Meet Rannie, Head of Design.
Rannie was a Research Manager at Facebook before joining Thumbtack as Head of Research. Now, as Head of Design, she leads the Product Design, Experience Research and Creative teams. She likes to say that at Thumbtack, she does great work with great people. Here’s why.
What drew you to Thumbtack?
There were three “p’s”: people, purpose and potential. People: I wanted to learn and grow from working with smart, mission-driven people. For purpose, it came down to the mission. Thumbtack helps customers get their projects done, and we help self-made entrepreneurs grow their business. I’m passionate about the fact that we make these things happen.
And then there’s that final “p”: potential. Potential on a personal level — where can I grow? Where can I contribute? It was important to me to not be a cog in the machine, but instead contribute my strengths while I learn from those around me and build my experience. As for potential on the company level: where are we today, where are we going and how can we grow? Asking these kinds of questions got me excited for Thumbtack’s mission and ultimately brought me here.
How does your background in research influence you as a design leader?
When we begin with better questions, we often get better answers. As a design leader with a research background, I find it critical to begin with understanding people’s evergreen motivations and needs before recommending a solution. A common trap I see other leaders make is starting with solutions and then forcing them into problems. It’s almost a sure-fire way to fail at product-market fit.
For example, for our customer, finding a quality pro is a persistent problem we design for. Our Homeowner Research shows that customers can feel a lot of frustration when owning a home, because projects can be a big commitment of time and money. Homeowners want to find their “people” — the pros they can trust to do quality work again and again. So we need to make sure that we build towards making the customer feel confident in finding the information they need, and hiring a reliable pro they can count on. It’s not a matter of research influencing design — both influence each other. It’s a cyclical, symbiotic process, and that’s how the magic happens.
Speaking of that magic, what’s interesting about designing for the Thumbtack user?
To build a product that is intuitive, easy and delightful requires a lot of deep thinking. Thumbtack is a two-sided marketplace, where the Customer and Pro sides feed into each other. We need to help customers identify a quality pro for their projects, and we need to collect a pro’s job preferences and match them with the right customer.
On top of that, you’re facilitating an online and offline interaction. The customer may have their own vision for how they want their project done. And the pro brings their expertise, but they may not know the exact situation of the job until they get to the customer’s home. We play a critical role to facilitate that online connection, but it’s embedded into a larger ecosystem of context that the pro and customer have to share with each other. All of that together makes simplicity very difficult to accomplish. It’s a really fascinating puzzle. And I love puzzles.
Aside from puzzles, what’s your secret superpower?
I’ve been told I have a knack of getting right to the core of what a person really needs to hear or talk about. As a researcher, one of my strengths is to build rapport right away. You have to trust I’m not there to judge and tell you if there’s a wrong or right answer. I’m there to understand your perspective and what you need to make your reality more delightful. So I guess my not-so-secret superpower is to start from a place of understanding, then use that to drive towards really strong strategy and execution… without being an asshole.
Not being an asshole is very important!
Sometimes people think that you can’t get stuff done without being pushy or making demands. But that’s false. And empathy is not about being nice just for the sake of it. You can still be direct and provide constructive, helpful feedback while being respectful. It’s important to have hard conversations sometimes in order to move forward. I’m not talking about “being cruel to be kind”. It’s more, “Hey, I’m a human. You’re a human. Let’s try to understand each other and figure out what we need to do, then go out and do it.”
How does that impact the Design team’s culture at Thumbtack?
When I talk to candidates about why they’re looking for a new role, I hear things like “I don’t get the feedback I need” and “I want a collaborative team, a community of strong designers.” I’ve since learned that what we have isn’t standard at every company. The Design team at Thumbtack is sharp, motivated, resilient, very low ego, and they’re supportive while still setting a high bar. They provide important feedback while also being respectful. That’s what really makes our team unique.
What have been some of your favorite projects at Thumbtack?
I have a lot of highlights. There’s the Instant Book work — it’s an exciting direction for the company. The Homeowner’s Experience Research Project is another great one; we combined it with customer segmentation so we could really understand who our core user is and what drives repeat usage. There’s also Thumbprint, our open-source design systems — featured on designsystems.com alongside IBM, Zendesk and Atlassian. And finally, I love the Targeting 101 landing page that the Creative team worked on. It simplifies an important aspect of our product for pros, and drives revenue for the business. All of these projects were highly collaborative, impactful for the business — and good for the user.
What are you most excited about?
The future! When I think about where we were pre-COVID and where we are now, and how the business is performing, I feel energized by the impact we’re having for customers and local businesses. It’s definitely an exciting time to be at Thumbtack.
Interested in joining the team? We’re hiring Product Designers.