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Being more senior
Dear Budi: "I'll move to the new company next month. I'll be a design lead role and I'm a bit nervous about it. Do you have any tips on what to prepare?"
As you grow to a more senior role in product design, your work will change. Usually, you’ll work on a bigger scope. But what’s more exciting is you get to work on a higher-stake project because the manager and the company put in senior people.
People often ask me what to prepare if they want to be more senior. Here are 5 things I can think of:
1. Identifying the problem
When the company puts you on a higher-stake initiative, it usually means the initiative is critical for the company. But it also means your team needs to figure out what exactly to work on.
In our junior role, we might get a specific brief, and we can execute it right away because the problem is framed clearly (even though it might not always be the right one). We can make a wireframe and so on. But now, you have to identify what problem to solve.
2. Product Strategy
This is another half of identifying the problem. You’ll be a strategic thinking partner for the product manager. Thinking about this big fuzzy term: Strategy.
For example, your team might get a specific goal: Increase retention by x%. Now figure out the best way to do that (the strategy). Your team needs some make an internal assumption on what to work on and why it could win in the market. Product designers often struggle because they’re unfamiliar with the competition, value proposition, monetization, etc.
Thinking beyond the traditional design craft is critical. Because the user interface is the what, you must figure out why you should build this specific product or feature.
3. Product discovery
After thinking about the strategy, you need to validate it. You need to gain customer signals, but you have to move fast! So, I often tell product designers to learn how to talk to users (user interviews). Because if you can talk to users, you can speed up the process quickly and bring back the insights your team can use.
I’m opening a workshop to help individual contributors learn more about product strategy and how to validate it. Check it out: Product Discovery workshop.
Other than work, you need to be prepared mentality. Being senior doesn’t mean you already know everything. Many people get insecure because they feel they should have known everything. I guess this is what society expects.
Think about a CEO or a founder. You might think they’re on the top of the company’s chain of command. So you might assume they know a lot of things. But in reality, some CEOs are new, and some are experienced.
Expect not to know many things, but be willing to figure it out.
5. Understand the domain
Learn about the market. If you’re working in fintech, learn about the trend in the industry. Read some books and be curious about this domain. It can help you when thinking about concepts and making design decisions.
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