Hold Each Other Up
Hold Each Other Up
Illustration by Isabela Humphrey

Recently a former manager and mentor Maria Giudice asked if given a blank slate what I might choose to do with my life. I honestly hadn’t really thought about this before, and my mind was first filled with thinking of my many obligations. The exercise of removing those blockers, even for a moment, allowed me to answer her — I’d study Spanish Literature. I would leave a Masters program being able to read and dissect Don Quixote and so many others in Spanish. Why? This was harder to answer.

Digging into my ancestry I find myself being more connected to…


Often times in design (and especially at design industry gatherings), we collectively suffer from storytelling that doesn’t tell the entire story. I generally leave conferences feeling a bit behind the ball, as the stories told are often success stories that leave me questioning my own methods and experiences. But if you catch someone afterward, they will usually give it to you straight. So, I have often wondered, how do we share that authentic story? The ones about failures and learnings. Falling down and getting back up — because we’re gonna fall down a lot. …


When I came into tech, I had over 15 years of experience as a Design Consultant. With that I brought some pretty definitive notions that I could basically apply everything I had learned as a client partner to the work I would be doing on the inside. As a consultant, I remember always thinking, “Why is this so hard? Why does our work never see the light of day?” I would always chalked it up to the fact that even though a client had hired a big guns design consultancy, they weren’t actually ready.

What I didn’t acknowledge was that…


A few months ago at the Leading Design Conference, I heard Margaret Lee give a talk on being a Reluctant Leader. Many, many, things from her talk resonated deeply with me. Most salient was when she spoke about Walt Disney’s Creative Strategy to lead as a triumvirate that includes The Dreamer, The Realist, and The Critic. It resonated mostly because I was able to directly connect that to one of the best partnership models I have had in my professional career to date. Although less than a year, the working collaboration between John Maeda (the Dreamer), myself (The Realist), and…


Illustration by Isabela Humphrey

Throughout my career, I have managed and built many different kinds of design teams. I prided myself on being intentional about building teams knowing that implicit in the role of Design Operations is culture creation. Why do healthy teams matter? Because great teams = great work. At frog, we would kick off projects with what was called a “team leap,” which established team and individual purpose. This process had two key components: establishing the essential goal of the team, and identifying what everyone hopes to get out of the project. Framing each project as an opportunity for individual growth helps…


Operationalizing Design to deliver at scale starts with designers and ends with how they work with each other and with the rest of an organization. Over the past year at Automattic Design, I have worked towards designing better processes, removing the blockers to allow for a closer designer culture, facilitating better cross-team and cross-functional collaboration, nurturing the designers’ career journey, and listening to what the collective needs to do their best work. When successful at scale, we’ve seen design thinking and design infused processes in almost all of the work we do to better service our customers. …


Last month I was fortunate enough to spend three days at the Within retreat (many thanks to Automattic for the generous sponsorship). I had never at any point in my life taken much time to reflect and take stock of where I am professionally, let alone personally. The pace of my life never really afforded me the luxury. Like many people my age in Tech, I ended up on my path not through deliberate intention but through the need to find a job post-college that paid the bills.

And so I have found myself in my forties, at my first…


Credit: Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The New York Times

Originally published August 8, 2018

When I read about the island of Puerto Rico, a US Territory lost in 11 years of a recession, there is a plethora of data about corruption, poverty, lack of medical access, tremendous brain drain, and how tourism and tax shelters are the only things the island has left. But if you visit, and listen to the people you would hear a different story. One of passion, depth and wealth of culture, the desire to stay on their Isla — to rise up. …


A former colleague and friend called me recently and said: “I’ve started my own business, I am only a few months in and I could desperately use your guidance.” Coming from someone I admire, a classically trained industrial design leader, I was flattered. We had worked for years together when I was in consulting and had developed a great partnership across all of our client work. But for all the years I was in consulting he was only one of a handful of people who actually treated my role as equal to theirs. In Design, the designer reigns and operations…


Illustration by Isabela Humphrey

In March of 2018, I began my journey as Head of Design Operations at Automattic. To begin the work of identifying areas of focus and priority, I started by not only talking with every designer in the organization (around 50 at the time) but by using the Design Management framework of People, Process, and Projects. Since then, we have been working in earnest through the five-phases of centralized partnership. …

Alison Rand

I’m a Design Operations leader whose work combines strategic design and personnel management systems with project management expertise to enable design at scale

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store