Do you remember a time when a super successful product was created by one person?
I don’t think so.
Products come and go, but if you want to continue staying relevant, products require the role of different functions to sustain itself and the business they revolve around. It requires the care and effort from a collective; a group people who are actively working together towards a goal. Personally I don’t the believe that a product is cool based on the technology alone or how it’s packaged. The process that led to the creation of the product, the people involved, are what makes a product great. It is the compilation of different peoples ideas and effort which craft the perspective of what a product does and how it aims to influence the way people interact on a daily basis.
I have been thinking about how to be a better teammate for my peers. To hold myself accountable to the standards of what good collaboration looks like, and engaging in behaviors that lead to better outcomes with how we approach designing and building meaningful experiences. Here are some of them:
Don’t isolate yourself
I sometimes fall back on old tendencies to box myself in once I start on a task. I end up developing massive tunnel vision because I believe that what I’m doing is the “right” way to do things, and that people will be satisfied with consistent high fidelity work. From experience, consistently making high fidelity work is not sustainable nor is it a good use of time because it requires a lot of heads down work. A tradeoff you end up making is that you don’t communicate your process with your other teammates, and it’ll prevent you from developing a solid rationale to why you are designed something.
Ever since I started working at Google, the mentality to quickly build something “amazing” is starting to change where I make it priority to reach out to people to tell them where I am in my design process, what I’m working on at the moment, and to understand what’s going on their end. With the nature of how work is done there, it is imperative to make sure my work aligns with my teammates or else we fail in delivering, together. The engineers rely on my designs to build out the whole product and I rely on the engineers to create a feasible product that incorporates my design rationale for ensuring a great user experience.
Also by not isolating myself, I feel more comfortable reaching out to people and I feel more supported which makes me motivated to create above what is expected of me.
Everyone bootstraps each other
On a daily basis, a lot of my works overlaps with the people I work with. I make sure to align my work with what the engineers are doing to make sure we are focusing on building the same thing. I focus on designing the front end and the user journey, while the engineering team focuses on the back end and technology behind the product. The product manager is the steward of the product scope and making sure we are building the right components. There isn’t one part that doesn’t overlap and it is through communication that we take initiative on what we do in our respective roles.
No one knows everything
Regardless of where we are in our careers or personal journeys, we all have something to offer and learn. What I love about my job as a designer is that I work with a wide range of people with varied experiences, from product managers and engineers to people I am designing a product for. Everybody has a different perspective of how things work and it is cultivating an openness to understanding how people make decisions and what you can learn from them. Everything you learn from others shapes your perspective and the bigger the perspective, the more informed you will be toward designing a product that addresses as many people as possible.
Write down discussions- take notes for you and others
For me, taking notes allow me and my teammates to keep each other accountable. It results in less redundancies and allows us to easily reference old information. At a company as big as Google, documenting information and sharing it with others ensures that everyone is on the same page and that nobody makes assumptions about anything. It also provides tangible impact that can be referenced and used by other teams. By leveraging each-other’s learnings, we can efficiently work on solving/streamlining existing problems to focus on solving new ones.
Be ready to help- pay it forward- it will pay you back
When we help each other, we learn a lot more than what we ever could on our own. Someone could be spending hours on trying to figure something out but giving that help when they need it can save them lots of time. What they have been struggling with and you teach them that, those thoughts will be easier to explain the next time someone asks you.
I love helping people because I have learned so much from others and that has shaped the quality of my work and how I interact with people. It has also resulted in receiving opportunities that have shaped and led me to where I am now.
Acknowledge help when needed
As much as it is tempting to defend your “pride” and do something on your own, when you spend too time being stuck, that can work against you. Accept people’s help and work collaboratively. Catherine Courage, a VP of design at Google, said that even as a senior executive, she believes in asking for help because people appreciate it when you ask for their advice and perspective. Asking for help is another way to get things faster if you tried but still don’t understand something.