UX Designer “Cracks the Leadership Code,” Advocates for Other Women in Business
The High-Potential Women Leaders program gave Dannielle Dan, senior UX designer at PayPal for Merchants, the tools to become a leader and advocate for other women.
Born and raised in Inner Mongolia, China, Dannielle Dan came to the U.S. in 2008 to study computer graphic design — specifically, interactive design. She landed her first job at Microsoft in 2011 as a user experience (UX) designer and later worked in finance, B2B customer experience, and cybersecurity industries.
As she progressed in her career, Dannielle knew she had the experience and expertise to lead teams and get results. But she needed the knowledge and tools to increase her influence and impact. “I’m still a new immigrant,” she shares. “As a minority female, I wanted to learn more about communication skills and how to establish my executive presence…. I wanted to crack the leadership code and be seen as a leader.”
Dannielle became a Senior UX Designer at PayPal for Merchants in August 2020, as the world was adjusting to remote work due to COVID-19. Dannielle wondered how she could be more effective in this new reality. “I felt ready for a leadership role, but I struggled with how people perceived me,” she says.
Earlier in her career, Dannielle struggled to find her voice and be heard. “I’d bring up an idea at a meeting and get no response,” she recalls. “Then a guy in the room would repeat my idea, and he gets the credit.” With a promising new job at a major tech firm — and the added challenge of working remotely — Dannielle decided to explore leadership education programs.
Discovering the Leader Within
In January 2021, Dannielle embarked on the first-ever High-Potential Women Leaders Program — an intensive, two-week live online program designed to transform how participants negotiate and manage teams, and fundamentally change the way they lead. A lifelong learner who’d completed several continuing education courses, Dannielle was drawn to the program’s research-based approach and the opportunity to learn with other women.
The program, she says, impacted her work immediately.
“The learnings about negotiation and executive presence are things I use in my job every day,” Dannielle says. “As a designer, pretty much everything I do involves negotiation, such as timelines. Learning the principles of negotiation and how to establish an executive presence on a video call was crucial. The program also elevated my vision to view things from the team’s perspective, to help us create a culture for all of us to work more effectively remotely. We also learned to use humor to leverage our leadership.”
One of the biggest takeaways, says Dannielle, was what she learned about how women can empower other women. “When a female coworker goes to speak and gets cut off or doesn’t voice her opinion, there are ways to support her,” she notes. “You can ask a question to bring her back into the conversation. Women can elevate one another. I immediately put that into practice.”
Advocating for Other Women
Dannielle and the other participants in her cohort forged strong bonds — inspiring and energizing each other. When the program concluded, they didn’t want those relationships to end. So, Dannielle and a fellow program participant, Maralle Fakhereddin, teamed up to co-found the HPWL Community of Practice, a self-organized group that meets to discuss select topics and hear guest speakers. “We wanted to continue practicing what we learned in the program and support each other,” Dannielle says.
Moving forward, Dannielle wants to continue growing as a design leader — one who inspires others to work collaboratively to achieve the best outcomes. “I’m committed to being an advocate for other women,” she says. Dannielle applies what she’s learned in her volunteer work as a mentor and also within PayPal’s Pan-Asian employee resource group.
“PayPal has a culture of inclusion,” Dannielle says. “By bringing everyone together on your journey, then everyone can contribute. Engineering, design, content, and research can all collaborate more effectively to make good products for our users. At the end of the day, everyone is feeling more empowered.