How to Grow Faster as a New UX Designer by Eric Chung | November, 2022

Highlights of Completing Onboarding in a New Design Job

Image of a woman holding a stack of documents looking at a man pointing at documents.
image by freepik

I quit my job in early 2022. After almost three years of work experience in the same company, I was ready to take on a new challenge.

At my previous job, I worked with the same team during my internship, so I didn’t have the usual onboarding once I started full-time.

During the last few months before I left, as I got comfortable with my position, things started to get stale.

After starting my new job, things got exciting as I was introduced to my new team and project. I could feel the energy coming from everyone I spoke to.

People were excited to come here and it showed. The team certainly moved at a faster pace than mine. Within a few weeks, I was assigned my first project as a new UX Designer on the team. I had barely learned the names of my teammates!

Now almost a year later, it’s time for me to reflect on my onboarding process. It wasn’t perfect and I’m still learning along the way, but I’ve narrowed down a few key takeaways to help designers ramp up their first few months to a new team.

In your first week, set up a 1-on-1 meeting with your design manager. This initial meeting will help define your relationship as manager and employee.

Learn about your manager’s work style and their expectations from you in your first few months. Establish a set of short-term and long-term goals for your goal to measure your onboarding success.

Examples of short-term goals (the first 30 days):

  • Have 1-on-1 meetings with each designer on the team
  • Check out the product demo to get acquainted

Examples of long-term goals (the first 90 days):

If your company doesn’t use a people management platform like Lattice or Fellows, set up a shared document with your manager. Keep track of your talking points and goals here so that the two of you can revisit them during your next meeting.

Intuitive tools employees can use to communicate, request feedback, and take ownership of their growth and development. (source: lattice)

As a new member of a team, approach your teammates and introduce yourself. In my first few weeks, I had a casual conversation with the designers, product managers, and developers on my team to get to know them.

It felt like speed dating, because I introduced myself to every new person I met. I learned about his background and professional experiences. Some of the conversations covered more personal topics like our hobbies, family and travel plans.

Those meetings started many relationships that I have continued to develop with my peers. More importantly, knowing and empathizing with my peers on a deeper level has led to trust and stronger cooperation.

Ultimately, you have to learn your product inside and out.

View a Product Demo

The first way I approached it was by looking at a product demo recorded by the product manager.

The demo helped me understand who our users are, what they use our product for and how each feature is used in it. The pieces of the puzzle were starting to come together for me.

research competitor

Then, I did some high-level research by visiting my competitors’ websites, understanding their value proposition, and watching videos of their work flows.

You can also create a product comparison table to compare your company’s product with its competitors on the basis of its features. This helped me get an overview of the market we were competing in.

Screenshot of Figma's product comparison template.
Figma’s Product Comparison Template (Source: Figma)

rehearse

After summarizing some of the shortcomings and opportunities between our product and our competitors, I proceeded to research the product on my own. As a new user, I can provide a valuable perspective in terms of first impressions.

present your findings

I presented my walkthrough to the team and explained what I liked and where I struggled. This was also a good time for me to ask any questions about the product, such as:

  • What is the typical customer journey?
  • What do our users like most about the product?
  • Where are our users struggling?
  • What areas are we focusing on improving?

This exercise is a great way for new designers to become more familiar with their product and to be aware of any gaps or opportunities that present themselves in the user experience.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask “Stupid” Questions

As a new hire, no one expects you to know it all. You are in learning mode.

Take the opportunity to ask lots of questions. Gather information from your peers and soak it all in.

If you are joining a software company, chances are that your team has adopted the agile methodology. During each sprint, several different agile celebrations are facilitated to help teams get their work done.

Know the events organized by your team, such as sprint planning, daily stand-ups, sprint reviews and sprint retrospectives.

On top of this, design teams have their own set of celebrations, such as design critiques, studio sessions, and design systems office hours.

Some questions to answer include:

After you’ve completed your first few sprints, you’ll start to get a feel for each event and understand what you should have prepared for the next time.

With all the information you absorb, a cheat sheet is essential to help you remember what’s important.

Your cheat sheet should list the following:

  • terminology and their definitions,
  • teammates and their roles, and
  • Slack channels and their purposes.

Many companies use their own internal lingo and acronyms, so writing them down with their definitions will keep you from getting lost in the conversation.

As you meet new peers and become familiar with key stakeholders, add their names and roles to your list. This will help you connect the dots in terms of organizational structure. You’ll be working with these people for the foreseeable future, so it’s best to remember who’s who.

Screenshot of the hierarchical organizational chart.
An organizational chart can help visualize the hierarchy and relationships among teammates. (source: lucidcharts)

Eventually, you’ll probably be added to (too) many Slack channels. Find out what each channel is used for and mute notifications for the less important ones. These will be your main form of communication in a remote workplace, so it’s a good idea to become familiar with them.

Now that you know your team and product, it’s time to start contributing.

As you work through your first project, take note of any challenges or frustrations you encounter along the way.

Learn how design libraries are organized and how files are set up and named. Explore and become familiar with your design system, including tokens, components, and patterns.

A diagram with four groups that make up a design system: identity (example pattern: logo, font, color), element (example pattern: button, form field, dropdown), component (example pattern: signup/login, survey form, error screen) , and interactions (example patterns: hover states, page loads, slide effects).
(Source: Toptal – Understanding Design Systems and Patterns)

When I joined my new team, I looked through old design and research files to get an idea of ​​where the product design stands today. This helped me understand the major design decisions that have been made and informed my own decisions for the project.

Deliver your first project. Build speed. you got this.

A retrospective is one of the agile events that teams run at the end of a sprint. As a new designer on the team, host a retrospective after your first sprint to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Here are some templates from Atlassian that will be useful for a designer’s first retrospective.

4 l’s

Look at the current situation from a factual point of view.

Screenshot of a whiteboard divided into 4 areas, Liked, Learned, Decreased, and Wanted.
Alternate Variation: Since “lack” and “crave” are closely related, some teams replace “lack” with “disgusting”. (source: Atlassian)

4L’s template explores the four categories you liked, learned, lacked, and craved. Help your team understand the way you work and see what improvements or clarity can be brought in the next sprint.

quick retrospective

Define the main focus of the team

Screenshot of a whiteboard divided into 4 areas labeled What was good?, What was bad?, Thoughts and Actions.
The quick retrospective dives straight in, asking the team direct questions about the sprint. (source: Atlassian)

The purpose of a quick retrospective is to explore the good and bad parts of the sprint, as well as generate ideas and tasks for the future. Express your appreciation and address your concerns so that you and your team are on the same page. Brainstorm solutions that you can collectively implement to improve your next sprint.

Starting a new job is always exciting and can be a bit nerve-wracking. No one expects you to be perfect as a new hire, so don’t be too hard on yourself and enjoy the process.

It takes time to ramp up and should not be rushed. However, I hope that these important findings from my personal experience were useful and help you during onboarding to your new job.

Thanks for reading!

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