Lessons from my Product Design Intern experience at DocuSign

During the summer of 2020, amidst the pandemic, I’ve had the privilege to work as a Product Design Intern at DocuSign. Despite the nontraditional way of interning fully remotely, my 12-week internship was far beyond expectation. The experience has provided great lessons in helping my personal, social, and professional growth that schools can’t teach. And here are some most valuable learnings I hope to share:

1. Set goals for yourself and document your progress

The first thing I learned at DocuSign was defining goals. It helped me better frame my objectives and guided my focus throughout the process. While setting goals, it’s also crucial to write down the achievable tasks that could measure the progress.

For example, one of the goals I had was: By the end of my internship, I will effectively communicate and collaborate with cross-functional partners to build the core experience of DocuSign’s eSignature for Salesforce. And under achievable, I listed out the details and tasks I plan to do with each cross-functional partner. Throughout the internship, I kept documenting my progress and self-reflecting based on the goals to concentrate on moving forward for my personal and professional growth. By the end of my internship, it felt truly rewarding when I realized what I achieved so far.

2. Be a great storyteller

Learning how to communicate and tell stories effectively is the biggest takeaway I had during this summer. If you think about it, everything is about storytelling: when you’re giving a formal presentation to stakeholders, chatting with a colleague about a vacation experience, explaining what you’re doing at work to your parents. As designers, we are also constantly stressing the importance of storytelling in products. During my internship, I learned two key components that could help tell a good story.

1) Know your audience

The very first step is to know your audience. Presenting the same work to different stakeholders could be quite different. As product designers, we always think from a user-centric perspective, and we should also treat our audiences as users when we’re presenting our design work.

Before coming into a meeting, either a presentation or a design critique, it’s essential to think from your audience’s perspectives and ask these questions to yourself: Who am I talking to? What are their primary goals coming into this meeting, and do they all share the same goal? What do I want my audience to know after leaving the presentation? And another important thing that we should explicitly tell our audiences: What kind of feedback do I want from my audiences?

2) Provide enough context before talking about your work

Never assume your audience already knows certain things about your work. One thing I learned is always to provide context before diving into details to avoid confusion. It’s always good to spend a few minutes mentioning the project background and conveying what feedback you want from them. By doing that, you will provide your audience with a much better foundation to understand the details you will present later on and help them think about how to comment on your work.

3. Design for extreme use cases

During my internship, I had the privilege to work on a project that will eventually be implemented, and one thing I realized is to consider the extreme use cases. When working on designs for school projects, oftentimes we tend to design for the ideal scenario and perfect flow we imagined the user would go through, but not considering the non-perfect ones. What’s the best way to design an element/present the layout when it’s expanded full screen or displayed in a very tiny browser window? What happens if texts are too long in a row? What error messages should I provide when users encounter issues in the flow? And what’s the best way to navigate the users back to the ideal flow after seeing the error? The non-perfect scenarios happen all the time in reality. Instead of simply showing “404”, it’s crucial that we think more comprehensively and design solutions for extreme use cases and provide a better experience.

4. Enjoy activities outside of primary work

As interns, we only had limited time at the company, and it’s up to us to maximize our own internship experience. Besides contributing to projects, it’s also equally rewarding to enjoy activities outside of my primary tasks.

Although the internship was entirely remotely, DocuSign has truly made our intern experience fulfilling by arranging so many different types of events and activities.

We had the privilege to listen to Dan Springer, Loren Alhadeff, Joan Burke, and so many more leaders sharing their experience and advice to us interns. Every week there were fun activities and contests arranged to help us connect with other interns and learn more about the company culture. One of the most meaningful events I attended was the DocuSign IMPACT Intern Pitch Competition, where interns pitch for a charity that aligns with our corporate social responsibility and values. My teammates and I were so honored to be awarded 1st place and have earned donations to our represented charity. It was such a rewarding experience to work while attending all these activities as I was able to learn and improve my professional expertise and build meaningful relationships with people at the company.

All in all, I feel incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to work with a team of communicative and supportive designers at a company with a strong philosophy and values. Through this internship, I’ve learned meaningful lessons that schools don’t teach us, and I can’t wait to keep growing with these learnings in mind. Special thanks to my manager Ben, my mentor Gor and teammate Logan for supporting me throughout the process, and the DocuSign University Recruiting and Programs team and all the interns for making this summer amazing!

If you enjoyed reading this article and would like to learn more about what’s it like to design at DocuSign, please feel free to reach out to me here :)

Written by

MFA Interaction Design Candidate @SVA | Former Product Design Intern @DocuSign | www.heyualex.com

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