Week 9 - Not hiring mates 🚧
Mates, double helpings, graveyards, manager training
A newsletter about user-centred design at Made Tech; a company building public services that create outcomes for people and society.
A longer newsletter this week as we’re past the peak of UCD hiring interviews…
I’m two months into work life at Made Tech. So far we’ve hired four people into permanent design and research roles.
Not hiring mates 🚧
Building a capable, inclusive team relies on not hiring friends. At first, I found it hard not to. Working with Lee in our Talent team, we’ve more or less managed it, however. Three of the four people we hired I’d never met before interviewing them.
Don’t panic 😨
I’d love to say I didn’t speak to designers and researchers I already knew about working at Made Tech. This would be a lie. The company is growing fast and there is a demand to grow a UCD team, which is great. Feeling this in the first week or so, I contacted some people I know. Asking for recommendations of others to chat with or hoping they themselves would be interested. In hindsight, it was fortunate these conversations didn’t go anywhere. I wish I’d been more patient from the start and trusted we’d build a reliable hiring process as we have.
Harder to be objective 🌫️
Staying objective is harder with mates. We like and love them, so of course, we think they’re great. Hiring isn’t friendship though, it has to be open and fair. We did hire one person I know. They went through the same hiring process as everyone else. Three other people separately assessed this person’s skills. They all agreed to offer them a job, seeing they’re great just like I do. In future, I hope the UCD community will be a size where I won’t be involved in deciding to hire someone I know. Adding even more objectivity to our hiring decisions.
Getting out of my bubble🧋
One of my favourite bits of hiring is meeting researchers and designers I don’t know. With things like Twitter, I’ve caught myself thinking the design world is small. This is both pompous and untrue. I’m now of the belief there is always gonna be great people to work with I am yet to meet. It’s an optimistic feeling.
Friendship is more important 💚
Through school and jobs, I’ve made mates who work in design. I went to work for a friend once. We no longer talk as a result. Even with some of the mates I recently approached about jobs, it now feels a little awkward between us. Friendship is a precious thing. I don’t want to jeopardise it with my work goals. I don’t need to either, there are so many great designers and researchers out there.
Double helping 💰💰
Turns out two groups can simultaneously pay for the same house’s Internet connection. This is what’s happened with my old flat we moved out of in March. Both us and the new tenants have been paying. Meaning the Internet provider has been getting paid twice. I’ve now managed to contact the company to say we’ve moved. This makes me wonder if the UK should have some kind of national database and API that allows only one utility bill payer at a time for an address. Then when people move house, accounts could get automatically opened and closed.
Discovery graveyard 🪦
This week I’ve been involved in discussions and bids about discovery phases. All the conversations come back to this question:
Why do so many discoveries go nowhere?
There isn’t a simple answer. I’ve been part of many discoveries that didn’t go anywhere. Occasionally this was because the research indicated our team should stop or pivot. Still a positive result.
In my experience, the discovery phase regularly falls flat because of how it’s set up, rather than failing to highlight unmet needs, which they almost always do. I believe it’s possible to do much more discoveries that result in new and improved services.
Setting up teams comfortable with uncertainty
Sponsors from the beginning owning discovery’s findings
People in discovery teams who can build real services
Manager training 🐣
In a few weeks, I’ll be lining managing four or more people. I’m preparing for this in a few ways. One is doing Made Tech’s manager training. All managers at the company do this.
Manager training is brilliantly run by Yasemin, our Head of People. It starts with covering our core company value of Learning & Mentoring and some science of growth and fixed mindsets. Then it looks at responsibilities and expectations for line management. It finishes by getting invited to a slack channel for managers and a monthly manager meeting.
While I’ve been a manager and mentor before, it was super useful doing training. Being a good manager is a proper craft. I’m learning it takes time, mistakes and self-reflection.
Another way I’m preparing to manage again is by listening to Julie Zhuo’s book The Making of a Manager. While I think it’s odd the likes of Facebook are shaping management theory, given their ethics, there is undeniably some great advice in this book. Both for new and experienced managers.