Measuring the Designer Experience

Kim Fellman Cohen
Design Experience Lead, Pinterest

From the DesignOps Summit website:
DesignOps teams are increasingly being leveraged to solve ambiguous organizational problems like career development, culture or belonging—they’re cornerstones for any successful team. Creating a measurable strategy for these problems is complex, and it can be hard to prove the value of dedicating full-time resources to maintain this work in the long-run. Based on our learnings at Pinterest, I’ll share tactical approaches you can take to craft programming for this problem space, define what ideal states look like and how you can measure and prove value.

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Real Talk: Proving Value through a Scrappy Playbook

Dianne Que
Sr. Design Program Manager, Pandora

From the DesignOps Summit website:
Most DesignOps practices, whether new or established, tackle a handful of common areas: hiring, workflows & process, culture & morale, among others. While you can find plenty of tools and best practices for these areas on- and offline, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. Every company, team, toolset, and timeline is different, and the road to solutions is often, if not always, messy.

Based on my experiences co-building DesignOps and Design Management practices at Pandora and Capital One, this talk will pull back the curtain on common problems we’ve been asked to solve and the scrappy, yet effective ways we’ve delivered early solutions, value, and measurable outcomes.

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Measuring What Matters

Kristin Wisnewski
VP, CIO Design, IBM

From the DesignOps Summit website:
Research and analytics are the eyes and ears of DesignOps. Validating whether strategies are effective or ineffective allows course correction and adaptation. Identifying problems that require action is essential for facilitating collaboration and ensuring that team members are engaged. Prioritizing user needs is the heart of user experience and Agile development. None of this can be done well without an effective research program. We’ll share how we scale research efforts to collect feedback from thousands of users per month and track the impact of dozens of projects involving 120+ designers.

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Opening Keynote: Process and Ambiguity

Amy Thibodeau
Director of User Experience, Shopify

From the DesignOps Summit website:
Operations teams obsess about making the complex simple. We love smart defaults, systems, and process and are always looking for ways to help teams work better. As we focus on common operational deliverables, it’s easy to underinvest in the messy human challenges that are impossible to avoid as we scale user experience practices and teams. How might we be consistent and rigorous, while still leaving room for flexibility and divergent thinking? How might we be impact focused, while also accepting that not everything of value can be measured? How might we embrace process and ambiguity? This talk will explore the daunting task of showing up as efficient operational machines while also leaning into the creative, unpredictable, and human realities of our roles, and why it’s important for us to be able to do both.

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Avoiding ‘Manels’

At ZS, our firm-wide Inclusion and Diversity initiative is picking up steam, and it’s generating a lot of interesting and thought-provoking discussion about how we can continue to improve and evolve as a firm.

Just this week, my friend Arun Shastri sent me a short piece written by Francis Collins, who is the Director of the National Institutes of Health (where Arun’s wife is a practicing physician). Collins stated that “it is time to end the tradition in science of all-male speaking panels, sometimes wryly referred to as ‘manels’.” He goes on to say that if the agenda and panel do not appear inclusive, he will decline to participate. In a follow up piece by the New York Times, Collins also expressed his concerns about the growing evidence of sexual harrassment in biomedicine.

The original piece by Collins generated some good dialogue internally, and I wanted to share an excerpt of that exchange here, and hopefully broaden the discussion.

In the internal communities for our Unconscious Bias training, an article from the Economist was shared, which described some of the challenges facing women in academia. The article states:

On average, half of each seminar’s audience was female. Men, however, were over 2.5 times more likely to pose questions to the speakers—an action that may be viewed (rightly or wrongly) as a sign of greater competence.

This male skew in question-asking was observable, however, only in those seminars in which a man asked the first question. When a woman did so, the gender split in question-asking was, on average, proportional to that of the audience. Simply handing the microphone to a woman rather than a man when the floor is opened for questions may make a difference, however small, to one of academia’s most intractable problems.

It is discouraging to learn that women question-askers at conferences are underrepresented even in in subfields where women make up the majority of attendees. You can read more about that in this Science Magazine article, which also goes on to say that:

… if fewer women raise their hands in the first place, that could indicate women feeling their questions need to be flawlessly formulated before they can ask them, which leads to them not asking at all, Kaatz says. Women may fear that a poorly worded question gives the impression that they are less competent, she notes. Because women are often evaluated by higher standards, men “don’t have the same consequences as women do for saying things that aren’t perfect.”

There are so many things we’re proud of at ZS – our gender parity in salaries, raises, promotion rates and more. It is a wonderful place to work in many respects. But, there is always more we can do, and I’m pleased to be part of a team that is working to make bold and ambitious changes to both our firm demographics and our practices over time.

So, how do we take these insights from The Economist and Science Magazine forward in our own lives? For goodness sake, find qualified women for your public speaking engagements! Call on women first, or perhaps helping women formulate questions before opening the floor, which in turn might help them see the value in contributing to the conversation.

What else do you suggest? I’d love to hear your thoughts …