Today’s Five for Friday guest is Srikanth Narayan, Principal User Experience Engineer at Tidemark.  Srikanth and team focus their attention on bringing a unique user experience to life and changing the way customers and the market think about how apps should work.

Srikanth Narayan, Principal UI Engineer at Tidemark

Today Sri shares some insights on the changing world of software, what he is looking for on the team, and what a first timer should do in San Francisco.

PM:  You are a UI Engineer at Tidemark.  What is your background?

SN:  Just like many people working in User Experience, my own path into this field was a meandering one. I studied Computer Science for my undergrad, and actually worked as a backend engineer at my first job. Though it was a technically challenging role, I found that I was more fascinated about the way technology is presented to people, and how the right design enables us to tackle complex real-world problems effectively. I knew I’d found my calling there, and taught myself into the field. Eventually I enrolled for grad school at UC Berkeley to take a deep dive into Human-Computer Interaction and UX Design at the School of Information.

My work experience has been varied. I have worked at small startups, at a corporate research lab, and for product organizations in large corporations, taking on roles ranging from full-time engineer to pure designer.

PM:  What are your design influences and who do you admire?

SN:  From an early age, I remember being fascinated by Apple and their product design, and that admiration has only grown over the years. With Apple, it is not just about getting an overall design right, but a careful consideration to the minutest details, ultimately crafting a product with such finesse that it manages to make an emotional connection with the consumer. Even today, we regularly consider work by Apple and the wider App ecosystem as inspiration for our work at Tidemark. iOS apps such as Flipboard, Path and Reeder are some examples of well-designed products.

More personally, I consider work by Edward Tufte, Donald Norman, Bret Victor, Pentagram and Jeffrey Heer as the most influential in shaping my approach to design.

PM: The consumer world is full of well designed mobile apps, why don’t enterprises have the same?

SN: I think the world is quickly changing. Traditionally, it has been that way, and enterprise applications do have the stigma of being substandard to consumer apps. I believe the main reason for that to happen is that, in the consumer world, each and every user has the freedom to decide what they want to use. When they went to work, they found that they no longer had that lenience, and were in fact forced to work using software that was decided for them.

In recent times, this expectation has undergone a shift. Enterprise software vendors have realized the value of a polished user experience and its ability to make a connection with the end user. And in a crowded marketplace, UX often proves to be the key differentiator. Users of these applications have also been more insistent about demanding well-crafted products that help them perform effectively, rather than use patched-up legacy software. I believe UX is one of the main reasons that upstarts like Box and Workday have been so successful competing against more established vendors in the current enterprise market.

PM:   You are hiring UI Engineers for the UI team – what is your ideal profile?

SN: The ideal UI Engineer candidate would not only be passionate about web development technologies, but also about crafting a great product. He/She would possess deep knowledge of the latest web technologies (Javascript, HTML5, CSS3), and relevant experience building complex web applications. Additionally, mobile development experience is a plus. He/she would have the ability to produce efficient UI code, as well as the attention to detail to arrive at pixel-perfect implementations. UI Engineers at Tidemark are actively involved in the Interaction Design of any new functionality as well, interest/experience in that area is definitely a plus.

PM: You live in SF – where should a first time visitor go to eat, drink and have a little fun?

SN: For a fun day out in SF, I would recommend the Mission. Often overlooked by first-time visitors, this quaint neighborhood has a lot to offer. I’d start the day walking around the neighborhood exploring the murals and the varied shops. After that, I’d hop over to Dolores Park with an ice-cream or a snack in hand, and spend a few hours hanging out, and taking in the colorful characters that frequent it. For food, I’d definitely recommend trying one of the taquerias, say Pancho Villa for the authentic Mission experience, or Velvet Cantina for a casual sit-down experience. After food, one could head to the hundreds of bars in the neighborhood, but I’d recommend walking over the Zeitgeist and grabbing a few beers, especially on a warm night!