Did this become my life?

My name is Susan Rits and I am OBSESSED with teaching product design to the next wave of brilliant designers.

But this is not what I set out to do.

I’ve been where you are now. I know how hard it is.

I’ve been a hardworking designer since 1994.

Starting in NYC, scrambling to get my hands on anything website related, teaching myself HTML 1.0 in my third floor walkup, and during lunch breaks as a temp secretary.

I was getting nowhere

My expensive degrees in art and anthropology going to waste answering phones and filing papers.

Cue the tiny violin.

Go Time

Then one day, in a windowless basement among stacks of files and ringing phones, I knew.

It was now or never.

I walked out of that job at lunch and never went back. #irresponsibleyouth

Ignoring calls from the agency — mostly because I didn’t want to get an earful — I swore my next job would be as a designer or I’d starve.

Only then did it happen. Only once I decided nothing would keep me from my dream.

Even so, I almost missed it. Some place I’d never heard of, Roadrunner, wanted me for their new web division. I thought it was a car company.

It wasn’t, it was TimeWarner.

My job was designing the first ever NY1 website. After that, I went to FOX, then CNN, ABC, Paramount.

In time, I started my own design agency and was making six figures designing websites for the likes of A|X, Dun & Bradstreet, MasterCard, Hysek, FDNY…

Until the call from Google.


The big time.

In a week I’d moved all the way to Mountain View, California, to do some of the first user experience design ever at Google.

I worked with the AdWords and AdSense teams and helped put complex, transactional software online. I memorized About Face 2.0 and conducted design ethnographies, focus groups, usability studies.

I was working on 15 products at once, with 17 engineers and 25 product managers living the life of a full-on product designer

— and I loved it!

Working in Silicon Valley

At the hottest company of the day. It had taken me 15 years, but I’d achieved all my professional dreams.

And then I quit.

Yes. It was crazy.

I’d been bit by the startup bug.

I founded my first ever technology company, Zazum, and patented an audio signal technology I invented.

After I sold that company I founded a few more: a platform for farmers markets, a news aggregator, a fashion crowdsourcing application.

And my new design firm, Rits & Co.

Since then I’ve been designing products for the biggest (and some of the smallest) companies in the Bay Area: Oracle, PayPal, BabyCenter, Sephora. I’ve built product teams, lead design efforts, completely reinvented the design process…

Damn, if it all wasn’t exhausting! After 9 years of frenzied working, I was burned out.


For a change

So I took a break and thought about what to do next.

I travelled, wrote books, played with my dog and thought some more.

What I came up with was…

I wanted to teach new product designers what I’d learned in 25 years of hustle.

After exploring the universities and schools, big and small, I found my home at General Assembly in San Francisco. A startup that fits my belief in bootstrapping entrepreneurship and can-do attitude completely.

Sharing the skills and insights learned the hard way gets me fired up! Telling stupid stories and acting goofy in front of crowds fills me with joy.

I’m privileged to pass on to the next generation of rockstar designers my insider tips for creating great products and thriving in this emergent, competitive profession.