Department of Design

Curated by Timoni West.

Primarily focused on product design, technology, cognitive psychology, and the brain. Also—pretty pictures, sometimes moving.

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Posts about careers
March 9th, 2014
January 21st, 2014
Every person who works in a creative field has an aspiration for her work, a yearning for that ideal plane which is the culmination of her taste. When an environment fails, over and over and over again, to provide her with a means to follow her internal compass, then she will leave. If you are in a position to influence that kind of environment, take heed. Lay the foundations for a space that nurtures, that yields the kind of work the best creative people can be proud of. Then, you will not need to ask why designers leave.

Why Designers Leave, Julie Zhuo.

I posted this quote not because designers need particular coddling; they don’t. The creative aspirations mentioned above are true for everyone.

I post it instead to illustrate the importance of hiring people who share your product vision. In my experience there is literally no greater deterrent to getting shit done than hiring talented people whose vision for the product does not match your own. You will disagree about features, road maps, priorities, and audiences, and if you are adamant, their resulting work will an uninspired pastiche.

March 26th, 2013
Then [Eric Schmidt] explained that only one criterion mattered when picking a job—fast growth. When companies grow quickly, there are more things to do than there are people to do them. When companies grow more slowly or stop growing, there is less to do and too many people to be doing them. Politics and stagnation set in, and everyone falters. He told me, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get on.””

My favorite anecdote from Sandberg’s Lean In. You’ll see the ‘rocket ship’ phrase repeated often on the internet, but not the preceding rationale.

January 9th, 2013
I can’t account for how at any given moment I feel the need to explore life as opposed to another, but I do know that I can only do this work if I feel almost as if there is no choice; that a subject coincides inexplicably with a very personal need and a very specific moment in time.
February 7th, 2012
Make jokes even when it’s inappropriate. People get really emotional, myself included, when they’re working in web stuff. And it’s entirely understandable: often what we’re messing with are things that are mixed up in people’s jobs. Imagine if someone told you that what you do every day should be called something different because some guy called “the user” doesn’t know what it means. That’s emotional territory. Making jokes always works. Even if they’re bad ones. It puts people at ease and everyone can make rational decisions instead of emotional ones.
February 1st, 2012
It is a little disconcerting that negotiation skills are worth thousands of dollars per year for your entire career but engineers think that directed effort to study them is crazy when that could be applied to trivialities about a technology that briefly caught their fancy.
July 19th, 2011

As a technical woman, this is your introduction and the first thing you have to learn is how to get back up and walk right back into a situation where the likelihood of getting punished for participating is one. How you choose to react to this determines the rest of your career in technology. If it’s too painful you’ll retreat to management, if you can tough it out your career will be limited because the very tools you develop to survive have other social consequences.

…Overall it’s awesome to encounter other women because while you grow accustomed to quirks of a room full of men (the jostling, the chest beating, the pissing contests, the egos, etc.), it does get old. When another woman is thrown into that mix, you get to avoid the old script and reevaluate the dynamic so it’s more interesting. However, you and everyone else is accustomed to women in the facilitator manager role, not in the making technical decisions role. Typically your collaborative and directional contributions almost always fare better than your technical contributions. If you pay attention to those social cues, you may start to subtly pull yourself out of the rough and tumble technical decision making and retreat into the facilitation role. If you ignore the social cues, you have to assert yourself aggressively into the technical conversation and take some lumps. If you choose that aggressive path, you wil be even more alone because those likely less technical women in the room with you don’t have the expertise to back you up.

June 18th, 2011

The principle holds that in a hierarchy, members are promoted so long as they work competently. Eventually they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their “level of incompetence”), and there they remain, being unable to earn further promotions.

The employee’s incompetence is not necessarily a result of the higher-ranking position being more difficult — simply, that job may be crucially different from the job in which the employee previously excelled, and thus requires different work skills, which the employee may not possess.

Peter’s Corollary states that “in time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out their duties” and adds that “work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence”.

June 7th, 2011
Marie-Line Germain (Germain, 2006) developed a psychometric measure of perception of employee expertise called the Generalized Expertise Measure (GEM). She defined a behavioral dimension in “experts”, in addition to the dimensions suggested by Swanson and Holton (2001). Her 16-item scale contains objective expertise items and subjective expertise items. Objective items were named Evidence-Based items. Subjective items (the remaining 11 items from the measure below) were named Self-Enhancement items because of their behavioral component:

This person has knowledge specific to a field of work.
This person shows they have the education necessary to be an expert in the field.
This person has the qualifications required to be an expert in the field.
This person has been trained in their area of expertise.
This person is ambitious about their work in the company.
This person can assess whether a work-related situation is important or not.
This person is capable of improving themselves.
This person is charismatic.
This person can deduce things from work-related situations easily.
This person is intuitive in the job.
This person is able to judge what things are important in their job.
This person has the drive to become what they are capable of becoming in their field.
This person is self-assured.
This person has self-confidence.
This person is outgoing.

From the Wikipedia article about experts

June 5th, 2011
If you think you know the core competencies needed for a team, list them on a bunch of Post-it notes, and have each person on the team write the name of the “go-to” person on the team who has the most depth in that area. If you do not have strong consistency in the responses, Houston, you probably have a problem.