Five tips for starting a new design job

12 month(s) ago

It's been over a year since I started at Deliveroo and with hiring ramping up again I thought I'd document some of my thoughts about what I did as a designer joining a new company which I hope is also helpful to other designers starting new jobs.

First off, congratulations on the new job, they are lucky to have you on the team. If you can, I highly recommend taking a break between roles to allow one chapter to end and to prepare for the next. We wouldn't run one marathon, and then start the next straight away - we'd take the time to rest and recover (and I've never heard anyone say they took off too much time between jobs).

Let's jump into some tips...

1. Start a work journal

I highly recommend starting a work journal; they are useful for a few reasons:

  1. They help you document things as you go, such as who is the go-to design systems person, or who you might want to grab a coffee with later.
  2. They can help guide conversations with your manager, here are the things I've done, and here is what I plan on doing. So after 6 months, when it comes to performance reviews, you also have this documentation to refer back to.
  3. If a lot of the onboarding stuff isn't documented, then this information may be useful for the next person joining after you.

This can be a simple google doc that you refer back to, you might want to use slides to track design projects, or use the Journal Template in Notion.

I wouldn't stop a work journal when you've found your feet either - the other benefits of writing a work journal is that documenting the work in more detail as you go will also help you tell better stories of your work, learn faster by reflecting on projects regularly and help you build case studies for your portfolio (hopefully you won't need it soon, but if that time comes you'll be grateful you did).

2. Building your network

I would say the most important thing when you first start is to build your network.

When we are all working remote, this is harder but not impossible, but be proactive and reach out to the people you are going to be working with.

These catchups don't have to be all work; it's just as important to get to know the people you are working with and build friendships as it is to get the work done. If you like the people you are working with, it'll make everything more fun, and projects will go much smoother when you can be more candid, and people know you too.

At the end of these catchups, you can also ask "Is there anyone you think I should definitely get to know?" - make sure you build relationships outside of your team, with stakeholders around the business.

3. Setting up your processes and learning about current ones

This is something I always regret not taking enough time to do, it's easy to get swept up in getting your hands dirty, but if you don't have everything that makes your design process run smoothly, it'll cost more time during future projects.

There are more tactical things like licenses to the software you use to create prototypes, or learning about how crit works, or product reviews with your new team.

But don't forget to make sure you learn about what documentation teams currently use or rely on during the process, how this fits into your current process or what documents or presentation templates you'll need.

4. Jumping feet first into your user's shoes

When I was interviewing for Deliveroo, I made sure that I had used their app a few times. I was living in Amsterdam at the time, so I got the chance to use it there and then again when I was interviewing in London and staying at a hotel.

I could see some areas that I thought could be improved, or where opportunities for product development would lie, but I'm probably not the customer. I didn't really have any context - this is what everything above is trying to work towards, building context.

While still meeting the team, I was reading as much as possible (company goals, updates from the CEO, past research). While I was looking at what processes or past design work had been done, I was trying to understand the context for why decisions had been made, or work had been prioritised. And as soon as some in-person research was planned, I jumped to come along, build any prototypes that we needed, and take notes. All this so that I could see customers using the product first hand.

Once you have that context, you can start to strategise where you can add the most value, where your blind spots are, and how you can add to the conversation and be that customers advocate.

5. Stay humble

You're brought in to this team because they know you'll add value and there will be areas you are really strong in and other areas where you still want to grow.

But, you're probably also joining this team because you looked up to them and there are going to be a lot of ways they can help you grow.

Stay humble, and just show up every day to make things better with your team.

Did I miss anything?

Is there anything else you would add to this list? Reach out on Twitter and let me know, I'd be happy to include your tweets in this post!