How I Interact and Collaborate with Other Roles as a UX Design Intern at Google

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

The background

Team setting

I’m a UX design intern on Google’s Shopping UX team. Our team is responsible for not only consumer-facing shopping products but also for the operation tools that Google makes for merchants to fulfill orders.

Intern project

My intern project is to design a new feature for one of the fulfillment tools that help merchants process orders. While in some teams, design interns are working with software engineer interns and PM interns to carry out their intern project together, there’s no other intern working on my product so I get to collaborate directly with the full-time Product Manager and engineers to ship this new feature.

The collaboration

Roles that I collaborate with

In additional to PM and engineers, I also work closely with folks who manage operations, the fulfillment process, and operator training. This is because designing for enterprise products is not like designing for consumer products. Adding new features also means making changes to the operation process. It is valuable for me to not only look at the users’ needs but also take the perspective of operation managers.

1:1

In the first half of my internship, I mostly had 1:1 meetings. In the 1:1 meetings with other designers on my team, I learned about the products and projects that they are currently working on. I also learned about their design process and asked for tips on collaborating. In the 1:1 meetings with cross-functional team members like PMs, engineers, and operations managers, I focused more on my intern project itself. After learning about the context in the first 1:1s, I shared my design iterations and asked for feedback during meetings with my collaborators.

Image Source: Microsoft Overhauls, the Apple Way

1:1s are the most common kind of meetings at Google. This is because regardless of roles, many people are working on parallel projects simultaneously—like the chart above describes. For example, designer A can work with engineer A and PM A on A project, while at the same time working with engineer B and PM B and B project. And chances are that engineer A is also working with PM C and designer B on C project. Most of the time, the cross-functional team is too big to be included in the discussion of every project. As a result, we have 1:1s or meetings of smaller groups with relevant stakeholders first, and later share in the cross-functional team meeting.

UX meeting

In addition to 1:1s, there is a weekly UX meeting where I can present my design iterations and collect feedback from other designers. Since every designer is working on a different project, it’s also a great chance for me to practice my presentation skills to illustrate the context of the project in a short time.

Cross-functional team meeting

After I “finalized” the design within the smaller project team, I shared it with the whole cross-functional product team. I also shared the findings from alpha testing that I conducted in one of our testing stores with the MVP version of the feature—initiating the discussion about the changes we need to make to the operation process and the possible challenges of introducing the new feature.

Conclusion

To sum up, a UX design intern collaborates with team members just as like a full-time interaction designer—despite the fact that I worked on a single project with a smaller scope, rather than multiple projects with a larger scope. I’m grateful for the trust that I’ve been given and I think it’s important for interns to take initiative and contribute ideas with their seat at the table. If you don’t limit yourself by thinking that you’re “just an intern” then the team won’t limit you either—they’ll treat you the same as other members in the team.