It’s been a year since I joined Pennylane as a product designer, and what a year it has been! Learning how to be confident as a product designer is a long process, but I truly believe that with the right mindset and approach, it’s definitely achievable. Here are five tips that helped me grow and enjoy my first year as a product designer:
1. BE CURIOUS AND EAGER TO LEARN
During your first year:
- You have to learn a lot about the field of product design and everything related to it: How design fits into the product development process, what the job of a product manager involves, how the developers are working, and what tools you will have to master internally.
- And simultaneously, you need to absorb a certain amount of information about the business, the product you are working on, and the users that are using it.
So be open-minded and ready to learn. Show your interest, and don’t fear to ask questions because even if it sounds cliché, there are no stupid questions!
2. BE OPEN TO FEEDBACK AND SHOW YOUR WORK
One of the biggest lessons I learned is that better solutions come from feedback made by your peers.
When working with other designers and various stakeholders, such as product managers and engineers, you must be ready to be challenged on your own work. When constructive, you will find that in most cases, feedback helps you to face your own solution, and make sure you understand the problem you are trying to solve. The most important thing here is to not take the feedback personally, but use it to improve your skills to become a better designer.
Also, don’t hesitate to seek feedback. Volunteer to show your work, and even go a step further by soliciting feedback from other stakeholders. Colleagues from other departments, such as the sales team or the customer success team are here to bring different perspectives, which can be very valuable.
3. BE ADAPTABLE
Be ready because changes can happen, especially in start-up/scale-up environments. Product strategies, roadmaps, business decisions, and goals to be achieved, just to name a few, are all elements that can shift 180 degrees. That’s why it’s important to not get too attached to your designs, and over time you will see that it’s ok. For this, you need to learn to be adaptable. I encourage you to question changes, but at the same time be ready to quickly adapt to the new challenges that are thrown your way.
4. YOU ARE A PRODUCT THINKER, NOT JUST A PRODUCT DESIGNER
Users use a product because of a need or to solve a problem they face. For this, the first step is to think of the product and try to determine the problem users are trying to solve by using it. Try to understand the context of the product in general (What is the product about? Who is my audience? Why do they need the product? What is the problem faced? Why is this a problem?) and think of the features you are working on as sub-problems that you have identified. Instead of saying “what is the feature about?” change this to “what’s the identified problem?” This way, you are able to analyze if your solution is aligned with the context of the product, and on the other hand, you gain confidence in challenging product decisions and develop features that address meaningful problems that matter to users.
5. BE INSPIRED – TEAM SPIRIT IS KEY
Working as a product designer is, above all, a team sport. You may have different goals to achieve at an individual level, but at the end of the day, you are all on the same ship. For this, be open to different angles.
“Everyone you ever meet will know something you don’t.“— Bill Nye.
During the process don’t hesitate to talk to other designers, engineers, product managers, or people from sales, customer success, and marketing teams. Go get the information needed to tackle things you potentially didn’t consider. Don’t be alone in the process – let people around you brighten and strengthen your ideas with their perspectives.
To summarise, being successful in your first year as a product designer requires some dedication, and a willingness to learn. These are the learnings I experienced on my own, but I’m convinced that they are efficient. Focus on your goals, seek feedback, and continually improve your skills. In the long run, product design is an ever-evolving field that requires patience.