What I’ve learned after a year at Deliveroo

Reflecting on and sharing three of the most important things I’ve learned from the past year at Deliveroo

Last year I started working as a Product Designer at Deliveroo. Before joining, I spent a year working with the good people at Deloitte Digital as a UX/UI designer in Dublin. This was my first job after college.

At the time, I knew I wanted to move to London but I didn’t exactly have a job or a place to live lined up… but that didn’t stop me from quitting my job and booking a one way flight to the big shmoke.

Before I moved, I happened to stumble across a posting about a Product design role at Deliveroo. At the time, I hadn’t really grasped exactly what was involved in a Product Designer role but I thought I might as well give it a go and apply. Luckily enough Simon (Head of Design) saw my application and decided to give me a chance. We had a call early one morning which then led to me flying over to London for a round of interviews and eventually getting the job 🎉

For the first few weeks I felt like I was playing catch up, because I had never used Sketch before — I had tried to, but my 5 year old mac couldn’t handle the wonders of Sketch. Luckily for me, I was learning from people who are among the best in the world, so learning these skills wasn’t too difficult. The next few months I spent developing the “accompanying skills” that you’re not taught in college, like prioritising projects, working with engineers and so on.

I definitely still have a lot more to learn and develop but I thought I’d reflect and share three of the most important things I’ve learned so far. Although there’s plenty more than this, these are the skills I didn’t realise were as important until I’d joined a world-class tech team.

Learning the magical powers of the right words

Design docs 🔥 they’re such a hawt topic. 🔥

When I started at Deliveroo, it was quite a daunting task having to articulate and justify your thinking about every project you are working on into a design doc. Am I phrasing things right? Am I adding enough detail? How do I even start writing?

But then I realised, they’re not much different from the spec/rationale books we used to do back in the good ole days of college. These books included all the reasoning for addressing a problem in the first place — they were my favourite things to write and design.

The design doc template we use at Deliveroo

Once I realised this, the design doc quickly became way less daunting and really helped me articulate my rationale and thought process for projects. This instantly made my work better and more thought through.

This means I now have a central place where I keep track of the user problem I’m solving and why it’s being solved, the decisions I’ve made and the final designs. As well as being a massive benefit for me, they provide a great overview and reasoning to everyone else on the team — PM’s, engineers, researchers, content designers, etc. They also give everyone a place to comment and give their views about a project and the thought process.

Now I can’t start a project without first writing down its context and the user problem we’re solving. Turns out design docs do have magical powers ✨

Having confidence in your knowledge

Having confidence in your work and knowledge is something that takes time and practice. Starting out, I struggled with talking confidently about my work or opinions about certain projects or problems, especially in meetings with other people from the business. I thought that I wasn’t the most experienced person to be answering these questions, and if I did give an answer, what if I was wrong? What if I didn’t have an opinion at all?

These were all the fears that were going through my head… And that was the problem. I was in my head way too much. I remember a conversation I had with my design lead a few months in. I was expressing how I wasn’t feeling too confident in my ideas and that I thought others on my team could sense this too. And then I was hit with some truth I really needed to hear. I was reminded that I was hired as the expert in the field and I needed to have confidence in this. Also that people across the company look to me as a designer to have an opinion and that they value this. This conversation made such a difference to how I thought about my role and my capabilities from then on. Any time I begin to feel unsure about my opinions or knowledge I remind myself of this conversation while also knowing that it’s ok not to have all the answers, but having confidence that you will get there eventually.

Making connections with real life people

In the industry, there’s a lot of effort being put into understanding your users mood and intent when they use your product. What mindset are they in, what are they doing before they use your product?

We put so much effort into having a very good understanding of the people we’re designing for, which of course is really important and valuable. But what about the people we’re working with?

We all want to work in an environment that is open and comfortable, and I’ve come to realise that the only way to do that is to put effort into making connections with the people we’re working with and being open with ourselves. This not only includes people in your own discipline, but the overall product team as a whole. We all work in a multidisciplinary world, so we have to make an effort with everyone even if you don’t understand something in their discipline like Javascript or the agile methodology.

Everyone wants to work with nice people. As soon as you make the effort to create or be part of this environment, life becomes a lot easier. I definitely noticed this difference. As soon as I began to form these friendships, I felt much more comfortable in work and in the work I was doing. Asking for help felt a lot easier, because I didn’t feel like I was annoying someone, I was just asking a friend for help.

I want people to want to work with me and enjoy it, because for me, I want the same back. I want to look forward to working with other people, and I’m lucky enough that I’m on a team with people that I really do enjoy working with!

Some casual team axe throwing

Parting thoughts

Working with such a broad range of experienced people for the past year has created a culture and a place for me to get better at design as a whole, create a niche for myself as a designer and most importantly create a place where I’m excited to learn anything and everything I can.

I’m glad I took the time to reflect on the past year and I would highly recommend you to reflect on what you’ve done in the past year or few years, you’ll be surprised how much you’ve learned and grown!

If you have questions about pursuing product design, or if you’re also starting a career in design, don’t hesitate to reach out, I’d love to chat!