One of the hardest things I've had to learned about being a product designer is understanding when the time is right to fight the good fight. You know, getting push back on designs and having to find ways to push your ideas across the finish line.
My first year, my goodness... I was a push over. I'm sure product managers loved working with me because they knew they could get their ways. I lacked confidence because I didn't feel like others would listen much to my ideas because I was an associate. (That's why I always chuckle when people say titles don't matter.) Above all I couldn't necessarily gauge much as to how important something really was to pursue. When you don't have much experience, the easiest way out is to get on the production line.
I worked hard on documenting my design decisions in order to start to paint a picture as to how I would sell my designs to other designers, product managers, and executives. A couple things were still wrong with this approach even though I thought I was developing a good sense of salesmanship.
- My design process wasn't transparent. I would have this grand reveal and I wouldn't have the reaction I was hoping for that it would throw my confidence out.
- I was not inclusive as they were "my" ideas only. I didn't take the time to understand what others had envisioned for any particular project I was working on.
I didn't understand politicking.
So I put an emphasize on those things during my design process. I would be more inclusive and be as transparent as possible as to what I was doing, why I was doing it, etc. Then comes the lack of support from your own design team. I would go into reviews, meetings, etc. and present some ideas that I had previously presented to my team that WE had all agreed were solid solutions. We'd get some push back and I would try to defend the designs but my senior teammate would agree with the feedback and down I go. I would try to steer the ship back and continue to push back but the momentum was lost. This wasn't a one off thing, this would happen often. Strong opinions, loosely held is a challenging concept for me to understand because as a designer, my perspective and opinion is the value I provide.
I get to a new environment and the word WE is heavily stressed on the design team. We came up with this solution. We think this is the best direction... you get the point. This is exactly what I felt was missing from my salesmanship, support. Which brings me to today. After learning all these tools, and having a better understand as to when to pursue the good fight, you still may not push that idea across the finish line... and guess what? That's okay. You start to understand that it's all a tradeoff.
Part of the processes is acceptance. Accepting the fact that some things are just not worth pursuing. It's not in me to push the button every single day, on every single matter. That sounds like burnout to me. I feel like I've done my job when I've created a space to be able to advocate for the ideal solution and to voice that across the organization.