Here, we dive deep into how and why people at Square do what they do. Each interview spotlights one person in a creative role and unearths their inspiration, workday hacks, and career advice. Without further ado…
Sarah Benoit Smyth
Senior User Experience and Design Researcher
Point of Sale + Customers
How would you describe your work to a five-year-old?
I talk to the people who use the things we make so that we can learn how to help them and make our products better.
What everyday activity inspires your creative work?
Being a consumer and observing things in my own day-to-day life inspires a lot of my work. Whether I’m picking something up from my local bakery or ordering something online, I’m always noticing things that get my researcher-brain going.
Couldn’t we solve this more elegantly?
For example, I’m mildly obsessed with “workarounds,” especially of the pen-and-paper variety, because they can point to product opportunities. When I see a seller who has taped a note to our hardware or is doing something interesting with their receipts, I will often take a picture and send it to my team with thoughts like, “Couldn’t we solve this more elegantly?”
What was your path to your current position?
Growing up, I wanted to be a more “traditional” creative, if not directly in the arts, then at least something in the creative realm. I studied business in college, thinking I might pursue a career in marketing or advertising, but then I discovered the field of consumer research and that was it for me. I loved the idea of exploring why people do things and using that knowledge to create new or better products.
My background probably isn’t what most people would expect of a “design researcher” in a tech company — I worked in the publishing sector, state government, and a PR agency before joining Square — but I developed a wide range of skills along the way that have enabled me to be a bit of a chameleon.
During my time at Square, I’ve worked on all sorts of projects with nearly every team. Whether it’s for product design or something more marketing related, I think of research as a set of tools for creative problem solving.
Who’s your favorite Square seller and why?
I’ve had the privilege of getting to know so many amazing business owners through my work, I honestly can’t pick a favorite, but one that has a special place in my heart is Midwest Dance Mechanix in Wichita, Kansas.
I met the owners, Jana and Ryan Owen, during one of my very first projects at Square, and I was struck by Jana’s passion and dedication to her students. Jana has kept in touch over the years, and I continue to be inspired by her creativity and resilience, particularly during the pandemic, which has presented so many challenges for small businesses.
What’s a piece of advice you’d give on getting creative?
Step back, really listen, observe, and try to understand the “why.” It’s just as important for working with internal stakeholders as it is for connecting with our customers.
What’s your favorite tool for expressing your ideas?
A slide presentation with lots of pictures and quotes.
When are you most creative?
When I’m in the shower or about to fall asleep — basically when I stop trying.
What’s your primary fuel for the work day?
Too much iced coffee.
What’s your go-to source for creative inspiration?
Restaurants, cookbooks, and any food-related media. After staring at a computer for hours on end, I really enjoy the tactile nature of cooking.