Leading at Compass Digital Labs
inspire, grow and oversee a team of Product Designers
The UX team at Compass Digital Labs(CDL) was small when I joined in late 2020. The team included VP of UX, Director of UX, 3 product designers and one senior product designer who joined a few weeks before me. I came in as a Senior Product Designer and grew into a Product Design Lead in my time at CDL. Until May 2021, over six months, I hired and onboarded 4 product designers, 2 senior researchers and 3 product managers.
During my first month, I focused on handling design projects while learning about the hospitality and food industry ecosystem. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of fresh new problems to solve. After a month, my role changed. My Director encouraged me to move to a Lead position because I demonstrated my leadership skills during the first month.
Defining how we design
Soon after I joined CDL, I became aware of the little documentation we had on how teams build the product and the role of Design at CDL. We have more than 26 products stays in each section in our team's Figma space. However, none of them are looking the same and also lacking information. Thinking ahead, I knew that as we continue to add more members, we would need articulated design processes and standards to maintain CDL's design quality.
I discovered what documentation was needed by gathering some key designers and asking them what current practices we follow and expect as a design team. Soon I realized the gaps in what we knew or where we agreed. The following were the main reasons I started to create a new Figma team template to standardize our team's design files.
Facilitate collaboration at CDL
• What’s the status of your project progress?
• Complexity in commuting processes and navigating files and artifacts that are being created over time
• Lacking of openness and transparency between teams
Standardize the Figma files across teams
• Organize files in Figma and put relevate resources in.
• People currently using different approaches
• Difficult to find specific information within a file
This project helped our team defined several things: design principles, design process, best practices, role expectations and tools to enable designers to be successful at CDL. The Project Template lives in Figma, our regularly accessed internal design wiki. Here's a quick snapshot of the template I built and maintained for the team. As a result, all team members adopted this design process and started to use this template. The Product Managers and developers also began to move from Zeplin to Figma, and this becomes a trustworthy source for design and product.
Introducing new process
I introduced new processes based on my knowledge and experience at CDL to identify and overcome team challenges. Here're what I contributed to the team as a Product Design Lead:
1. Establishing a healthy relationship between design and development by leading and facilitating bi-weekly design & dev sync meetings
2. Established UX Plan and Kickoff process before a project starts by creating templates for team
3. Introduced new Design Team Work Review Framework by introducing.3 different activities
4. Built a new complete onboarding plan for newly hired designers to enhance employee experience
mentoring and caring
As a Team Lead, I am responsible for overseeing the success of Design projects and the professional growth of designers. Through weekly standups, design reviews, and one-on-ones, I have the opportunity to coach and mentor a team with varying levels of experience.
I provide leadership through empathy and inspiration. In addition, I actively mentor my team (my direct reports) and other individual contributors in the broader Product Design Team through thought leadership.
I enable and support my design team to work collaboratively with their agile squad of product managers, software developers and other designers. In addition, I build bridges with other portfolio teams to align on holistic vision and process. As a result, I can think ten steps ahead and plan strategies to oversee all products within the delivery POD.
I mentored and coached other designers based on their growth goals and assigned work accordingly based on their learning needs. For example, one of the designers wanted to learn UX strategy, so I delegated the UX plan and UX Kickoff parts to her for a large project. Through the collaborating process, I enabled and supported her to develop and deliver high-quality output. I also encourage my team members to continue their learning and development journey by giving training budgets and support time to attend conferences.
Cultivating Team Culture
It is crucial that a team is not merely made of rockstar designers who work well independently. It was my goal to create an environment that fosters a sense of camaraderie between them. Studies have shown that solid connection leads teams to overcome challenges faster and with more trust.
I encouraged the activities that made the team feel united outside their daily work. For example, I initiated a bi-weekly UX Design Talk, an open conversation to support the designer's needs, and a monthly social hour by encouraging everyone to share their life story and host a session with games and fun activities. Other activities included weekly coffee chats where designers have casual conversations and Trading Card activities where designers create their own "superpower" card—all essential parts of building a sense of belonging within the team.
I work in a close partnership with product and engineering research leaders for their given product areas and delegates their team's resources. In addition, I work with other Design leaders around the company to align on the consistency of UX patterns and design process.
I helped the research lead improve the testing and collaboration processes between the Design team and the Research team. I also collaborated with the Data team to initiated a data-driven product strategy. I improved healthy relationships across teams.
COMPASS GROUP INSIDE VOICES LEADS
I am one of the Compass Group Digital Future Initiative Lead(out of 4). My pillar is Inside Voices. The goal is to create space for open dialogues and essential conversations, presenting the power of Diversity & Inclusion.
I organized working groups as a leader, initiated the #StopAsianHate campaign within Compass Digital Labs, and led the video campaign for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month
During the Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month, our Inside Voices team was working behind the scenes to weave together the stories of our fantastic team members who identify as part of the AAPI community. I initiated this company-wide communication campaign and participated actively.
Other leadership activities
At ADPList, I mentored 30+ designers and the platform featured me in the list of Wonder Women design mentors and as one of the Asian mentors during Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month.
At Iconthin Biotech, I hired 3 people (1 Marketing Manager, 1 Social Media Intern and 1 Design Project Manager) and managed a quickly growing and business-critical creative team.
At United Nations, I managed and led machine translation database projects under tight deadlines; supervised 5 people including 2 designers and 3 interns, established training materials and reporting systems, and conducted staff tech training sessions.
At TPCToronto, I managed 10+ committee members and drove the team's initiatives and roadmap.