As one could probably guess, I've been a little heads-down the last couple of weeks on-boarding at my shiny new job. Luckily, I have friends like Hunter, who remind me to come up for air, look around and think about what I've been experiencing. So, quickly, here are a few takeaways from my first weeks both at BuzzFeed and as a VP of Design.
First and easily most importantly, the people are awesome. From the product designers to product managers to engineers to editorial, everyone has not only been incredibly welcoming and enthusiastic, but also really straightforward about what can be improved. While it can be easy to simply opt for positivity or opacity in place of critical thinking, the people at BuzzFeed seem to have found a nice medium where they can think critically about how things are going and remain optimistic about the future. Tack onto this that everyone I've met is ridiculously talented and it makes working on improvements feel, unsurprisingly, substantially easier.
The product is extremely broad and deep. I mean, I knew this going in, but now I really know it. From all the different content types to the software that allows that content to be posted to the ad formats and experimentation, there is a ton to take in. In addition, there are entire editorial and video teams, with processes that I'll be trying to wrap my head around for the foreseeable future. Every day I find out that we're doing even more than I thought the day before. And every evening I go home and can physically feel my brain is at capacity, which is a pretty great feeling.
Different team, similar needs. I wasn't sure what to expect going in, honestly, and prepared myself for the needs of this product design team to be wildly different from that of Etsy's. But, maybe due to BuzzFeed being at a similar size and point in its life, the themes (and even some of the solutions) are pretty damn similar. Things like establishing career tracks and clearly defined roles, doubling down on transparency and codifying the product design process are all things we needed and did at Etsy that almost identically carry over here. Which is kind of a relief, because while the product is large and will take awhile to fully absorb, I know how to tackle those other things. And, yes, the solutions themselves may take other forms, but already finding some familiarity has been incredibly comforting as I get my feet under me.
Not asking for permission feels weird. This is one of those things I super didn't see coming. I'm so used to having someone around to thumbs-up decisions and all of a sudden I find myself as that person. It's been a little unnerving - like having the net pulled out from under the tightrope. I still ask for people's opinions and get feedback on what I'm doing, but being the final call is a very different feeling than I thought it would be. While I'm definitely enjoying the good parts about it, I also now really appreciate the need to build strong, autonomous teams and mentor great managers who can run the show together.
I need help. You didn't think you were going to get through this without a recruiting pitch, did you? If you're a product designer or product design manager who wants to work on a fantastic team and with a really special company on the future of media (from news to video to lifestyle), [please do reach out](mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=Design @ BuzzFeed).