Building out a team

Typically, I join a company as designer #1. My first few months are always focused on building relationships with the team and fixing what I can. My goal is to improve every process that the company has in any way I can. But as time goes on, the workload increases to become more than I can handle, so my focus turns to building out the UX team.

A graphic depitciting the three design specialties. Marketing Design. UX Design. And User Research.

I focus on hiring people with three specialties: marketing designers, people with traditional graphic design experience who are experts at visual design; product designers, who are HCI specialists; and user researchers, who are customer development and research experts. Hiring in these three groups allows me to cover the entire customer experience, from the first advertisement they see, all the way through to renewal.

A copy of the schedule I sent to a candidate showing the interview schedule

When interviewing, there are a few things I do to avoid groupthink and bias in order to find the best candidate. First and foremost, no one ever interviews a candidate alone. I always have two people interview someone. This has a couple of benefits. First, you have someone to chat with if something goes sideways: “Did that really happen in there?” “What did you think of how they answered X?” Also, you don’t have to ask question after question. You can take a break, listen, and let your teammate ask something. How does the candidate answer questions? Do they ignore one of the interviewers in the room even when asked a direct question?

Another important step is to save all feedback until the end. Don’t tell the next person who's due to interview someone that you didn’t like the candidate. Instead, I wait until everyone has had a chance to interview the candidate, then have a follow-up meeting in which, the first order of business is to have a thumbs up/down on the candidate. I take note of the ups and downs, then get everyone’s feedback one at a time. One of the crucial points of this is to avoid groupthink. If a junior designer has reservations about a candidate, they may be afraid to voice their concerns if everyone else likes them. This is an attempt to give them an equal voice.

A copy of the document I used to onboard a new designer

I spend an inordinate amount of time onboarding someone new. I always create a living document that shows where everything is and what tools are needed. I also make sure that one of their first projects is to create their own 30-60-90 day plan. Usually, their work centers around onboarding, and it's a great way to check in regularly and make sure we didn’t skip anything that they felt was important. Additionally, regardless of the role, I schedule calls with customers. I introduce them to our power users and stay with them on the call as they ask questions about their daily work and what they think of our product.

A chart showing the different levels an IC can have at Sense

I give quarterly reviews that center around the 30-60-90 day plans that they created. I help align their plans to the company and team OKRs, and my goal is to make sure that when they leave my team, they are a higher level team member than when they joined. This process is not guided by me but, by what the individual wants to improve upon.

The key when building a team is trust and communication. I trust that the people on my team are specialists, that they know more about their specific area than a generalist like myself. And I communicate early and often, I set expectations and let them guide their career.