Apervita’s team is a powerful mix of healthcare and technology pioneers and experts. Or, as Senior UX Developer Mattie Langenberg calls them, “wicked smart people.” Mattie’s been on the Apervita team for five years. He has 20+ years of UX experience and strong Chicago roots. He’s currently the organizer for CHIHTML5, a group that works to strengthen Chicago’s development community. We asked Mattie questions about his background, how to break into UX and why he chose Apervita.
1. Where’d you grow up?
I was born in South Bend, Indiana. My family traveled around for a bit, moving to Tempe, Breckenridge and Boulder before settling back in my parent’s hometown of Rockford where I spent the bulk of my youth. I left Rockford and headed up to Madison for a couple years before making my way down to Chicago where I’ve been for 26 years now.
2. How did you first get into UX?
My dad was a merchandising buyer for a small chain of department stores. One of his lines was consumer electronics so I was fortunate to have my own computers in grade school back in the ‘80s. That sparked an interest in programming that grew along with my creative side.
I graduated from a creative and performing arts high school (think Fame! I wanna live forever.) and after my stint at UW, landed at Columbia College to study computer animation. I started working in keylining and scanning which evolved into building CD-roms and eventually websites when that became a thing, and I’ve just continued to ride along with that.
3. Any tips for people trying to break into UX?
Build stuff. Build your own stuff. Build stuff for friends. When you get confident with that, find a non-profit that needs some help and build stuff for them. Learn some things and make some mistakes when the stakes are low.
Get to know your community. Figure out where your own skills fit in. Network and be honest (with others and yourself). When you find something that is a good fit for your skills, jump on it. Get some experience and then look for what’s next. Rinse and repeat.
4. What’s the biggest UX fail you’ve ever seen?
My brain tends to store themes rather than specific examples. Most of the failures I’ve personally been involved with share a common thread of unreasonable expectations combined with poor planning. Nothing leads to meaningless failure faster than super short timelines, low budgets and poor communication.
5. Why’d you choose Apervita?
I spent 13 years leading the UX dev team at VSA Partners, working on sites including IBM.com, GE.com, BP.com, CAT.com and a bunch of other huge projects projects with tons of visibility.
While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my career, I’ve always felt like the work was somewhat ephemeral. Nothing ever lasts. Corporate sites launch and then get torn down and rebuilt on a whim. For a long time I’ve wanted the chance to build something from the ground up and to participate in the long- term growth and success of a product that I could have some ownership in.
Apervita is taking on some of the biggest challenges in healthcare and has a team of wicked smart people to tackle them. Creating solutions for the healthcare world is unlike anything I’ve done before. To know that every day I come to work to build things that help keep people healthy and save lives is an incredible feeling.
6. What’s your favorite Chicago weekend hangout?
I am a Chicago Fire season ticket holder, so I’m probably at Toyota Park more than any other one place around Chicago. Club Lucky and Irazu are my old stomping grounds, so they run a close second.
7. Tell me about your HTML Meetups!
I love my meetup. I took on the CHIHTML5 organizer gig with a real interest in fostering community here in Chicago. At the time I started, I was getting tired of losing good folks to New York and California, and I continue to be focused on contributing to a stronger, more open Chicago development community.
We have world class talent in Chicago and I want everyone here to know that. I want to teach and learn, and I’m really fortunate to have a good group of regular members who are open and social and like to share.
The best moments at our events are when I see devs with years of experience talking about some new hotness with folks right out of school or just starting their education. It’s also fun to get designers and UXers together with front- and back-end developers at events to share ideas about web tech from a bunch of perspectives.
For the rest of the year, I’m working on getting back to monthly events. I’m currently locking in a MongoDB event and a developer from the Ionic team for later this Spring. We’ve got Chicagoan Chris Courtney, a fantastic design mentor, coming at the end of March to talk about Gatsby.js for designers.
You can join the CHIHTML5 meetup and RSVP for upcoming events at https://www.meetup.com/chicago-html5/.
Want to join our team of “wicked smart people”? View openings and apply here.