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January 08, 2024



peter Hersehy smiles while holding a camera, in front of a background of green grass, trees and colorful buildings.

As an interaction designer at Google, Peter Hershey’s job is to figure out how to make technology more useful and reducing the time it takes for people to complete everyday tasks.

Could you benefit from automating the mundane responsibilities in your life? Google Assistant, which Hershey works with, can help people turn on lights, set timers, create reminders – in short, make life easier so people can spend less time on daily jobs and more energy on what they enjoy.

“We’re only scratching the surface of what these assistants can do,” Hershey said. “In five years, we could be able to do things we aren’t even anticipating now.”

Hershey pivoted to a career in user experience (UX) design after working as a brand designer for several years, and the change feels like the ideal progression for him.

“It wasn’t intentional,” he laughed. “I was facing the same challenges year after year but wanted to do something different. What attracted me to UX was it is more quantifiable. As a brand designer, if you make a logo and the client doesn’t like it, you’re out of luck. With UX design, we examine metrics and conduct user testing. If you design an incredible app but then no one can use it, you don’t give up. You go step by step and figure it out.”

Instead of attending a coding bootcamp, Hershey transitioned into his new position via on-the-job training. It wasn’t the first time he relied on experiential learning for professional growth – during his time at KU, he worked as a student employee for the Office of University Relations and developed his digital design skills. Those skills, along with other projects, led Hershey to build a portfolio of work he could display for prospective employers, which helped him secure a position.

“When you apply for your first job, you have to show prospective employers you can do the thing you want to get hired for,” he said. “Develop a portfolio through internships, student employment, volunteer work or personal projects. An employer wants to get a sense of what you can do and that they can trust you to do it.”

At KU, he also learned how to become a more versatile thinker and generate ideas on the fly.

“‘Visual Thinking’ with Kate Clair, professor in Art & Design, was a crucial class for me,” he explained. “It was instrumental in teaching me how to get ideas out of my mind and onto paper. An idea in your head isn’t worth anything. For one assignment, we had to draw a smiley face 100 different ways and submit it the next day. I learned there are more ideas in my head than I thought there were, and (also) how to think beyond the obvious. I find that very valuable, even many years later.”

When he isn’t brainstorming new ways to streamline daily life with tech, Hershey is traveling the world. A thirst for adventure has taken him to 39 countries, everywhere from Germany to Southeast Asia.

“My life has been enriched so much by the people I’ve met traveling,” he said. “You never know what to expect, and that’s the most fun. Get out there. Meet people. You’ll reap dividends in your life that you could have never even anticipated.”

Peter Hershey is a 2012 of Kutztown's Communication Design program.

This article originally appeared in the 2023 Tower Magazine.

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