Growth Mindset for Designers

Lessons learnt while leading design team for a tech Unicorn – Sprinklr.

I still remember the first day, almost two and half years back when I joined Sprinklr. I just got out of college, all excited to learn and work on great things and just a few hours into the office, I got introduced to Pavitar, CTO of Sprinklr which was valued at over 1.8 billion dollars just a few months back then. He came to us, took a brief introduction and put us up to solve a challenging new product they were working on. I was terrified at first, but this is how this journey started, to now where I am currently the Director of Product Design, leading a team of over 10 designers. The journey has been phenomenal and full of learning and challenges that came way through. Not in any order but here are some of those learning.

1. Learn to talk through the listener’s lens

This is one of the most important lessons which I learnt very early on. While designing any thing there are a lot of different stakeholders that come from variety of domains — Engineers, Product Managers, Customers, Executive Team, Design Leads etc. Different people tend to have different perspective about what a good design means for them. However, a lot of designers tend to present their designs in the same way irrespective of the person they are explaining to which a lot of time does not turns out in their favour.

For example, when a CEO reviews the designs, he would most likely not get into nifty design details rather understand how does it bring value to customer and eventually more business, while when an engineer evaluates he would like to evaluate its technical feasibility and compliance. So, while one presents design it is very important to talk through the listeners lens in a way that it is aligned with their goals and motivations and things that drive them.

2. Always deliver more than expected

What differentiates outliers is their ability to always surprise people with things that they had not expected. A lot of time people restrict themselves to do things that they are asked off, however, only when you go a mile ahead and do things that was not though off before gives you an unprompted advantage over others and help you build trust.

For example, it is never a must to create high fidelity interactive prototypes and probably your product manager is just expecting a pdf document for design flows. However, when you present prototypes it brings a wholesome different experience that is closest one could get to know how it would look once developed. These are small things but always help you standout from others.

3. Pitch, and Not Present

A lot of time people have a hard time communicating their designs. It is because they try to present the designs as any other marketing presentation. However, as rightly pointed out by Bobby Ghoshal,

You present numbers, facts and excel sheets but you pitch things that people are subjective about.

Its not synonymous to being super fluffy about your designs but having an intent to communicate why your designs matter and why they exist at the first place. However, having this vigour comes with having the right process in place and having confidence in that.

4. Double Down on Complementary Skills

I truly believe in expanding your skills in the T-Shape. Its always better to have a forte in one particular skill but keep expanding skillsets that directly or indirectly help you succeed. The team will have vast set of skillsets which might not be directly related to their day to day job like music, illustrations, animation, photography. These would eventually complement your primary skills an help you standout from all the other people.

5. Learning to Disagree

One of the key things that a lot of people in general do not get it how to put forth their point of view when others disagree with their point of view. There are two things that go wrong a lot of times. When someone disagrees with you, you inherently don’t take it as a feedback but get irritated and secondly you fail to understand other’s person point of view even if it might have been right. To get this right, never attach yourself to certain ideas rather hear both the sides of the table and then take a call as a team on what makes sense through debates.

This is WIP journal that I keep on updating as and when I have new learning over this extraordinary journey.