Working with me

This is a guide to working with me. It’s an evolving document, as I'm still learning how to do this job better. I’ve been meaning to put down my goals as a design leader, and I’ve seen this done by a number of people I admire, so I wanted to try it out.

Hopefully, this helps guide me as much as it helps you.

About me and my goals

My goal is to build a world-class design team that helps defines the vision for product development, facilitates ideation of new ideas, standardizes consistent implementation, and is responsive to the daily demands of business. All while delivering the highest quality user experience possible.

That’s a mouthful, for sure, but I believe there’s a huge opportunity to change how design is viewed and valued, and as designers, we need to rise to meet this challenge if we want to change the perception that design is just “making things pretty”.

I’m primarily interested in design as a team sport — building teams that emphasize collaboration between designers and non-design colleagues.

How do I view my job?

First, I exist to serve my team. I see myself as a tool to help you do great work. I have a lot of different kinds of conversations with a lot of people across the business. I’m a kind of connective glue in that way. I see our conversations as a way for me to share what I know stakeholders and others are thinking, as well as serve as a sounding board for questions and concerns you have.

I typically will not have strong opinions about your implementation. I will, however, challenge the decisions you’ve made to make sure your designs are well considered.

I almost always take the long view because in, my experience, learning takes time.

I believe wholeheartedly in Lean UX, and learning through shipping. That can be challenging because it means moving forward when a design is 80%, and looping back to improve it and push it closer to 100%. That puts more responsibility for quality on the designer, which can be challenging when others want to start on new projects. With a solid development process that values successful outcomes, you can usually push for additional iterations to get the design where you want it.

Because iteration is key to a successful design, I don’t believe in rushing things or moving too fast. Most things we do have never been done before (this problem + these people + these tools), so they take the time that they take. The way we combat this uncertainty is with lots and lots of conversations: stand-ups, daily huddles, impromptu meetings in the hallways, email, Slack. If you’re not worried that you’re over-communicating, you’re probably under-communicating.

What are 1:1s for?

1:1s are a dedicated space for you to discuss whatever’s on your mind. They are for you, and while I am happy to reschedule them, I don’t ever want to skip them.

It’s not a meeting for status updates, unless that’s what you want to talk about.

Starting out, I like to have them frequently. As we get to know each other, we can adjust the schedule if that makes sense.

We can walk if you like, or sit in my office. Let's do them in a format that you're comfortable with.

I do want our 1:1s to be productive, so I’ll try different ways to get us both prepared.

How should you approach your work?

You are designing as part of a team now, so it’s important to recognize that everyone has ideas and contributions to make. Everyone is trying to improve the business in their own way, so always try and assume positive intent.

If you’re having trouble with a project, it’s likely a failure of communication. I like to assume that those types of failures are my fault — I failed to get enough clarity or anticipate problems early enough. If Design is going to lead, then we have to take on that responsibility.

If you’re stuck, ask for help. There's a lot to learn and sometimes, just stating your problem out loud helps you find the answer.

Know that I’ve always got your back, and the rest of the team as well.

I’ll push for everyone to develop their facilitation skills. I believe Design is in a unique position to bring people together and lead them through ideation to uncover creative solutions. To be successful, we need to surround ourselves with people smarter than us, ask a lot of questions, and tease out answers.

Please take notes (I'll buy the notebooks). Feedback is valuable and should be respected. If you demonstrate that you respect someone's feedback (even if you disagree with it), you will be building a stronger relationship with that person. When you forget about or ignore someone’s feedback, you’re showing that you don’t really care about their input or their time.

I believe you should always try to leave things better than you found them. Code quality matters, as does tidying your work before you put it down. Keep your layer names clear and symbols organized. Someone else might have to pick up your file in crunch time, and you don’t want to leave a mess for them to clean up.

What are good work habits?

  • Always be asking questions.
  • Always be improving your skills.
  • Always assume positive intent in others.
  • Have each other’s backs.
  • Expect excellence in ourselves and each other.

What type of feedback and candor should you expect?

Candid and compassionate feedback is core to a high-functioning team. I will give it as carefully as I can, but know that my primary desire is for you to be happy and fulfilled member of the team.

My feedback will typically be designed to help you negotiate tricky situations or get you back on track so you can feel more comfortable and confident at work.

If I'm failing you in some way, please tell me. I won't always get it right, but I always want to improve and do better next time.

Feedback should happen in real-time, if possible. Never hold critical issues until our 1:1.

I am never too busy to be interrupted. Come by my office or Slack me.