7 years ago, I pivoted my career from architecture to product design. With a lot of ambition and a bit of fear, I dove into the startup world headfirst. Over the years, I’ve looked for opportunities that would offer me mentorship and growth. I’ve reached out to the people and teams I deeply admired. Along the way, I’ve been so thankful for designers such as Khoi Vinh and Dom Goodrum who offered me opportunities, and forever, changed my life.
Most recently, I spent 2.5 years on the Percolate design team and it was an amazing experience. I joined Percolate in 2014 as a Product Designer when the company was ~80 people in NYC. In April of 2015, I moved to SF to expand Percolate design to the West Coast. In SF, I became a Senior Product Designer, then soon after, a Product Design Director. My growth curve at Percolate was steep, and very exciting.
Most notably, I experienced a lot of big firsts at Percolate. I published my first blog post, presented at my first conference, and hosted my first design event. It was my first time at a startup with more than 20 people, my first time seeing a team grow from 80–300 and my first time moving to help build a new office. So many firsts meant I was growing, very fast.
Since Percolate was an amazing experience, I’m sure you’re wondering why I decided to leave. In short, I made the decision based on a challenge and a growing interest.
As the first product team member in the SF office, it was challenging to collaborate with the core design and product team in NYC. We did our best and worked hard to improve bicoastal communications. Although we made great strides, I really missed working with the core team in person. After 16 months in SF, I learned remote or satellite offices are not for everyone.
At the same time, I made a lot of friends in SF and became very interested in some of the larger SF design teams. With all of my experience on small design teams, the larger design teams were eye opening. I loved learning how larger design teams operate. It was also very exciting to learn many of the larger teams are devoting resources to experimentation and pushing the design industry forward. At a point, I wanted to experience it for myself.
Since I loved Percolate, I wrestled with these thoughts for some time. In the end, I decided it was time to try a larger design team. I knew a larger SF based design team would bring me back to in person collaboration, pull me out of my comfort zone, and be an incredible learning experience.
Once I made the decision to move on, I stepped down from my role at Percolate. Although it was scary to leave without an offer in hand, I needed time to focus on interviews and recharge.
Before we talk about the next adventure, I want to thank Percolate for everything. I will forever be grateful for the experience and wish Percolate nothing but the best.
Once I started interviewing full time, I met with a number of the larger SF based design teams.
Without further ado, I’m so excited to announce…
I’m joining the Dropbox design team!
I love Dropbox for so many reasons. To begin, I’d like to thank Kurt Varner for sharing his reasons, and note I wholeheartedly agree. It’s true, Dropbox is “turning a corner,” has a fresh vision, a very solid business, and fabulous team. More specifically, here are some of the key reasons I’m joining.
Throughout the interview process, I met a lot of people at Dropbox. Each and every person I met was warm and beyond welcoming. Everyone referred to the team as “family.” I asked a number of employees what they love most about Dropbox, and across the board, they said the people. It shows, and you feel it. It’s absolutely amazing.
It’s true, Dropbox is “turning a corner.” I spoke with Dropbox’s VP of Product and Design and feel really good about the new direction. It’s much bigger, and very exciting. I especially love that it transforms Dropbox from a point solution, to a system. The complex design problems are very compelling. As Kurt noted, there’s a lot of work to be done. The problem is far from solved and that makes for a wonderful design challenge.
Throughout the interview process, the team really listened to my experience and interests. Together, we found the best spot for me on the team. I’m so thrilled to land on the “Productivity Pillar” where I will be on the “Create and Access” team. Since I’m a big fan of team and community building, I will also be helping to improve team operations, and market the team. Looking ahead, the team explained how they see me growing. It was so wonderful to feel a strong sense of mentorship and support from a number of the leads.
From start to finish, the recruiting experience was absolutely amazing. At every step, the Dropbox recruiting team went above and beyond to welcome me. Most importantly, the recruiting team treated me as person, not a transaction. They were so friendly and really made an effort to know me, not just as a candidate. Every interaction began with a question about fun happenings in my personal life, then transitioned into the interview discussions. I really felt like I was making friends in the process.
As noted by Kurt, I too received a special surprise after my offer was sent. A lovely pink box arrived at my doorstep, and I found a cupcake kit inside. The box represents one of the team’s core values — delight! In every way, this box is absolutely delightful.
The team also included something special in my box. They knew my interview process was longer than expected, and that I missed some of my best friend’s wedding festivities in NYC. As a result, the team so generously gave me an OpenTable gift certificate so that I could celebrate with my friend on my next trip to the East Coast. It was such a nice gesture that really showed they truly care about me as a person. My mom would do this type of thing for me. I never expected it from a recruiting team. This is a team with a big heart. It’s amazing.
All in all, Dropbox blew me away with their welcome, vision, and recruiting experience. In just 3 weeks, I visited the office 4 times and already, consider this team family. I’m so excited to get started!
Since this was my first time interviewing for a product design role in SF, I thought I’d share some lessons I learned in the process.
Once you decide it’s time for the next adventure, start by doing you homework. Research design teams by reading blog posts, listening to podcasts and reaching out to friends. Never underestimate the power of a cold email or DM.
Take time to focus
Interviewing and related prep can easily be a full time job. Once the ball is rolling, you’ll find it’s very time consuming to prepare for interviews, go to interviews, and complete design challenges. Additionally, the process can fluctuate between very exciting and super stressful. If you have the time and funds to take time off to focus on interviewing, I’d highly recommend it. It took me 3 full weeks to get through the interview process. This is a big life decision. The time is worth it.
The portfolio presentation
An onsite portfolio presentation is the most important step in the interview process.
- Time Although you will have 45 min to an hour to present, don’t forget to account for questions. In reality, you have 30–35 minutes. In one of my early interviews, I didn’t leave enough time for questions and didn’t finish my presentation. I then practiced until I was able to talk through 90 slides in 33 minutes. I lost my voice in many hours of practice, but made it happen.
- Projects Startups usually ask you to present 1–2 projects from start to finish. When I was preparing my presentation, a friend advised me to include an extra project in an appendix. In a 1:1 interview, they might ask to see more work. On one occasion, I showed the extra project, and I was very happy to have it.
- KPIs Root your projects in business goals and KPIs where possible. If the project is live, show how success was measured.
- Platforms When possible, show how a project spans across different platforms. Teams love to see how designs translate across web and mobile.
- Leadership and Community If this matters to you, showcase your experience. Teams are very excited to see these skills.
Strengths and weaknesses
Play to your strengths and don’t be afraid to recognize your weaknesses. It’s okay to talk about the areas you feel are strong, and the areas you hope to improve. Be honest about how and where you want to grow.
Throughout the interview process, ask for feedback. Continue to do what went well. After each interview, take the constructive criticism and improve. I iterated on my presentation after each interview. The improvements made a difference.
Throughout the process, you’ll learn a lot about the teams and they’ll learn a lot about you. In the end, you will know the right match, and it will find you. Trust the process.
Recharge before starting
Interviewing can be really stressful and time consuming. If possible, I’d recommend taking some time off between interviewing and starting. Teams understand you need to rest and recharge. They’re more than happy to delay your start date. After accepting the offer with Dropbox, I took 3 weeks off to be with family and friends. At this point, I’m so thankful I took a break. I feel rested, recharged and ready to get started!
After 3 weeks of interviewing, then 2 weeks with family and friends on the East Coast, it’s time for the next adventure to begin. I’m flying back to SF, and starting soon at Dropbox.
Although I haven’t started yet, I already feel like Dropbox is family.
Cheers to new beginnings! Here we go… 😊