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About Me

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Jillian S. Estrella
🏳️‍🌈 she/her 🏳️‍⚧️

Software Engineering Manager, Design Systems and Developer Experience

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Current Work

Software Engineering Manager, Design Systems and Developer Experience

Northwestern Mutual

September 2022 - Present

As the manager of the design systems and developer experience tooling within Northwestern Mutual's Experience Platform group, I lead a team responsible for overseeing the system guide, core libraries, client-side utilities, and community contribution libraries.

My key responsibilities in this role include:

  • providing technical leadership
  • ensuring production stability for products
  • standardizing and sharing best practices across the department
  • collaborating with cross-functional teams to plan and delegate work
  • mentoring and coaching engineers for technical and leadership growth
  • recruiting, hiring, and onboarding talent for team development

Previous Work

Senior Software Engineer, Design Systems Core Lead

Northwestern Mutual

Jan 2022 - Aug 2022

As a leader overseeing multiple teams and projects on Northwestern Mutual's design system, Luna, I was responsible for defining roadmaps, delegating work, and collaborating with designers on implementing new functionality. I also mentored and coached engineers, established team standards and best practices, and participated in recruiting and interviewing potential candidates. Additionally, I advised on contributions and integrations as needed.

Senior Software Engineer, Design Systems Contributions and Integrations Lead

Northwestern Mutual

Jan 2021 - Dec 2021

In this role, my focus was on lowering barriers for other teams at the company to contribute to Luna. For a design system to be successful, it requires buy-in from everyone at the company. One way to get this investment is to ensure that anyone can contribute, thus giving everyone a sense of ownership.

Our solution was the creation of Community Contribution Libraries (CCLs). The Luna CCL development environment, which implements Storybook, is pleasant to work in. It increases developer velocity while reducing frustration. Luna CCLs also lower the collaboration barrier between designers and engineers.

The Luna CCLs were also used to improve and implement better testing standards/practices. CCLs were built from the start to lower the effort required for engineers to implement tests and improve test coverage and variety; including real-time and regression testing for accessibility, components, and screens. Thereby increasing the confidence in the quality of the products we ship.

To govern the use of CCLs, I launched our Community Contribution Model. This model offers guidelines for CCL candidacy, lifecycle, and core promotion.

The CCL program has gained traction with several teams currently piloting it, and we continue to see interest from others. Our CCL platform has been instrumental in developing and deploying multiple Luna projects, and we have successfully adopted it as a baseline for Luna Core development.

Lead Developer, Educational Technology and Web Applications

BSCS Science Learning

Aug 2015 - July 2021

At BSCS, I built and led an in-house software development team, modernized their tech stack, and adopted innovative approaches to software and design. We implemented a design system, component-based, serverless, microservice architectures, and the Jamstack, resulting in more efficient and higher quality digital products with lower support costs.

My responsibilities included roadmapping, planning, delegating work, architecting solutions, overseeing product lifecycles, guiding and mentoring the team, and designing/building UIs and components.

Our stack included React + TypeScript frontends (Gatsby / Next.js / Tailwind CSS), Golang microservices, Fauna DB for data persistence, Docker, and Nginx. Our design system, Caribou, used Gatsby for the system guide, Storybook for the development environment, and published components to NPM for easy consumption.

Instructor; Astronomy and Physics

Pikes Peak State College

Aug 2014 - Aug 2015

Before my career in software development, I was an astronomy and physics instructor. My courses introduced students to the skills required to think critically about the physical world. They offered students experience in solving real-world problems.

Research Assistant

University of Michigan

Aug 2011 - Aug 2014

In graduate school, I did research on the space environment of planets and comets. Colloquially known as “space weather,” my research investigated how the solar wind affects the magnetospheres, ionospheres, and upper atmospheres of these objects.


In this program, I am building foundational skills in authentic leadership, effective communication, organizational management, quantitative analysis, finance, systems engineering, product development, business law, ethical decision-making, and DEI in the workplace.

My studies focused on the theory of plasma physics, electromagnetism, fluid dynamics, atmospheric radiative transfer and their applications to solar physics and planetary science.

Emphasis was placed on numerical analysis, algorithms, and computational techniques for solving and analyzing physics and engineering problems.

I gained a strong foundation in classical mechanics, modern physics, electromagnetics, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, condensed matter physics, nuclear & particle physics, plasma physics, circuit theory & design, and certified to design and machine custom parts for laboratory experiments in the physics department's state of the art machine shop.

I studied, in-depth, the current understanding of most astrophysical phenomena such as geophysics, atmospheric & planetary science, stellar structure & evolution, galaxies, neutron stars, and black holes.

Extracurricular Interests

Jillian and her family.

Jillian and her family.

In my free time I enjoy spending time with my beautiful family, creating visual and immersive art, adventuring in our van (#vanlife), practicing yoga, mountain biking, and I read a lot.

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