Do you know the Konami Code? It is a cheat code found in many Nintendo games that gives a player power-ups. It involves pressing a sequence of control buttons: up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A. My career feels a bit like the Konami Code, since it also involved ups, downs, sidesteps, promotions and what may seem like demotions(*). With each move came a different set of responsibilities and opportunities to influence other designers and organizations. Each one helped me grow my design leadership skills.
As you gain more experience in designing interactive systems, you may be asked to take on leadership responsibilities. They may even come natural to you. Leadership responsibilities include mentoring and managing, creating the right team structure, setting internal standards and defining processes, promoting your team’s work inside and outside of the organisation, developing strategies for a team and linking these to other strategies.
Over time, you may find some leadership skills more interesting and try to hang on to the related responsibilities, while you delegate others. When you change jobs, you start with a new set of responsibilities in a new context. Or maybe your manager gets replaced and your new manager redistributes them. Hopefully, your employer knows about the Peter Principle, and avoids promoting you to a level of incompetence.
In this talk, I will share leadership tips & tricks for when your responsibilities change, no matter in what direction:
- moving in: trying out mentoring and leading
- moving up: you got promoted; now what?
- moving left and right: adding skills, broadening your horizon
- moving down: adjusting and going for principal
- moving out: changing environments, freelancing
Ultimately, it is up to you to stay humble and hungry, to be prepared to move around, and to stay in control of your leadership responsibilities.
(*) My career so far goes something like this: designer, project manager (up), small burnout (down), senior designer (up and down), consultant (up), big burnout (down), concept designer (left), senior information architect (definitely up!), managing partner (up again), senior interaction designer (down), designer at Adaptive Path (up), freelancer (left), design director (up), freelancer (right), strategist (up), freelance strategist (left/right), and design director again (up).