At Dataminr, I have risen from a junior product designer on a team of two to a product design manager leading four other designers on a team that is continuing to grow.
With this rapid growth, it was critical to establish a design system that would keep our product feeling seamless. I laid the groundwork for our pattern library and have established visual and copy guidelines. I also worked closely with engineering to build a front end library of these components that’s shared across three teams for both internal and external products. It has made both designers and engineers more efficient and helps us to maintain a consistent experience for our users.
The design team was not the only team that was growing quickly. We also had new product managers and engineers starting all the time. We realized it was necessary to formally document our process to onboard new employees and keep projects running smoothly. I partnered with one the product managers to define the key players, activities, and documentation that was part of each phase. We carried this through to our project management board on Jira so that everyone could see where a design project was in the process.
All of this was before I officially became manager. I went from fellow designers as my peers to now my direct reports. I had the full support of the team for my transition but I felt it was important to define how I saw my new role and make it clear that my goal was still to work alongside them, champion them, and support them. I put together a small presentation that outlined how I planned to approach management.
With new people and new roles, it was more important than ever to establish a healthy team culture. We started having regular design reading club meetings (a.k.a. offsite lunches) where we would discuss an agreed upon article, podcast, etc. We also wrote a team mission and set of values together over the course of a few brainstorming sessions.
Each designer on the team is embedded in a different product area so I established some regular check-ins and communication channels to keep everyone in the loop. We hold daily stand-ups, which not only helps me to stay on top of things but also helps the designers focus in on what they’re going to work on each day. We have weekly meetings where designers can request feedback on a particular challenge or share an update on a completed project. We also have different Slack channels for team news, inspiration, and feedback. All of this has led to a close-knit, collaborative team of individuals working on a wide variety different projects.
I continue to craft my leadership skills every day while being hands on with design contributions as well. My goal is to foster excellence on my team by helping them make smart decisions, communicate effectively, and have access to learning opportunities.