February 11, 2019

by Danielle Sabata

Design at Esper

I lead product design and brand at Esper, a small but mighty team based in Austin, Texas.

What exactly is Esper?

Like most enterprise software companies, our web products help people do work. Our customers are public officials and their work is to create policies that fundamentally shape the American experience.

In government the need for data and technology is profound and deep. For the last year we’ve been building the basics–laser focusing on getting people the tools they need to do their jobs. We have big plans to build significantly more advanced tools, but for now we have a heavy emphasis on digitizing pen and paper methods to provide a solid foundation for growing into nuanced products and services down the road. You might be surprised how significant of a life change it is for someone in government to be able to collaborate on a project without relying on long email threads, faxes, or phone calls. Not only does this back-to-basics approach allow us to work faster as a product team, but it checks the box on more needs and eliminates immediate barriers that prevent the use of web tools.

We build for purpose with pragmatic design philosophies.

I find shipping practical tools immensely satisfying because what I produce does something to move the world forward. Officials and civil servants often don’t have the latest hardware or software, so we don’t focus on incorporating cutting edge interactions or the latest Pantone of the year. Rather, we try to deliver on current private sector web expectations set by other products our customers may use–Facebook, Outlook, Dropbox, etc. This team, far more than others I have worked on, practices restraint in building a strong but nimble foundation that adds immediate value. It’s been exciting to iteratively layer product hypotheses and learnings, one on top of another, as we progress and refine what we do and who we are.

As a team we ship big things often.

Since I joined Esper 7 months ago, we’ve averaged one large product release about every three weeks and an infinite number of smaller features and enhancements throughout. We talk with customers on a regular cadence and through these conversations build trusted, lasting relationships. When someone has a question or idea, they reach out to us and we assemble a team to return value on their outreach.

Every day when I go to work I learn more about the processes that define the U.S. and my hope is that through our work we are serving and empowering government workers and citizens in each community that we operate. Not only are we building great things, but in many ways we’re pioneering an industry at the same time. There’s lots of juicy, ambiguous opportunity to dig into.

We, at Esper, in the U.S., in the world, need designers that feel compelled to engage in the political system to take the leap. To bring their empathetic, problem solving skills and apply them to the public sector on a societal scale.