Connector Spotlight: Leanne Paura

February 22, 2022

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

When she’s not leading Connected’s rapidly growing design team, you can find Leanne Paura leading dance floors behind the ones and twos at hotspots around the city. That is, only after the Nerf battle is over and her two young sons are tucked in bed.

Tell us a bit about the projects you’re working on.

I’m fortunate to work with a diverse portfolio of partners. Presently, we’re working to improve the organizational product development process at one of our clients’ new ventures. It’s exciting when you get to be involved at this foundational level of organizational design, helping to implement new processes, sharing tips and techniques – it’s great. I really enjoy the opportunity to work with other design leaders as I always walk away learning something too. 

On top of that, we have an ambitious outlook for 2022. As an end-to-end product development firm, design is a big part of Connected’s value proposition, and I’m looking forward to sharing the great work we’ve been doing to gain more recognition as leaders in the field. 

Lastly, I’m actively contributing to operationalizing our Product Thinking Playbook in the role of Design sponsor. This endeavour to evolve and share our proven methods is something that our entire organization is excited about. And from what I hear from clients and members of the product community, they aren’t the only ones.

What’s the most interesting challenge about the project?

Change is a constant with every team, every project, and every client. But that’s what makes it fun. Leadership, team members, skills sets, outcomes—all of these can be fluid and dynamic, contributing to an array of challenges. But more importantly, this is also how you give rise to great opportunities. 

We’re always looking for Smart, Kind, Reliable Teachers and Learners, and this year we have some new leaders on the team. I really relish opportunities to empower people to make an impact, whether on a project or our practice. And it is my hope that with the growth and evolution of this team, we’ll be strengthening our design impact in the industry and expanding our services to both existing and new clients.

Where did you work before Connected?

Prior to Connected, I spent three years leading the UX design team at ecobee, a Toronto-based intelligent home product company known for its connected thermostats, light switches, and home monitoring products. There, I led the user experience of the world’s first voice-enabled thermostat with Amazon Alexa built-in, which was really exciting. 

Before that, I led product design at Pivotal’s Toronto office (formerly Xtreme Labs), where I had the pleasure of first working with Mike Stern and Damian McCabe – the founders of Connected, as well as Farhan Thawar (member of our Board).

What achievement are you most proud of in your career to date?

I’m most proud of my ability to quickly scale teams with talented, hardworking, thoughtful and collaborative designers and researchers. To be honest, it’s these inspiring people that make my role so rewarding.

We grew the design team from 2 to 16 at Xtreme Labs/Pivotal, and while I was at ecobee, I had the opportunity to experience similar exponential growth within design as the company quadrupled in size in just a few years. Despite Connected’s mature design practice,  we had the chance to scale again to our current number of 18, and I’m truly proud of the amazingly skilled group of design and research practitioners we’ve built at Connected. 

One other achievement related to our team growth is the skills maps we’ve rolled out to help designers and researchers understand the competencies we value at Connected and identify areas they can focus on for continual improvement. Again, this was a team effort, and I’m thankful for the leads on my team who contributed as we built these out last year.

Do you have a mantra you live by?

“The only constant in life is change.” – Heraclitus

What do you love to do outside of work?

Music is a really big passion in my life. I’m a tech-house DJ, so you can find me regularly playing events and clubs around the city when things aren’t locked down.

I’m also an avid snowboarder, am fascinated by typography and hand lettering, and enjoy biking around the city in the warmer months. However, I spend most of my other waking moments with my two young sons (aged 2 & 7). Our activities can vary from Lego-building to Nerf battles, couch forts, and outdoor activities like skating, tobogganing, and swimming. Needless to say, between work and home, there’s never a dull moment.

If you were stuck on a deserted island, what album, movie, and book would you take with you?

Album: Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington “The Great Summit”

Movie: Pulp Fiction

Book: Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

Describe yourself in three words. 

Candid, Intuitive, Flexible.

And finally, what’s your favourite product and why? 

My Pioneer DDJ-SR2 Serato DJ Controller. When I first started DJing, I used to play on turntables with vinyl. After a few years moved to a digital system: laptop with Serato software and an external  Rane interface combined with turntables and control vinyl (or CDJs /control CDs at shows). Then, about two years ago, I picked up the controller, and I was amazed at how compact and lightweight it was—it takes the place of a mixer and decks for smaller events. Now, all I need is it and my laptop and I’m ready to DJ anywhere.


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