3D Success: How Sally Huang Is Redesigning Houzz Through Visual Technology

  • Sally used augmented reality or AR as tech-savvy persons would call it, to make the process of imagining room furnishings to seeing it take shape in 3-dimensional form.
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What do interior design and technology have in common? Sally Huang. Technology remains an unconventional career for women, and Sally is the head of Visual Technologies at an online home renovation and design platform that is aptly termed Houzz since 2015. She has developed a unique feature ‘View in My Room 3D’ for the Houzz iPad and iPhone app through which users can virtually preview a host of décor and furniture before making a final selection. 

Sally used augmented reality or AR as tech-savvy persons would call it, to make the process of imagining room furnishings to seeing it take shape in 3-dimensional form. Users can try out different design features or create an ideabook using Sketch and then buy a piece of furniture that they know will be suitable for their home or office space. Sally explains the technology on the Houzz blog: “View in my Room 3D will help users overcome the visualization gap…This feature empowers homeowners and home pros to virtually arrange products in a home, manipulate the items, rotating and placing them at the best position and angle to see how the product would look in real life.”

Sally has a Master’s in business administration from The Wharton School and also in engineering from Cornell University. She is no beginner at developing technology-based applications and has accumulated prior experience as a game designer and executer. Sally has worked in multifaceted roles as a producer for Halo 4, a technical artist for decorating mode on EA’s MySims, and a world artist for Elder Scrolls IV. The secret to her success is her ability to integrate technical expertise with engineering and artistry – a unique combination of talents in one person. 

Sally’s enrolled at Wharton’s MBA program for executives (EMBA) while working in the gaming industry. Her Wharton experience defined her entrepreneurship career in interior design visualization tools to a large extent. She was exposed to a diverse culture of students and entrepreneurs from different fields and her idea to use 3D visualization for interior design originated there: “I was able to see the strategic impact of emerging technologies on many industries. One of those observations was the use of 3D graphics technology in the real estate space. The concept was cool, but most solutions looked awful. I thought I could do better, especially coming from the video game industry.” She went on to enter Wharton’s Business Plan Competition with her plan for visualization in interior design that she called ‘Roominate.’ She later developed her idea into a full-blown business using the resources and mentorship on qualifying for the Venture Initiation Program at Wharton. Her latest project with Houzz is set to take the app one step further in user engagement and sales. The work culture at Houzz which supports women has helped her continue her job despite being a mother. 

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Sally Huang is leading the way for women entrepreneurs in technology. Sally credits her success into supportive women mentors and emphasizes the need for women to support other women at work: ‘I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by a lot of very supportive women throughout my career and believe that has contributed to mutual career success, as well as to creating a healthy work environment. I think what’s important for people to realize is that achievement at work is not a zero-sum game. It’s silly to compete because your accomplishment shouldn’t be someone else’s failure.”

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