I don't answer every question asked in my AMA form. Most are something that one should rather google. There are, of course, some spam with external links/ forms, etc. This one's authenticity caught my eye. Here's the question:
I want to know how senior people who are VP, SVP etc in design have made their career choices when they were at my level. What motivates them everyday when they are themselves not designing, but are managing design teams. How do they make peace with not doing hands-on work (the one thing which made them fall in love with this stream). How do they satisfy both the needs of being a creator or manager, or do they just pick one and go ahead with it. Apologies if you feel the questions are jumbled up & confusing. From the answers, I am just hoping to find things that could click with me and that I can work towards.
Here you go:
On career choices I’ve made
I have had 9 jobs in the last 13 years. My current tenure at Urban Company will be the longest I've ever been at a company. Although, I am a long term focused, compounding aware person now, looking back I still am proud of this journey. Here's a minified version of how I went about making my past choices:
Gozoop: This was my first job. They were an agency (Raa Studios) and product (Zozolo/Gozoop) together. Super small and cool team. I didn't want to sit for campus placements. Instead, I wanted to build super cool looking websites like ones featured on FWA/ Awwwards. They did that kind of work. Joined them.
Kria Interactive: Was not getting paid as much. Figured I could get clients, and build stuff for them directly. Founded this agency, made apps, TV apps, websites for some very cool clients inc. Subway, MOD, Gulf, some B-town folks as well :) Figured that I hated the agency model, forget about running one. Wrapped the company, started looking for a job.
Fab.com: First exposure to product company at scale (10M+ users), joined as a designer x developer. Luckily found a team where we designed e-commerce shaping, award winning apps. Great learning from everyone including peer designers. After 2+ years, became confident of e-commerce design as a domain. Was looking for another cool domain to learn.
FusionCharts: Was exposed to a lot of data at Fab.com. Gained immense interest in data visualisation. A few insanely great, eye opening conversations later, joined FusionCharts. Was leading a team for the first time. Made shameful mistakes. Was there for one year. Learned and enjoyed every day. Didn't feel the company was growing as much as I wanted to grow so started looking for a new job.
Housing.com: Wanted to combine all that I'd learned over the last 5 years inc. e-commerce design & data visualization. Housing was hiring for a designer to lead the Data Science Labs vertical. Applied and got the job. Perfect match of selling houses online (e-comm) and data (data viz). Responsibilities grew, became the VP. Left Housing to build something deep in data viz with Rahul, Housing's CEO, co-founder.
Intelligent Interfaces: In pursuit of building something kick-ass with my one true love — data visualization, started building II with Rahul and others. Some things happened. Didn't work out. Had to close shop in few months.
UrbanClap (2016): Had some offers. Didn't feel excited. Was using UC a lot when I had moved to Gurgaon. Hated the app, loved the service. Felt like this is something that I see myself doing. After 2 solid years of hustle, burnout kicked in, parents' health worsened, and I moved to Mumbai.
Cuddle: Got connected with Fractal Analytics who were trying to build something like Intelligent Interfaces. Joined the team and we build some really cool, impactful stuff. But it was slow. It's around that time, I and UC folks were chatting again to rejoin and continue with the unfinished work.
Urban Company (2020): Re-joined UC and the journey continues.
In retrospect, there are 3 things that I observed:
Who attracted me most were the ones with impossible problem statements. UC with at-home services, Housing with selling houses online.
I have never chased a title, brand, or the design function. I followed the path where I could build and create; that led me to development and then to design.
Always domain first. I love spending hours over how a pedicure service should be done at home or how cities with water bodies have different social culture vs. what UI pattern is trending right now.
On daily motivation
Most days, my value add to the team (and company) is more if I am problem solving the harder structural issues and giving clarity to the team to execute than to open Figma if that's what you mean. That said, I do open Figma to create. :) I don't think for me, going hands-on necessarily translates to design. It's also creating docs, PRDs, working sheets, patterns, guidelines, and frameworks.
Principally, I don't think of my job to manage the team. They're all smart folks who manage themselves. I focus almost entirely to enable them become autonomous.
I love building, creating. If I don't get enough room to hands-on design at work, I spend time on weekends to practice some design, write docs, doodle some, blog some and such.
Hope this helps!
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