Scaling a Design Team, Episode #3: Feat. Melissa Hajj, Design Manager at Facebook

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The Hacking UI Podcast, Season 1 – Scaling a Design Team

Hi, I’m David Tintner, front end developer lead at a scaling startup, and with me, both in the podcast and working at the same company, is Sagi Shrieber – Product Design Director.  We are both entrepreneurs, bloggers, productivity/time-hacker maniacs, and all around tech geeks. So you see – these are the topics that we discuss in the Hacking UI Podcast. If you’re into the same things we are, we would love for you to join us and listen in. We think you’ll find it as interesting and insightful as we do.

In season 1, which we’ve called ‘Scaling a Design Team’, we meet with leaders from top notch companies, like Facebook, Invision, and Intercom, to discuss team structures, responsibilities, and workflows. We’ll also be talking to them about design management, hiring, and culture. This is a chance for us to get an inside look at some of the best design teams out there and to understand how they do what they do in drastically different environments.

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Episode #3: Melissa Hajj, Facebook

This week we’re coming at you from the Facebook Tel Aviv office, where we were lucky to have two special guests join us, Melissa Hajj (twitter) and Noam Liss (twitter). Melissa is the head of Facebook’s core growth design team, whose stated mission is connecting the next billion people to Facebook (no big deal). Noam is a senior product designer at SimilarWeb and the editor in chief of Pixel Perfect Magazine.

Melissa was full of insights and gave us great ideas for improving organizational structure, design leadership, and for creating the ideal work environment. An hour with her was just not enough.

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Here are some of the highlights of our talk:

    • The difference between a junior designer and senior designer is: Do you have a repeatable process? Do you have a way of framing the work that you do that allows you to come into different situations and make them successful each time, despite how different they may be – 5:36
    • I enjoy solving problems, that’s kind of my fundamental purpose in life 8:48
    • Management will push you to set higher goals but they’re not saying this is the absolute number we need to hit – 15:50
    • We try to follow a process that fits into 3 buckets: understand, identify and execute – 15:57
    • If you go off and build the wrong product to meet that goal, you’re not going to meet that goal (on the subject of how deadlines are set) – 19:30
    • What’s the value of your daily meetings? What’s the expensive part? (Melissa turns the tables here and becomes the interviewer) – 29:00
    • Should you be managing your designers’ tasks? – 34:00
    • What’s the difference between managing the workload for a junior designer vs. a senior designer – 34:51
    • I want all my designers to be autonomous within a particular scope. The difference between a junior designer and senior designer is what scope I expect them to be autonomous in – 35:30
    • Part of your role as a manager is to carve out space for your designers to have time to develop their careers. – 39:00
    • Be aware of what someone’s role is and what their expertise should be so that you can ask them the right questions and leave them room to come up with the right solutions – 42:05
    • What was a conversation between a couple of people who trusted each other really well is actually now a conversation with a lot of people who have roles and domains and different sensitivities – 43:10
    • Our job is to create the conditions that make good design possible (1. Trust, 2. Understanding what you need to do, 3. Having good thought partners, 4. Having just enough process) – 48:10
    • If you like the people you work with, you’re going to weather hard times better – 48:50
    • We are problem solvers together, the entire product is our responsibility and we need to work together to make sure the outcome is good – 55:00
    • Be very transparent about what you’re doing and very transparent about the process – 59:50

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