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'The Operators': Understanding your user – The art and science of UI/UX behind Facebook, Google, Mint, and Edmodo – TechCrunch

May 14, 2024

Welcome to this transcribed edition of The Operators. TechCrunch is beginning to publish podcasts from industry experts, with transcriptions available for Extra Crunch members so you can read the conversation wherever you are.
The Operators highlights the experts building the products and companies that drive the tech industry. Speaking from experience at companies like Airbnb, Brex, Docsend, Edmodo, Facebook, Google, Lyft, Mint, Slack, Uber, WeWork, etc., these experts share insider tips on how to break into fields like design and enterprise sales. They also share best practices for entrepreneurs to hire and manage experts in fields outside their own.
This week’s edition features Gülay Birand, UX Lead and Product Design Manager at Facebook, and Tim Rechin, Head of Design at Edmodo, the leading education technology company. Gülay and Tim share their experiences and explain design, UI/UX, how to build a career in these fields, and how entrepreneurs should think about them.
Gülay and Tim bring experience from other great companies including Google, Amazon, Mint, and SAP. Having seen and grown in their disciplines from a variety of companies and customer types, they share deep insight from across tech.
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Neil Devani and Tim Hsia created The Operators after seeing and hearing too many heady, philosophical podcasts about the future of the world and the tech industry, and not enough attention on the practical day-to-day work that makes it all happen.
Tim is the CEO & Founder of Media Mobilize, a media company and ad network, and a Venture Partner at Digital Garage. Tim is an early-stage investor in Workflow (acquired by Apple), Lime, FabFitFun, Oh My Green, Morning Brew, Girls Night In, The Hustle, Bright Cellars, and others.
Neil is an early-stage investor based in San Francisco with a focus on companies solving serious problems, including Andela, Clearbit, Recursion Pharmaceuticals, Vicarious Surgical, and Kudi.
If you’re interested in becoming a designer, doing UI/UX research, furthering your career in that field, or starting a company and don’t know when to hire or how to manage this discipline, you can’t miss this episode!
The Operators highlights the experts building the products and companies that drive the tech industry. Speaking from experience at companies like Airbnb, Brex, Docsend, Edmodo, Facebook, Google, Lyft, Mint, Slack, Uber, WeWork, etc., these experts share insider tips on how to break into fields like design and enterprise sales. They also share best practices for entrepreneurs to hire and manage experts in fields outside their own.
In Episode 3, we’re talking about design and UI/UX. Neil interviews Gülay Birand, UX Lead and Product Design Manager at Facebook, and Tim Rechin, Head of Design at Edmodo.

Neil Devani: Hello and welcome to The Operators, where we talk to the people building the companies of today and tomorrow. We publish every other Monday and you can find us online at
Today’s episode is very special, we are talking to two UI/UX experts who have designed and researched products that have been touched by billions of people. I’m your host, Neil Devani and we’re coming to you today from the Vault of Joi here at Digital Garage in downtown San Francisco.
Joining me is Tim Rechin, Head of Design at Edmodo, the leading classroom and education community with 100 million users globally. Also joining us is Gülay Birand, a UX lead and product design manager at Facebook.
Gülay works on the newsfeed product used by billions of people every day. Thank you for joining us, if you could tell us more about yourselves and your work it would be great to hear more.
Gülay Birand: Thank you, my name is Gülay Birand. I’m a product design manager at Facebook. I’ve been at Facebook for about three months. Prior to that I was at Google for about 8 years, and I led a horizontal team on Google Cloud Platform for about four years, leading growth and engagement, support, and product excellence initiatives.
Prior to that I did a bit of a tour to Google, so I worked on search, identity, a couple of other areas like mobile ads, and before that I was at T-Mobile where I was building mass market and franchise home experiences, mainly on Android. And prior to that I was at Amazon leading experiences for the very first Kindle, so that was a lot of fun.
Devani: And Tim tell us more about yourself and how you got here.
Tim Rechin: Yeah, so I’m currently at Edmodo, leading up design and that’s really across the entire platform that serves our teachers, students and parents in the US and globally. And before Edmodo, I was at Facebook, and I was on the Feed Ads team and responsible for the lead ads product that we launched that year. Before that I was at Mint, so doing personal finance and some of you may be using Mint.
Devani: I’m definitely using Mint, its great, I love it.
Rechin: And then before that SAP, Yahoo, eBay, and then Elance very early on which is now Upwork.
Devani: Very cool, all companies that I’ve used, products that I enjoy, thank you for helping create them.
Birand: Thank you.

Devani: So it’d be great if you could tell folks more about what you do every day. Who are the folks in your company that you are interacting with, what are your responsibilities, what does it mean to do the job that you do?
Rechin: That’s a good question, it’s a bit mixed. Just for some context, Edmodo is a company a little over 100 people and so our product teams are in the 6-7 product managers range. I lead a team of 3 designers. So my day to day is really getting to work and really trying to figure out what’s going on, so this year is a particularly busy year as we get ready for back to school.
And so we have a lot of concurrent projects going, so one of the things I like to do when I get in is level set, kind of see how my day is and I’ll go check in with the different teams. That’s part of the work I do, working with the different product teams and the strategy.
So like I said, we are working on lots of different projects, so it’s really just keeping everyone aligned and making sure that designers are delivering things on time, that any issues or gaps are being filled and we can go answer those questions that are coming from product managers and designers. In some cases too, there is a project that is about to be kicked off, so everything is not clean, phased, there are always these things that kind of pop up.
So I will find myself in meetings in talking about strategy to figure out how to kick off those projects or what our go-to-market is for back to school.

Devani: Very cool, is it similar for you or is it different?
Birand: Yeah, I think there is a lot of similarities there, maybe it’s on a larger scale, but most of my days are spent in back to back meetings and I’m sure you find yourself in that position as well. And a lot of these meetings may seem tactical at first, but they’re really not.
Every one-on-one can lead to career improvements and discussions around trajectory and things like that, which are definitely more strategic. There is a lot of alignment sessions with our cross-functional partners, there are reviews, those I find to be incredibly valuable so I can see the product firsthand.
There is a lot of meetings with our staff, our executives to make sure that we’re still tracking towards our strategy and our targets. And then if I’m doing vision and strategy type work I try to carve out hours of time so that I can do more deep work, but a lot of it is interacting with everyone from my designers to executives and data science, research, engineering, product management, so that’s how the days go.
Devani: For those who don’t know yet, can you share a bit more about the difference between some of the roles in your teams. So you have designers, you have folks who are doing research, you have folks who are focused on UI vs. UX, how do you think about the different roles and how do you organize them in your organization.
Rechin: Sure, so like I said, our team is comprised of three designers. It’s really interesting to see the evolution of the team. We’re quite small so we’re trying to grow the team, but I think in terms of how the designers are actually positioned, they pretty much take on everything, and I think that’s really interesting about the notion of the small company and the trade-offs and the pros.
I think one of the pros is that you have your hands on everything, so you really own the design and your product area from the very top down to the bottom, from yearly planning to quarterly planning, into projects and then delivering the designs. So I put a lot of emphasis on the design team to really be able to be flexible and move and tackle any project that comes their way, so they’re more or less full stack is what people would call that.
Birand: I guess as far as the different roles go, I find that Facebook is a little different than my experience at Google and some of the other companies, and there’s a good reason for how it’s structured obviously.
At Google I led a team that was multidisciplinary, so I had at times even quantitative researchers and prototypers as well as different kinds of designers and researchers whereas at Facebook the structure is a bit more if you’re design, you’re leading design, if you are in research, you’re leading research, and so the disciplines are separated out in that sense but we still work as one big team around the different initiatives.
And there is definitely an understanding that you own a part of the business and you should be a very proactive part of it and drive it, and work collaboratively across the different disciplines to make sure that we can move things forward.
Devani: That’s pretty great to have ownership like that, I think it probably makes people feel a little better about the work that they do, a little more into it.
Birand: Yeah, I would hope so.
Devani: So let’s do a hypothetical question, if I’m a college student or someone whos not working in design or in research, but I’m interested in this field, what would be the advice you would give someone or the advice you would’ve given yourself however many years ago to prepare yourself to get into this field?
Birand: My path was really windy, I don’t know about yours, I didn’t wake up one day and go “I think I’m going to go into UX” like this is going to be my thing. I definitely bounced around many different areas, I mean I shared a little bit with you I think, but I’ve dabbled in simultaneous translation, hospitality management, and a couple of other areas and then finally found my way into this.
I think if you have a passion for it, a couple of things I would do is one, try to get as much education and training around this as possible. There are really great ways to do this, you don’t necessarily have to go back to school and get a bachelors in this and what have you.
If that’s not what you want to do, there’s General Assembly, there are other programs through universities that you can do in a shorter amount of time. I would say freelance, secure freelance work, just start building that portfolio.
And another piece that would be really important I think is the mentorship part. I’ve had so many young designers and others who were wanting to potentially switch to a UX role reach out to me through Linkedin, just to say “Hey, your portfolio looked really interesting and I looked at your job history and I just want to chat with you and understand how you got to where you are and can we have a coffee?” And that has really helped those folks get an idea of how they might progress in their areas.
Rechin: Yeah, I think the mentorship is really what stands out for me, I also took a meandering path and there was a point in time when I got out of school and I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so one of those examples of really not applying your degree in the way that you thought. So it took a little while, but I actually started in multimedia and then saw what was happening down here in Silicon Valley and you know “I’ll go move down there.”
But I think looking back, it is about the mentorship and feedback. I think that what’s great about where we are today is that there are so many different ways that you can connect with people and get first-hand knowledge or guidance on how to get into the field, some of the things that you really should be emphasizing.
I think it’s too easy to fixate on tools, you make something pretty and I think that’s kind of a reflection of where we are as a discipline. So I think that if you can find those people that are truly the ones that are focused on the product building piece.
I think those are the types of people that will give you the guidance and I think some of the fundamentals of product building. Creating something pretty posting it on Dribbble is great, but I really do think it’s the mentorship and the feedback as well.
I think that early in my career, I did not find myself in places where the culture was like a Facebook, which is something that I valued there, where it was just constant feedback. You’d be amazed, it’s like “oh I’m a little embarrassed”, but you’d be amazed at when you get that feedback, it starts feeling really good, and the more iterations you get, the faster you grow.
Birand: There’s nothing like good feedback, I think you make an excellent point and actually being able to take that feedback and do something with it is a really good muscle to build. And not getting attached to your darlings is a really big part of it for sure.
Devani: I’ve always noticed that folks who have great design ability or known as great designers have a strong artistic sense, artistic skill, aesthetic sense. Do you feel like that’s a necessary component if someone maybe is excited about design but doesn’t feel like they have any artistic ability, should they maybe find something else or is there a way to make it work?
Birand: I mean I think you have to have a good eye, but there are so many different kinds of design work that can be done. I think logic plays a lot into it, I think being a systems thinker is a big part of it.
Are you able to articulate and understand user needs and the cross-section of business requirements and kind of bring a product together, you know the point that Tim was making. Can you think about all the things you’re doing in a holistic manner?
I think those are really important qualities too. So yes, as a designer you do have to have an eye and an aesthetic sense, but unless you’re going to try to be a really strong visual designer, I don’t know that that is the thing that I would index on.
Rechin: I agree. I’ll reference a lot of Facebook things today. At Facebook it’s visual design, interaction design, and systems thinking. I really do like that trifecta and I think you need the two, that makes a complete designer. It does come down to the fundamentals of product building and how you can actually balance all of these needs and have that focus.
I think what your particularly skilled at, I think that’s part of building diverse teams. I ask a lot of designers “What’s your superpower?” and it kind of stumps them for a second, like “I don’t know, do I shoot laser beams?”
No, I understand you’re probably good at a lot of things but what’s the one thing that defines you? So when you think of yourself on your team, how diverse is your team so that you guys can cover each other’s backs and as a total team, you can support the work that you’re doing.
Birand: And to build on that, I would say as a manager, as a hiring manager, that is what we look for. It’s like we look at our team and we see like how are we going to build bench strength and where am I lacking prototyping skills? Is visual design lacking here and where do I find those other people to kind of build up the team?
Devani: Fills the gaps so to speak.
Birand: Exactly.
Devani: Do you find that folks who want to focus more on research have a different set of skills or background that’s needed? If so, are there dominant things that you would say “hey, if you want to do research and be known as a great researcher, you should spend your time getting really good at this thing”?
Rechin: Research is interesting, I love researchers by the way. They’re like the oracle, they just bring goodness back from the mountain. It’s really interesting though because many, many years ago, or not that many years ago, researchers came from research into digital product design.
There was kind of like, “What’s my role?” And success for researchers was really defined by white papers and publishing, and so back then it could have really felt like, “Okay, I’m doing research, but I don’t really know how to plug into the team, and how do I get measured?”
And I’ve seen now to where we are today that researchers are really product partners, and that’s what I love about it. When I think about a researcher, I think about someone who needs to be there in the very beginning when you kick off projects, who actually can before that actually look at the data and insights that actually suggest directions for the product or new strategies.
So I think that evolution has been really cool and that’s what I love about researchers today and I think that advice to any researcher that wants to get into the field would be very similar to designers, you know really find that mentorship. And a situation where the culture is such that as a researcher you’ll be brought in and treated as a member of the product team versus just a service, which can happen a lot.
Birand: I would agree with all of that and I’m also a huge fan of research. I think it’s what should help us define our product road maps in general and bring in such great formative insights into any product roadmap.
I think to answer part of your question about what qualities should a researcher have, all the really great researchers that I know are incredibly curious and they’re really into human psychology, they love people, and they wanted you to dig into problems and investigate quite a bit.
So as far as the inner personality traits, I’ve definitely seen that as one that’s really strong and I think I would agree that they’re a key part of product development now and definitely at the forefront.
Rechin: Just a quick add onto that, I think and you probably see this at Facebook too, a lot of researchers actually like to dabble and design, which I love. I think when they report out and you get that summary, it came out of their work, but also the thinking that they’re applying to it and it’s really exciting to see that. It’s like “wow” you took it from doing the study, to actually summarizing it, to even suggesting things to do in the product, which is just really exciting.
Devani: Cool, thank you for that. So moving forward, you both have had amazing careers as far, you’re both fairly young given what you’ve accomplished so far. I would love to hear in your own words how you got to where you are, what were the things that you did that help you be successful thus far?
Birand: I think it comes back to the mentorship piece. I think I’ve been very fortunate to have really good mentors at the right times throughout my career. A lot of it has been stumbling around and trying things and figuring things out as well because the field is still very young and certainly when I started out it was.
There weren’t a lot of programs around the work that we do or training and things like that, so I think a lot of it was taking leaps of faith and taking on responsibilities and figuring out what can I do more of and identifying my growth opportunities and trying to grow in these areas and secure the mentorship for it. I think finding out what you’re really passionate about and the types of work that you’re interested in doing and pursuing that is another key piece of that as well.
I actually started off thinking I was going to be a programmer. I really wanted to go into coding and so I took C++ and Java and a bunch of other things and then I dabbled in frontend development and then I went “No actually I’m more interested in design side and on the design side I’m more interested in, not the visual but the interaction and I want to think the system-level design and I want to think more holistically and connect the dots.
So really being cognizant about what it is that you’re interested in as you’re working on different projects is a big piece of it. I’ve tried to be really proactive in my career and think about where is it that I want to go and what are the opportunities in front of me and not being shy about expressing interest in them and performing at that level so that you know I can kind of demonstrate that, “look I can take this on, you can trust me.”
And I think you know leadership comes in so many different forms, there’s influencing without authority, there’s leading without necessarily having direct reports and I think being able to demonstrate those things goes a long way and kind of helping your trajectory.
Rechin: I would agree. For myself maybe it didn’t happen so smoothly. I’m a great example of as an individual contributor, like a moth to the flame I was very drawn to interesting projects, interesting companies.
And so I think whether it was social or personal finance or you know the ability to do design work, thinking workshops, SAP, to get the lines of business to think more like consumer products. I think I made a lot of decisions to go to companies and join teams that had like an interesting problem to solve.
And I do think that this defines me and I think that as a designer you think you find the places and the products that define you, and I think you need to embrace that. I think I did go through an identity crisis about you know, “Can I do this forever or should I be doing something different?”
So you don’t think it is really I think staying true to yourself and finding your passions. I think at every stop though, you are trying to address a growth area or fill in a gap, and I think that’s key to growth.
I did eventually learn in the latter part of my career that your feedback and mentorship is super important. I did place an emphasis on it so there was kind of a reflection moment right, and one of those stops that I was at, where I did focus on that, and Facebook again was a very good example of continuing to build that.
I’m still trying to figure it out, so again you know I think that’s the good news for people out there right? Don’t feel like there’s too much pressure to be exactly who you should be at any given moment, it’s definitely a fun journey.
Birand: I agree, I think being authentic and being true to yourself is a really big piece of it.
Devani: It is always interesting when you meet other folks that you’re very impressed by and inspired by, and they say the same thing, in fact, I’m still just trying to figure it out too. And it’s comforting to know no one really has it all figured out.
I’d love to get feedback from you guys, speaking of feedback around what you would tell someone who’s just starting their career around how to be successful. So we’ve talked about mentorship, we’ve talked about staying true to what your passion or your skillset is, there are other things you would advise and maybe especially in the context of someone who’s thinking about balancing startup versus a large company and choosing between the two.
What are the pros and cons of each, less from a financial outcome standpoint, which is more universal?
Birand: That’s a whole other.
Devani: Yeah that’s a whole separate podcast. But more so from thinking about what your job would be like as someone who’s doing design or research or what have you.
Birand: I think there’s a couple of different things. I think part of it is, know yourself and what you’re comfortable with.
I think folks who are going to be comfortable and are comfortable in ambiguous spaces, who are excited by higher levels of risk and defining something out of nothing, are going to be really interested in startups or going into product areas even within a large company, where something isn’t set in concrete and product management is going “Here go build this thing.”
So I think that’s one big piece of it and knowing that when you go to a startup type environment, you’re probably going to have to wear 15 hats and have to do a lot of the work yourself. From defining the requirements all the way to implementation.
It depends on what level of skill sets you have. Whereas at a larger company you might also feel like the comforts are there in terms of, there is less overhead and things are a little more defined for you and you have that security of a larger team potential where you can kind of hand things off and work collaboratively with other folks, bounce ideas off of them.
But then you may not also feel like you’re able to make as big of an impact depending on the product and project that you’re working on. So I have been in different projects and initiatives where I’ve felt kind of like a cog in the system and not really being able to tie the impact that I’m making directly to the end-user experience and being able to say “I did that thing.”
Whereas if it’s smaller and the team is smaller and the audience is potentially smaller too, you can kind of see that a little bit easier. Those are some of the things that come to my mind. What do you think Tim?
Rechin: Yeah, I would agree. One of the things I tell people is if you have the opportunity, do a startup and do a big company. It doesn’t really matter which way you start, but do both.
The other thing too is there is a little bit of analysis paralysis when you start and you’re really trying to, you put so much pressure on yourself to be at the right company, especially today where so many companies are out there doing amazing things and you feel the need to go to that company and join that culture. But what I think is in many ways, you just need to start. Just get out there and start.
I think that when you are starting out you have plenty of time in your career, and if it doesn’t work out at your first stop, the thing is you’ll learn something. And that’s what the most important thing is. Just take that away and say “Hey, I didn’t like that it didn’t fit, I wasn’t getting what I needed, I wasn’t inspired, I didn’t feel ownership.”
And then you go find the next place where you think you’ll get that. And I think that also combines with mentorship and finding people in the industry that can help guide you. But just get in there and get busy, get your hands dirty, and it doesn’t matter if you start at a big company or a small company, you’re still going to learn something and it will be amazing and then go from there.
I do equate it to a story. You’re telling a story, and Gülay has been at many stops and it is a story right, and I think that’s what you shouldn’t be afraid of, is you’re telling a story.
And in the beginning, you write the first chapter, you don’t really quite know where it’s going to go. And so as long as you feel fulfilled and inspired, then that’s going to be the next chapter and so on.
Birand: I love that and it’s like staying away from a scarcity mental model and not doing anything fear-based. We were just talking before actually, if we want to go back to any of these companies, they’re not going to go anywhere, they’re going to be there. Like you said, if it doesn’t work out, there’s going to be so many opportunities.
Rechin: And that’s what’s amazing about what we do. This whole industry, you pinch yourself every day and be like.
Birand: The world’s my oyster.
Rechin: Yeah, this is fun stuff.
Devani: The giant companies aren’t going anywhere and then there will always be a new company formed tomorrow.
Birand: Absolutely, absolutely. The opportunities will never end. Exactly, why not.
Devani: Have you guys heard of Designer Fund?
Birand: What’s that?
Devani: The Designer Fund.
Birand: I have not.
Devani: It is a venture fund set up to invest in designers starting companies.
Birand: That’s amazing.
Devani: Which leads me to my next question, gradual transition. When do you think a new company needs to hire their first person in design, whether it’s for UI/UX, traditional visual design, interaction design, how should they think about that?
Assuming the company has maybe one person who’s focused on the business aspects like the operations and sales, one person who’s doing development as a mobile or full-stack developer, and they’re like “We really need a designer.” What should they be looking, what should they be thinking about?
Birand: Do you want to start?
Rechin: Yeah, wow.
Devani: That’s a tough one
Birand: It’s a good one.
Rechin: It is and let’s assume that that’s something you can do, I would always push to get a designer in earlier. I think also don’t be tempted by the enormous pressures that you would have on you as founders to make something look pretty or to satisfy short term need.
That’s going to mean that you will invest in someone that maybe can deliver that in the short term, but won’t really give you what you need in the longer term, which is really to help you think about your product and how you’re serving the needs of your users and so on. That’s pretty critical when you’re just launching.
You got to get that trajectory right. So get the designer in there earlier, but also find someone who is well rounded that can also deliver what you need, but quite frankly there are so many different frameworks out there and you can pull something off the shelf and get something pretty.
So I think it is the designer who has more or fewer product sensibilities, marketing sensibilities, research sensibilities to really help you find the right direction for your product.
Birand: I totally agree with all of that. I would add, depending on what is the outcome you’re trying to produce. If it’s a digital product then you need a certain type of designer. If it’s a service that you’re trying to designer and experience, then there’s service design to really think about.
If it’s a chair company or some furniture that’s being built, industrial design comes into play. So really thinking about the specialties too and not over-indexing on “I need to find this unicorn designer that can do everything and is going to be perfect and has to be a glamour hire.”
Just find the right person for the job, knowing what your needs are and someone who can really do the research as well if you can’t hire researcher would be really important as well.
Devani: That makes sense, so let’s take the hypothetical a bit further. Let’s say I have my co-founder who’s a full stack developer, I’m out here looking for customers, we’re building either an SMB or enterprise SaaS product. We decide we want to hire a designer, and we find someone in a series of candidates, who are able to do research and the visual design as well.
Given the fact that neither of us have been designers or hired a designer, what’s the best way for us to evaluate folks and try to figure out who’s going to be successful. What are those metrics or things to look for when you’re interviewing for assessing your candidate?
Birand: I mean if it’s an enterprise-level app for just going based off this example, I would make sure to see that this person has complex UI experience, that they can actually thinking about things in terms of flows and really making sure that they can think through the interactions at many different levels and potentially for different levels of enterprise users.
And being that this isn’t their core area of expertise, I would recommend leveraging their network too and can they do that because they’re going to get a lot more of a well-rounded bit of feedback on those candidates through that.
Rechin: Enterprise is an interesting area, and I agree, enterprise represents unique challenges not just in the complexities of the products where you have quite a bit of the technical integrations and so on. But even connecting with your users is different, so you’re going to a certain layer if you will, so you got to dig really deep to find the actual user.
And that’s not something that will automatically bubble up in an enterprise context, so I think someone who really has some skill or sensibilities around that or is not good enough to talk to sales, not that you can’t get great feedback, but I think there is a disconnect, and that’s just how it works.
I also think that you have to roll the punches and this is where we get to cultural fit, that it’s not always going to go you way, and you might find that one day the founders are going to say “We’re going to do this” and so there’s a little bit of making lemonade out of lemons. So I think the cultural fit is really important as well.
Devani: That makes sense. I think that’s something that we talk a lot about in terms of cultural fit because you may have the best-talented people but if people aren’t thinking about things the same way, they don’t have the same similar work style, it really doesn’t work out usually.
Let’s one last step in the hypothetical, we’ve made the hire, and now we’re trying to figure out how to best manage the relationship, best manage the person. What are some tips for things in your experience about having people outside of a design experience manage designers or folks in research?
Birand: Okay, well.
Devani: I know it’s a good question when there’s a long pause.
Birand: I know I’ve been in that situation where I haven’t reported into design, I’m sure you’ve been in that situation too and it can get tricky because when it’s not your particular discipline, it’s really hard to understand the care and feeding of that particular discipline. So I guess what I would recommend is making sure that design or just UX in general is an integral part of the process from the very getgo is very important.
Just including us in every single necessary meeting when we’re defining the product, when we’re trying to make decisions and the direction we’re going to go is a really big piece of it. Giving us the tools necessary and the time and space necessary to do the work that we need to do within our discipline is another big piece of it.
I think sometimes just as we may not understand eng, PM, and other disciplines processes, there’s some confusion or lack of knowledge around what our process are and why something takes a certain amount of time and why we have to iterate and why we have to incorporate research into it and things like that. I would say if you are going to manage a discipline, try to get as well versed as you possibly can.
I was in a situation where I was managing quantitative researchers, completely out of my discipline, even sub-discipline, so that was really challenging for me. But I tried to understand the frameworks that they were working with and understand their ladder, in terms of how are they evaluated, what is expected of that role, and looking at some established ways of knowing what it is that they need and their day to day and help with the situation. So I guess that’s what I would recommend.
Devani: That’s great, that’s good advice.
Rechin: Yeah I think designers are a bit of a black box if you’re not a designer and think there’s a bit of confusion or intimidation, but I think being very clear with business and protocols is really helpful and also setting the right expectations with your designer, again involving them early. But I think that designers are designers and you can wind them up and they’ll go and they’ll just keep going.
So I think especially in this enterprise context where you have lots of deadlines and there are different types of pressures, that you want to make sure that those goals and expectations are clearly defined. So really allowing your designer to understand the context and the problem and then do the work.
That’s necessary for you to be successful. So I think that the discussion about if this is what we want to do, and this is what we expect the outcome, then you’re going to have the next discussion which is “How do you think we should get there?”
And that will be very clear, so you’re going to know if the designer needs to go and do some research, if the designer needs to do some concept interactions. So I think that’s really important and I think if you do that, then you’ll taste some success and of course when you taste success, then everyone’s really pumped up, and you can keep going.
Devani: Yeah I think that’s really key, that alignment around the goal forward. Cool, well before we wrap I would love to ask you guys a fun question if you can share a favorite book or show or even a place online that you think just has a really good ethos around design and UI/UX.
Birand: I have one right off the top of my head.
Devani: Shoot go for it.
Birand: I’m going to preach this book because I would say if you’re in design or in product development in any of the large companies or any company right now actually, read Ruined by Design by Mike Monteiro. It’s absolutely fantastic.
It’s all about design ethics and how we use design are really responsible for shaping the products and the outcomes and how it impacts society in general, so I’m really enjoying that right now. I would definitely recommend it.
Rechin: The book I would probably recommend would probably be Steve Krugs’ book “Don’t Make Me Think.” I think when I started out I was at Elance, I think again what is design, what is our role, how do we think about the world and the users.
And I think that book is super approachable, it’s a little bit of duh, it is what it is. You see people and this is how we think about this thing and so on, and I just find it a super refreshing book.
It’s something that you can buy easily and then hand out to cross-functional teams or anyone who’s interested in design and there’s a certain about it common sense to what we do, that I think, as we live, we gloss over. But it’s very nuanced, so I think it’s a great book.
Devani: A lot of thinking went into making things so easy and natural right?
Rechin: Exactly, exactly.
Devani: Well awesome. Thank you for those recommendations, thank you for joining us for another episode of The Operators, and thank you Tim and Gülay for sharing your experience with us.
Birand: Thank you for having us.
Rechin: Yeah thank you very much, thanks for the opportunity.
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