Jason Brightman, Intuit’s VP of Virtual Expert Platform Experience on Strategic Design Leadership

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With a storied career that has taken him through the ranks of well-known international brands like Amazon, PayPal and Gopuff, Jason is taking design leadership to greater heights as Intuit’s newest VP of Virtual Expert Platform Experience, where he will drive the end-to-end experience for the company’s network of experts and customers. Intuit, a financial household brand, boasts an annual revenue of over $15 billion and 100 million customers worldwide. The global fintech platform is part of a suite of apps that includes TurboTax, QuickBooks, Credit Karma and MailChimp. 

Elevating design into strategic leadership

Jason's decision to omit "design" from his title was strategic, aimed at transcending the narrow confines traditionally associated with the role. He explains, "Too many people associate ‘design’ with pixels they see on the screen. In reality, the pixels are the end-result of a beautifully complex orchestration of product, design craft, engineering, legal, data, GTM, and leadership functions." His role, central to this orchestration, showcases how today's executives are driving strategic expansion beyond traditional limits, integrating multiple business functions holistically. Gordon Ching, founder and CEO of Design Executive Council, remarks, "Jason's approach reflects an emerging trend we're seeing with design executives adopting more strategic and expansive roles, significantly enhancing their influence on business outcomes beyond the conventional design department."

In this role, Brightman sees the confluence of his previous experience and skills in a way that will make a positive impact. “The appealing thing to me is when somebody needs help or wants expertise, they’re partnering with an expert and creating human connection,” he says. “So much of our software, and so many of the products that are out there, are very transactional. But it's clear to me that creating connections between people is critical to creating meaningful experiences.”

And that’s exactly what Jason will be doing in his new role: fostering deeper connections and improving service offerings in order to create a more humane personal and small business finance and tax experience. By working with business units across the company and partnering with design, engineering product, data and go-to-market teams, he’ll create opportunities for delivering great customer experiences.

His vision is for the teams to move faster and bring more value to the customers. “One of the things I'm always thinking about is the ROI of a design organization. Particularly in these larger enterprise companies, because designers are often working on a project or an experience and looking at that use case or that moment. But I think the real power comes from taking that moment and leveraging it for much broader things. Taking the designer’s work in that moment and applying it to moments across the company - or to the customer journey or experience.”

This, he says, is the key to showcasing the ROI of a designer: remixing the designer’s work to quickly and positively impact other areas within the company and measurably improve the end-to-end customer experience.

Creating useful tools for enriching our financial lives

To go about this, Jason takes inspiration from another big name in tech: LinkedIn, a network that enables users to connect with peers. But LinkedIn also provides tools that enable those connections. “That’s how I see this going: providing tools to our customers, who can then learn from the experts and manage their financial lives. At the end of the day, I want to know who I'm working with, and I want to like who I'm working with, and I want to get something very human and fulfilling out of that. 

He’s enthusiastic about utilizing AI in the mix, “because it should allow designers, customers and the experts helping us, do it faster - finding the information at the right time, running our businesses, all of that. And if it can, we’ll have a lot more time to do other things in our lives. And I think that's a net positive.” 

Making taxes less painful, and more personal

“Death by taxes” is a common mantra, and we’ve all experienced that pain. But there is a world where this annual ritual is made less stressful and more joyful, because we now have an easier means of connecting with someone who can walk us through it carefully. “Also, I think what's interesting about this time is the enhancement and augmentation of that stress through technologies and tools,” he says.

But, he adds, what sets it apart from just being a tool set in AI is the relationships between our users and experts and being able to have a genuine conversation and feeling seen and understood. “Intuit leverages this really well today, and they're investing a lot in it. And it's just going to get better. If you have a specific question, you can enter it in. Through AI and other tools, you can get the answer. “It’s not friction; it’s enhancement.”

Brightman takes this a step further and says that he’d love to rephrase the annual “tax headache.” Rather than a once-a-year headache, Brightman suggests a process reversal of sorts.

“Instead of coming to Intuit once a year, during the most painful time, it could be reversed to a quarterly or monthly check-in whereby Intuit's professionals help customers through decisions and life choices. It’s based on our vision of breathing more humanity and engagement.”

By incorporating taxes into our regular financial routine - not unlike going to the dentist for oral hygiene maintenance - the process becomes less of a burden.  

By being proactive about taxes and paying attention to them throughout the year, Jason says that it can be more like a celebration, whereby each transaction paints a picture of the user’s year. 

“It’s all of these wonderful moments throughout the year - big and small - that are represented in each transaction, each paycheck and each expense. Every smile, every tear, every triumph and every heartache are reflected in those numbers. It creates a beautiful opportunity for folks to reflect on and celebrate their stories,” he adds.

But, more broadly, Brightman adds, if you build those connections throughout the course of the year, whether as an individual or business owner, you have somebody you can go back to repeatedly and consult on implications of significant life changes, like a new job, for example. “We’re deepening and broadening the consumer relationship with Intuit through a new enhancement like this,” he says.

A journey from art school to a career in consumer technology 

A career that began in art school with an eye for traditional design took Brightman to a New York magazine publisher when the commercial internet was emerging. “I always loved stories, and I saw the potential in that medium for more immersive and interesting storytelling. So I created the publisher’s first division of online publishing.” He got to experiment with myriad emerging technologies, which included the internet and early mobile devices at the time.

From there, he moved to the west coast to transform IDG’s - another publisher - print work to online. “There, I fell in love with data, because they had so much product data. And I really learned about what you could do when you tied data together with customer experience. All these magical new stories can be created by doing that,” he says.

Shaping how we shop: scaling Amazon Shopping

Jason joined Amazon in 2013 as a Director of UX Design for Amazon Shopping and spent the next five years shipping new shopping experiences that drove over $10B in incremental revenue wins globally. 

While there, the company’s primary focus was on scale while operating at a breathtaking speed. In owning Amazon’s core shopping experiences Jason’s design leadership enabled him to impact a broad portfolio of work, eventually becoming Director of Product, Engineering, UX Design and Research for Amazon Shopping. In this role, he demonstrated his ability to not only lead design, but cross-functional technology and product teams. His work included everything from the Amazon homepage to global navigation, cart, checkout, product detail pages, AmazonUI, performance and latency and experimental VR shopping. 

The challenge, he says, was working within a horizontal platform with hundreds of other teams that were also building experiences on top of the company’s platforms. “Learning how to operate at that scale and figuring out how to leverage the power of both the global scale and local optimizations was an amazing experience,” he says. 

Redefining finance: creating the PayPal superapp 

In 2018,  Brightman took his skills to the financial space and served at PayPal for nearly four years as the Senior Director of Global Design. He eventually became VP of Product Design and oversaw global design across PayPal, Venmo, Braintree, Honey and Zettle. Jason grew the impact of the 270-person design organization, including some of his key contributions focused on leveraging design across the business units. His leadership helped grow PayPal's user base by 118% to over 425M, and Venmo’s user base by 130% to over 70M, including key wins like using Venmo's great money-transfer-out experience on PayPal. 

Jason’s teams also transformed the way they look at financial transactions and developed PayPal’s superapp to enhance product discovery and introduce customers to new ways to save and support charities - an initiative that increased customer engagement and retention. The team’s discovery that “paying back the $5 I owe someone isn’t as much of a transaction as it is a story - a reminder of the experience we had together.” That's how Venmo built itself: the network tells a story. 

Lightning fast deliveries: earning customer loyalty at Gopuff

From there, Brightman took his skills to Gopuff, where he launched himself into helping the startup find product market fit. He helped to grow the company’s FAM subscription program and increased orders to several per week, aided with exclusive pricing and as-fast-as 15-minute delivery times for members.

Jason also takes pride in how he and his team created and instrumented a design system that enabled rapid customizations. Unique app designs for Valentines Day, St. Patrick's Day, New Years and other significant holidays reflected the world around their customers. But the lessons he learned about the financial space led him to further understand the related emotional component of what he was doing. 

“Being able to leverage the scale and technology to create connections between people -  that's what stories are. And that's what storytelling is. I think it ties all these different threads from my experience together,” he says of his tenure.

More than transactions: design is about creating meaning 

Brightman says that when you're looking at someone’s taxes, it's the story of the last year of this person's life. Although it's about money in and money out, there's so much more in that person's life that's going on. Maybe they started a new job, which is full of hope and possibility; their kid might be going to school, so their expenses are going up. But it’s really about them supporting their child and trying to make a better life for them. It’s important for us as design leaders to understand that moment.

“We can create these experiences that just facilitate the transaction. Or, we can create experiences that celebrate what that transaction means and how all of the transactions reflect this individual’s unique life. We can really make it a celebration of that life,” he says. “We can dramatically change the game. All of that is so interesting and amazing and wonderful to me.”

About

Jason Brightman

Jason is a seasoned design leader with 25+ years' experience in cultivating customer-centric design teams. Currently VP of Virtual Expert Platform at Intuit, he previously spearheaded global product design at PayPal, overseeing Venmo, Honey, Zettle, and Braintree. Under his guidance, PayPal's design team scaled to 270 members, launching impactful consumer and merchant tools like a revamped PayPal super-app and Venmo social payments app. His customer-centric approach saw Venmo's user base surge by 130% to 70M and PayPal's by 118% to 425M. Prior to PayPal, Jason led design, research, product, and engineering for Amazon's shopping experience, driving e-commerce innovation and generating over $7B in incremental revenue. He pioneered UX research methodologies, leveraging qualitative and analytical data to scale insights globally, resulting in $3B in incremental improvements. Jason fosters a culture of innovation, encouraging teams to push boundaries while delivering immediate customer value. With a BFA in communication design, he resides with his family in Oakland, CA.

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