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Putting customers first at Capital One Software

Élida Cruz took her first job out of college on a whim. She wanted to go to grad school for art history but didn’t have the money, so she found a position in Brooklyn as a customer service representative for a tech start-up.

She was on the phone every day with customers, listening to their problems and working with product, tech and sales teams to find solutions. This customer-focused work is what Élida, now vice president and head of design for our newest business venture, Capital One Software, credits as her first step to becoming an experience designer.

“I didn't realize it at the time, but I was essentially doing the same user research that I do today,” Élida said. “It developed this mindset in me, which Capital One also has, to put customers at the forefront of everything I do.”

We spoke to Élida about her approach to experience design, Capital One Software and what she looks for in associates thinking of joining her team.

What made you come to Capital One?

When Capital One reached out to me, my first thought was, “I don't want to work for a bank.” I didn't have any financial services experience, but the more I started to learn about the work Capital One was doing, the more I could see it’s this untapped space that has tons of growth opportunities. Our teams were solving for associate experiences, customer experiences and considering the broader impact financial services have in the life and work of our customers. I was intrigued by how design could uplift our broader business interests and goals.

What sealed the deal for me was the people. They all talked about how aligned they were with the mission to change banking for good. It was such a different approach to human connection, care and curiosity that I hadn't seen yet in my career. Capital One recognizes that banking is ripe for innovation.

What has it been like being part of Capital One Software—the enterprise’s newest line of business?

Capital One Software has an awesome story. We realized how much value there is in being able to take the products we’ve developed through our own digital transformation to market so that other organizations can benefit.

I am incredibly excited by the entrepreneurial, get-up-and-go spirit this team has to build and launch a new business and product. I am thrilled to lend human-centered design practices and methodologies into building Capital One Software. We put our customers at the heart of every single thing we do.

What do you think is unique about how Capital One approaches designing the customer experience?

We've got a clear understanding and appreciation for diversity, inclusion and belonging, a thriving culture and value doing the right thing for our customers. Combining all that with engaged associates—who solve meaningful, impactful problems for our customers—makes a successful business. Capital One is a beautiful concert and orchestration of all these different pieces coming together.

How has your own identity influenced your human-first design philosophy?

I have had so many people tell me that my story of being Mexican and American, and growing up in two very different worlds, resonates with them.

It wasn't until I moved into a leadership role that I recognized there is no one size fits all of being a Latino. Once I started getting comfortable with that, I could leverage my unique experience, privilege and perspective to help others and develop opportunities for people who look like me and my family.

Watch the video below to learn more about Élida’s journey to being her authentic self.

How does taking the software we’ve developed in-house to market help us on our own tech and innovation journey?

We continue to build our reputation as a technology innovator that is solving important real-world problems.

We launched Capital One Software and our first data management solution, Slingshot, in June 2022. Following our exciting launch, Capital One Software participated in Snowflake Summit, and we had so many people from various tech companies waiting in line to hear our associates speak about the journey.

What types of skills make a successful product, software or experience designer today?

We’re growing exponentially. Every week I speak to candidates who are interested in being part of the journey. Whether they’re a designer, leader or product or program manager, I always look for people who exercise curiosity, demonstrate empathy and communicate clearly.

Maybe if you're just entering the workforce as a designer you might have a much more narrow point of view. But as you grow in your career and gain more responsibility, I expect you to understand how we work, financial models and the mindset of your customers.

Anyone can be a designer. Look at me. I didn't come from a craft background. I consider myself a designer because I create solutions to problems.

Why is it important for teams to keep a customer-mindset at the forefront?

If you're solving problems for customers, you'll see an improvement in business, especially if you create differentiated value for them. What are they feeling? What are they challenged with? How can we make their lives easier? How do we think about the strategy of the business? How do customers fit into that?

You've got to bring all of those things together to have a really well-rounded perspective on what products, services and experiences drive business impact. I can’t imagine it any other way.