I've had one single overarching mission throughout my entire career: to be tenacious about creating the best products I possibly can.
After my formative initial years in academia, I jumped out into the fast-paced world of startups in 2007 and I've worn every hat possible since then, from early employee to founder. Startups are the perfect environment to refine leadership skills and break out of the confines of any rigid processes.
Please note that this is what works for me; it might not work for you and that's more than ok. Everyone is different. There are an entire rainbow of types of designers and work environments, so don't take this list as prescriptive, or even complete. This is just my current snapshot of a flexible, constantly-evolving set of guiding principles that serve my personality, skills, experience and preferred team structures.
My Playbook For Kicking Ass
- 1. Product-Centric Leadership Good design means putting the product experience first, no matter the business pressures.
- 2. Opinionated Approach Users like obvious actions, teams like clear goals. So do the homework required to have strong convictions.
- 3. Continuous Learning & Adaptability Stay flexible and inquisitive.
1. Product-Centric Leadership
I'm proud of my wide-ranging background. I started out studying neuroscience, transitioned to being a developer in academia, then jumped to startups to become a designer, founder and head of product.
The experience has given me a holistic understanding of both product details and overall market context. But no matter which hat I've worn, it's always been in service of one goal: to make best-in-class products and experiences.
Here's how I drive the value of design on teams:
Product-Led Growth: Build superior products, ones that meet real user needs with style and grace. I firmly believe that the only real way to achieve sustainable growth is with solid, thoughtful design.
Cross-Functional Expertise: Bridge the gap between design, product, and business. I strive to be a versatile player, equipped to understand and address challenges from multiple angles.
Design Leadership: Champion the importance of design within the organization. Elevate the role of design by demonstrating its impact on business outcomes and driving design-thinking across the team.
2. Opinionated Approach
I have always been a person with strong convictions. As long as it's paired with collaboration and reflection, I have confidence that my skills, instincts and insights will drive solid work.
Here's how my opinionated approach manifests in my work:
Bold Design Decisions: Make confident and informed design decisions. I draw on my extensive experience to create work that I believe in, even if they challenge conventional wisdom.
Constructive Disagreement: Don't shy away from expressing views or challenging others' ideas when necessary. A diversity of opinions leads to better decisions and more innovative solutions.
Experience-Informed Opinions: Base strong opinions on deep experience and knowledge. I'm always open to new ideas and feedback, but I also trust my instincts and insights gained from years of experience.
3. Continuous Learning & Adaptability
Curiosity is my main personal driver in work and life. That's why I love working in tech: it touches every other industry. Every new product is an opportunity for a journalistic-type of research and learning.
Here's how curiosity helps me stay flexible and keep growing in my work:
Growth Mindset: Maintain a commitment to learning and personal development, regardless of how much experience I have. There's always something new to learn or a fresh perspective to consider.
Agile Adaptability: Stay flexible and responsive to change. In the dynamic world of startups, the ability to adapt and pivot is key.
Seeking Challenges: Embrace difficult problems as opportunities to grow and learn. I don't shy away from complex challenges; instead, I see them as chances to push my boundaries and develop new skills.
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