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  • Andy Schultz

Scaling teams


Team scaling is among the most difficult responsibilities of a design manager. Engaging in a role that influences the execution and culture of dozens or hundreds of individuals is among the most gratifying experiences one can have.


Partner with recruiting

An integral aspect of scaling a design organization involves collaborating with a designated design recruiter or team, tailored to the organization's scale. Establishing a partnership with a recruiting counterpart is pivotal, as it entails a profound comprehension of the organization's intricacies and growth requisites. The distinctive factor lies in treating recruiting as collaborative partners rather than mere operatives within the larger structure. These professionals, highly adept and exceptional in their roles, transcend the conventional scope of closing requisitions and finalizing offers. They undertake an in-depth exploration of the organizational culture, operations, and future trajectory, positioning themselves as equal contributors dedicated to forging the future design landscape within the company.


Interviewing and white boarding

I learned to interview at QuillBot. I sought out applicants who stood out when we were aggressively growing. The indication of individuals surpassing average qualities was shown through their storytelling, approach to decision-making, and thought-provoking questions. Design managers interview candidates for 30 minutes and review their portfolios. The following round is a virtual white boarding session in which they design a screenplay writing tool, or sections of one, in less than an hour. Candidates who succeeded considered time constraints and arrived prepared, posed pointed questions to the panel, researched script writing, and concluded with a user path and wireframes received offers. These are the foundational skills that product designers must possess. I do my best to hire for diversity and inclusion, but due to hiring time constraints, I can't always wait for an ideal applicant to fill open positions.


Onboarding and success

At first I did all onboarding myself with HR then switched to automating the process through Notion assigning design, UXR, UX writing, and design system leads to knowledge share and train new hires. With the product manager, we create a 30/60/90 day game plan setting expectations with achievable milestones for each new team member. The plan often includes UXR research, conducting a heuristic evaluation and applying the design system to their work.


1:1 meetings

As a leader, conducting 1:1 meetings with your direct reports or leaders is critical to building strong relationships and trust. In my 1:1s I focus on the 3Cs:

Coaching: Give constructive and candid feedback and discuss wins and work to eliminate any obstacles hindering progress and give praise that identifies their individual contributions to the team and org.

Counseling: Assist team members in navigating both work and personal challenges and to help them find solutions on their own.

Connection: Aim to understand my team members better with temperature checks were often reviewing work together together for guidance. Meetings without agendas of causal discusisons on anything relevant to team members.


Career management & growth

After 3 months on the team, I have each team member complete a Odyssey plan to help think through where they want to be in 5 years. This isn’t your traditional career mapping as it includes a plan absent of any professional and financial restrictions. The odyessy mapping includes 3 steps:

  1. You draw/write out your current plan or existing idea for how life will look for the next five years.

  2. In the next, you figure out what you would do if plan A can’t happen.

  3. In the third iteration, it’s time for some blue sky thinking — what would you do if money and time were no object?

It’s quite often the blue sky plan excludes design and I expect it as it shows their dreams, passions and interests lie someplace else. I encourage them to get after it to make it happen.

Now with an understanding what my team members want to purse, let’s shift our focus on growth professional growth opportunities. Spider graphs are used to map strenghts and weaknesses to the ideal Sr. Product Design role. This enables design leads to upskilling team members strengthen areas required to perform in this role. Junior and mid-tier designers have a visible paths to the next level.


Skills mapping

The creation of spider maps stemmed from acknowledging the diverse skill sets within UX practitioners and teams. This visual skill mapping process offers a comprehensive view of individual strengths and weaknesses, culminating in a collective team spider chart. This chart becomes a strategic tool, illuminating the team's combined capabilities and highlighting areas for potential growth or skill augmentation within the product design team.


Give it shot and good luck!

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