We are lucky to have so many wonderful sponsors and exhibitors at this year’s DesignOps Summit–and we thought you might like to get to know them better! We’ve asked all of them some questions in the coming weeks that get at the heart of why they’re passionate about DesignOps, what it’s like to work with them, and what makes their products and services special to Design and Research Operations professionals.

Next up: Sayaka Sugimura, Senior Designer from Work & Co

Rosenfeld Media: What excites you about Design?

Sayaka Sugimura: As a designer, something that really excites me is when I get to bridge the physical and digital worlds through products. That was a big theme of work I did with the fast-casual restaurant, Panera, to innovate their digital ordering experience. For them, recognizing customers at every touchpoint was super important, especially during the ordering process. So we created a new digital app that truly makes repeat customers feel like regulars.

The app remembers their favorite items so it’s easy for them to reorder. Thanks to close collaboration with multiple teams, we built a feature that surfaces most-frequent meals. It’s also intuitive, suggesting products based on the time of day. All of the teams involved in getting us to that insight—especially from an operational standpoint—helped us strengthen the connection customers have with physical Panera locations, but through a digital product.

Rosenfeld Media: What is it like for people to work at your company/organization?

Sayaka Sugimura: At Work & Co, we have a few core areas of expertise—everything you need to create a product—design, development, and strategy and product management.

A lot of companies talk about collaboration, but putting it into practice can be tough. When Work & Co was founded, we focused on integrating disciplines. So we designers actually sit next to and work with developers, QA teams, and PMs every day. It’s truly what a product team should look like—it’s one team and that team includes our clients, too.

I meet with clients regularly and it’s especially rewarding when they have opportunities that we get to help shape. Together, we uncover the root of their problems, then define a couple of KPIs that we’ll use to track a product’s success.

Rosenfeld Media: What types of value and benefits does Work & Co bring to the practice and to our community?

Sayaka Sugimura: For us at Work & Co, we’re really committed to raising the bar for digital products— making them well, differentiated, and inclusive. To that end, a big part of what helps us make quality work is prototyping as early and as often as we can with our clients. And when I say prototype, I’m referring to real, working prototypes.

During user testing, if someone is looking at low-fidelity wireframes, it’s less likely to convey the core product or features in the right way. Since design and tech work in tandem every step of the way, our prototypes save us massive amounts of time in highlighting technical feasibility, in addition to giving our clients a real product to react to. Coupled with thorough user testing, we can be super confident when we ship and launch a product.

Something that’s just as important for us is supporting internal teams, especially when companies are expanding to new markets or trying to reach new customers. We have a lot of organic growth—about 90% of projects lead to another—and that speaks to accountability. We work hard to ensure that the products we ship will also be well maintained.

We often help clients build detailed roadmaps, offer leadership support, and help build and manage in-house teams. In a way, as designers and technologists, we’re helping to operationalize teams at scale. From there, it’s all about making sure a client’s team can own, iterate on, and push forward.

Rosenfeld Media: What else should our community know about you?

Sayaka Sugimura: Well, if you don’t know who Work & Co is, we’re a 310-person technology and design company with offices in the United States, Brazil, and Europe. We define and launch digital experiences for the world’s most admired brands, including Apple, IKEA, Epic Games, Google, Mercedes-Benz, Aesop, and Mailchimp.

And a little bit more about me: Before I trained to be a designer, I was a film production manager. So now when I watch films—which I really love—I have the habit of not paying much attention to the storyline because I’m constantly fixated on composition, lighting, and angles. I think that obsession actually bleeds into my design work because it helps me think not just about how something looks, but how it’s executed.