Lesson #7: Build design culture slowly, one small win at a time.
—Tina Ye, Class of 2012
Fresh out of grad school, I was ready to make a big impact with design. Ambitiously, I chose a challenging place to work: an organization famously run by—and for—developers.
I tackled my new job with conviction and passion, but soon ran aground. My pleas for user-centric thinking fell on bemused ears. My attempts to revamp processes with design in mind stalled. As the days wore on, I began to despair of ever using my degree to make a difference. Then i realized I was doing it wrong.
Change is not about shouting from the mountaintops. It’s about proving, through one small action at a time, that design works. Don’t propose an entire site redesign from first principles—focus on a microinteraction that immediately improves usage. Don’t espouse a new seven-step design process— add a single user test to the existing one. And through it all, never wait for permission. You’ll find you rarely need forgiveness.
Over time, co-workers will gradually notice results and develop trust in your skills. Change can and will happen. All it takes is patience, time, and a relentless barrage of small tangible wins.
Tina Ye is a Senior Designer, Developer Tools Unit at Fog Creek, New York City, NY, USA.