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How to Ace the First 90 days of your New Design Job
Steps to help you clarify how to start and succeed at your new design job.
Written by Ohita Iwezeua
Congratulations! You finally landed your dream product design job and feel mixed emotions. You’re happy because your career is growing but also anxious because it’s a new journey, and you know it’ll come with challenges.
We researched how to ace your new design job in the first 90 days, which is approximately three months, and the stipulated time companies use to assess people if they are a good fit. Here’s everything you need to know.
Month 1 (First 30 days)
In your first month, you’ll be in learning mode. It might be tempting to start fixing things right away, but knowing the context, the system, and its people will help you push for change effectively later. Here’s what you should do: do the following:
Get to know your manager and set expectations: Ask for advice on how to succeed in the role, organizational challenges to be aware of, tracking and documenting work performance or KPIs, opportunities for support, and training. Learn how your manager prefers to manage their direct report and how they like to work.
Get to know the team: Learn what your team expects from you, and meet with members of other teams you might be working with. This includes Product and Engineering. Understand how they like to work with your team and any challenges they might have with design.
Learn the product and design system: Get up to speed on the process of doing the work, be curious, and ask questions.
Learn your part of the system: In addition to connecting with your team, you’ll want to learn about your part of the system. For example, if you’re joining an e-commerce company to work on checkout, learn everything about that experience. Dig up the design and the documentation, and start formulating your opinions and questions. What makes sense? What seems puzzling? Don’t rely solely on internal knowledge; look at industry trends, patterns, and techniques outside your organization.
Month 2 (30-60 days)
In month two, you’ll start to shift toward execution. As a product designer, your top priority is creating a seamless customer experience.
Access the entire customer journey.
It’s time to dive into the customer journey from beginning to end. Watch how people interact with the product. Consider mapping out this experience by looking at the system from different perspectives: How does the background look for new users? What about intermediates or advanced users? If your product is on multiple platforms, consider capturing those as well.
As you learn the system, you’ll encounter problems and collisions in the product experience. What process is in place today to get them resolved? Does the current organizational structure hinder or support cross-functional work? How can this be improved?
Month 3 (60-90 days)
The first month was about listening, and the second was about assessing. During your third month, you can start challenging the status quo and taking ownership of initiatives.
Take the driver’s seat in designing a feature.
Having immersed yourself in the intricacies of the industry, business, and product, you are more than ready to start taking ownership of the design of a product.
I would recommend that you partner with your design manager, product manager, and engineering lead to fully understand the roadmap, identify the subsequent experiences to work on, and review if there is any research previously made to start taking it as input for the design. Such information can be:
Usability tests or generative interviews recordings
Quantitative data such as analytics, metrics
Recordings of sessions in Hotjar or FullStory
With the foundations established to keep learning from the company, you will be in an excellent position to promote better operating processes to amplify the value of design, such as:
Improving the research process
Documenting plays for a product design playbook
Contributing to the design system
Ask your manager for feedback at the end of your 90 days run. It is essential to know the good and bad and be willing to collect feedback so that your strengths and areas of improvement.
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