Meet NikkI!

Everyday we learn that the people who work here at 729 Solutions are innovative, curious and creative individuals! This time we showcase Nikki Gagliardo Creative Director, who joins us to discuss her role here at 729, hiking, and ice cream.

Nikki Gagliardo

Tell us more!

I like to start by asking in your own words what do you do here for 729?

That’s a great question. Technically my title is Creative Director and I’m in charge of the Studio’s division. The Studio’s division focuses on small businesses and nonprofits, and kind of the more creative side of the development process. Everything from planning the user experience and the user interface, helping clients gather, organize, and figure out how their content is going to be presented in whatever platform we’re presenting in. Then also making it look good, so applying branding and style guides if they have it, or creating them if they don’t. Working with my team of designers and front-end developers to make all of that happen. Then a whole bunch of other little things, all over the place.

On your about page section you say that you are training to hike the Pacific Crest  Trail. Are you still doing that? What is it mean when you train? Or do you just do it?

Yeah, it’s 2600 miles, and I got really motivated after watching a couple of movies about it, and for a long time we were “Training” which really just means hiking around smaller trails with a bigger backpack so that you get some weight on your back while you’re hiking. You just generally get stronger. We were doing some smaller backpacking trips to prepare. I think that we have, so I say we, my husband and I, have kind of gotten a little bit nervous about it and shied away from it a bit more than we initially thought because we’ve had a couple of interesting backpacking experiences where we’ve gotten chased by buffalo, and stalked by coyotes.
We’ve just been a little bit intimidated by nature in general lately! We’ve found bear tracks down a one-way hike, where on one side we have a cliff and the other side we have the ocean, so if a bear was there it would be a little bit of a precarious situation. So I think we’ve been a bit humbled and I’m not sure that we’re going to actually hike it, but we’re always just kind of striving to push ourselves and our boundaries a bit. Currently, the new task is van life and sort of exploring in a slightly more comfortable environment than backpacking. Yeah.

You can still do like small parts of the trail.

Yeah, and I think we will. I think part of it is our confidence in the trail, I guess our confidence in our abilities to do something that extreme, so we have to work on that a little bit more, but it’s not totally off my radar yet.

Though not mentioned in your about section, in other conversations we’ve had I got to hear a lot about your hobbies, and so I was curious if you could kind of expand on them? You hike, I know that we’ve talked about obviously. You talk about doing other things, like climbing and pottery right?

So ceramics and pottery has been something I’ve kind of done for fun and as a job since I was in high school, really. I had a really amazing art teacher that was inspiring in high school, and she saw something in my art abilities that others didn’t see, and that I didn’t really know I had. So she really mentored me in all areas of art, not just ceramics and pottery, but that’s one that I just really enjoy because I can get my hands dirty and messy and muddy. At the end of the day, you create something that can be very personal or can be something that you want to inspire thoughts or creativity in others.
In college, it was a little bit, I don’t know the word, discouraging maybe because it’s really a whole different level of ceramics. The people there are just so amazingly talented that you sort of realize your place in that world very quickly, and so I definitely decided it was not a career path for me, but had fun with it there. I had a teacher, like, smash my art piece at one point because it wasn’t perfectly centered on the ceramics wheel, and that kind of made me decide, okay, that’s not a long-term solution, but I can still have fun with it. I went on and the next time in my life that I played around with ceramics was when I lived in Germany and worked at a craft studio. There, they saw that I had some ceramics skills and let me teach some really beginner, basic classes for it. So I was teaching other people to do ceramics. Made a lot of friends doing it.
Just had a lot of fun, and really didn’t appreciate that sort of job as much as I should have. I just basically got to play with clay all day and get paid for it, so it was great. Then, when I moved to California I didn’t really have a class or a job that was allowing me to do that and so I just kind of found my own ways to do ceramics for fun. I took some recreational classes just to be around the wheel. I got to know the professors and then just sort of took the class to have the space to do them, to be creative, and to use the wheels and the kilns and stuff. It’s always been something that’s lingered around in my life a bit, and it’s a great outlet.

You also like to rock climb, right? You’re pretty outdoorsy.

Yes. I started rock climbing when I lived in Monterey, and I had a friend that said: “I want to take a women’s 101 rock climbing class, do you want to join me?” I was like “Sure, why not?” I had never climbed before that point. Turns out I liked it a whole lot more than she did in the end, and so I stuck with it. Had to find myself some new climbing partners, but just fell in love with it. I have kind of a tall, lanky, awkward body, and that’s the one place, on the rock climbing wall, where I don’t feel tall and lanky and awkward.

It’s actually quite the advantage.

Yes, it’s helpful to have long arms and legs and, yeah. A lot of people think it’s really a physical challenge, and it is, but I appreciate rock climbing for more of the mental challenge. You really have to focus and use your instincts and a little bit of math, and a little bit of physics and a little bit of science to sort of survive when you’re up there 1500 feet off the ground with nothing but a rope and some pieces of metal to get you down. Yeah, I’ve traveled to different places around the world to rock climbing. Made some really great friends through it, and it’s definitely one of my favorite things to do every week.

Awesome. Do you like to cook?

I love to cook.

What’s your favorite thing that you, or you and your husband, cook together? Like, that you actually make.

Yeah. It’s actually something that I, I’ve made it with my husband, but more with my family in general when I was a kid, is homemade pasta and tomato sauce. My family is Italian, and so one of my favorite memories is from the holidays when we were kids. A couple of weeks before Christmas the family would get together and, mostly the ladies in the family, but sometimes the guys would get together and make all of the pasta. It would just be racks of pasta and piles of pasta hanging all over the kitchen. Everybody had a little cutter and we’d be slicing and slicing and slicing and rolling and kneading. And then we would either dry them out or sometimes we’d freeze them, and then on Christmas, we’d pull them back and boil them up, and it was just being together, cooking things and spending time with each other. Kind of one of my favorite memories in general of cooking. The pasta in particular is something that I do now quite frequently throughout the year. Probably one of my favorite things to make.

Of food that you do not cook for yourself, what’s your favorite food? You seem pretty adventurous.

Mostly yeah, I would say mostly adventurous with my cooking, but raw fish, so sushi and sashimi is something that I really enjoy, but definitely don’t typically make myself. However, James and Leslie had me over for dinner, and James also works here, and they make it homemade, so I got to kind of experience homemade sushi with them the other day. That was a lot of fun, but not typically something I make for myself.

Right on. Do you have a favorite dessert?

Oh man, I like all desserts. All desserts. I think I’d just go classic with ice cream.

Yeah, I feel that.

Yeah, I like local, handmade ice cream. There’s a place called Hammond’s here in San Diego, in North Park, that’s one of my favorite places. They have all really unique flavors like Thai Tea or Coconut Rum. They are all made in Hawaii, and then they do flights of ice cream. You get these tiny, tiny little ice cream cones with a small scoop of ice cream on them, but you can try like five or six of them at once!

That is actually extremely exciting to somebody who wants to try everything, it’s very hard to pick. That alone makes me like them and I haven’t even been there.

Yes. The only problem when you go there is being able to control yourself because they look very small, but they’re actually really filling and so I can get through about five of them, and I start to feel sick.

Is there anything else that you want to share? About yourself? About what you like doing here at 729? About anything else that you do in your free time or spare time that is interesting? Anything at all?

I really like what I do here at 729. I like the flexibility and the trust I have from my colleagues and management in what I’m doing, and that design has a purpose and fits really well into what we do here as far as theory and wanting to do things right. I’m really big on the planning aspect of design and it, unfortunately, gets left out and skipped a lot of times because people don’t see the value in it. That value really shows when users have trouble using your app or your software or your website because if you don’t do the steps to plan for someone to use it properly, then they’ll get skipped and that’s where errors happen. I’m really excited that I get to do that sort of thing here and hope that more people will pick up on it and see the value in it that I do.

Okay, my very, very last question for you is why are you obsessed with Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups?

Oh man, they’re so good. I was just having this conversation with my husband. It’s the ratio of chocolate to peanut butter, and the fact that it’s dark chocolate and not milk chocolate, so it’s not quite as sweet. Yeah, it’s the ratio of chocolate to peanut butter that’s really important in those. It’s so bad that my parents and other people will gift me boxes of those for the holidays because I love them so much.

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"I really like what I do here at 729. I like the flexibility and the trust I have from my colleagues and management in what I’m doing."

Nikki Gagliardo - Vreative Director, 729 Solutions

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