In the autumn 2017 both of us left our native countries (Poland for Alicja and Greece for Mikaela) to move to the UK and start working as UX Designers at Redgate. We both had design experience from our previous jobs but we knew that starting a position in a foreign country would be challenging. What’s more, Redgate is a company making software for a niche target group of SQL Developers and Database Administrators and neither of us knew anything about databases. Would we be able to understand the products and help make them better? We hoped for the best.
Armed with a pencil, a Mac and post-it notes, we embarked on a design journey at Redgate. We worked hard and three months later both officially passed our probation and become fully fledged members of the design team. We would like to share our experience of being a new designer at Redgate by describing what surprised and impressed us the most.
The onboarding process
Redgate is a very well-organized company and we could feel that from day #1. There was an onboarding process prepared for us that aimed to help us learn about the company’s culture, functions and departments, and guide us through our first steps as UX Designers there. This was implemented with a plan customised for the needs of each designer.
This plan provided us with information regarding what an experienced UX Designer does at Redgate and their role in their product team. We were also introduced to our design framework and values, got an introduction on how to use our Design Playbook and had an induction with our team and the other departments and services of the company.
In addition, we were given some guidance what the expected activities over the next three months would be. Furthermore, every designer has a mentor who is there to help them expand their skills and abilities in research with the aim to make better product decisions.
At Redgate product teams work as squads. In most cases, each team consists of a few Developers, a Technical Lead, a Product Manager and a UX Designer. Teams are partly autonomous and make their own decisions about areas of improvement and new features. UX Designers’ role is to guide their product team as facilitators to identify new opportunities and to better understand a problem from a user’s perspective.
Every project starts and ends with research in order to make evidence based decisions.
The design process
One of the greatest things at Redgate is its well-defined design process and the emphasis on evidence-based design. UX designers hear all the time that they should involve users in the design process and conduct research to learn about users’ needs. As sensible as it sounds, at many companies research is often skipped or reduced to a minimum. There are multiple reasons for that: lack of awareness from the management’s side, extra cost that can’t be justified, time constraints or limited access to users. Instead, designers come up with their solutions based on their intuition and insights from researching their competitors.
At Redgate research is an intrinsic part of the design process.
When working on a new product or improving an existing one, designers focus on addressing user’s needs, not adding new features, and make sure that these needs are verified by speaking to actual users. Most research takes the form of customer calls (SQL Developers and Database Administrators are relatively rare species and it isn’t always easy to find them in their natural environment) but designers occasionally do customer visits, as well as conduct surveys. Each research activity starts with defining assumptions and forming hypotheses that are later verified. Research insights are used to build a prototype which in turn is verified by further research and usability testing.
Redgate has a well-defined design process based on the double diamond model. Designers are encouraged to follow the process but they are also left some freedom to adapt it to their preferred way of working and the current project.
Each stage of the design process is explained in the available documentation and there are scenarios for workshops and other collaborative activities. Redgate’s design team has also created their own playbook that describes what activities are the most appropriate for each stage.
Collaboration between designers
At Redgate designers are embedded in product teams. They are responsible for the UX of the product they are assigned to and in most cases there is one designer working on each product. However, there are a lot of activities taking place that encourage collaboration and everyone is happy to help their colleagues.
Once a week there is a ‘Show and tell’ session where each member of the design team presents what they have been working on that week and can receive quick feedback. Occasionally, longer feedback sessions are organized — ‘Design critiques’ — where a designer can present their work and have it analysed in detail.
However, everyone can receive feedback any time simply by asking one of their colleagues to see their work or by sharing their ideas on Slack. Designers are also encouraged to take part in other designers’ workshops and research sessions. This can make the activity more successful but also helps to share knowledge and new design techniques.
Developing your skills
Collaborating with other designers is a great way to learn, but there are many other activities that promote development and growth. Every designer is asked to fill out a skill grid that helps to identify their stronger and weaker points in the design process. Then they select the skills they would like to focus on and together with their mentor and their manager they come up with the strategy to work on them.
Every once in a while, Redgate invites external specialist to run a workshop for the design team. The workshop topics from the last few months include ‘Design Thinking’ and ‘Jobs to be done’. Another great way to learn are visits to other companies and talking to their design team. Last year there was a visit at Facebook and this year we visited Skyscanner and MOO.
Designers at Redgate are also encouraged to take part in design conferences, both as speakers and regular participants. Redgate sponsors some design conferences too, e.g. UX Cambridge. Designers also have a book allowance that makes it possible for them to buy and expense design books. Finally, everyone is encouraged to share knowledge by giving internal talks and presentations, or writing blog posts and articles.
A very positive company culture is another factor that makes Redgate stand out. And we are not just talking about free lunch, great benefits, amazing workplace and the events that are organized through the year. The company is dedicated to making their employees happy by providing them with everything they need in order to learn and grow as professionals. This is how the company grows as well.
Redgate is a great company with a mature design process that lets their designers develop and helps them to produce great work (after all, ‘ingeniously simple’ is the company’s motto).
Joining Redgate was one of the best decisions that we made last year. We feel lucky to be working at Redgate and if this article wasn’t convincing enough, come and join us and see for yourself! We are hiring!