’s journey as perhaps 25 percent finding themselves and 75 percent creating themselves.

Get to know Abbey, Product Design Director

What was the most exciting thing that happened yesterday/this week/this month?
Yesterday was Pitch Day! About a hundred of us piled into an auditorium to hear new Product Ideas and concept pitches (Shark Tank style) that some of our colleagues want to bring to life to better serve our guests. It’s inspiring to see products come to life that start with just one person’s idea based on trends they are seeing from our guests. These people have built a business case, lean teams and ended with gaining business buy-in to try a proof of concept. It’s just another way that Target proves you are in the driver seat in your career. Target is interested in testing diverse ideas with our guests to see what resonates with them, and they acknowledge those great ideas can come from anywhere.

Who/What should every designer be reading/following right now?
I’m really enjoying the podcast called “This is Product Management” that highlights both the business and design aspects of creating products. I love that they highlight different perspectives from people that span from large companies to three employee start-ups.

What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
As a Director of Product Design that serves our guests through improving team members’ experiences, my real accomplishment is simply getting out of my team’s way. 😉 By that I mean we have extremely talented Product Designers that work cross-functionally in their Product teams. The most valuable thing I can do is make sure they get the support they need and help remove blockers that come their way.

Also, the understood need and excitement to include Product Design’s perspectives in how we create internal tools here at Target is growing quickly. It’s exciting to see the impact we are able to make and I’m proud to have been a small part of that shift in thinking that creating easy-to-use experiences is not just important for our guests, but for our team members that serve them as well.

What is the best thing about being in UX/Product Design?
At the end of the day we are problem solvers, which I love. Some days you feel like “Inspector Gadget” trying to uncover the root cause of a problem. And some days you get to really know our team members by walking a mile in their shoes… by seeing what they go through to do their work and tasks. It’s more than just about influencing the digital screens a person touches. It’s about understanding the bigger picture of what a person is going through, interacting with, and how the tools we create can best support and empower them.

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
That if you are truly passionate about something or a problem, nothing is stopping you from playing a role in the solution. You can easily connect with people who can help make that happen. Target has something called a GTKY (Get to Know You). It’s a chance to just put 30 minutes on the calendar with someone you don’t know and want to know. It’s a great way to meet other smart people, but also to connect and learn more about the business in a way that helps us all do our work better.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
Disney Animator. #Disneynerdforlife

What is the hardest thing about being a Product Design Director?
Part of our role is being the voice and advocate for our users (in my case our team members) and making sure the digital tools we create truly serve their needs as well as delivers on the goals we set out to accomplish as a business for our guests. The hardest thing is often prioritizing what problems to solve first when your heart wants to help solve all their problems right now!

Best career advice that you’ve received?
If you want to prove to someone that you’re up for a challenge don’t just tell them what you could do if given the chance, find a way to start doing it and show them.

What is your favorite thing to do in Minneapolis?
It’s amazing how many awesome art galleries and museums we have at our finger tips. The creative community is alive and thriving here (check out Art-a-Whirl or the dozens of Art Fairs we have going on). My perfect Saturday would be a walk around Lake Calhoun with friends or family, and grabbing the best chocolate chip cookie ever created (seriously!) across the street at Rustica.

Get to know Heather, Lead Product Designer

What is the best thing about being a Product Designer?
You get to empower people, solve their problems and remove the roadblocks keeping them from unleashing the full power of their talent. The internal customers of my product are smart, dedicated and scrappy – they’re working hard to meet guest, business and vendor needs at all hours of the day. If we can help them reclaim more of their time, we know they’ll turn it into gold for our guests.

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
There are two things – first, the supportive culture. I have a couple of persistent health issues and Target’s been a great place to thrive through them. Second, I love tackling a big, hairy problem with a group of people willing to throw down and get after it. Enterprise UX at Target gives me that.

What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
We’ve had developers, product owners, VPs, interns, and marketers in customer sessions this year, which is essential for building empathy and a shared understanding of those we serve. Strong products come from strong teams and UXers are new to many enterprise (internal) teams as a formal role. It’s been wonderful to share user-centered methods and watch my partners take to them. Design happens whether a UXer is there or not – I try to give my teams the knowledge to work this way for themselves, too.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be many things – veterinarian, mountain climber, teacher, National Geographic writer, etc. Ultimately, I went to school to be a librarian (I have 2 Nancy Pearl action figures) and was interested in how libraries could connect communities to information online. That led to UX.

What is the hardest thing about being a Product Designer?
In enterprise work, we’re playing the extra long game. It’s hard not being able to solve everything immediately for our customers, especially when problems are interconnected and our customers have highly diverse needs. That said, the wins are sweeter.

Best career advice that you’ve received?
I read a fashion blog called Tom and Lorenzo. Their advice for wearing clothes with confidence is something I use to prep for presentations. It’s cheeky: “Head up, shoulders back, keep telling yourself everybody here wants to either be you or do you.” I’m not naturally comfortable in front of a crowd but this cuts through nerves and makes me giggle – and adopting a confident posture really helps!

Do you have a favorite patio to hang out at?
Yeah, mine! I’m obsessed with building pergolas. I’ve built two at my house (so far), and one has a patio beneath it. I like to invite my sister or my retired neighbor ladies over for coffee and donuts on a sunny weekend day. We get some vitamin D and watch the neighborhood go by.

Get to know Mollie, Lead Product Designer

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
Working on a UX team this large is wonderful because you have access to so many talented, experienced people. It’s a community with a vast reservoir of knowledge where people feel safe asking for and sharing information freely. It’s also nice seeing the results of my work almost immediately. When working on the corporate side, and especially working in Enterprise UX at Target, we quickly see outcomes and have immediate access to users to explore how things can be tweaked to make them better. It’s truly iterative.

What is the best thing about being a UX/Product Designer?
Defining problems and collaborating with engineering and product folks to find solutions. When this is working right, it’s magic.

What was the most exciting thing that happened recently?
The release of an MVP. I never get tired of launches and that feeling of accomplishment. I’m newer to the project and Target, so I hadn’t been laboring as long as everyone else, but knowing how hard everyone worked to get to that point made it fun all the same.

What is the hardest thing about being a Product Designer?
It can be frustrating to hit roadblocks that are out of your control to change. Sometimes what we think is the best thing isn’t always the possible or prioritized thing. But less than ideal circumstances can be a fun challenge.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to do something with music (piano lessons started at age 6), which eventually turned into wanting to be a music therapist once I reached college. That didn’t pan out due to a persistent injury, but my career in UX/Product Design satisfies a lot of that urge to make life easier for people.

Do you have a favorite patio to hang out at?
I like sitting on my friends’ patios (preferably while they are home). Good conversation with close friends in a relatively quiet space is my happy place. As an awkward shy introvert, I’m also a fan of hanging out on my back stoop alone and just letting my mind wander.

What is your favorite thing to do in Minneapolis?
Going to a cozy jazz club and seeing local musicians. Loud rock shows are fun too, but small jazz clubs are my favorite because you get to sit (and standing is super hard) and the audience is usually listening with rapt attention so you can hear everything.

Best career advice that you’ve received?
Early in my career when I was beating myself up for not being able to answer a question immediately for a client, a mentor told me (and I’m paraphrasing), “Your doctor often doesn’t have all of the answers immediately either. But their knowledge and experience makes them the best people to research and find the answer. There probably won’t ever be a time when you have all of the answers immediately.”

Get to know Kelsey, Lead UX Researcher

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
I have two favorite things. The first is the discount (I do A LOT of online shopping). The second is the opportunities that Target affords us. I’ve worked at Target for 5 years and have been privileged enough to hold 5 different roles crossing multiple pyramids. I’ve found my leadership at Target to be extremely supportive of me exploring and learning new areas of interest. This ability to continually learn and pursue new interests is something I’m very appreciate of.

What is the best thing about being a UX Researcher?
It sounds cheesy, but my honest answer is the potential to learn. Working on the research team, we are fortunate to get to work with a variety of subject matter experts across numerous teams in the organization that are working to improve the guest experience. In order to do our jobs effectively we need to understand how things are meant to work, how they currently work, how guests use our offerings, what they think of them, and how both our guests and internal teams envision our offerings in the future. The exposure we have to ideas and existing functionality makes every day different and full of opportunity to learn.

What is the hardest thing about being a UX Researcher?
Appropriate prioritization! Researchers are curious by nature, and desperately want to understand and be able to help get answers to outstanding questions. There are endless questions worth trying to answer to help us improve our overall experience (how do people shop for different categories, what are primary purchase considerations, how attractive are our fulfillment options, gummy worms or Swedish Fish, etc.). The last question may be more of a personal research project, but hopefully it’s apparent that the opportunity is endless when it comes to understanding our guests’ behaviors and desires better.

What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
It’s a little abstract, but I’d say that it’s the amount I’ve learned in the time I’ve been here. I’ve been able to be a part of teams in Accounts Payable, Global Trade, Digital Solutions, and now UX Research. I’ve never been the foremost expert in any of these areas, but the breadth of information I’ve obtained is something I’m proud of.

What was the most exciting thing that happened recently?
Target acquiring Shipt! I can’t take any credit for this service offering getting up and running, but a huge shout out to everyone that did. I’m a massive Shipt advocate (ask anyone in my neighborhood). When you have a baby crying, a 3 year old demanding that you go outside and give her an underdog on the swing set, dinner burning in the oven, and you just realized you’re supposed to bring treats to daycare tomorrow, you need help. Enter Shipt. Un-burned Dinner: check. Treats for daycare: check. Grocery shopping done for the week: check. A ‘congratulations you made it through the day’ piece of cake for mom: check. All without leaving the house. I love Shipt a lot. Almost as much as that piece of cake.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
A principal, teacher, and an office administrator. Basically I wanted to run an entire school by myself.

Best career advice that you’ve ever heard?
Never be discouraged from applying for a role you’re interested in just because you don’t meet all of the requirements. If you are excited about the opportunity, willing to work hard and devote yourself to learning, you’re a great candidate.

What is your superpower?
Persistence in the form of stubborn? If I hear a problem, I want to solve it. No matter the size. Regardless of what it takes. For better or worse.

 

Get to know Jamie, Lead Product Designer for Enterprise Item

What is the best thing about being an Enterprise Product Designer?
Helping people. That seems so cliché, but it has never been truer for me in my career than working on the Enterprise UX team at Target. The software that my teams and I are working to improve and create are used by fellow team members all day, every day. If it’s difficult and frustrating to do your job, I want to fix it! It’s so powerful to have a purpose where my work helps to increase efficiency, team member job satisfaction, and data integrity. Item data (and those who care for it!) is at the heart of what runs our business at Target, and it’s exciting to be in a space that has so much team member, company, and guest impact.

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
Our mission. I feel that mission on a cellular level, and it is so awesome to me that so many people show up each day and try again at helping to make that come true. Being a human is hard work, and I don’t know one person who couldn’t discover a little more joy in their everyday life.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was young I wanted to be a writer or a lawyer. I went to college for Journalism. (Hearing people’s organic wanderings through life to find their careers is so interesting, yo!) And now here I am, an Enterprise Product Designer, still on the quest of curiosity, fighting for truth and justice.

What is the hardest thing about being an Enterprise Product Designer?
The limitations of time and resources. It’s so hard to hear about team member or merchandise vendor pain points and then have to send them to the backlog because they don’t fit in with current priorities.

Anything else you want to say?
High-five!

What the UX team learned packing rice – and why you should join us next time!

On April 11, members of the UX team volunteered at Second Harvest Heartland, a food packing facility for families in need. This event was organized by UX designer Courtney. She took the initiative to get us organized and ready for our volunteer day. We proudly wore our red Target t-shirts, arrived at the facility and had a short orientation. Together we helped pack over 3,000 pounds of rice for families in need.

My name is Julieta, and I’m a UX designer for Target.com. I tried writing this article (emphasis on tried) as a chronological, inspiring journey with facts and metrics on why volunteering matters. As I was writing it, I realized how jaded I’ve become with Buzzfeed-style listicle articles that are easily digestible and easy to read, so I landed on that approach instead. Plus, as a novice writer, it makes it much more entertaining for me to write.

That being said, I do hope this inspires you and hopefully lights a fire inside you that will make you want to make time for volunteer opportunities.

HERE ARE THE TOP 5 REASONS WHY “VOLUNTEER DAY” WAS JUST WHAT OUR TEAM NEEDED:

1) Bonding time!
The UX team is pretty new. We as a team have grown in the past year, and we’re all slowly getting to know one another. Having time to connect outside of work while doing good for others is the perfect way to build connections with team members that you may not normally have conversations with. Plus, (surprisingly) it’s a pretty good way to relieve stress!

“A highlight for me was being able to spend time outside of work with my colleagues, and when we found out just how much food we were able to pack. It surprised me how much I was able to let go from my work-related obligations on a weekday. I had so much fun doing something so repetitive, I found it therapeutic.” – Jill, UX designer

2) Embracing our differences
There was a total of 40 volunteers that day, including our team from Target, teams from other companies like Wells Fargo, young students from a local high school, and senior folks who seemed to do this type of work regularly. I’ll let Todd say it more eloquently:

“Although we were presented with a placard stating we had packed 3,322 pounds of rice, like an oversized check presented to the winner of a sweepstakes, my impression was that our achievement there was much smaller, and yet more significant: people from diverse backgrounds working together toward a common good. I thought of that famous quote from Mother Teresa, ‘Love cannot remain by itself – it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service.’” – Todd, UX writer

3) It was work, but it was also fun
While we were packing rice, I spoke to a gentleman whose sole job was to add the expiration sticker to the rice pack. He took his job so incredibly seriously, and you could see he took pride on having the sticker straight, and on the correct place. After the first hour of practicing the motions, I became fixated on how perfectly I could seal each pack of rice. I knew these were for families in need and I wanted them to be perfect. It became fun to have little challenges in which I challenged myself to do it the fastest, and the neatest. As Kim also expressed:

“I felt like I was actually making a positive difference in someone’s life, and I couldn’t believe how easy (and fun!) it could be.” – Kim, UX designer

4) We’re so lucky
Not every company encourages their employees to take time out of their day to help out others. Target has a pyramid of volunteer hours that we as a company need to complete by the end of the year. It’s truly an amazing thing that Target allows us to do this, and for that I’m thankful! As Courtney also put it:

“What I liked about volunteering last week was getting out of our daily routine to help people who need a basic necessity such as food. It was so satisfying to learn how many meals we were able to pack and to feed people, and we did it all in less than 2 hours! It feels so good to give back directly to my community. It made me feel proud to work for Target and to be able to do that with my colleagues.” – Courtney, UX designer

5) Perspective
A few themes emerged from this whole experience: the teamwork, the fun, the greater good, but most of all, the “put your words into action” sentiment. We all care about our own causes: hunger, the environment, female rights, animal rights, you name it. But how can we take those issues that are dear to our hearts and start doing something about it? There’s no easy answer to that, and we all try our best. So with that, I’ll let Jen close the article with a quote that I think summarizes the entire day:

“For me, spending time with my colleagues at Second Harvest while we all happily packed rice together allowed me to see each of them in a very different light. While I was well aware of the depth that is inherent in each of us – volunteering translated that ‘knowing’ to ‘seeing’ and ‘remembering.’
Three hours of packing rice together might not change the world, but within those same three hours, two significant things happened: my colleagues changed the way I see the world and we nudged a plateful of food just a bit closer for someone in need. That is putting hope into action.” – Jennifer, PhD., UX researcher

To learn more about Second Harvest, visit 2harvest.org.

Speaking at DevFest 2018

Eric at DevFest

By Eric W., Lead Product Designer

I was recently invited to speak at DevFest MN 2018, [https://devfest.mn/] a Google Developer Group’s local conference intended to bring members of the engineering community together to learn and share. As a Product Designer speaking to Engineers, I was excited to represent my discipline and share some advice on how to improve the ways we work together.

Great Product Design requires great relationships, and few relationships are as important to the success of a product as the one between design and development. Both parties need to understand each other, challenge each other and compromise effectively to build the right things, at the right time with right level of quality.

Most of us however, have never been meaningfully introduced to the other’s world nor felt what it is like to walk in their shoes. So the relationship between Designers and Developers can often strain under the weight of assumptions and abstractions.

My journey toward empathy began with a simple goal of wanting to better understand the Developers I worked with every day. I wanted to be a better partner to them and communicate more effectively. So I learned to code. I didn’t do this with any intention of submitting pull requests, but simply to increase my awareness.

I watched Stanford lectures on Computer Science, listened to coding podcasts and did tutorials and coding puzzle games. As I became more immersed, something surprised me. I was struck by the sheer variety of ways I could solve any problem. Often times the goal was clear, but there were so many ways to get there.

This experience reminded me of something familiar…and then it hit me. I was using the design process. Coding was a form of creative problem solving. I was pushing code rather than pixels but just like Product Design, coding was a craft. It could even be an art form. I had far more in common with my Developers than I ever realized and I wanted to tell the world. DevFest was a great start.

Speaking at DevFest was about highlighting what we have in common and leveling up the audience’s understanding of the world of User Experience. If you peel away the jargon and tools, Designers and Developers want to make great things, and make things that matter. In a high-level but comprehensive way I built up their context by defining UX, demystifying titles like “Information Architect” and “User-Interface Designer,” describing the tools Product Designers use and the challenges we face.

I left them with a challenge:

“On Monday, when you get back to work. I want you to ask the Product Designer you work with to coffee. Ask them ‘Why did you become a Product Designer? Why do you do what you do?’ and then listen graciously to what they have to say. I think you will find you have much in common and let that be the beginning of empathy for one another. The beginning of a stronger working relationship. A relationship that leads to better products and more enjoyment in our work.”

I give you the same challenge.

Get to know Chris, Lead Accessibility Consultant

What was the most exciting thing that happened yesterday/this week/this month?
Over the last month, seeing Target’s design system come to life with a collection of reusable web components. All the components and design tools are vetted and documented for accessible use. This was the “source-of-truth” type of library we have been iterating towards for the last couple of years. It’s also fostering a design and engineering culture that thinks even more deeply about accessibility, speed, efficiency, and quality.

Who/What should every designer be reading/following right now?
Anything that helps us think beyond our own assumptions about the world around us. A couple books that have had a great impact on me: The Power of Different by Gail Salts, MD and The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabella Wilkerson.

What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
Joining the Accessibility Team. Truly. I’ve been so challenged and sharpened through what I’ve been learning and leading during the last 5 years. I want to be involved in this work for a long time.

What is the best thing about being an Accessibility Consultant?
Making the topic of accessibility… accessible! Helping teams within Target understand what it means and how to fuse that level of user experience with all their other inspirations, processes, and approaches.

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
The absolutely smart, creative, and down-to-earth people I get to work alongside. Additionally, the impact of our accessibility efforts goes far beyond Target. I believe we’re raising the universal standard of what it means to design and build accessible digital experiences.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
A Correlian smuggler turned hero of a Rebellion. Also, a Force-sensitive Jedi Master. But mostly, a truck driver like my dad.

Best career advice that you’ve received?
“I’ve found that just letting the appropriate people know what you want can open opportunities for you.”

Dogs or cats?
A couple years ago, my daughter charmed us into getting a Yorkie-Poo. It’s a kind of a super tiny dog-cat-hamster. So… both + hamster?

What is your superpower/unicorn flavor?
Superpower – I’m a wicked-awesome basement storage organizer.
Unicorn flavor – these days it contains less sugar, but more caffeine.

Get to know Shani, Sr. Frontend Designer Email

What is the best thing about being a Sr. Frontend Designer?
The opportunity to work in a field that provides opportunities to learn and try new things. I like that it merges design and coding. And even though there are many devices and different ways to digitally interact, it’s still relevant and engaging to our guests.

What is the hardest thing about being a Sr. Frontend Designer?
Helping people understand the complexity of designing emails. It can be dynamic, data driven, static or a combination of all three. There’s a lot that goes into designing, building and testing emails and educating our partners is a big part of the job.

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
The feeling I get working with great people and the ideas they share and get excited about.

What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
The big platform migration for email was a great accomplishment. It was a fantastic opportunity to define standards and processes for email development, discuss how to intelligently create reusable content and update what wasn’t working.

What was the most exciting thing that happened this month?
We recently launched a new shipping confirmation email to guests and I’m excited to see if they find it less confusing. Our goal was to simplify the experience and eliminate the number of emails we send.

Who/What should every designer be reading/following right now?
I largely get a lot of info online from many sources via Twitter which surprisingly is the best way to interact with other email designers and developers. Another resource is through various sites: Really Good Emails, Campaign Monitors Resources sections, Litmus’s community and blog. All these resources cover topics like trends, tip and tricks, dev, design, and thought leadership. This is for the beginner to experienced email geek (pro and hobby).

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a chef or an art teacher. I love the process of creating and collaborating.

Best career advice that you’ve received?
Treat people nice and don’t beat yourself up about things that don’t go right. Remember that you always have choices.

Dogs or cats?
Definitely dogs. I love their personalities and their inherent goofiness. I love the look and the idea of cats, but sadly, I am allergic to them. Me and cats are better interacting with each other at a distance.

What is your unicorn flavor?
I think it would be Taffy Rainbow Glitter Corn. I do and dabble in a little bit of everything — brainstorming/ideation, QA, troubleshooting/planning long-term fixes, strategy, visual design, and quite a bit of Frontend Development for operational email. I also love to interact and collaborate when I can, and try to keep whatever I am doing engaging and add a dash of joy.

Anything else you want to say?
It Never Hurts to Keep Looking for Sunshine – Eeyore

 

Get to know Maxine, Lead UX Designer; Axiom

What is the best thing about being a UX designer?
There are so many great aspects of this job, but my favorite has to be the perpetual challenge of creative problem solving. The more complex the variables, the more jazzed I am to dig in.

What is the hardest thing about being a UX designer?
Filtering through extraneous inputs. While specific detail and context are really critical to our outputs, determining what to prioritize can be tricky.

What was the most exciting thing that happened recently?
Axiom services TGS directly and I have regular access to these folks. Last week, I went to our Target North Campus to meet with a small group of them regarding some complex functionality. Yesterday, I was able to show them ideas I had to solve for it. Sharing work early is exciting for everyone it impacts and I got a ton of great input for continuing.

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
The UX team is a major highlight. I’ve been doing this a long time, but I’ve never worked with a team this talented, compassionate and friendly.

Target as an entity can feel unwieldy, but in the 4+ years I’ve been here, I’m astonished to see how enterprise strategy has trickled down in to my day to day. Not only are we talking the talk, but walking the walk.

What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
While I feel like I should talk about something tangible, I honestly feel like my greatest accomplishment during my time at Target has been breaking out of my shell, becoming more confident in my work and finding areas where that can shine.

What should every designer be reading right now?
I really enjoyed Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I love working in a creative field, but sometimes feel like I don’t have the passion of those around me. The way she discussed the manifestation of creativity outside of self, felt freeing. It’s just her take on one of many theories of creativity, but I found it fascinating.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I was one of those weird kids who didn’t have any of those ’when I’m an adult’ thoughts. Maybe I just didn’t ever want to grow up. I do remember feeling that, but I asked my mom to be sure.

She said: “You liked Peter Pan! Yes, you really did not want to grow up! When you were small you never thought about what you wanted to be because you never wanted to grow up and leave. It is not something unusual because most of us have these feelings but you just were going to make it happen! Ha.” I guess my assessment was accurate.

Best career advice that you’ve received?
In a career where phrases like putting out fires, critical mass, reinventing the wheel and decommissioning are common place, it’s easy to get caught up and stressed out.
I heard the phrase “we’re just building websites people, not saving lives” early in my career and it struck a chord.

Dogs or cats?
Dogs; a whoodle – Frankie and a soft coated wheaten terrier – Olive: both females.

What is your superpower?
Unraveling and retaining intricate problems in order to map out a solution.

Anything else you want to say?
Thank you for taking time to learn more about me. I appreciate those who have already shared their stories and look forward to reading more.

Get to know Stacia, Lead Product Designer

What is the best thing about being a lead product designer?
I love exploring the art and science of what I do, which is great for me because I’m an equal mix of creative/artsy and logical/analytical.

What is the hardest thing about being a lead product designer?
Every hour at work I go back and forth between blue sky strategic ideas and in-the-weeds design decisions. That roller coaster can be difficult to manage, but I enjoy the challenge.

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
I truly do love Target as a brand, and how we proliferate “design for all”. Our famously clean stores, unique assortment, amazing digital experiences, and firm stance on social issues make me proud to work for Target.

What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
I was part of the original team that conceived the software I’ve been designing for three years, Ivy Promo. It’s been a dream come true to build modern software from the ground up that solves some of Target’s biggest technical problems. We power all the promos for stores and online. I feel so proud walking into a store and seeing a Sale sign that I know people using Ivy Promo originated.

Who/What should every designer be reading/following right now?
I’m still obsessed with the design podcast “99% Invisible”. It’s about the built environment around us – from park benches to statues adorning the oldest Manhattan buildings. I’m also really into the Velocity channel, especially shows where old cars get rebuilt. I believe digital designers can learn a lot from 3D designers. Big lessons on usability and the history of human + environment interactions are available from so many disciplines.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I still want to be a published author when I grow up. My degree is in creative writing, and there’s a part of me that still thinks of myself as an author.

Best career advice that you’ve received?
Right before I graduated college, I had a phone interview for a copy writing position with a company in Milwaukee. The interviewer listened to me try to sound more experienced than I was, then she very kindly gave me advice on how to recognize what I’m good at and highlight what makes me unique. I thought about that conversation a lot in my early career. It helped me be more comfortable with taking risks, like switching from writing to UX.

Dogs or cats?
Cats! I hope to get one soon after five years without a kitty roomie.

What is your superpower?
A colleague recently told me that I’m the keenest observer he’s met. Quickly taking in my surroundings and minding people’s behavior comes naturally to me. My heightened observation skills allow me to make smart decisions by realizing potential issues while others are just beginning to see an opportunity.

 

Get to know Sara, Director of Product Design – Target.com

What is the best thing about working in Product Design?
What I’ve always loved is solving a big, gnarly problem involving technical limitations and true guest problems / benefits that has a nice juicy financial impact. Ecommerce provides lots of opportunities to do that.

What is the hardest thing about working in Product Design?
Having to make compromises and sacrifices to get things done. I’m a recovering perfectionist and I’ve learned it’s more important to ship something than to hold it close until it’s 100%. We need to get things out there and learn from the reaction to them.

What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
Building our team! Over the five years I’ve been here, we have grown from a team of 10 working on a project-by-project basis, to the team of 60 we have today. We’re embedded within products for Target.com, Target apps, Registries and Enterprise tools for corporate and store team members. And we’re still growing, influencing and making great software for Target. It’s been an amazing ride so far and our trajectory is pushing us toward even greater impact.

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
This is a company whose mission I really believe in. The image Target has of being an inclusive, fun and caring place is true both in our stores for our guests as well as at the office. I truly love the people I work with and enjoy coming to work to hang out with them and work together to create cool stuff.

What was the most exciting thing that happened this year?
Target announced its’ holiday (Thanksgiving through New Years’) earnings results and they were amazing. It’s always great to see how all of our efforts pay off for the guest and the company. Retail is a tough industry right now and I truly believe in the work we’re doing here and I’m happy to see our guests respond to it as well.

Who/What should every designer be reading/following right now?
I’ve enjoyed Luke Wroblewski’s series of “what would augment reality?” http://bit.ly/2n3MDQV

For research, Tomer Sharon is doing some really interesting work in gathering & making research insights available to an organization: https://medium.com/@tsharon. This is something we’re working on developing at Target as well because we do so much research and we need to make sure everyone can access and use it.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
It’s hard to remember that far back. It was probably a princess and a teacher.

Best career advice that you’ve received?
Always be training your replacement. It’s the only way you yourself can move on to new things.

Dogs or cats?
I have one of each at home. I’d also like to own goats, chickens, a pig or two, keep bees and also have a couple of horses. I’m not willing to choose any one species, apparently.

What is your superpower?
Solving problems and being persistent in getting the hard stuff done.

Anything else you want to say?
We’re hiring Designers, Researchers and UX Writers on most of our teams!

Get to Know Jennifer, Principal UX Researcher

What is the best thing about being a UX Researcher?
Being a researcher means you are getting paid to ask a lot of questions and it is an asset to keep one’s child-like curiosity. My most favorite part is during analyses of findings because a researcher has this exclusive chance of knowing something “new” that potentially no one else knows or has thought of before. It is a brief moment, magical almost, but it is an experience shared by researchers around the world and throughout history – the joy of discovery.

What is the hardest thing about being a UX Researcher?
To be a researcher is like being that one horrible person telling everyone else that “their baby is ugly.” It is something that researchers need to prepare for, mentally & emotionally. I have experienced different reactions through the years and I have learned that what separates great researchers from rest is the fact that great researchers don’t say “your baby is ugly” but instead, telling others “so it is not perfect but it could approximate perfection, let us work together to make it better than how it is right now.”

What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
My first month at Target can be best described by the phrase “hitting the ground running” because as I was just getting to know my colleagues, setting up my benefits, and learning the new acronyms used in the company, I was also running back-to-back research studies both in-person and remote. Thriving within Target culture is something I consider an accomplishment. With regards to “the greatest” – that is yet to come.

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
At Target, I have never felt lost or alone. Despite the sub-zero temperature on my first day, the UX and Product teams have given me the warmest of welcomes. There was always someone who could answer my questions or pointed me to someone who could. At Target, I am surrounded by strong & intelligent people. I appreciate working alongside people who are accomplished and talented but, more notably, people who see me, hear me, and treat me as their equal.

What was the most exciting thing that happened recently?
EVERYTHING has been exciting but if I have to choose one, it’s got to be the research that I have been doing with Apparel & Accessories. On the surface, the task disguised itself as like any other research round that I have been doing for many years now. However, when I started talking to guests about the topic, I have discovered perspectives, motivations, experiences that I was not previously paying attention to. The experience was a growth opportunity and what could be more exciting than that?

What should every designer be reading right now?
Every designer should try to have a deeper understanding of how the human mind works, no matter how difficult or boring some of the reading materials might seem at first. Daniel Kahneman (a Nobel laureate) and Amos Tversky are two of my favorite cognitive psychologists because their studies on judgment and decision making & behavioral economics have a lot of practical applications, especially with user experience design work. For starters, I would recommend reading Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow.”

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I have always wanted to become a scientist. Growing up in Philippines, I used to watch a science show on television and part of the intro song goes this way: “tayo’y likas na scientist” (we are born with the curiosity of a scientist). I took that to heart. When kids around me would say they wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer, I said: “I am going to be a scientist” even when it was not cool to be one or when no one really knew what it meant. Instead of pursuing medical school after my undergrad, I left home to study abroad – that adventure led me to be a researcher at Target.

Best career advice that you’ve received?
“It is ok to be confused. It is ok to change your mind.” These were the words of my adviser in graduate school. She said this when I was not sure which career path to take for fear that I would make a mistake in my decisions and end up unhappy and feeling trapped. Her advice made me more aware that my needs and wants may change over time. Isn’t it curious when statements of “uncertainty” are the ones that actually make us feel more “certain” about the decisions we make?

Dogs or cats?
Dogs. 100%. I have a dog named Blue, a 14-year-old, Rottweiler and Blue Heeler mix. He is our part-time pillow, part-time cuddle-buddy, part-time alarm clock, pretend attack dog, and full-time eating machine.

What is your dream superpower?
I would like to be able to read minds, from afar. That would streamline communication big time. Also, that would make me the best researcher the world has ever seen.

Anything else you want to say?
If you would like to enjoy the sun, sea, and sand while learning about User Experience in Southeast Asia, join me in Manila, Philippines in May for the User Experience Philippines Conference (#UXPH2018). As the current President of the Board and one of UXPH’s founding member, I invite you to follow our journey at www.uxphilippines.com.

Get to Know Sunoh, Lead Product Designer

What is the best thing about being a UX designer?
The best thing about being a UX designer is that our jobs put us at the frontlines of problem-solving for our end-users and our contribution is known. Since my background is in fine arts, I’ve always appreciated the feeling of creating physical things. Though UX is digital and not physically tangible, its impact on bottom-line value and improving user experiences are still very measurable and the profession is finally receiving the recognition and market-demand it deserves. I think it’s a great time to be a UX designer.

What are some of the challenges of being a UX designer?
Communicating effectively and respectfully with your product team & users when there might be disagreements about the design, whether it’s an aesthetics concern, usability issue or simply a preference thing. I’ve found that it’s not only about “what’s right”, “what’s best”, “what I like”, or “what’s easiest”… in a team-culture focused company like Target, you still need to foster collaboration, transparency and shared wins.

I’ve worked in small teams, big teams, remote teams and co-located teams and every single environment poses different challenges and advantages when it comes to influencing and efficiency.
Currently, Target’s dedication to an agile development process and co-located scrum team pods is definitely my favorite but I am still working through the nuances of trying to make the product great and also keep everyone on the team happy in the process.

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
I love the culture. There’s a lot of energy and contagious enthusiasm. Everyone seems to exhibit optimism and genuine desire to do good work. As an introvert and systematic communication style guy, I feel encouraged and challenged to focus on people, relationships and team-building over simply producing deliverables or being all-business.

What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
Though I’ve only been with Target for 8 months, I’m most proud of how many different growth opportunities I’ve been able to take part in. I created visuals for Demo Day and helped a cross-functional redesign workshop for another team. Months later, I pitched a product idea that was selected to go through Techstar’s Pitch Bootcamp and eventually presented in front of a larger audience and panel. I also got to attend a PowerTalk training session in between and later this month I’ll attend a design conference in Chicago, recruiting for Target.

What was the most exciting thing that happened recently?
I visited the Upper Peninsula (Houghton, Michigan) this past weekend where they get a ton of lake effect snow. A foot of fresh snow had fallen the day before and so we were surrounded by 4-5 feet of snow in many areas. While we were driving by Lake Superior, I noticed there were huge ice slabs scattered throughout the shoreline. From a distance, it didn’t look like much but upon closer inspection, we discovered an incredible sight: rare blue ice formations across the coast line.

Apparently, ice only appears blue when it is sufficiently consolidated so that air bubbles do not interfere with the passage of light. We stopped by the road to walk onto the frozen lake and got to climb/slide around the wonderful blue ice formations. Explore the details because they might lead to huge discoveries and #optoutside.

What should every designer be following right now?
Tesla / Elon Musk. I think their forward-thinking culture should be emulated and their early-adopter mindset is pushing the envelope on what can be accomplished.
Though reading news & browsing inspiration is nice… I think designers should be eagerly and BUSILY trying out new websites, web-applications, mobile apps, services, etc. Being an early adopter is no longer a geek thing—it’s an investment into your future and one of the best ways to keep the creative juices going.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a Catholic priest, live with my mom, and make art (sculptures) on the side. My devotion to my faith, love of my mom and creative side have not diminished by any means but I think I’ve managed to find other equally awesome ways to do those things as I’ve “grown up”… (I’m getting married in June, recently purchased a house with plenty of room for my mom to visit/live in and I feel like design is a “practical application” of art!)

Best career advice that you’ve received?
I learned a very important lesson in my first internship during my junior year of college: Before I had to present some deliverables to a super high-up internal client, one of the senior designers sat me down and coached me to be direct and clear about expectations and if necessary, to refuse committing to any deliverables or timelines that were not realistic. Though the internal client was a VP and I desperately wanted to impress, I took his advice to heart and have always stuck by it—whether it’s with freelance clients, my fiancé, past bosses, or even in my current role working with various stakeholders and leaders.

I believe this was a practical application of the “always under-promise and over-deliver” advice and I’ve found it to be the key to maintaining a healthy work-life balance while building up a reputation of reliability.

Dogs or cats?
DOGS. I have a French Bulldog named Luna and she has her own Instagram with more followers than me @Luna_LaFrenchie

What is your superpower?
I think I have a unique superpower in organization/cleaning.

Get to Know Joe, Principal Product Designer

What is the best thing about being a Product Designer?
Working with the guests. I like solving problems, but the real fun is seeing the solutions at work. In the app world, that means frequent visits to the store and awkwardly approaching random guests. It’s my favorite type of research.

What is the hardest thing about being a Product Designer?
Bringing groups together to talk about tough situations and solve problems. As a designer, there is a lot of energy put into negotiating across groups.

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
As a Minnesota native, I have always appreciated and admired Target’s presence in our community. I’m proud to work for an organization that has helped make Minnesota a great place to live and work.

What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
Being a part of the team that brought the flagship and Cartwheel apps together. It was a great experience to be part of the project from initial discovery, to research, and final roll out. Merging Cartwheel and the flagship app was a huge project, but it felt great to accomplish the goal and – I might be a bit biased – but I think the experience is pretty awesome!

Who should every designer be reading/following right now?
Luke Wroblewski (@lukew) – Product Director at Google – Many designers already follow him or have seen him speak. If you don’t follow him on Twitter, do it now. I appreciate his straight-forward presentation of information.

What was the most exciting thing that happened this month?
For the past month, I’ve been working with my 7-year-old son on his Cub Scout Pinewood Derby car. This will be the 3rd car we’ve done together. Building the car with 100% participation from my little guy has been challenging (ever tried to get a 7-year-old away from his iPad?), but, I persisted, and we have had a lot of fun.
The whole process has a lot of similarities to my role as a designer: We started with his idea and sketched it on paper. The first pass was to cut out large pieces from a block of wood and then we did the refine work. Between multiple coats of paint, we tweaked the wheels to get better movement. Finally, we assembled the car and added weights to get it to exactly 5 ounces.
Up next: Testing his car on the track. Then, race day – to be continued…

What did you want to be when you grew up?
Astronaut, then pilot. I went to Space Camp when I was 10 years old and was in Civil Air Patrol in High School. Total air and space geek. Not sure what happened . . . but life brought me to design/UX.

Best career advice that you’ve received?
It was my first job out of college and I was lacking in confidence. As a result, I went to my supervisor with A LOT of questions. One day she interrupted me and said, “Only come to me with a question, if you have some solutions in mind.”
The idea of always bringing solutions – along with my questions – really stuck with me.

Dogs or cats?
Neither. I grew up with cats and dogs, but as an adult – I have no interest.

What is your superpower?
GSD – I get stuff done. Make that list and systematically check things off. Nothing better than seeing that completed project.

Anything else you want to say?
Keep it simple.

An Enriching Career in Analytics at Target

I am part of the business intelligence team where we focus on processing and enriching the data coming from a variety of sources. I always wanted to work on a project where I could deal with lot of data. I believe processing data at scale hones your technical expertise. Target was an obvious choice for me because it provided me this opportunity to work with volumes of data, along with the robustness of Target’s enterprise BI intelligence platform.

At Target, we recognize that our competitive advantage in offering value to our guests hinges on our ability to leverage the full capability of our data assets. We build technical solutions to collect, manage and store data from a wide range of sources. The output is leveraged to drive Target’s important strategic objectives for creating compelling and differentiated experiences for our guests. Traditionally we used to have this data enrichment in Datastage and Teradata.

With the emergence of Big Data, we have been using a lot of tools available in the Big Data ecosystem such as Hive, Oozie, Sqoop or custom MapReduce programs to process data at scale. We have been trying to build a federated enterprise layer with a perfect blend of traditional and open source technologies. To add to that, we are also investing in the development of in-house tools to cater to business specific needs. This approach has provided opportunities for team members to apply fundamental computational techniques in order to solve real world problems. These tools are proving to be a great enabler for business to drive decisions.

There is a huge demand for real-time analytics and operational reporting, for which we rely on technologies like Kafka and Storm. Furthermore, we build data platforms by ingesting raw data from varied operational systems in order to explore different aspects of data. This was traditionally hindered either due to the lack of storage or processing.

Our team is technology agnostic. Real learning comes at the cost of occasional failures, which is well-accepted across the organization. This has resulted in a culture where team members are willing to experiment. There are several solutions that my team has helped build through such experiments. There is no bias shown towards any programming language or technology. Team members are encouraged to pick the right language (be it java, scala, python or R) that suits the need. All team members have access to technical training portals like Pluralsight, Datacamp, Safari online. These are proving to be good technical sources for team members to upskill.

Adoption of agile tools and practices have drastically improved our pace to implement solutions in production. In-house PaaS capabilities further add to our agility. Team members are able to focus more on building solutions rather than creating development environments. We use a gamut of tools to automate our infrastructure and code deployment viz., VM as a service, OpenStack, Chef, Jenkins, Drone, Ansible, Git, etc.

My technical journey at Target has helped me evolve as a professional. I started with working on traditional tools then progressed to solve complex new age business problems with latest technologies. In retrospect, these challenges have always proven to be great learning opportunities. For a person who is passionate about Open Source technologies and excited by the idea of building solutions at scale, Target is the place to be!

 

Get to know Kristiana, Principal Product Designer

What is the best thing about being a Principal Product Designer?
For me, the best thing about being a designer is tackling the big, sticky, complex problems underlying guest experiences and finding that “ah ha” moment when you realize how to make things easier and more delightful. I enjoy using diverse skills every day (visual design, information architecture, research, strategy) and working with different subject matter experts to accomplish things I never could have done alone.

What is the hardest thing about being a Principal Product Designer?
Wanting to do so many things and not having enough time. Where does the time go?

What was the most exciting thing that happened this month?
I partnered with the Internal Innovation Team (facilitators of Techstars) to develop a new curriculum for product teams to take their pitching skills to the next level. The half day workshop provided the skills needed to craft and deliver effective pitches for product ideas, from 30 seconds in an elevator to 4 minutes on a stage. It all culminated in the final Shark Tank-style pitch competition with an executive panel of judges to help the teams secure support & resources to pursue their big ideas. It was a lot of fun!

What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
Spending nine months building a business case and lobbying to start a new product team for operational email. It took a lot of time and persistence to help people see the vision and commit resources, but it was worth it. We got some rock star talent on the team and they are really making a difference!

Who/What should every designer be reading/following right now?
TechCrunch and Wired are my go-to’s for design/tech news. I’m also really interested in service design, so I follow Andy Polaine, Christopher Noessel, Jeff Gothelf and the Adaptive Path crew. My favorite things to read by far are books by Brené Brown, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, or watching TEDtalks by awesome female entrepreneurs.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
A professional figure skater, a unicorn or a designer. My parents are both designers so I had some great inspiration. I guess I’m kind of a unicorn too?!

Best career advice that you’ve received?
Be true to yourself and focus on your strengths. Don’t spend your whole life trying to overcome all your weaknesses and be something you’re not. Find allies who can compensate for you in those areas and together you’ll make a strong team…and you’ll be happier!

Dogs or cats?
I love both! I lived with dogs growing up, but currently we have two rescue kitties at home: a black cat named Mozzie and a gray tabby named Neal.

What is your superpower/unicorn flavor?
Maybe the flavor would be rainbow? I do a lot of research and IA work, brainstorming/ideation, visual design, prototyping, and sometimes front-end code. I also have a background in marketing, so I do a lot of writing and selling ideas. My leader likes to tell me I am the queen of designing PowerPoint decks (not a compliment), but it’s mostly because I enjoy helping people become persuasive storytellers. I don’t have one specialty – I kind of dabble in a little of everything.

Anything else you want to say?
For me, UX design is a part of daily life that I can’t turn off in my brain. When I go somewhere and the signs are confusing, or there’s a bad interface that causes frustration, my first thought is always “how would I fix this?” I usually turn to my husband and express these inner thoughts, to which he rolls his eyes and says “stop working.” Honestly, when you are in the business of being a designer who solves usability problems, your work is never done!

Get to know Ryan, Lead Accessibility Consultant

What is the best thing about being an Accessibility Consultant?
Knowing that the work we do reaches literally millions of people. That’s empowering.

What is the hardest thing about being an Accessibility Consultant?
People not realizing just how easy accessibility is, so they are daunted by it. If I had a nickel for every time I had to reassure people that accessibility was easy, I’d be up to $3.85 by now.

What was the most exciting thing that happened this month?
I am working on a project to give greater in-store shopping access to people who are blind and visually impaired. The fact that I have the freedom to work on this is incredible. I appreciate the ability to be able to pursue passion projects alongside my other work.

What should every designer be reading right now?
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (but just because it’s an amazing book, even though it has nothing to do with design or accessibility).

What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
Speaking at SXSW about the importance of creating a culture of accessibility. That was amazing, and we heard from a lot of people who wanted their companies to emulate us.

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
All the friendly people who are excited to push the envelope. Accessibility isn’t something we do. It’s who we are.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
A guitar player in a local band who got to play weekend gigs at the Silver Bullet (The Silver Bullet closed decades ago).

Best career advice that you’ve received?
Meet people where they are, but still invite them to your party.

Dogs or cats?
Cats until I can spend more time at home. Then both.

What is your superpower/unicorn flavor?
My superpower is a D10 in public speaking, and my unicorn flavor definitely contains curry.

Anything else you want to say?
People with disabilities are just people. I don’t want to be treated differently or handled with care. I just want to have the same opportunities and live the same life as everyone else.

 

Get to know Bill, Principal Product Designer

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an architect. My mom used to clean houses for a living. Much to her chagrin, I would tag along during the summer months on jobs as she cleaned rich, fancy homes. I would thumb thru her client’s copies of Southern Living to look at the architectural house plans that were printed in each issue. I took drafting classes early in high school and can still sketch a beautiful floor plan in AutoCADD. But ultimately, my interest and ability in math was my demise. So, now I craft digital plans instead.

What is the best thing about being a product UX designer?
The best thing about being a product UX designer is that there are no guardrails. We are responsible for designing and creating products. With qualitative and quantitative data at our finger tips, we are more empowered than most to discover new ways to engage with our guests. Layer on top of that the amazing design, research and engineering talent we have on our UX team, and the possibilities are endless.

What is the hardest thing about being a product UX designer?
The hardest is balancing the simple vs. the sexy. By simple, I mean the work which is no frills, straightforward experience design. And by sexy, I mean the snazzy, eye-popping work that grabs the attention of colleagues and industry experts. The simple work often leads to engaging, metric driving experiences; but it may not be the talk of social media. Designers must find the balance, which isn’t always easy. If a designer can leverage the power of simple and reach of sexy, they can create something amazing.

What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
The experience that is Target.com. I was a part of the small team who “went rogue”, stowed away in a room and started building what came to be the new Target.com. The audience and attention that the site gets today makes it more gratifying and rewarding.

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
Our potential. That sounds cliché, so hear me out. We’re an inclusive, loved brand that’s been around the block. We’re grounded in marketing excellence, creative genius and merchandising distinction (amongst others). That, in and of itself, is something most strive for. Only recently have we begun to see the impact of including technology as a foundational pillar. The potential for our brand and, more importantly, our guests is great. And I believe all of us in design can have a direct impact on that potential.

What was the most exciting thing that happened this month?
You know when you work so hard at, what seems to be, a small task in the grand scheme of things? This often leads to that “What’s the point?” feeling. I had a breakthrough last week. I realized that, by taking services and capabilities (those “small tasks”) that already exist in our digital portfolio, we could combine them in a way that solved a real guest problem. And with it, a differentiated, industry leading experience. Now the fun work begins.

Who should every designer be reading/following right now?
Dann Petty. Most of his activity is on Twitter (@DannPetty). He’s generating and delivering content in new forms and finding ways to give back to the design community in the process.

Best career advice that you’ve received?
It’s a toss-up! A former boss once told me, “We’re not here to prove we’re qualified. That’s why we were hired. We’re here to mesh our qualifications and talents together. To learn how to work collaboratively and cohesively with one another.” And one of my favorites from a colleague was, “Why can’t you?”

Dogs or cats?
I don’t know if I’ve ever heard someone say, “Ugggh, I can’t stand dogs.” Cats on the other hand? I side with the majority on this one. Dogs.

What is your superpower?
I’m great at seeing opportunities everywhere. Let me explain. Anyone can solve problems, but when you can turn that problem-solving solution in to a growth opportunity, then you have something special. Here’s an example: You attended a concert last night. When your favorite song played, you probably grabbed your phone to capture a video. The video and audio quality isn’t great, but you’ve captured the moment. How might you solve the quality problem? You could get a better camera or you could purchase and download a live recording of the same song. But you’re missing out on an opportunity. You certainly weren’t the only person to record the concert. What if you were able to stitch your video together with other’s video of the same song at the same concert? Through enhanced video and audio mixing, you could create a quality, live recording of that song. The result is content which is valuable to you and many others. I’ve been told, the way my mind thinks, is unique. A superpower, if you will.

Anything else you want to say?
The opportunity to learn, grow and connect at Target is vast because of our size and culture. If time allows, I suggest others to take advantage of this. You can learn a lot.

Get to know Julieta, Senior Product Designer

Hi there, my name is Julieta and I’m a Senior Product Designer at Target. I previously worked at American Airlines, PayPal and Make-A-Wish foundation. I was asked a few questions about my time here at Target so far. Also, apparently I don’t know how to hold a mug properly. Enjoy!

What did you want to be when you grew up?
A painter like Bob Ross.

What is the best thing about being a UX designer?
That we get paid to play with computers.

What is the hardest thing about being a UX designer?
The industry is ever-changing, so you really have to keep up on the latest programs/trends/solutions. What was an innovative tool a year ago is obsolete now. The platforms change, the devices change, and people’s behaviors change. It’s difficult but also makes it very exciting.

What is your favorite thing about working at Target?
I’m from Mexico, and some people don’t know that every Sunday we get a Target insert in the newspaper with sales and promos. Growing up, I remember my brother and I browsing the insert together and pointing at what we would like to buy some day. We don’t have Target in Mexico so Target is not only aspirational, but indeed a magical place for my family. All 100+ members of my family are very proud I’m here.

What was the most exciting thing that happened this month?
A lot of exciting things happened! I’ve presented my work to over 30 people in different areas of expertise; I’ve successfully survived my first negative zero temperature days (I come from the desert); and I’ve met some of the smartest, kindest, eloquent and inspiring people on the UX team!

Who/What should every designer be reading/following right now?
I have a love/hate relationship with design inspiration. Sometimes it is better to forget what everyone else is doing and just throw crazy futuristic ideas on the table and see how we can realistically scale it down and maybe come up with an original solution.

What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career at Target so far?
Within my first month, I was able to research, sketch, design and make a working prototype for the end to end experience for Back To College.

Best career advice that you’ve received?
Form follows function (a quote from Architect Louis Sullivan).

Dogs or cats?
I love them both! Tragically, I’m allergic to cats so I can’t have one. I do have 2 Jack Russell Terriers. They’re 10 and 8 years old but act like puppies.

What is your superpower/unicorn flavor?
I’m pretty good at staying optimistic when things don’t go as planned.

Anything else you want to say?
The Target culture is humble, laid-back and extremely diverse which is very important to me. Target guides, trains and encourages women to be in leadership positions. Target embraces and continues to surprise me with its support for a diverse and inclusive culture. Target cares about sustainability: from the recycled paper in our copiers to the compostable silverware in the cafeteria … Everything you may ever need is right here, so you really can just bring your true self to your job every day, and do the best work of your career.

Holiday with a Capital H

If you have never worked in retail, than you’ve have missed out on the grand experience we call “Holiday”. On the other hand, you’ve probably actually enjoyed the time of year from mid-November to Christmas while you celebrate with your friends and family, and take advantage of the seeming thousands of days of deals from the many retailers trying to get their share of wallet from you. Holiday, with a capital H, is something that has to be experienced to be believed. And every Holiday is the most important one yet, because those six weeks account for 50% or more of yearly revenue.

When you work in IT in a retailer, your entire year hinges on whether or not the systems you support survive the shopping onslaught of Holiday. In the online space, an ecommerce site might make 30% of its revenue in the five days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday.

The massive scale up to 20X normal daily traffic was largely accomplished without clouds in the 2000s. You had to take a really good guess as to how much infrastructure was needed, build it all out over the course of the year, and hope you weren’t overwhelmed by consumer behavior. You could easily receive 1M requests per second at the edge, and 100,000+ requests per second to your actual systems. If those requests were concentrated on the wrong systems, you could easily take down your site.

After a few Holidays, you realize the second the current year’s Holiday is over, you are immediately planning for the next one. There is no break. It’s like a giant tsunami that is slowly approaching, day by day. Once this year’s tsunami passes, you turn around and can see next year’s on the horizon. And while there are many stories of failure, from every failure we learn something and implement fixes for the next year’s wave. This is why Holiday in retail is such fun, every year you get to test your mettle against the highest traffic the world can generate. You planned all year, you implemented new technologies and new solutions, but sometimes the consumer confounds you and does something totally unexpected.
It’s those moments where the unexpected happens that keep IT in retail exciting, the times when you can tell your friends the Holiday story starting with “You will not believe what just happened…”

Joel is a VP Architecture in Target Technology Services. This is an excerpt from Part XII of his blog series, A Digital Ecommerce Transformation.

My Experience: Grace Hopper Conference

Earlier this month a large group from Target’s Engineering & Recruiting teams headed to the Grace Hopper Conference (GHC) in Orlando.  It was a busy week filled with great speakers and new relationships formed.  Target was nominated as an AnitaB.org’s Top Companies for Women Technologists – specifically a company that has representation of women technologists above the mean, very exciting!

One of my favorite experiences at GHC was leading Target’s Women in Technology Workshop.  This idea stemmed from the concept of working through tough issues that women in technology face.  The topics were:

Pay Equity/Negotiate Your Worth

Having Your Voice Heard

Overcoming Obstacles, Frustrations, Remaining Resilient

This was an active workshop to talk through past experiences, current situations, things you’ve tried, and ideas you have heard about.  We came back for a rapid fire share of topics to consider and consistent themes, things learned, things that made us feel uncomfortable and practical real-life application.

Below are the takeaways from each group at the GHC session.

Pay Equity/Negotiate Your Worth:
Know your Market Value – ask in a safe environment, consider benefits/location tradeoffs, utilize tools like salary.com & Glassdoor

Practice Negotiation – concentrate on: what values do you bring, take out “maybe” “sorry” “I think” “I’d really appreciate”; think through value of benefit package; and Just Ask!

Practice telling your story – even for an internal role

Having Your Voice Heard:
Be Loud!  Take initiative/ask questions

ASK:
*Actionable feedback
*Specific
*Kind

Debate – be willing to be wrong, just not silent

Visibility with Sr. leadership
*Collaboration tools, i.e. confluence, hipchat, slack
*Show your work!
*Speak up – ask to get involved

Coaching vs. blaming
*Ask why
*Collaborative coaching
*Smile back (aggressive voices)

Find a mentor/coach

Overcoming Obstacles, Frustrations, Remaining Resilient:
Speak Up, model what works, name it; just keep moving, take the next steps

Focus on your emotional resilience
*Know how you can contribute
*Move from survival to learn & thrive
*Where am I going/why?
*Find a supporter
*Breaks/Balance – feed your belief in what’s possible

*I originally posted this to my LinkedIn page; the views and experiences are mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of Target.

My Target Internship: Jabari

Target offers Store Executive, Distribution, HQ Undergrad and HQ Graduate internship opportunities.  Want to learn more?  Jabari, an HQ intern in Technology, shares his experience below.

Name: Jabari
Lives in: White Plains, NY
College year: 4th year at SUNY New Paltz

Why I decided to do an internship at Target:  This is my second summer at Target. The first time I chose to intern here was because I had the opportunity to meet several recruiters and visit the headquarters. The Target representatives demonstrated to me Target had a great company culture, and there was a lot of new technology to be learned. After my first summer, I can say that Target exceeded my expectations. The laid back, but still hard-working and productive tech culture was everything that I imagined and more. Through that experience, I have learned skills that have jumpstarted my professional career. I chose to come back because I knew that with Target, it could only get better. I knew that even though I learned a ton of things, my ten-week experience only showed me a tiny piece of what Target has to offer.

Which Target team(s) will I be working with this summer, and what my role is:  This year I am working with Data Store Services. In particular, I will be working as a Front-end JavaScript Web Developer to develop a web portal for internal use.

What I hope to learn and what skills I hope to build: My technological skills lie primarily in the realm of back-end Java development. For this reason, I am delighted to have been placed on a team where I will be working almost entirely with front-end. I hope to end this experience as a confident entry-level web developer who has a good grasp on JavaScript frameworks such as AngularJS, NodeJS, and has a great understanding of design patterns such as Factory and Model View Controller (MVC).

My Target team first impressions:  I was surprised at the large size of the broader team, and they were all very kind when we did our rounds introducing ourselves. My immediate team is just myself and another intern. On the other hand, contrary to the larger team, I was surprised at how small our team was!

Favorite moment so far: My favorite experience so far has been when I learned that I was on a team of two that will be working on an entirely new project. Although this means more work for me, this means I will really become a master of my trade. Last year with my first experience working at the enterprise level, I really needed the support of working on a well-established team that already had its product in development. However, this time around, the team only consists of another intern and myself, and we are in charge of everything. I am ready for the challenge!

 

Engineering without the Bro-code

I would like to share my experience when I started at Target three years ago. My first day started like most at a large company. A recruiter welcomed me and she showed me to my desk and introduced me to my engineering manager. I went to lunch with my EM and she told me about the team and what my role would be on the team. After lunch I was introduced to the product owner of the team. The PO talked about her goals and the exciting initiatives she had planned for the group.

At this point I want to step back and point out the pronouns that I used. All of the people who I have talked about were female. This was really the first thing that stood out to me. Women in technology is a large focus at Target. Throughout my career in tech it has been primarily dominated by men. I had assumed that Target would really be no different, but that first day really opened my eyes to just how much the tech industry is suffering from this imbalance. Now, after three years in a “more balanced” environment I can’t see moving to a company that is skewed towards the male gender.

Having technology teams that are more balanced brings something that I didn’t know was missing. That thing is empathy. Empathy for our teammates, empathy for our internal users, and empathy for our guests. As an engineer who deals with data and systems I didn’t realize the importance of this. I will admit that at other companies I have worked at, the bro-code mentality was strong. We didn’t take into consideration how our users would feel when using our system. What was valued was how awesome our code was, or how fast the system processed data. At Target, having women on the team has brought that consideration back into the mix for me.

Our CIO has committed to a goal of 50 percent female hires for entry-level engineering roles this year. I am very proud and excited about having management that sees the benefit for Target. Within Target we have many communities. One of those is TWIST (Target Women in Science & Technology). This community is focused on engaging and advancing women in STEM careers. Different events within the community include Science & Technology Days (STEM activities and presentations for ~150 high-school girls and teacher), Girl Scouts STEM Day, and education activity kits that Target team members can check out and share at their children’s schools.

From my first day at Target to today I respect and enjoy all of the contributions and collaborations with my teammates. The future is bright for women in tech at Target and I can’t wait to see how far we can go.

codewithtarget.com

Think retail, think technology

10 years ago, I started my journey at Target as a senior software engineer in Bangalore.

Over the last decade, I have been a part of the technology modernization initiatives that have enabled us to work in a nimble and agile manner. For instance, we have moved away from older methods of creating reports in legacy DB2/DataStage and using WebFocus technologies with waterfall approach to actively adopting newer technologies like Teradata/Hadoop in agile methodology.

At Target, we are building advanced tools to gather insights into how we can enhance the shopping experience of our guests. The adoption of DevOps/CICD models in BI was one of the newer initiatives that I was a part of. The BI systems team (Shankar and I from Target India along with Nathan, Randy and Jeremy from Minneapolis) helped identified potential use cases for this implementation. We used technologies like VmWare, Teradata Express, Docker, Chef, Jenkins and CloudBee to deliver this project using agile methodology.

Today, BI is enabled with the CICD framework – defined from development to PROD server. We have seen several benefits like:
-More agility for product deliverables by enabling unlimited deployments into PROD servers
-Automatic code accuracy is maintained – what we do in PROD is being tested in DEV
-Automatic surety of the code version – the version of the code running in PROD is also available in the Version Control System (VCS)
-Auto-test and approval facility for a functionality that is changed/created
-Auto-backup of code(s) for any backout purposes
-Auto-communication to the right audiences on final deployment status

The fact that we work as an extension of our Minneapolis headquarters gives us the scope to collaborate with partners in the U.S. and learn more about the global retail landscape. This helps me gain immense knowledge and experience and I am able to contribute to other enterprise-level technology modernization initiatives.

As exciting as this field is, it is also one of the most dynamic industries. So you would agree that it’s extremely important to keep ourselves updated on the latest tools and technologies. And, that’s precisely why every Target team member is empowered with high-tech machines and can upskill themselves on-the-job through platforms like Pluralsight and Code Schools. In my capacity as a lead BI engineer, I also support the L&D team as a technical trainer. This gives me the chance to support the larger team build the right skillsets.

Well, these are some of the career experiences that make me want to come back to work every day. If you are an engineer and retail excites you, Target is the place to be!

coders gonna do what coders gonna do.

Internal events are an important part of how Target is growing it’s engineering culture and gives folks an opportunity to learn and do things in new and different ways.

An example would be the CODEred Hack event held on June 28 where 160+ engineers from across Target converged on Target Plaza Commons to spend 6 hours bringing an idea to (hopefully) life.

28 teams worked on team identified projects that included everything from chatbots to a project that produced computer generated artwork with a Target flair to contributing a fix for a Camel Kafka open issue.

Wait. Some projects involved helping the open source community? YEP! Target strongly believes in giving back to the communities of which it is a member…including the larger technology community.

So what was it like at the hack? Imagine a celebration of all that is code where you are free to celebrate your inner nerd/geek/coder. Now multiply that by 10 with plenty of snacks, pizza and caffeine to keep you coding. Toss in a summer day glorious enough to have the Commons’ jumbo garage door open (see picture) onto the massive lawn complete with games for the occasional break. It was that good.

The day wrapped with 90-second demos of work done between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., with attendees voting for winners in one of five categories:

• Make.IT.Happen – we need to make this real NOW
• #almostawesomesauce – keep iterating, keep going
• Thinking Outside the Box – using a tool or capability in a new or unexpected way
• Most Spectacular Fail – great idea but failed to realize on this day
• Coders Choice – think People’s Choice Awards … but for Coders

Members from our summer intern program team won “Coders Choice” for creating a chatbot to help folks new in town get familiar with Minneapolis (including fun things to do).

At the end of the day, as one of the event organizers I can honestly say the following quotes from attendees made all the work worthwhile:

• “I loved seeing the swirl of technical activity! All coming together to create something new/innovative/or extremely needed. It is a very cool business high.”

• “It was cool to spend a day focused on an objective and work with my peers on something interesting (and fun).”

Next event on the agenda? Target’s first joint event converging our internal Product, Lean, Agile and DevOps communities (we’re calling it Mid by Midwest). Look for an update here in August.

TIP: Want to know what’s happening when it happens? Follow @CodewithTarget and #DOTGT on Twitter or Instagram.  Interested in learning more about tech at Target?  Check out codewithtarget.com

TGT @ HackingEDU: Talent is Talent

If the attendees at the 2015 #HackingEDU event in San Mateo, CA (October 23-25) have a common trait, it’s passion about education and technology, heavy emphasis being on the technology aspect. Sitting at long tables in uncomfortable folding chairs, consuming mass quantities of energy drinks, water, snacks, candy, with eclectic music tracks playing, over a 36 hour hackathon, their attention is focused on using technology to creatively solve a problem. One thing is abundantly clear when talking with several of the participants: diversity in the technology field transcends common groupings (e.g., gender, race, Mac vs. PC).

Diversity for Target is more than a buzzword, it’s part of who we are and how we operate every day. Diversity is important to us because, like the Guests we serve, we’re an incredibly diverse group with offices and team members that span the globe (from our HQ locations in Minnesota and India to remote offices across 6 continents (sorry Antarctica)). For us, the goal is to be exclusively inclusive.

So how was this commitment to diversity manifested at the #HackingEDU event?

Diversity in Degrees: Early Friday night a student approached the Target booth asking about job opportunities. Her one concern was if her degree in neuroscience would be as limiting of a factor in Target technology as it seemed to be with other companies she was talking with. E.B. Hakkinen, the microbiologist staffing the booth and who is currently working on Target’s cloud engineering team, assured her it wouldn’t be a problem. Discovering your passion late in your college career is hardly unusual. If you have the proven ability to learn, work hard and #DO awesome, you’ve got what it takes to have a career at Target.

Diversity in Desired Opportunities: Not everyone was interested in talking full-time, post-college careers (at least not yet) and some were. The great thing was being able to talk about some of Target’s great programs: Summer Internships and the Technology Leadership Program. Both provide participants with the opportunity to work as part of a team creating technology solutions for a Fortune 50 enterprise that can change how people shop, connect and reach their full potential. Both can lead to full-time job offers based on performance and program completion.

Sponsoring events like #HackingEDU and Grace Hopper are examples of Target’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and education.

Interested in joining Target?  Learn more here.

6 Reasons Why New Developers + Target Technology = People I Want to Work With

Throughout my career I’ve had the opportunity to work with many new Developers at Target. The problems they solve are just as diverse as their skills, background and expertise, but across each new Engineer are patterns that make them especially great to work with. Here are 6 reasons why they are leading technology at Target:

1. Hungry to learn new technologies – On my team we’re introducing new technologies all the time. Team Members new to the team are fearless to jump right in, figure it out, and become go to people for what they’ve learned. People like Danny who mastered Chef and Cassandra (and speaking about it this year at C* Summit); Matt who helped introduce the use of Packer, Consul, and Graphite; or Nick and Corey who’ve become go to people for infra as code techniques. They’re all perfect examples of tackling technologies and quickly becoming experts for the team.

2. Not afraid to question the norm to try and make things better – This guy, Alex, saw an opportunity to take a logging technology he mastered and applied it to our distribution centers outside of his normal work and without being asked to do it. He just saw the problem and jumped at the chance to make it better. It saved us a ton of money. He even wrote a blog about his experience and he spoke about it at a conference last month.

3. Not bashful to organize and lead – In many cases a new engineer’s only experience is in Agile methodologies, so they make great scrum masters. Katie is a person on our team who’s not afraid to step in, coordinate work across developers and clients, and use tools like Jira or GitHub issues to get the job done. She’s really good at it and sets a great example for others to follow.

4. Understand the importance of contributing back to open source – Hundreds of examples of this, so I just picked a random one to illustrate how second nature this is – Cody wants to make Chefspec better so he did. Not only Target benefits from Cody’s work here – the developer community gets the knowledge too. But so many people on the team understand that the benefit to the developer community will also be a benefit to Target in the long run as other ideas are shared. It’s just become the norm – I like that!

5. Create big change and pioneer it – Eddie helped create our internal wiki.target.com which currently has 145,995 articles and 1,676,841 edits by 16,987 users. Aaron launched the Target Tech blog. Jack created a Go web framework in use at Target. I also like how they do it without asking – they’re just drawn to it and make it happen!

6. Dive in, start coding, learn quickly – Here’s a super recent example: Ashley, Jiaqi, Katrina, and Alden — I’m looking in GitHub Enterprise and I can see they literally just joined it on June 24th and they’re already committing code and building a new API for api.target.com. They’re figuring out our dev standards, stack, Spring Boot, CI pipeline, ChatOps, etc. and they’re learning quickly!

Of course there are many more, but these are some of the reasons why I’m excited about the future of Engineering at Target.

There’s a club for that!

I admit it, I am a dabbler. Every few months, I am convinced I have discovered the hobby of my life. Like the time that I believed discussing a book a month with like-minded individuals was something I would always do. Or the time I thought crochet was not just for grandmas – I mean, look at all the neat stuff you can make with a hook and some yarn! Or when I felt that eloquent public speaking was something I had to master. The thing about all this dabbling is that you are always looking for people to show you the ropes (or the yarn, as the case may be), to help you get started, to share their experiences, and to learn something.

Which brings me to Target. I like to think of my employer as an enthusiastic enabler of my passion for dabbling. Target has a huge team of very diverse and talented people who are all passionate about, well, something. And they like to get together and talk about that something. They like to form groups, hold discussion forums, meet outside of work, organize events and energize anyone looking to learn their particular something! And Target likes that they like this, and actively encourages them!

Want to go running? There’s a club for that. Like ultimate Frisbee? Or skiing and snowboarding? Or dogs? Or cycling? Or gardening? Or innovating? Or cars? Maybe you are new to the Twin Cities and want to connect with others in a similar situation? Yes, there’s a club for that. It’s not all hobbies, either. Considering adoption? New mom? Or dad? There are groups looking for you! Passionate about advancing the role of women in technology? Yup, got you covered. Maybe you want to foster an inclusive culture at the workplace? Our Business Councils (such as Women’s, African American, Hispanic, LGBTA, and Asian) are a great place to start.

As I was writing this, I realized I have learned a ton from all the Target groups I encountered in my dabbling. They’ve changed me, and amazingly, I have sometimes changed them, though not always intentionally. Like the time I was the cause of the Target Motorcycle Club designating “sweeps” to ride at the back of the group because I decided to abandon my first group ride after struggling to keep up, completely oblivious to the panic I caused when the group discovered they had lost a first time rider! We all learned from that experience (and I got a bigger bike).

So, here’s to dabbling! And to my wonderful, crazy, passionate, fellow enthusiasts of something at Target! And to Target, for actively encouraging us! Which leaves me with the question, what next? Maybe some broomball? Yes, there’s a club for that!

Interested in joining Target?  Learn more here.

Adventures of a Dummy

Confession: I am a dummy. A whopper. And, let’s be honest, so are you. Every human being on the planet is a dummy just by the sheer fact that we can never know everything that there is to know. The pool of possible knowledge today is like something infinite expanding infinitely at a speed increasing to the power of infinity. OK. So this is a bit of an embellishment. And if I could recover any of my deep mathematic skills I learned proving the existence of things like zero, I couldn’t prove it. But it’s not far off. No matter what we do, we all are and will forever be dummies.

So let’s embrace it!

The last couple months, I have been doing just that. And it has been by far the BEST part of my job.

I am a technical architect and one of my awesome opportunities recently is to start us on a journey to service enable business intelligence owned data just like we would any other data in the company. Not only do I get to learn new services technologies, but we are also jumping into the automation tool deep end of the pool, and we’re swimming. Granted, it’s an awkward little doggy paddle at the moment, but we’re getting our form and finding our rhythm.

I cannot not tell you how much I am enjoying this! Spending hours digging into Chef with its cookbooks, recipes and knife commands, learning how to create my own virtual machines on Openstack, reusing components in our enterprise Github to construct a complete app server in minutes, … OK, in reality, it took me days, hours of agonizing frustration, and several cries for help (thank you online Communities and automation lab!) to get to the point where I can do these things in minutes. But that was part of the adventure and the ultimate achievement is so much sweeter because of it.

Every day, I am striving to learn and try something new, take a step forward, and granted, some days, 2 steps back. But I am always moving on my crooked wiggly path towards success of something or another.

I leave you with a few things I learned on this journey should they help you on your own travels down a crooked wiggly path.

1. Always be learning
2. Work through the fear (it is often worse than any likely reality)
4. See the big picture, but don’t try to boil the entire ocean your first go
5. Get your hands dirty, like filthy
5. Break a sweat moving out of your comfort zone
6. Know who can help you (don’t spend too long alone in the pit of despair)
7. Share what you learned (don’t just be a taker, be a giver)
8. Celebrate openly…you are a dummy, forever and always. This is a beautiful thing.

You know, I am going to retract the first sentence of my post and replace it with this:

DECLARATION: I am dummy, and I am always learning, and it is simply awesome.

A confession gives a connotation of being ashamed, like I did something wrong, or want to hide something about myself. This is definitely not the case.

Interested in joining Target?  Learn more here.

Coding with Grace

On May 23, 2003 I happily walked down the aisle with my black robe on to accept my degree in Computer Science. I winked at my friend Katy as I walked passed – she was the other woman who graduated with a computer science major that year.

Katy and I were anomalies in our classes. We had an affinity for math and system thinking. Neither of us had ever coded before we got to college, and we were up against our male counterparts, many of whom tinkered with their own home networks (this was before wifi was prevalent), programmed their own apps, and setup their own databases. I felt so far behind and somewhat alone. I grew up on a farm; we didn’t get a computer until my junior year in high school. I was fascinated with the dot com boom and I wanted to be a part of this world of technology.

During those college years guys would ask me what I was majoring in and I would respond “computer science.” I could see the look in their eyes as they were seemingly judging me – that it seemed “weird” to them to have a girl in a tech field. For some reason, this was a big deal to me. I was too impressionable at the time and didn’t realize that the power to create the future was in front of me.

Luckily, changing majors just wasn’t an option; once I put my mind to something I do it. I had help along the way. My college internship was an incredibly valuable experience. Again, I worked with only men, and they were thoughtful mentors who exposed me to different careers in tech, taught me about servers, security, and SQL statements.

Fast-forward 11 years to earlier this month and there I was- meeting hundreds of brilliant women happily touting their Computer Science degrees at this year’s Grace Hopper Women in Computing conference in Phoenix, AZ. I smiled ear to ear as I learned about their favorite classes, how they were anxious to graduate, how they were looking for internships, experienced roles, or just wanted to learn more.

Being at Grace Hopper you wouldn’t think that there is a supply problem with women engineers- but the data is astoundingly imbalanced. In 2012, only 18% of computer grads were women. Women make up 57% of the work force, but only 25% in the tech industry. Until this is balanced out women may at times be faced with situations like I was in the beginning of my career: feeling like one among many, uncertain what to talk about, feeling as though society doesn’t understand why you would be in tech.

Ladies, the fact of the matter is this: you are savvy. You know that the future’s cornerstone is digital. I commend you. By learning all you can about technology, you’re solidifying your role in the act of creation – in the future. Choosing a career in technology is one of the most creative things that you can do. Keep it up.

At Target, we are committed to ensuring we have a diverse workforce – and that includes diversity of thought. We realize that the future of retail looks dramatically different than it does today and we are looking for people who want to be a part of that movement – those who have the power to dream and do, those who are curious and ambitious. Start-ups have led the way in technology as of late, but sadly, women are outnumbered there too. When women in engineering are asked why they leave or don’t even join start-ups, they often explain that it’s just too risky.  Happily, working in digital at Target is like working at a start-up, but with the comfort and stability of a big company. It wasn’t always like that, but like any successful company, we’ve adapted to better and more nimble ways of doing things that make it extremely fulfilling.

Women often cite a lack of female role models within technology; they don’t know how to model their careers because not many women have gone before them. Thankfully, Target is full of incredible female (and male!) role models — from analysts to executives. I admire their careers and their capabilities every day. The idea is: the possibilities are endless. The ability to shape your career and the future is in your hands, and there are so many people to help you with it. Target’s career development programs are fulfilling and inspiring. One just has to have the willingness to learn and continuous curiosity in order to create the career they desire – whatever form that may take.

To the Grace Hopper attendees: thank you. Thank you for sharing your stories and your intelligence with Target. I am excited for you and looking forward to the future that you will create.

Post by Sarah- Cartwheel Product Lead at Target Headquarters
Sarah is responsible for both the technical and business advancement of our Cartwheel mobile savings tool. She was recently named as a “25 Women to Watch in Mobile”.

Interested in a tech career with Target? We’re hiring! Take the coding challenge here to learn more.

Skyway Software Symposium

I recently had the privilege to speak at a Target-hosted Meetup through our Skyway Software Symposium group. If you’re not familiar with the Meetup site, take a look. Meetup is a great place to find other people and groups interested in various topics – not just technical. The Skyway Software Symposium has a technology focus around software and is a forum for discussion around new technologies, trends in various industries, and sharing experiences.

First things first: We hosted our Meetup at Target Plaza Commons (TPC,  our team member collaboration space that is as un-office as it gets. This space has tons of open seating, outdoor spaces, and team-oriented activities that include lawn bowling, basketball, air hockey, arcade games, multiple game consoles, and a weekly outdoor BBQ. This space is perfect for Meetups!

My topic was on “IT Assets in Code” to Enable Service Management but that’s secondary to the real theme of this post… The openness and surge of public participation my company that has taken shape in recent months from Target is tremendous when I look back on my almost 14 years employment with the company. I’m thrilled at the new outlook, perspective and approach to sharing and open-mindedness in growing the community, in both technical and social forums. This goes beyond the internal focus of improving our technical prowess and acumen towards new tech and trends – we’re getting more and more momentum around public venues to share our story. There’s loads of excitement across different domains within our various organizations: business and technology alike.

Target’s historical approach to sharing information has been to keep things close to the vest, which in the past had merit and value. There will always be a review process, to a degree, in what gets shared but the thickly guarded approach to protect every molecule of detail on “all of the things” we do at Target is being met with some new thought leadership. There’s more and more opportunity to share back to the community things that we’re doing in the technical space that simply needs to be, well, communal … and Target gets it. That’s one of the reasons for the Skyway Software Symposium: to connect with other technically like-minded individuals and groups and expand the conversation beyond our four walls.

There are other themes in the more public and community oriented technology leadership these days. At the recent Minneapolis DevOps Days (http://devopsdays.org/events/2014-minneapolis/) not only was Target a Gold Medal sponsor but we also had a joint keynote presentation about Devops at Target from team members Heather (@hmmickman) and Ross (@rossclanton) that detailed the story of our journey in embracing DevOps. We’re still very much on that journey but the swell of enthusiasm is exhilarating to see internally – more and more folks see a different path. Venues like DevOps Days and the Skyway Software Symposium are two ways Target is doing more in sharing the story of how we’re #making_awesome_happen. The keynote is about 33 minutes long and can be found here, including the presentation on Speaker Deck: http://devopsdays.org/events/2014-minneapolis/proposals/DevOps%20at%20Target/

Another new community oriented venture is the first public Target tech blog. Target has shared stories in the past through Target Pulse but this new blog is specific to highlighting the technology story. This is where the technologists have an opportunity to show some of the cool stuff we’re working through around infrastructure-as-code, application performance engineering, automated testing, and cloud-friendly implementations. The tech blog is headed up by our own Dan (@pmotch) with tons of work from the Target Enterprise Services team – like Aaron (@strey203).

There are more and more opportunities evolving daily in how Target approaches technology, collaboration (internal and external), and our engagement into the communities that we participate in – including technical arenas. Those opportunities continue to unfold and show brighter days for our Target technologists. I can’t wait for what the future holds.

P.S. I’d like to thank all the attendees that came out. I coordinated a mixer of two different meet-ups that I wanted to attend and, thankfully, we were able to get both groups in the same space – the DevOps Minneapolis meet-up was on the same night. The conversation on my presentation topic was great which always adds value to the investment people make in these types of meet-ups.

Post by Jason (@Thedesktophero), Engineer Consultant – Target Technology Services
Jason is currently focused on automation and performance management at Target. These two practices can sometimes be seen as two courses of differing streams of consciousness but Jason strives for “crossing the streams”.

Interested in a digital career with Target? Search and apply for current openings here.

Lessons from South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW)

I believe that education is the cornerstone of progress. It has the ability to propel us forward with intention and precision. Undoubtedly, we are all lifelong students.  Although, the way we process and use information may differ. For me, immersive educational experiences result in critical thinking and a higher propensity for retention. I’m fortunate that my leadership team at Target recognizes and appreciates this.

Last week I had the privilege to attend the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Conference in Austin, TX [insert yee-haw here]. If you’ve ever attended, you can attest to the fact that SXSW is the epitome of an immersive educational experience. I attended the conference to fuel my professional development and digital acumen along with over 20 other Target team members. Over the five day festival I attended several sessions ranging from topics centered on leadership lessons from a jazz band to real-time marketing in social media. Now, I pass on to you 3 thought-provoking lessons I picked up at SXSW:

1. Be an active learner. Engage in experimentation and learning while simultaneously seeking reliable performance. This will allow you to grow and innovate more rapidly.

2. Master the art of spontaneity. Explore the edge of your comfort zone and create situations that demand action, where passivity is not an option. Learn to act without a plan. (As a hardcore planner, the thought scares me but I appreciate how it could create the structure to spur an elevated end product.)

3. Better is the enemy of done. Sometimes good is good enough. You can always make something better but the key to success is knowing when to stop. (As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, hearing this was an ah-ha moment for me and something I will need to continually remind myself.)

The intent of sharing my takeaways from SXSW is that it may make you pause, even if for a brief moment, to reflect on what you are doing to fill your knowledge library and how you are creating opportunities to drive innovation.

I returned full of insights and inspiration that I look forward spreading within my team and throughout the organization. Not only did I learn a lot about leadership and digital innovation but I had the pleasure of learning more about my fellow team members. We are now bonded by this crazy experience called SXSW and have formed even closer relationships that will continue to enhance our collaborative culture.

Target is committed to the development of our team members and my personal experience at SXSW is just one of the many examples of how this is coming to fruition behind the bullseye.

Click here to learn more about human resources opportunities at Target.

TgtMAKEs Great Technology

Have you ever been in a Target store, on Target.com or shopping from your Target mobile application and thought about how you can be a part of the cool ‘nerds’ that made that technology happen?  Target is a great place to work, but how many of you realize the great opportunities for information technology inclined talent to drive our guest experiences?  One of our exciting Target Technology Services  concepts is TgtMAKE which is a research and discovery incubator sponsored by our Solution Architecture team.  The goal of this group is to provide team members a path to experiment, research, innovate, and make things that have the potential to impact the bottom line.

Earlier this month TTS hosted its 2nd annual “TgtMAKE Day”, where 120 of our brightest and best “Hacks” from Target Minneapolis & Target India spent the day having fun, showing off their brains and fostering innovative ideas to evolve Target’s technology. It was Target’s very own “hackathon”. The goal was simple: come with an idea, create a prototype and present it to your peers/leaders.  The creativity started even before the event with the cool team names that showed up including “The Loonies”, “Just Showing Off”, “Puppet Masters” and “Team NOSQL”.  So you are probably wondering, “what if I don’t have a team?” That was easy as we had a free agency area where you could just show up,make friends and ideate together.   As you can imagine there were laptops, iPads, Android devices, iPhones, etc. all over the place.  Some of the technologies used to develop their ideas were Tomcat, Java, JQuery Mobile, API, SAP, MongoDB, Jersey, HTML, Linux, etc. *disclaimer- I have no idea what some of these are, I just wanted to sound hip :)*.  Throughout the day and during final presentations, you could see the level of engagement and appreciation as several of our IT Executives dropped in to see what was going on and provide support for their team members.

Having worked in both engineering and IT shops earlier in my career it was exciting to see so many extremely smart Target Technology  engineers, architects, business analysts, project managers, process analysts and business partners locked in rooms together expressing their ingenuity.  I have met some really sharp people during my time at Target and I must say the room was almost like the NFL Pro Bowl of Target IT people, minus anybody running a sub 5 second 40yd dash,  tackling a 250lb running back or throwing a football 60yds (It is SuperBowl time, I couldn’t make it through this without an NFL reference…Go Ravens & Niners)…….. Even though my background is technical, I do not think my Basic, Fortran, Assembly Language and C+ skills would have been welcomed amongst this crowd.  Not to mention, making my name flash/scroll down the screen or popping values off the stack to create a slot machine would not really increase Target’s position in the world of retail technology.  *Going home to sit in the basement and reminisce on my Commodore 64 & Motorola 68000 processor.*

I know some of you may be wondering, “What were the ideas that came out of TgtMAKE?” Of course I am not going to tell you, but feel free to go to Target Careers to find your ideal role in Target Technology Services.  If you join the team, I promise to meet with you the first week and tell you about those ‘great ideas’. 🙂

 

Interested in a career in information technology at Target? Search and apply for jobs here.

The ABC’s of Target Pharmacy: R is for Refill

Photo: target pharmacy app

My first pharmacy job was in 1992. It was the classic mom-and-pop operation, and my job was head  (and only!) cashier and chief phone operator. The majority of business was delivering  prescriptions to nearby nursing homes.  So, every morning, the nurses would call in numerous refills for their residents, and I would manually write down the hundreds of numbers they were spouting off to me. Remember, this was long before voicemail, email, and even fax machines.

We’ve come a long way, baby! Twenty years later, there have been vast improvements in getting prescriptions refilled to help cut down on the number of phone calls pharmacies receive and the time guests spend requesting those refills.

Automated phone systems and Target.com/pharmacy were the first two advancements to aid in refill requests. With the automated phone system, guests can call and just type in the prescription numbers they need, day or night, over the phone. They don’t have to wait until we are open, nor do they have to wait on hold to speak to someone. With the internet feature, there are lots of cool options, from refilling prescriptions, transfering from other locations, and even setting refills up for Auto Refill.

Speaking of Auto Refill, this system was designed to eliminate the need to request a refill at all. Guests that are taking a regular medication can set their prescription up to automatically refill when it is due. That way, it is here at the pharmacy waiting for them when they need it.

Recently, Target developed an app for both the iPhone and Android systems that allows our guests to manage prescriptions from their phone. What I love most about the Target Pharmacy app is that you can view your entire prescription profile to request refills when needed. This eliminates the need for a prescription number at all.  All our guests have to do is click on the needed medication, and the pharmacy will then refill it for them. This really comes in handy when you need a refill on an eye drop and the box with the prescription number on it was long thrown away.

The app also has a feature where the pharmacy can text the guest to let them know their prescription is ready. This feature was just added, so we are encouraging all of our guests to sign up to receive texts. Then next time you are in your Target pharmacy, ask about getting enrolled to be eligible.

Needless to say, technology has changed the face of pharmacy in a huge way since my days of pen and paper. I can’t wait to see what improvements Target has in store for the next twenty years!

Interested in a healthcare career with Target? Search and apply for opportunities here.

Who Turned on the Lights?

Have you ever passed through downtown Minneapolis and found yourself staring up at the building with the ‘cool video shows’ on the roof?  Whenever I am picking up an out of town visitor from the airport and headed home, I get the question of “What building is that?”  That building just happens to be the Target Plaza South, one of the towers for the corporate headquarters.  Those cool displays are what we call “Target Lights’, a unique concept to add dynamic artistry to the excitement of downtown Minneapolis.

Target Lights first lit up Minneapolis in 2001 following the idea of the Northern Lights or aurora borealis.  This gigantic artistic display is used to celebrate holidays and local sports teams, which made it common to see color schemes ranging from the Fourth of July to the Minnesota Vikings.

You may ask, what does this have to do with Target Technology Service (TTS)?  Well that magic comes to life thanks to a great partnership between Marketing and our TTS “Edge” team.  On a recent tour, I got a chance to learn how TTS handles programming and support for the lights.  Matt, an engineer assigned to ‘running’ the lights took great pride in his unique role and we all agreed he has one of the coolest jobs at Target.  He walked us through the original system which was comprised of spotlights and glass tubes all programmed to provide a unique color display over the year.  For all of you Star Wars fans, think of over a hundred 30ft light sabers side by side providing that colorful glow.  With the opportunity to leverage new technology while reducing our energy footprint, the new and improved Target Lights rolled out in January 2012.

The current system is comprised of 700,000 LED (Light Emitting Diodes) which reduce energy costs, burn brighter and last longer.  This design functions similarly to the computer screen from which you are currently reading this blog, only a lot bigger.  The displays are made of pixels spaced about 8 inches apart which all come together to make up the image you see from far away.  Combined with custom developed software, this provides capability to create and display countless dynamic images.  The controller computer can take any creative design and translate it across the pixels to make the video show ‘move’.  This has led to some popular themes, such as flying pumpkins for Halloween.  With over 10,000 lakes in Minnesota I personally enjoy the “Fish Tank”.

So the next time you are visiting Minneapolis,  wrapping up a late night on the town or driving in to work  before dawn, take a look up and enjoy the show.  If you are driving, just make sure your glance is quick, so that you can keep your eyes on the road.

 

Interested in a career in information technology at Target? Search and apply for jobs here.