Life at Sonder: bringing the Sonder experience to life through technology and design

Christine Lee works as a Senior Product Designer on our UX Design team and is based in San Francisco, California. She’s been with the company for a little over a year and a half, focusing on bringing the Sonder experience to life through technology and design. In this edition of “Life at Sonder,” Christine shares insight into what a “happy path flow” looks like, the back-end complexities of a seamless stay, where she draws inspiration from, and her best advice on how to get your foot in the door. 

What brought you to Sonder?

I wanted to join Sonder because I felt it was a unique opportunity where my professional experience in customer service and product design intersected with my personal interests in architecture, travel, and hospitality. I spent some time traveling and working remotely as a digital nomad and constantly looked for services like Sonder out on the road. Needless to say, I was happy to learn that Sonder was looking to build out their design function, and I eagerly welcomed the opportunity to jump back into a fast-paced environment, collaborate with a smaller team, and contribute to a product that I personally use and am excited about.

I love being able to work on complex problems and make a meaningful impact, and there’s definitely no shortage of opportunities like that here at Sonder. What’s especially exciting is that since we’re reimagining the hospitality experience, there aren’t a ton of precedents or examples to look to for inspiration.

What’s it like to work on your team and can you share a bit about your role?
I’m a Product Designer on the Concierge team. Our team is responsible for taking care of our guests (after they book a stay) as well as supporting our internal Guest Services team. It’s a really neat space to be working in because any new feature we introduce needs to take both the external guest-facing view as well as the internal rep-facing components into account. Being able to see both sides of the coin enables us to create a more holistic experience and allows us to understand how a decision made on one side will impact the outcome on the other.

Life on our team is a bit frantic but in the most energizing way possible. On any given day, we might be collaborating with our stakeholders from other departments, making headway on new projects and ideas, interviewing candidates (we’re hiring!), or going heads down on design. I’m lucky to be surrounded by so many smart, talented, and motivated individuals who always strive to create a better experience for our guests. 

What excites you most about the work you do at Sonder?
I love being able to work on complex problems and make a meaningful impact, and there’s definitely no shortage of opportunities like that here at Sonder. What’s especially exciting is that since we’re reimagining the hospitality experience, there aren’t a ton of precedents or examples to look to for inspiration. More often than not, we’re looking to analogous industries or products for real-world examples. As a designer, I love that this keeps me on my creative toes and makes it especially rewarding when we ship new experiences.

Can you talk a little bit about some of the initiatives you’re working on, in response to Covid-19?
When COVID-19 first hit, Sonder assembled a cross-functional team dedicated to understanding how we were going to adapt to this new reality. This team did an amazing job at surveying our guests and synthesizing industry articles in order to come up with recommendations for what changes we needed to institute. 

Overall, we’re seeing that travelers are staying longer and understandably taking advantage of amenities such as the balcony, kitchen, and parking spots. Aspects of our product such as self check-in and contactless service are features that guests actively seek out and appreciate. This is why Sonder has been at about an 80% occupancy rate for most of the year.

Where do you find inspiration and how does it play a role in your work?
I usually find inspiration throughout my travels. Being in a new space surrounded by new faces in a new country where you don’t speak the language is incredibly energizing and encourages me to slow down, take in my surroundings, and pay closer attention to things that many might consider “ordinary”. Getting exposure to different perspectives and experiences also enables me to view things in a new light and appreciate great design and service experiences when I encounter them. Given that we’re in the midst of a pandemic, my travels have been limited to sporadic walks around my neighborhood. Even then, it’s been inspiring to see my local environment evolve from a ghost town to people painting murals to restaurants setting up pop up shops and creative outdoor seating options.

Inspiration from a prior UX team trip to the San Francisco Center for the Book

How do you see our online experience evolving over time?
We know from past research that our guests are self-sufficient, autonomous, and prefer to handle things independently whenever possible. We’re already doing quite a bit to empower our guests via technology, but I see us continuing to evolve that experience by enabling travelers to control all aspects of their stay from anywhere. Need extra shampoo? Want to unlock your door with your phone? Care to pre-stock your fridge before you arrive? Curious about exclusive offers with our local partners? How cool would it be if everything you needed during your stay was right in the palm of your hand?

What’s your advice for anyone looking to begin a career in UX?
Be curious and ask for help! A lot of product design is understanding what makes an experience intuitive and enjoyable to use. An easy way to start is by digging deeper into the products that you love and use every day. Why do I like using this product? What would I change about this product to have it better serve my needs? Why do I prefer this particular product over other models? This type of thinking and reflection will help you build the muscle to understand why things are built the way that they are.

Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to product designers and ask for help! Throughout my career, I have been incredibly lucky to have had mentors and cheerleaders that I could lean on for support and look to for advice, and I do my best to pay it forward as well. The more specific you are with your request, the easier it will be for the recipient to give you a clear answer and point you in the right direction.

Rapid-fire questions

Work from home or work from the office?

Team WFH + Team Remote all the way 💪

Leisure or adventure travel?

Adventure travel. I prefer to go snowboarding or run off cliffs instead of sitting on the beach.

Book or podcast; got a favorite?

I love listening to Reply All, a podcast about everything you didn’t know you needed to know about the Internet.

What’s the last trip you took?

A weekend trip to Seattle with my high school friends, right before the pandemic shut everything down.

What’s the best travel advice you ever received?

Keep your expectations low, and you won’t be disappointed (haven’t decided if this is cynical or practical advice yet, but it has never let me down.)

What’s the next Sonder you want to stay in?

This Sonder in Edinburgh — how fun are these contrast walls and crown molding?! 😍 

Best meal you’ve ever eaten on a trip?

Fresh ceviche @ Chez Wong in Lima, Peru. There’s no menu, so you just go in and enjoy whatever Chef Wong feels like serving that day!

Interested in learning more about our teams and opportunities? Check out our careers page.

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