MENTORSHIP & HIRING
Great mentors have experience, compassion, and openness. Helping designers grow their career is not a requirement of managers but something I care deeply about. I help designers on my team take ownership of their career and help find overlaps between their passions and our business needs. I proactively look for opportunities outside the workplace (e.g. Anna Boheim and Pilar Serna giving a talk in Pair Design).
Many companies chart growth on a ladder system where an employee can move up the ranks. This is important for salaries and level setting but doesn’t paint the whole picture. Read my post on 4 ways design managers can nurture growth outside the levels.
When a new designer joins the team, I use the first few one-on-ones to learn about each other, both professionally and personally. Read: The very first one-on-one. During this time, I used a worksheet to help us have a conversation about where they are and where they want to grow in the next 3-4 months. The time scope is limited to reduce the impossible goal of getting better at everything. This also helps my new hire and I align on how we both understand the nuances of their skill sets. Before we revisit the map, I do a lightning round of feedback to learn how they have progressed. Read: Managing growth: run a lightning round of feedback. I also created a spreadsheet template to help designers map the careers of people they look up to, to chart their own growth and direction. Read: Inspiring Designers [spreadsheet template].
Managing hard moments
Teammates don’t always agree on every topic. Managers sometimes have to deliver hard news. I believe in understanding each others’ perspectives and having direct, open honest conversations. I have hosted several Difficult Conversations book clubs with co-managers to sharpen this skill to be a more effective mentor.
BUILDING A TEAM
Great businesses and products come from great teams. Sure, productive teams are made up of high quality technicians. But they also need a diversity of backgrounds, skill sets, experiences, and perspectives to compliment each others’ strengths.
Starting an office in Berlin
In 2016, I moved to Berlin with Pivotal Labs to open a new office. I made it known who we were and why our team was unique. I directed all interested candidates to a Medium Post to compliment our careers page that didn’t get into the specifics of Berlin’s needs. Read: Product Design at Pivotal Labs. My first designers had strong technical skills who also would be great teachers of design to their colleagues and future hires.
Developing diversity & inclusion
I served as one of the first female design managers at Pivotal Labs as well as one of the first non-white managers. I actively, and compassionately, brought new perspectives to management discussions to shape scaling office culture in San Francisco. In Berlin, I helped form a Diversity & Inclusion team of Berlin-based employees to attend to local needs and cultural contexts.
Creating healthy work environments
I love facilitating activities using paper and pens. Different parts of the mind get activated when off a computer screen and thinking quietly. On three different teams, I have invited participants to draw themselves happy at work
Where in the world are you? What does it smell like? Who do you see? What are you working on? What do you hear?
After the sketch session, each person, posts their sketch on the wall. This helps designers define for themselves what they need, helps their colleagues learn about each other, and develops empathy for how different each other truly are.