Leading with…Andy Welfle

Rachel McConnell
Lead with Tempo
Published in
4 min readJan 26, 2022

Navy blue banner with white text reading Leading with Andy Welfle and a headshot of Andy

Many content designers have found your book such a useful resource in their career, but what books or resources have helped you so far in your leadership career?

There are so many good foundational books that are out there, like Erin Kissane’s Elements of Content Strategy, Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach’s Content Strategy for the Web, and Sarah Winters’ Content Design. Those are still so influential and I reference them quite often!

After transitioning into a management role, and as my challenges became more ambiguous and abstract, I really found a few books to be so helpful:

I’m also SO excited about the book Natalie Dunbar is working on about building a sustainable content strategy practice. I got the opportunity to review a draft, and I think it’s going to be really important to a lot of people who, like me, have an opportunity to build a team and to stand up a practice. Keep an eye out for that as-of-yet-untitled book, scheduled to hit the Rosenfeld Media shelves in 2022.

Without giving too much away about your talk at Lead with Tempo, what’s the one content design superpower we should be tapping into to help us with our leadership?

One of the most profound things for me when I became a manager (and a leader) at Adobe was to pay attention to organisational structures. This was a big shift for me — I really don’t like to play corporate politics and it seemed to me like org structures were fake, so I ignored as much as I could about org charts, business silos, and product constraints. And while the latter is true to some extent, although they’re intangible they present very real problems, especially in big, siloed companies like Adobe. Learning how to navigate those structures give you insight into your stakeholders’ incentives, constraints, goals, power structures, and more, and if you know that, you can more successfully partner with people, advocate for your team, gather resources, and be a better corporate citizen.

What would you tell your younger self knowing what you know now about your career?

That as you progress in your career, your goals, your skills, and your role will become more and more ambiguous. It’s hard for me to articulate just what my job is now, and at times, as my manager likes to say, “your job is to figure out what your job is”. For me, there was a turning point where I stopped fearing and avoiding ambiguity, and started to embrace and lean into it. I think that if I would have been able to start doing that earlier in my career, I would have become more successful faster.

What is the thing we’re not talking enough about in the design community that we should be?

I’m really interested in the idea increasingly coming up in conversations, both privately and on Twitter, that we’re expending undue emotional labour in our constant need to educate our colleagues and stakeholders and explain our value. Over the last 10 or so years, I think I’ve internalised that and never questioned it: it’s emotional labour, but it’s my job — my job is to tell people what my job is.

As someone whose primary job it is to stand up a practice and to build a team, perhaps that is my job, but is it the job of my reports? To what degree should they be expending limited and precious emotional labour proving their value over and over?

And to expand that idea, is it UX’s job to shoulder the emotional labour burden for an entire company to create good experiences for a user, under huge (and often conflicting) capitalistic restraints? Is it realistic that they ever can, given our primary goals of making profits for shareholders?

These are big questions and I can’t even begin to know the answer. But I really have been appreciating leadership from folks who are talking about it, particular in the UX writing and content design space, like Jane Ruffino, Candi Williams (and more!) I’ve been having discussions with my team at work, and making sure to perk up my ears whenever I encounter these conversations.

I know you have a penchant for pencils…but what other hobbies do you have outside of your content work?

I love analog creativity, but as someone who isn’t really an artist, I gravitate less toward painting or drawing, and more toward stuff like writing and book-making. In the last few years, I really love making zines — little homemade magazines — and in fact I made a series — 404 Magazine — that combines things I love like UX writing and poetry. I’m out of stock of all three issues at this moment, but I plan on printing, assembling, and selling more issues soon.

Join Andy at Lead with Tempo, tickets to the conference are on sale now.

Rachel McConnell
Lead with Tempo

Content and design leader. Found of Tempo. Author of Leading Content Design and Why you Need a Content Team and How to Build One

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