Things that are important to me
Over time I've realised there's a whole host of things that are important to me in my working life. This is a post to capture those things for myself for future reference.
Working on things that matter
I like to work on projects that actively benefit people and the world at large. Recent work like GOV.UK, Unmade, Joto, IF and Headspace are all good examples of contracts or projects I've been involved in recently that suit my ideology and goals.
Getting involved in projects early
I like to be involved in an organisation or product early enough that I can help shape what it becomes. I'm much more of a creator and inventor than a maintainer and prefer to be on a team doing this sort of work.
Working on small, autonomous teams
I really like working as part of a small team. For me, good work happens when there's very short feedback loops and the communication is regular and transparent. Discrete work done by a small cross-functional team ftw.
I'm interested in long running contracts – work that's going to involve proper thinking and effort over time as it's normally only this work that tends to have any substance or meaning. Quick turnaround projects over a few days or weeks are not rewarding in my experience.
User needs and research
I'm not interested in designing in a vacuum. I want to make things that solve real problems for people and aren't built on guesswork. I love working with design researchers to make this happen.
Creativity and visual flair
I need to produce work that I can be proud of. I understand the value of an MVP to validate an idea, but too often the MVP ends up being the shipped product. The best products and services go much further than just the functional and are beautiful and memorable.
Short feedback loops
I believe there should be a very short feedback loop between design and engineering. The bigger that gap, the more problems appear. This makes breaking work into small, but meaningful chunks critical and puts the emphasis on making over meeting.
Lingering over decisions for too long is paralysing. We need to make the best decisions we can as quickly as possible with the information we have right now. And then move on. A 'bad' decision is better than no decision because at least you have something to learn from and that still gives a team momentum.
More making, less meeting
The best teams are teams of smart people with enough autonomy to get on and build what needs to be built. With good conscientious people working as a team, there's no need for too much process or endless meetings. Let them get on with what they are good at. This relies on having great leadership, as below.
Designing with content and data
We should design and build around real data and content. And the canonical version of any design should be an actual built product imo.
Strong, effective leadership
A bit of a no brainer, but good digital products and services live and die by the quality of their leadership. Good design only happens in the context of good leadership imo – rubbish in, rubbish out. I'm very happy to do the hard yards to deliver great design work if I'm working alongside leadership that has equally done the hard yards to articulate and deliver an inspiring and clear goal.
Working hard, not burning out
I'm a dad with three kids and a wife. Work is very important to me, but so is family and my mental well being. I'd like to work somewhere that understands that it's a marathon not a sprint. The best work happens when people are happy and respected. I've been working a four day week at most for a few years now and it's a game changer.
The best employers I've worked for have always offered flexibility. Letting people work the odd day each week from home or remotely can be a huge benefit to the individual and no cost to the business. It's a huge help to dodge a commute every now and again and keeps you more motivated on those days you are all together as a team. As an aside – I do think remote work is only really effective for tasks that can largely be carried out solo. If you're in the middle of some important team work, you need to all be together.
Equality and fairness
Diverse teams with people from a mix of backgrounds always make for more vibrant, effective teams in my experience. The users of our products are all sorts of varied, different people, so it should go without saying that all sorts of varied, different people should play a hand in making those products. Who'd have thought?