Currently, I am a design team lead at Trade Me, New Zealand's largest online auction and classifieds website, where I manage an amazing team of digital product designers.
Before that, I worked in health & safety, edtech, social media, and cybersecurity. Four different start-ups, all at different stages of growth. I know what success and failure looks like.
I started my journey as a front-end developer but by following my passions, I've found myself designing experiences instead.
I love to uncover truths. It's like watching an episode of Moonlighting or Columbo—detective work that always pays off.
Great leaders are great not because they are irreplaceable. They enable each member of their team to be the best version of themselves. They teach them all the skills they have. They pass all the wisdom there is to pass. A great leader can walk away, and the team will thrive.
As Julie Zhuo, ex-VP of design at Facebook said: "What matters more is how much of a multiplier effect she [manager] has on her team."
I believe that this is the most important quality that a manager can cultivate within their team. It takes a while to get here but as a manager, you need to work on this EVERY SINGLE DAY. Letting your team members disagree while making them feel secure is the most empowering experience you can give to anyone. Including yourself.
As designers, we’re taught that critical feedback is everything. This is how you make good products. However, this is also how you make excellent manager-employee relationships. Being honest with each other early and often builds the strongest foundation of relationships. And it goes both ways. As a manager, you need to provide critical feedback to your employees but also you need to teach THEM that they need to do the same for you.
We spend hours every day listening. But how often do we ACTIVELY listen and try to understand? As simple as it sounds, this is not a skill that comes easily. On top of it, due to inherent biases, we may find we are inclined to disregard what others are saying based on their skill level. In the end, we end up dismissing crucial information, great ideas, or simple good-hearted conversations. Active genuine listening is a skill worth practicing.
This seems pretty straight forward. But what happens when you get into a disagreement with someone on your team, discover an easily avoided mistake, or see things go completely sideways? You might sit and internalize why they did it. This is when you give yourself some time, then take a deep breath, and remember all the great things they have done and are capable of. “Remember that time when they went above and beyond?”
Politics emerges in the best of companies, and definitely in the not-so-best. Protecting your team is crucial so they can focus on their jobs, and not get bogged down by worries and gossip. You should stand at the forefront and accept blame when things go wrong.
At least, not yet... We have feelings; bad days and good days. As a manager, we need to recognize all of these. When your people stumble, lend them a hand so they can catch their breath and get back up.
I see many companies (especially start-ups) bringing in fresh graduates, motivated by cheap labor. New members of the workforce need mentors, a nurturing environment, structure, and processes. Otherwise, this is a recipe for burnout. Your employees leave, jaded and questioning their career choices. We need to give back, inspire, mentor, and set the best examples we can.
You are looking for a product design leader
You want to understand if you are solving the right problems
You need someone who is proud of their work because they tested it, validated it, got feedback from other designers AND engineers and they are confident they did everything they could; someone who pays attention to details and cares for quality
You need a person who is a glue to everything, the person who communicates, builds relationships, and remains empathetic
You need a learner, someone who takes feedback even it's a god damn tough one
You want someone to partner with you, not just simply execute your ideas