Qumulo is a Seattle-based enterprise data storage startup formed in 2012. Qumulo believes that storage should be simple, scalable, and efficient. However, the barriers to entry into enterprise data storage industry is especially high when competing against well-established corporations that dominated the market. It would be risky for businesses to buy solutions from an unknown startup.
A new product has to be 9X better to distrupt and succeed. To identify differentiators, we interviewed over 600 storage admins before the first product was launched. We found that storage admins felt powerless and yearned for a storage solution that was easy to use, provided instant insights, and had better customer support.
This case study showcases how I led Qumulo to create and foster a user-centered culture. The open-mindedness and willingness of my coworkers made it possible. I am grateful for the experience to affect positive change and grow as a leader.
My roles at Qumulo: Head of User Experience, UX strategist, people manager, hands-on designer, researcher, illustrator, UX writer, cultural ambassador, barista.
- “Customers are our magnetic field” became one of the five company values
- As of May 2017, at the time of my departure:
- 89.5 System Usability Scale
- 76 NPS
- Less than 3% of all bugs were UI related
- Customer reviews indicated that the user experience was one of the top 3 reasons to purchase
- User stories were written with persona names (“Gerald wants to do this so that he can do that” statements)
- I am an inventor on 5 utility patents for interactive data storytelling
- US 10,877,942: Filesystem capacity and performance metrics and visualizations
- US 10,409,784: A facility comprising methods ands ystems for analyzing and visualizing trends in the use and consumption of data in a shared storage system
- US 10,318,494: Analyzing and visualizing trends in the use and consumption of data in a shared storage system
- US 10,095,079: Filesystem capacity and performance metrics and visualizations
- US 9,836,480: Filesystem capacity and performance metrics and visualizations
- In 2018 Qumulo was valuated at $550 million and $1.2 billion by 2020
- In 2018 and 2019, Qumulo was recognized as a leader in the Magic Quadrant for Distributed File Systems and Object Storage
People are hired for the different talents and perspectives they bring. The encouragements from my managers and coworkers allowed me to show my talent. It’s also important to me as a leader to create an environment that people can thrive being themselves.
In 2013, the Hadouken meme took over the internet. I suggested that we create a “Fist of God(man)” company photo displayed above. In the center is the founder and original CEO, Peter Godman. I taught my coworkers how to “explode” from the epicenter and choreographed the photoshoot.
A product team consists of a UX designer, a product manager, and engineers. We visited users and customers as a team and experienced their challenges first hand. It nourished our creativity and team collaboration. We all wanted to build a product that customers love and worked together to make it happen.
To be effective as a designer, you must know what questions to ask that will lead to real answers. Speaking the domain lingo earns trust and grants you credibility, which powers relationships and fuels curiosity.
My team and I were able to create diagrams like this after asking questions. Understanding the technology made us even better designers and strengthened the bond between team members. They were referenced by engineers, product managers, customer success managers, sales, and sales engineers.
In addition to the standard UX deliverables, a variety of specs were produced by designers to align and coordinate team efforts. It’s much more cost-effective to check assumptions and have team agreement before engineers start to write code.
One of the challenges of working in a startup is to scale capabilities without scaling the size of the teams. When UX resources stay constant while engineering resources continue to grow, it is paramount to strategically place UX resources in key points of the product development lifecycle to get the most value with the least amount of effort. We never stopped experimenting on how we team.
It doesn’t feel like work when you’re having fun and making people laugh. These are my handy work using Qumulo’s official mascot who is a grumpy kumquat named “Grumpquat”. I had the freedom to be creative and earned the title “evil genius”.
“This is the closest thing to an Apple product in the storage world. Hat tip to the UX team on making a beautiful UI that looks good on a datacenter display.”Verizon
“I love it! Wow! It’s really the best GUI I’ve ever seen of storage products.”Sinclair Oil
“OMG. This is amazing – everything I need but only the things I need. Super clean and easy to understand.”UConn Health
“You guys have the best UI in the business, your UX team is great!”Unsolicited praise received by a Qumulo’s 2017 NAB booth visitor