Creation and organization of a designers' team
in a branch of a large corporation (2015)

Pearson English Education

This case describes my annual project in a company where I was the first designer who created and managed a small group of people.

Project background

Pearson English is a global company that strives to reduce barriers to learning English. One of the company's subsidiaries is located in Poland, where the branch functions as a typical IT company.

The Problem

The company's branch office was a typical place of work for developers who implemented projects with designers from other countries (also in another time zone). In the Polish branch, there was no awareness of User Experience, and new designers had to quickly start with new projects and feel supported in a broad structure.

My role

In this environment, I supported the recruitment process to efficiently assess the skills of candidates and select people who will be able to create a well-functioning team.
I created a team, and I was organizing the work of four designers who supported different projects. In addition to the duties of a manager, I was also an active designer.

Discovering

I had to organize the work of designers in addition to the common recognition of products, business assumptions, and problems faced by the company's customers. The aim was not only to maintain consistency in different products but also to create a sense of self-confidence and support from the manager. I also wanted to make sure that the team members felt that they were not only carrying out their tasks but also that they were improving their skills. For this purpose, I reacted to the needs of these people, looking for opportunities to develop them. At the same time, I tried to raise the level of UX awareness in the organization by sharing the results of work in the company, organizing UX Book Club meetings (also for people from other departments) and, for example, by hanging posters explaining the principles of design.

The turn

Probably every manager knows that organizing valuable meetings, exchanging knowledge between designers and maintaining a satisfactory level of activity is a huge challenge. It is quite a common problem that the presentation of parts of work without a full context makes the presenter exposed to an avalanche of alternative ideas. The presentation of the work turns into defending ideas that could even be validated by the users before.
Out of many solutions, two, in particular, proved to be the most effective. First of all, each start of a significant part of the project involved a workshop where everyone could help in generating ideas in which direction the project could go. Also, at weekly meetings, each designer showed the work done based on story from the users' perspective and the point out of problem/uncertain moments. Thanks to this chaotic generation of ideas have been replaced by supporting the work of other designers.
Besides, using posters, especially in kitchens where other employees were not focused on their work, made it possible to expand UX awareness and several people from departments utterly unrelated to the design work were attending the UX Book Club meetings as well.

Looking back

After a year I completed the project by choosing challenges in another company, but I gained valuable experience in managing a small team of designers. I experienced the problems that can be caused by an improper organization of cyclical meetings, and I understood how important it is for each designer to feel the support of their manager constantly. I have often taken responsibility for their decisions so that they could freely pursue their ideas and fought with greater determination against non-intuitive solutions. I think that the most significant value for me was to understand that the manager's work is looking for a balance between being supportive and executive at the same time.
From the designer's point of view, I also gained interesting experience by recognizing a group of teachers as clients, conducting interviews and usability tests. Understanding their context was another piece of knowledge which makes me more aware. Every group of customers can be surprising and unpredictable, and we can make the wrong design decisions based just on our feelings and assumptions. At this point, my path as a researcher who supports his design work has moved to a more advanced level.

Testimonials

AGATA TENEROWICZ
(UX Designer, Direct reporter 2014-2016)

Michał is one of the best managers I’ve ever worked with. He always had a clear vision of the team, he listened to our suggestions and he motivated us to be the best at what we were doing.
He has a deep knowledge and understanding of user-centered design techniques and principles and he knows how to share this knowledge with others.
I do recommend him as a manager and as a UX Designer to any company that wants to work with a competent, friendly and open-minded person

DAWID MŁYNARZ
(UI Designer, Direct reporter 2014-2016)

Michal is a great example of experienced UX Designer and a very good UX Manager with strong leadership skills. I had a chance to be the member of the Design Team he was leading at Pearson and it was really productive and well-spent time. It was a pleasure to work with Michał on the same projects as his vast knowledge and organization was always present on the highest level. If you need a true expert and a compasionate leader for your team, Michał is definitely the right person.

AGNIESZKA ZDYBEL
(Software Test Engineer, Working in one company 2014-2016)

Michal is a great example of experienced UX Designer and a very good UX Manager with strong leadership skills. I had a chance to be the member of the Design Team he was leading at Pearson and it was really productive and well-spent time. It was a pleasure to work with Michał on the same projects as his vast knowledge and organization was always present on the highest level. If you need a true expert and a compasionate leader for your team, Michał is definitely the right person.

PEDRO SUSPIRO
(UX Designer, Working in one team 2016-2017)

I know Michal from Pearson Education where we work in the same team but in different countries. He is an incredibly intelligent and creative person who has strong UX strategic thinking skills. Michal is one of a few colleagues that I know who really understands the true meaning of the voice of customer and innovation. He also has excellent interpersonal skills and able to communicate effectively at all levels. He is an impeccable team player. A team with Michal will be definitely a stronger team.

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