It’s still surprising to me how fast time can pass when everything around you is so new. As I finished my first three months as a Product Designer at FanDuel, it felt like I was already fully integrated into both the team and the work, but that no time had passed at all for that to happen. In this post I will try to break down the main highlights of my experience so far.
Meeting new people
When I arrived at the office in January, the first thing I realised was how much emphasis the company puts on getting people to talk to each other. From the very first presentations about the company and its processes, to 1–1 meetings filling the calendar for the first week, it felt daunting but at the same time reassuring to suddenly feel like you’re already part of the team after just one week. Because the team sets up these meetings for you, it helps you break the inertia of social awkwardness, and fast-tracks you into a place of belonging that I’d struggle to achieve as fast on my own initiative. By the end of the week I had my desk fully set-up — with all my nerdy memorabilia — and I had spoken personally to everyone around me, which made things easier in the long run.
But meetings and checkpoints don’t stop after the first week. One major surprise I had coming to FanDuel is how much teams try to make sure everyone in the company has visibility and a chance to give feedback on the work that is being done across all different products. From daily stand-ups, to weekly team-based or company-wide showcases, it feels like you are always sharing and discussing your work, at any stage of fidelity.
Notably within the wider design team, which is spread across Scotland and the US, there are multiple touchpoints in place that allow designers from different products to share their knowledge and progress, and provide feedback. It’s both a difficult challenge and a blessing, because it provides you with multiple chances for critique and iteration, and it drives you to keep an open mind and resist the tunnel-vision effect of working in isolation. It also contributes to a greater sense of team, despite the distances.
A structured on-boarding
When I first opened my work email I had a welcome message from my line manager. It contained useful information about what to install, how to setup services, but also the main goals I should strive for with my first 3 months. From getting my first piece of design work merged into the design system, to running a design workshop with my team, the goals were varied and covered most aspects of the design role. Throughout the first month, I stressed a bit about getting all the goals done — despite my line manager reassuring me not to — but I ended up finishing everything before the half-way point. In the end they were all things that organically came up during the day-to-day work — they were meant as touch-points that would lead me to a better understanding of work processes, rather than a test of abilities.
As the first months went by, my 1–1s with my line manager (which happen every two weeks), shifted more toward my overall career goals after the on-boarding period. This was an opportunity to get a clear sense of the career path framework in place for the UX & Design team, set up tangible short- and long-term goals I want to achieve, and ultimately understand how to progress further in a transparent way.
Real work from early on
At FanDuel, product development teams are called Streams and include engineers, project managers, business analysts, product designers and UX researchers collaborating on new features and improvements. Within each Stream, people usually sit together (although often split between multiple locations) and there’s a feeling of cooperation to achieve certain goals for each sprint. I was added to a stream for our Fantasy product and worked in collaboration with two other designers.
From small design problems (like a loading animation for a contest card) to integrating a whole new sport, I was given the chance to start contributing small amounts of real design work from soon after I joined and ease into the bigger projects at my own pace. It never felt like I couldn’t ask questions, and it never felt overwhelming.
Integrating contests for a new sport in particular was a great opportunity to start with, as it was a chance to adapt previous design conventions, understand backend limitations, identify opportunities, and in doing so learning more about the product and the team. I believe people here are respectful of what it takes to learn and get comfortable with the products, and trust you to do your best. As the two designers moved on to other streams toward the end of the second month, I started work on another challenging project.
Coordinating efforts to tackle a large problem
In the past month I’ve been working on some big changes to the browsing experience of the product, and to achieve that we decided to start with an ideation workshop. We gathered people from all disciplines in the stream into the same room, shared our previous knowledge and objectives, and threw lots of ideas around. Many of those ideas are now clear design directions I’m pursuing and plan on testing with users. As I develop them further I keep checking back with my stream and the wider UX & Design team to make sure I’m pushing things in the right direction.
From early wireframes to high-fidelity prototypes, it is highly encouraged for product designers to collaborate with UX researchers, to check your assumptions and test usability concerns with real FanDuel users. With this feedback, as well as the stream and wider UX & Design team, iterations feel more rooted in concrete insights and objectives, which is gratifying.
Already 100 days!
Looking back, it feels like I’ve worked on so many different things and with so many people over the course of just three months. It has felt fast, but also appropriately paced, and exciting in every regard. Ultimately I think it is a testament to the on-boarding processes FanDuel puts in place for new starters, as well as the fast-paced nature of the work, that three months have felt so packed and yet so brief.
As I now keep moving my current project forward I’m really happy about how it’s shaping up and I’m already wondering about how to take it further — it’s a good place to be 100 days in I think.