Get a Seat at the Table

Get a Seat at the Table

My personal experience on getting trust from the team and having a good partnership with them
November 5, 2021

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Originally posted on my Twitter in Indonesian πŸ‘‰πŸ» Link to thread

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When I first joined, I was the first designer on my team. For a company that has been in existence for 9 years, my team has never had a designer, at first it was difficult to get the trust to involve me and tell that they could get other benefits apart from the visual output, of course.

🧡 My personal experience on getting a seat at the table πŸ‘‡πŸ»

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As a newcomer and the first designer on the team, I used to think I couldn't come right away, like "hey everyone, please involve me!". If you want to be involved, you have to get trust first. To get trust, you have to show example and impact first.

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So at the beginning, what I did in the first 4-5 months were this:

- Having a conversations and learn the team's current workflow
- Present about what our responsibilities and the benefit of having us
- Show, don't tell

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1. Having a conversations and learn the team's current workflow

When I joined, the first 1 month I didn't open figma at all. Every day there are really just talking to the squad or 1on1. In my pillar there are 11 squads, 12+ PMs, 6 Squad leads, 40 Engineers + DS. Not everyone is invited to chat, but it's possible to talk a lot in the first month.

In these sessions, I focus on asking and listening, don't forgot to introduce myself. The question I ask more often: "what works? what doesn't? what can be improved? what can I help you?". If you still have time, just ask about the projects you are working on, the challenges, the goals, the barriers/blockers.

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2. Present about what our responsibilities and the benefit of having us

After getting insights about the team, I myself listed the problems which are designer scopes and which are not. For designer scope, I'll try to propose in the presentation, then for what's not in my scope is just a suggestion.

Because the goal is "get seat at the table", and to introduce specifically what the designer's role is to the team (not everyone knows what the responsibilities of a product designer are) so I present this to the all-hands team:

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Background of our objective

The contents include what background we usually do, what are our objectives, where is our working area, what is our scope of work.

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Why is it important to involve designers at the beginning?

This was the root problem in my team in the past, because for 9 years the company was founded there has never been a designer so the workflow is also used to being without a designer. Not a few projects that have been released have been taken down so far.

They are used to relying on data only. Whereas "to have impact, numbers need stories and vice versa"

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Goals and examples of success

Let them know what our goal is, what root problem we want to solve. At the same time, tell them about success examples when we worked together to build a product.

Examples of success here I use 2 types, internal and external.
External, is my previous work. Internally, I asked for the work of a designer from another team to be shown.

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Let them know what we want

Finally, let's go straight to the point, what do we want and which project will we try for the initial stage.

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3. Show, don't tell

This is when it's running, when you already have an output and outcome for what you're doing. What I do:
- Show what I'm working on (design, research report, plan, etc) bi-weekly/monthly on Slack
- Booking a slots in monthly all-hands to present an impact
- Initiate the quarterly design newsletter in the team

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After all of that, now is improved already. There have been many PMs who consulted before making plans, many have been involved me in planning meetings and even involved me in making SYP (single year plan) 2022 now.

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End of Thread. Thank you for reading.

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