Hardik Pandya Notes   Talks   Work with me

General Advice for Designers

On being a great designer

  • No matter what role you end up taking eventually, you’ll be most valued for your craft – because you’d be excellent at creation or even more importantly, curation
  • I’ve rarely seen a pure manager who can command great respect and admiration from their team without being exceptional at the craft
  • If you’re very senior, you should still try to have 1-2 complex product problems you are directly responsible for delivering - work with your boss / another senior designer on such a problem
  • Ensure you have a continuous incoming stream of feedback on your craft / design skills – sometimes you’d have to demand this as managers tend to get busy and preoccupied with other priorities
  • Showcase your excellence in craft visibly across the team i.e. present a killer documentation of a project, show a cool prototype, show a solution to a complex UX problem, contribute a useful pattern to the DS, solve a nagging issue in the product

On managing your time

  • Make sure you intentionally structure your day - don’t let other people’s priorities dictate your day
  • Ignore meetings until you’re only added to those that matter
  • If you’re leading your team, try to review designs first thing in the morning and unblock designers with actionable feedback – this is the single biggest productivity change I made in my schedule that helped me support a very large team
  • As you get more senior and start to lead a team, you’d be evaluated on 2 key things – What you delivered (quality of the work) and How you delivered (speed of delivery, number of escalations required, amount of design rework it took, timelines adherence…)
  • Priorities for the Org are never flat & equally distributed across the entire portfolio – understand the priorities that are clearly more important and focus your time & energy on them disproportionately more - you’ll only get the correct info on the org priorities from the top - don’t make the mistake of calibrating your priorities from the hearsay on the floor / the bottom

On taking decisions

  • Good decisions require confidence – confidence comes from one of the 2 things – Intuition, or Data
  • Be willing to wait before you make a decision until you feel confident – but know what’s missing in order to get you to the right level of confidence and have that plan in place to get there
  • It’s okay to ask for more time before you make the decision
  • 90% decisions have no ROI on decision quality by thinking more, 10% decisions absolutely can be made better by thinking more – specific percentages aren’t important but the split is

On communication

  • Use conclusive & definitive words when you write
  • Read what you write and try to misinterpret it – assume that that’s how most people are likely to interpret it, and then fix your writing
  • Use simple words, break down sentences, use bullet points
  • If someone needs to do something and you’re assigning the work to them, make them acknowledge to close the loop - better yet, ask for a time commitment for completion of that work
  • If you’re sending something important, schedule the message - gives you time to edit and improve it Figure out the people you need to respond immediately to, and don’t keep them blocked – ideally these can be your direct reports, your manager and cross-functional leads
  • Group DMs with 2-3-4 people are the best way to drive projects efficiently behind the scenes – bigger channels for large announcements & sharing the agreed alignments, after you’ve achieved alignments in smaller groups

On aligning stakeholders

  • Conduct opinionated debates in person – the tonality, expressions, emphasis and nuances make all the difference in getting your points across and getting the alignment you seek
  • Larger decisions need more work, specifically speaking with a lot of important people early on and discussing approaches to get a pre-alignment – taking their inputs early on can help you win the commitment later
  • Communicate widely the alignment & decision in writing after you align in person – don’t assume the other person took away the same notion of commitment that you did
  • Any time a written discussion goes on for more than 2 disparate exchanges, get on a call or meet in person

On prioritisation & scoping

  • Recognise that these are very hard to do well, and hence very few people would be able to do these well
  • The best way to assess if these are done well is to assume they are not and start there
  • To understand prioritisation, ask ‘Why is this the most important thing?’ ‘What other things have we considered?’ ‘Shall we review some empirical / concrete evidence that informs us that this is the most important priority currently?’
  • To understand scoping, ask ‘What’s the single most important thing here to get right?’ ‘What’s the one thing we cannot do without?’ - and then scope the project around just that
  • Know that prioritisation & scoping get better if you debate them early on – we’ve been able to catch errors through these debates, and save quite a lot of time & effort later

On managing your team

  • Keep adding responsibilities on their plate until the arrangement breaks - you want to keep the responsibilities just under the breaking point And then keep pushing the breaking point up by coaching + feedback - continuously highlight what they’re doing well and what they need to do differently
  • Demand more - set very high expectations on quality of work and timelines
  • Support better - it’s hard to be demanding without providing support by unblocking them, giving them clarity and the focus to do their work well
  • Never keep internal timelines vague - ask them to turn around work along specific deadlines even at a day-level
  • Protect your team’s time & bandwidth at all costs - even personal cost
  • Find every single opportunity to highlight achievements (even if small) and impact - never disregard the importance of a public appreciation
  • Your goal is to help each member of your team realise they’re capable of way more than they think - highlight this every time they enter this zone of higher performance
  • Never delay critical feedback - the longer the delay, the less effective or useful the feedback will be
  • Poor coaching now results in more managing needed later
  • If your work gradually doesn’t reduce, it’s a useful sign that the team isn’t upskilling quickly enough and we need tons pend more time in coaching
  • Learn to tell an amazing story to sell a project to your team by getting them excited - an excited + less talented designer is more efficient to work with, than a not-excited-at-all + supremely talented designer
  • Set up rituals and make the team follow them - simple things like posting daily updates, sharing highlights / lowlights can become interesting repeatable behaviours that bind the team together and help build a subculture
  • Don’t cut corners - set extremely high standards of behaviour and work
  • Do small things really well and set an example - don’t tolerate slack in small things like timeline delays (“Oh it was only 15 min late”), detached components, poor file hygiene, grammatical errors in copywriting / messages

On managing up

  • Senior leaders really care a lot about high priority projects and want to constantly keep their bosses informed about quality & progress - help your boss do this well by communicating the necessary details, updates and designs (when needed)
  • Never hold back or delay surfacing cultural or team issues – however small you deem them to be
  • Identify scalable solutions to repeated problems and propose them proactively - senior leaders love efficiency gains through scalable systematic solutions for problems, and will usually be very supportive of implementing them i.e. Notice different pods having different / ad hoc / randomly timed project discussion timings across all pods? Set up a single weekly connect with PM leads to save everyone time

On behaviour

  • It pays to be extremely optimistic and show it – you become more pleasant to work with, and more attractive for the leadership to involve you into ideas early
  • Don’t vent or partake in discussing / spreading negativity – as a rule
  • Be the source of confidence for people around you, your team and stakeholders – this does wonders in a fast and challenging workplace where there’s usually a sense of urgency and panic – in the operational paranoia of a demanding workplace, the calm ones thrive
  • Don’t respond when angry – you’d realise that people act irrationally or haphazardly because they’re either cornered or pressured into action – be forgiving and supportive, retaliation seldom helps
  • The best way to establish hierarchy is to occasionally make the other person feel important and powerful – using ‘This should be your call’ or ‘I trust you to take the right decision here’ can go a long way
  • Understand stakeholders’ role in more depth to develop empathy – you won’t win all the battles by sheer functional authority, kindness will become an invaluable leverage to move work forward
  • Get extremely good at making and upholding commitments – if you cannot uphold a commitment you made, the apology & revised commitment should come before the timestamp on the current one runs out