Design Museum Portland took a trip downtown to visit eBay’s elusive Portland office this Spring. Not many in Portland are aware of eBay’s presence, but we’re inviting you along for a tour and a chat with Carrie Bisazza, a Senior Design Manager with eBay leading their Mobile Design and Wearables team.
At eBay’s Portland office, with their multiple floors and a mix of open desks and elaborately themed conference rooms, it was clear that design and fun run rampant through these halls. From a mounted jackelope trophy-head (purchased on eBay of course) to a traveling cardboard cut-out of Ralphie from A Christmas Story, the floors of eBay are not your typical offices.
Seems like people would be surprised to learn eBay PDX exists, can you tell us a bit about the eBay Portland office?
Yes, practically everyone that I meet here says, “Oh! I didn’t know eBay was here,” so there isn’t a lot of awareness of our presence, and part of my coming here is to raise that awareness as well as help build this out as an eBay center of excellence. I stepped into our Portland office from San Jose headquarters, and was surrounded by what completely embodies the Portland spirit to me and my stereotype of Portland. It’s very artistic, unique, and creative and you really get a sense of the kind of raw, realness of it. It’s quirky and it’s fun, and it’s unpretentious. It’s just everything that I think of Portland, our space is very authentic to the roots of this town for me. And, as I said, the first day coming here I couldn’t have asked for a more incredible welcome; to have Portlandia filming on-site and the front desk girl greeting me with vintage Pacman roller skates on was just incredible. I thought, this is perfect, this is heaven.
Can you tell us a bit about your role within eBay?
I’ve been at eBay for 7 years and some change (I have no idea how that happened!) and it’s an incredible place to work, there’s been a lot of opportunity for me to move and shift throughout the Design organization. The opportunity came up for me to transfer here and lead the Design team with whom I was already working remotely and I jumped on it. We are an end-to-end, mostly mobile-focused design team in Portland. Currently we’re driving design in our native apps, primarily Android; we design for Wearables and new tech spaces as well.
Our team is very well suited to design for new platforms. Here in Portland, we’re with the technologists, we’re here with engineers; and we get to play in this space together pretty seamlessly. eBay for Apple Watch—we’re in the midst of pushing that out. It’s just a really fun sort of adventurous space for Design to be in here in Portland because we’re so tied to the flip side of the coin, our engineers and the code that makes our designs work. We’re really trying to elevate our presence in terms of our partnership with our engineers in Portland and how we influence the work coming out of the office.
Could you share with us your design background and how you found yourself at eBay?
Sure! I went to University of Hawaii on a soccer scholarship. Although I went there for the soccer, I knew I wanted to study art and so I ended up in the graphic design program ultimately getting my BFA. I moved up to Portland from Santa Cruz, CA, but I’m originally from the East Coast – Maine. For me it was always going to be design from day one, whether it was print design or web design or app design or whatever it was, it was going to be design since day one. So almost immediately after Hawaii I moved to Amsterdam and worked at Bertelsmann Online for a couple of years. I got my kickstart there really, with ecommerce design. From there it was just kind of working my way back to the West Coast of the US, through all sorts of design and design leadership roles, and startups and retail, and app design. I’ve done all of it. My longest stint has been with eBay. eBay is fantastic at challenging their designers, there’s a lot of avenues for people to grow and shape themselves here, and their development programs are amazing.
How do you see design’s presences at eBay? And how has it influenced eBay as it continues forward, and how it has shaped its past?
This is a good question for me in particular because I’ve been at eBay for 7 years and I’ve seen cycles where design has been really front and center, and then is sort of down played a little bit, and then comes back up… and we’re in a really incredible time right now where there’s been a spotlight on design. The CEO is striving for design-led thinking at eBay as well. We’re starting to work and the culture we’re trying to push forward with from the design board. So I think there’s a recognition from the company that great design is an integral part of most of our loved experiences. Across the world, great design is usually baked into the really stand-out companies. eBay is really looking to the design team to lead with our user empathy for complex problems and to really leverage our creativity in pulling out insights, and looking at lots of creative ideation for solutions. It’s just a great time to be a designer at eBay, we have a huge opportunity to influence and make change, and it’s really ours to take it where we want to go.
Can you point to a specific instance where you’ve seen a design-focus shift within eBay or, can you share something juicy in the works?
Right now, we are in the thick of pushing off some new experiences that we haven’t really launched yet. We have a new customer experience that is live on our iPad app, and so we’re in the thick of learning from that, and evolving the app into something our customers will love. It’s been an insane shift, a huge shift in process, in the culture we’re trying to drive. There’s an incredible amount of support from the top down to be unrelenting in our vision for the experience that we want to put in front of the customer. So we’re in the thick of evolving that initial experience into other platforms and into the fabric of eBay.
Design fellow John Maeda was even brought on the team here at eBay for a while. Just that in itself is indicative of how much leadership believes in design and what it can do for the product and the customer journey.
Can you share with us a couple favorite design-related items?
I love my Android Wear watch. I honestly didn’t think I would love it this much. Funnily enough, almost the last thing I look at my watch for is the time. It’s such a fun device, so quick and seamless, I love getting all of my notifications on this watch. And, this is going to sound silly, but my family and I were in California last April as I was the Master of Ceremonies for our Design Summit. We took a side trip up to Anderson Valley to visit friends, in this tiny town, and there was a craftsman store, and the designer had built this amazing redwood step-stool. And it sounds so weird, but to have little kids and to have to do everything for them because they’re so little and the counters are so high; I grabbed that step-stool and it’s around the house all the time allowing my kids to get things for themselves! That’s a Mom talking to you about that!
Lastly, we have to ask, any favorite eBay treasures or discoveries?
Right now I’m really into this Frida Kahlo collection that’s been featured on eBay. Honestly, that’s why eBay is so incredible to work for, because you have this crazy array of people selling their items, you have huge name brands like Target, Best Buy, and then you have this mom and pop from Kentucky putting their glass eyeballs or their vintage dolls on there, it’s just incredible. You have all the celebrity auctions which are pretty fun to see, it’s amazing when you see million dollar artwork going on eBay. And you can imagine that to design for that is so complex because your design solutions have got to span across all those use cases from the tiny little stores to the huge inventory retailers; it’s a great place to design for.