Growing up, I was always a very critical thinker. I was often told that I asked too many questions and that my curiosity would get me in trouble. My desire to find out answers to questions, however, also meant that I was really into learning and excelling academically. I grew up wanting to be a lawyer, double majored in Political Science and Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, and became very involved in student leadership activities. I was President of the Black Student Union, served as the Co-Chair of the University’s Student Vote Coalition, was involved in diversity and retention initiatives on campus, and also served on the Board of Directors for a national student-led organization, the United States Student Association.
Also at this time, I started to pick up a “side hustle.” Salary raises at the NYS Legislature are small and infrequent, so I decided to use my love for photography to make some extra money. I taught myself the technical and business skills, and I launched my company Lesley Adé Photography as a contemporary wedding and lifestyle portrait photographer. I picked up some graphic design skills to help me market my business, and I fell in love with the ability to use my creativity to create opportunities for myself. I began to learn about the possibilities of being a designer of strategy, innovation and change.
After graduating, I moved to Albany, NY and worked for the New York State Assembly as a policy researcher and analyst. One of the highlights of my time at the Legislature was being hand-selected to work on a task force for the 2012 NYS Demographic Research and Reapportionment process, where I was responsible for conducting research and analysis about the population of NYS counties in order to make decisions about redistricting. At the time, I was also enrolled in graduate school at the University at Albany Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy. I received a Masters of Public Administration (MPA) and a Certificate of Graduate Study in Public Sector Management with a concentration in Information Strategy & Management.
Around this time, a friend of mine asked me to help him with an idea he had of changing the way people interact with public policy through the use of mobile technology. I started working with him on the startup (Civic Eagle) as the person on the team who was a political insider, but quickly became the person on the team to sketch and design our prototypes! That was my first introduction to UX and Product Design, and my life has been changed ever since!
Principles of public policy taught me the value of evaluating the long-run effects that impact all people, not simply the short-run effects that impact a few people. In order to consider these effects, studies in stakeholder analysis, cost-benefit analysis, conflict mitigation, and project implementation & management are demanded of good public policymakers in order to design a good solution.
After graduating from graduate school, I took off to Nigeria for the summer in hopes of doing some soul-searching about changing my career. I had a great experience there, was offered a design position at a corporate branding design firm and had planned on relocating to Lagos. However, I couldn’t accept the offer due to the salary that was negotiated.
I returned back to Albany and was employed by Public Consulting Group as a Consultant with its Health Practice. At the same time, I knew that I wanted to change careers into UX design. Through my work with Civic Eagle, I was witnessing how tech innovation and human-computer interaction could (and ought to) have meaningful impact and disrupt politics and policy. I did more self-teaching about UI, UX and Design Thinking, finally got fed up with my job at the consulting firm and moved to New York City to work at a small web development agency as a junior designer.
Civic Eagle is still growing. We launched our app, Eagle, in 2014 and since our initial launch, we’ve done more testing, interviewing, and iterating on the product. We’re relaunching the app in February 2016 with a new redesign. As the product designer, I’ve learned and grown tremendously. I love what I do, despite the challenges of solving problems with unknown variables. But my natural curiosity and innate desire to ask questions has helped me grow exponentially as a designer. It keeps my motivated and passionate about setting objectives, negotiating interests, and finding resolutions.
Though my journey to becoming a designer is unconventional [and despite the fact that I sometimes wish that I had formally studied design or computer science], my experience as a policy researcher and analyst has provided me with a unique medley of skills and knowledge that I can bring to the table.
Creative & Expressive Arts: Professional photographer and graphic designer with knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite software and particular interest in photojournalism and portraiture - Portraiture Portfolio
Nonprofit & Small Business Communications: Experienced in developing creative solutions for small and medium enterprises and nonprofit organizations; effective in communications, branding and social media marketing; able to consult organizations on how to utilize social media platforms to improve public relations - Consulting Portfolio
Research & Policy Analysis: Years of experience in legislative and policy analysis, campaign organizing, and constituent management
Social media marketing, nonprofit and small and medium enterprise branding, project management, Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesgn), Sketch (design application), professional writing and communications
Nonprofit and SME Branding
- Contemporary Issues in Nonprofit Management
- Nonprofit Communications & Strategic Planning
- Open Data Initiatives & Governance
- Comparative Policy Analysis
- International Development
- International Women’s Development & Rights
Canada, France, Ghana, Ireland, Morocco, Nigeria, Spain, United Kingdom, United States
Master of Public Administration, Nonprofit Management, Information Strategy & Management, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy, University at Albany/SUNY (2014)
Certificate of Graduate Study in Public Sector Management, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy, University at Albany/SUNY (2014)
Bachelor of Arts, Politics & Philosophy, Africana Studies, West European Studies, University of Pittsburgh (2010)
- Digital Marauders, Designer, 2015-Present
- Civic Eagle, Designer, 2013-Present
- Ade-Yemi Design Studio (Lesley Ade Photography), Fine art wedding and lifestyle portraiture, graphic design, 2012 - Present
- Public Consulting Group, Management Consultant (PCG Health), 2014-Present
- State University of New York, Office of Communications & New Media, 2014
- New York State Assembly, Department of Program and Counsel, Department of Communication and Information Services, 2010 - 2013
- United States Student Association Foundation, Electoral Action Training, 2007-2009
“The Value of Open Data towards the Development of the International Community and a Global Society.” International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance (ICEGOV). Albany, NY: October 22, 2012
Fellow, New Leaders Council, Capital District, NY (2014)
- Featured Artist, Upstate Artists Guild, Albany, NY (2013)
- Fellow, Hesselbein Global Academy for Student Leadership And Civic Engagement (2010)
- Helen Faison Scholar, University of Pittsburgh (2006-2010)