Ed Vinicombe of BT on Running a Design Organisation and Building Relationships at Work

Christian: Welcome to Design Meets
Business, a show where design leaders talk

about practical ways to quantify design,
about making our work more transparent,

and about how designers can make a
bigger impact in their organization.

I'm your host, Christian Vasile,
and before we begin, I'd like to

thank you for tuning in today.

Today, you'll hear a wholesome
conversation that I've had with Ed

Vinicombe, who is Head of Design at BT.

We talked about why it's important to make
allies at work and how you can go about

it, how to structure your design study
cases, and towards the end, we're talking

a little bit about design education.

Hope you like this one.

Ed welcome to Design Meets Business.

We've crossed paths before at British
gas for a brief amount of time,

not enough time to talk too much,
but enough time to find out about

the quality of work you are doing.

So I am delighted to have you
on today to discuss design

leadership and how to work at that
intersection of design and business.

So before we jump into all of
that fun stuff, why don't you give

us a brief intro about yourself?

So people know who's talking to them.

Ed: Hey, Christian.

Thank you very much for having me, first
of all, so lovely to see you again.

so quick intro to me, my
name is ed, obviously.

Thanks for that.

Thanks for the intro there.

Um, I've been in the design industry
now for about 15, 20 years working

at all sorts of organizations, both
big small agency, side, client side,

all sorts of different sectors.

I've wound up in my career at BT.

Now I'm head of design there leading a
team of about 20-30 designers and, um,

you know, still trying to keep it real,
still trying to make all some products

I've come all the way from designing
my own skateboards all the way here.

So, um, it's been a long journey, but
still, still enjoying it here I am.

Christian: Well, it sounds
like you're in a good place.

20, 30 people.

That's a, probably a massive
challenge with what do you, how

do you find that it's your first
role as a head of design, right?.

Ed: That's right.


I mean, how have I found it?

Wowzers how long have we got?

We got an hour?

Um, yeah.

Well, I mean, it doesn't come
without its challenges, right?


It's I mean, probably just
from a practical point of

view, there were a lot of.

Um, and there's only
really just one tribe.

That's only one small part
of BT that I operate in.

And, um, just the practical side of it,
doing things like design reviews, one to

ones, crits swarming, all of those things
just become that much harder when there

aren't that many people in your team.

, but you know, we're working on some
awesome stuff at BT at the moment.

We've got some crazy
ambitions for this year.

so yeah, it's, it's going to be a
really exciting time for everybody in.


Christian: some of the work that
you've just mentioned, you know,

design creates and all of that,
it's probably work that people know

that it's happening at that level.

But I think running the design
organization all the time consists also

of work that now that nobody else really
sees whether that stakeholder management,

whether that's talking about design with
people who don't know about design, how

are you finding that part of the role.

Ed: I mean, that, that for me is kind
of largely like any other organization

I've worked in, I mean, like BT aside,
it's kind of like the same as any

other company that I've worked in.

It's the same as the first company that
I worked in when I started my career.

A lot of the stuff that happens behind
the scenes really for me is mostly

about relationship building, right?

It's about getting that ally on
the other side of the table, really

getting to know the people that you're
working with because ultimately.

The more friends you make and the,
uh, the more allies you have on the

other sides of the table, the easier
your job is going to be in the more

you're going to be able to accomplish.

So I would say largely that's most of
my responsibility and most of my kind

of activities behind the scenes like
you were describing is, is about that.

A recent example of that is.

We run this kind of team building day, uh,
recently with my tribe leadership team.

And I facilitated it and
prepared a few activities for it.

And one of the activities
we've ran was an Ikigai.

Exercise, not sure if you've ever
heard of Vicki guy before, but it's

essentially, it's kind of like, um, Helps
you kind of understand like what your

motivations are, why you do what you do,
what your purpose is, why you're here.

And right in the middle of all
of these things that you do.

So things you love, things
you're good at things.

The world needs things
you want to get paid for.


The mid-level of that is your icky guy.

And we kind of run that with with
our leadership team recently.

And, you know, that was just a great tool.

One of the tools that I've used throughout
my career to just really just get to

know the people that you're working with.

You won't expect half the stories that
you hear from those kinds of things.

And, it's really just a good way
of, um, kind of breaking down the

barriers, forgetting about work for
a minute and actually just getting

to know the people around you.

So that's a, that's a really good example.

I mean, I mean, retros are
another good way of doing that.

We do a lot of those at BT.

Do a lot of those.

When I start a new team or
join a new team, it's, that's a

really good way of doing it to.

Christian: You mentioned a word
there that's I wanted to talk about,

I always tried to tackle this and
that is trust, building trust in

organizations that you join, whatever
level you're joining a trust is

something that you've got to have.

You also said allies, that's
not a word that I like.

I know.

But sometimes it feels like the more
people trust you and the more people

you can kind of go to and have a
developer that can do some work for

you on a weekend or stuff like that,
the more successful you potentially

could be in that organization.

So when you join, not necessarily
think about the role now, but in

general, when you join organization,
how are you trying to go about building

those relationships and any practical
tips there that you might have for.

Ed: Yeah.

So, I mean, it's a good, it's a good
point about using the word allies,

especially with current world events.

I think that's probably quite
topical in this problem.


It is probably a dated way of
explaining that situation, but yeah.

Allies, friends, people
that will trust you.


Yeah, exactly.

It's a really good shout out.

Um I guess, well, back to your
question, I suppose building

trust is a kind of critical.

Part of any role, regardless whether
in design or, you know, a janitor for a

school or something, and like building
trust of the people around you is, is a

critical part to anything you do both
in your personal professional life.

But I think there's a couple
of outcomes to focus on when

you are building trust, right?

Either you're building trust to
prove the worth of your design.

That's a very different kind of
methodology of building trust, or you're

just building trust with the people
around you, in your team and squad.


I think if you're, if you're joining an
organization and you're trying to get

a team set up and maybe you're starting
it from scratch, and you're trying to

kind of prove the worth of that team and
you're trying to build trust in doing so.

For me, it boils down to three things
that you need to focus on, right.

To build that trust is
reliability, efficiency and kind

of cultural shift reliability.

First, if you're proving a team
out for the very first time.

You have to build that reliability
with the people in the kind

of stakeholders around you.


So do you have the talent in-house to
design and build outstanding experiences?

Yes or no.

Is that a better option than just getting
a third-party supplier in or an agency?



If it is then that's great.

Then you can start building that
reliability with the people around

you and the less money will be
spent on agencies and shiny stuff.

And more money will be spent on
your team and investment into your.

So there's reliability is a massive
part of that building trust and

proving that worth of that team.

efficiency as well as it is, is a big
part of that, you know, day one building

trust it's can this team achieve or help
us achieve our organizational goals either

quicker and ideally for less money than
what we were spending before, because it's

always going to boil down to that, right?

Is this costing less or more
money than our kind of current?

, our current options.

so those are kind of two critical parts.

And then the last bit is
the cultural shift, right?

Like is the team, or as a team
that you're setting up and scaling,

et cetera, is that helping your
organization move toward a more kind of

user centered design way of thinking?

You know, are people around the
team attending research sessions?

Are you democratizing the design process?

Is everybody involved in those workshops
or is it just designers going off and

kind of headphones on sitting in a room
and bashing this stuff out themselves?

those are the things that like
really some kind of core questions

you need to ask yourself when
you're going to setting up a team.

When you're trying to build
trust with an organization.

There is, there is a fantastic book.


I've got it right here by my side.

Cause I was reading it earlier just
to catch up on a few bits, but it's a

book called undercover user experience
design it's by, two guys, like an

old boss of mine, actually James box
and, uh, a chat called Kenny bowels.

And it's a fantastic book, really kind of
depicts and describes all of the things

that you need to do to start setting
up a UX design practice in a business.

so really good read for anybody listening.

Who's who's going through that.

The second outcome that I described
there when you're building shots of

the people around you, which I suppose
is inherent to the first point that I

made, but it is also another kind of
critical part of, like I said, any job.

Um, and in terms of like
practical tips, I don't know.

I think it's you would get to know
somebody at work as you would do

in any other part of your life.


You spend time with them trying
to understand them, trying to

understand what motivates you.

What is their purpose?

Why are they here?

What can you do to help
them realize that purpose?

, so it's kind of like, I think that
relationship building isn't any different

in personal or professional world.

, one tool I have used though to help me,
and my team in terms of like helping

others, helping me understand them
and their motivations is, um, is a

framework called the heart tree star..

Can't remember where I found this.

I think it was on some
medium article somewhere.

I think, I think Jane
Austin shared it awhile ago.

It was basically like heart, you go
through it in each stages and you like

talk it through with your, with your team.

Heart is like the things that you
absolutely love to do where it's like,

why'd you get out of bed in the morning.

You kind of talk about that.

We describe it document.

And then the tree is more
about how do you want to grow?

Like what areas you want to grow into,
where do you see your career growing

into in the next 10, 15, 20 years?

Even if you have answers to those
questions and then star is like,

how do you like to be rewarded?

Is it like respect and seniority
or is it money or is it just

working on some really cool stuff?

and that has been a really,
really effective tool for me.

Kind of like helping me
understand my teams and.

it's a good thing to do first
kind of sets the tone nicely.

and of course, like why do all
these things matter, right?

Like you said, like why is it important?

I'm hoping anybody listening to this,
you should probably understand why you

should all, hopefully already understand
why it's important doing these things.

Ultimately you probably, we all probably
want to live in a world where, you know,

the services we're using are intuitive.

They're easy to use.

They make sense.

They're good.

Not rubbish and having a good design
team in place is probably going to

help those things along for sure.



It's uh, you know,

Christian: having a good design team
is part of it, but having a generally

a good product team is designed.

It's just team support, right?

You are very much dependent on
everyone else in the team as well.

And to me building this relationships
and making all this effort, especially

when you joined a company a bit in the
beginning, what it does is in a way.

Kind of like a team-building
exercise, right?

A bit over a long-term one, but the
closer you can work with the rest of the

team and the closer everyone can work
with each other, the more, the better

results you're likely going to have as a
product team versus a, at the teams that

maybe don't necessarily enjoy working
with each other, or maybe don't know much

about each other on a personal level.

I've always found that the best
work that I've done was in teams

where I could go for a beer.

With the CPP or people
in the, in that team.

So, um, I, and I, you said
something interesting though.

You said this is no different,
uh, building relationships at

work is no different than building
relationships in real life.

And 10 that's so accurate
because it is exactly the same.

That's why it's not different
because it is the same.

Ed: It is.

You just, you just share the same.

Really with the people that you work
with, or now, like now virtually you just

share the same kind of teams chat rooms.


It is.

It is the same, it's an interesting
point that you raise, you know,

about the best work that you've done.

There's in kind of like collab,
like collaborative teams

and all that kinda stuff.

Absolutely, totally agree with that.

And I would probably echo that
same thought myself with the work

that I've done in my own career.

But another point I wanted to add to
that, just to build on that is that

collaboration is great, but collaboration.

Super large groups is really difficult
and sometimes very unnecessary.

A lot of rope.

I wrote an article about this recently.

If anybody listening is, I think
it's on my Twitter or LinkedIn

somewhere about kind of sizes of
groups, sizes of teams, right?

Like these, these things have grown
exponentially over the last 20 years

and even more so recently with the
pandemic, because everything is all

remote, everything's virtual and team
sizes, or people working on particular

projects or products 20 30, 50, even a
hundred people working on these things.

And you might even still then be
using the bracket like, Hey, but

we're doing it collaboratively,
but you're moving so slow.

Because there's just so many people to
kind of consult during that process.

So I think an interesting.

Is that?

Yes, collaboration is great, but you
want to keep it in small groups or least

like when we think about the original
kind of cross-functional squad model that

apple came up with originally, I think
what was it like late eighties, early

nineties or something like that yet, but
one marketing, one product designer, one

kind of engineering and a product lead.

We're talking to a group of like 500.

Yeah, when it's smaller, manageable, you
can move fast and this, and it's easier

to trust the people around you because
you know, you know, each other you'll have

a far higher chance of getting to know
the people cause it's a smaller group.

so yeah, that's something
to be really wary of.

I think.

Christian: Yeah, it just
reminds me of base camp.

I don't know if you know the
way they work, but base camp for

anyone who doesn't know is a.

Company in the U S and they have
these really interesting way

of working where in each team.

So they have really small
teams of three people.

They have no project
managers or any of that.

They have two developers
and one designer that's it.

And they get goals, product goals
every six weeks, and they get full

autonomy on how to reach them.

But there's only three.

That's it and I find it right.

It's just so lean so fast.

And, and, and they I've read that article.

I just don't remember w someone from
base camp wrote an article about just

how much more happy they are at work,
because it allows them to move so fast.

It allows them to truly make an
impact versus sitting in meetings

or having to ask permission
here and there and all of that.

So, yeah, for sure, small teams
are much more agile than large.

Ed: I wonder if that model will become
the new Spotify model, you know, because

it's like almost every company you work in
these days, it's like, how do you operate?

It's like, well, we operate, like
the Spotify and what's quads.


And, um, there's a,
there's a great article.

I can't remember who shared it,
but it was the other director of

design or director of product from
Spotify recently shared an article.

Explains that they don't
even use the Spotify model.

There's just like some myth, like late.

Like we didn't come up with this.

Don't know where this came from,
but we don't operate like this.

That's not how they work.


So I think that it's just perpetuated
out into numerous organizations from

around the world to be like, we're
going to be like Spotify and we're going

to organize our people like Spotify,
but they don't even do it themselves.

So maybe, maybe base camp will be the
new Spotify and it will be even smaller.

I thought there could be a
good positive shift, I think.

Yeah, for

Christian: sure.

, and there are a lot of things that, that
base camp as well, I think in the way

they work, they wrote, they wrote a small
book called shape up, which is available

for free on the internet about the way.

, it's a very good read.

It's not it's much shape RPA.

You can find it on.

Um, I think it's on their website.

Just, just Google it.


It's uh, it's, it's a really good read.

Anyway, moving on.

I, one of the things that I wanted
to talk to you about was this idea of

starting out as a designer, and then you
become really good at what you're doing.

And then sooner or later, you will
find yourself at a crossroads of.

staying an individual contributor
or going to management.

And I find that a lot of designers
have a hard time deciding which way to

go, because what made you really good
in the beginning, which was design

is potentially going to be taken away
from you, or at least, a lot of your

time will not be spent on that anymore.

How have you made that decision?

Have you battled with that choice when
you had to step up into a manager.

Ed: Oh, here's a good question.



Short answer is yes, absolutely.


to be to, I mean, to complete,
to be completely honest with

you, I'm not really sure where my
sweet spot really lies these days.

I think in, in a lot of ways, I'm
still trying to figure that out.

My previous roles I've had, I've
probably been a lot closer to the detail.

My role at Virgin, I was quite close
to the detail quite hands-on and that

felt quite good because, you're very
much like leading by example, you

know, you're in the detail yourself,
you're kind of icing and you're

managing teams at the same time.

There's kind of player,
coach kind of role equally.

I don't really think that's
sustainable with very big teams, but,

but yeah, it's a really good point.

I think.

you have to feel comfortable.

And I think you have to be aware of
your own motivations and the things that

you want to try and do in your career.

And, kind of see where that takes you.

For me personally, I felt like the
leadership management track, or

however you wanna describe it was a
natural kind of progression for me.

So I've been working in
industry for a long time.

I felt as though.

I felt like I know enough, it's
difficult to say that about yourself,

but I felt like I knew enough to kind
of lead other teams and to try and give

this a try, but that's not to say that
you're not necessarily closer to the.


Like, I think like something
that I try and tell my team is

like especially my managers, is
that, look, we w we're leaders.


But, but don't forget the first word
in that like we are design leaders.

So, you know, like a big part of that role
and a big part of that accountability is

ensuring that what's going out the front
door from a design perspective is good.

It's high quality.

And I think to do that, you do you know
that there are obviously going to be

certain aspects of the role that, you're
going to need to be close to the detail.

And, um, I think you're gonna
need to do that to try and help

your teams in the right way.


You know, yes, you are.

You know, as light as that leader, the
more senior you get, you are essentially

a multiplier of people, rightly or you
want to make sure, that the people you

have in the teams can achieve outcomes.

That is basically greater
than the sum of its parts.

But that's not to say that you
won't always be in the detail.

Sometimes you will.

Um, I've lost the thread of your
question, Christian does that.

It's a really tough one.

It is.

It is.


Christian: everyone I ask says something.

Slightly similar candidates about
what preferences you have at dinner

dates, whether you can imagine yourself
not being in Figma everyday, or, you

know, you can imagine yourself being
in stakeholder meetings and all of

that be way beyond the, you know, the
design meetings that we usually have.

So I think it's always a matter of
preference and what works for you.

I was just curious, how
have you made that decision?

But yeah.

In a way you, you haven't, you
haven't because yeah, exactly.



It's something that takes time to, to,

Ed: yes, it does.

I think it's tough kind of, um,
feeling like you're lacking.

You know, you're well, not like losing
control, but you're letting go of

control of the pixels basically.


So you are there to essentially empower
your team and to help them realize all

of the amazing things that they're going
to be doing over the next year or two.

And that is really hard,
especially if you're you have

been an IC all of your career.

It's really hard to try and let that go.

Like this and just to turn it
off, like I'm not going to go

back into it, like this, let the
team are going to do all of this.

Um, so yeah, it's do, you know,
like I think it takes a lot of

soul searching, you know, to want
to want to do something like that.

And, um, you know, it's something
I ask myself regularly, you

know, my, my on the right track.

Am I not?

But ultimately, you know, I think if
you're, if you're happy doing what

you're doing and you know, you're
living a good fulfilling life.

I think it's fine.

Go for it

Christian: for sure.

I think it's, uh, what you said,
they're constantly asking yourself.

You're doing the right thing or not.

I think that's a key ingredient of
this is it's just all these just in

life in general, not only when it
comes to, what am I doing at work,

but all these inquiring into whether
what you're doing at work is something

that really fulfills you or not.

And you can, maybe you can
maybe change some of that.


Shift gears a little bit and talk a bit
about, hiring your experience there.

Because I think you've got a lot to offer
for people who are potentially looking

for work right now and the reason that,
or not right now, but just in general.

And the reason I'm saying that is because
although you are head of design and

most of the head of designs that I know
don't even have a design portfolio.

The work that they've done, the
work, the pixels that they've pushed

are so far back, that this doesn't
make any sense for them to have it.

Well, you have one of the most
well-thought of portfolios

that I've seen out there.

Thank you.

So for I'll put that in the show
notes that anyone can see what

I'm talking about, but let's
talk a bit about portfolio.

So what is important when building
it, but building your portfolio?

Ed: Well, firstly, thank you for the
kind words as nicely to say that,

um, Well, when, uh, when I pulled
that together, I think there's it's

just one thing on my mind really.

It's how can I describe these
things as a real narrative?

How let, like, how can I tell
the story of what I've done?



It's not, I mean, I've seen
countless portfolios count.

Countless CVS.

And it like everything else where,
you know, just like Chuck, a few

pictures on there, this is kind of
roughly the problem we were solving

and this is like, this was it.

It wasn't really telling me anything.

It's not really telling me
anything about the work.

It's not really telling me anything
about what you have personally

learned through that process.

What the organizational benefits were,
what the financial benefits were,

what the next steps were nothing.

So I th I think probably one of the.

Things that I wanted to try and take
away from my own portfolio was, yeah.

How can I describe this
as a real narrative?

So what is the problem
we're trying to solve right.

To begin with?

And that might be customer problem.

That might be an organizational problem.

That might be a team problem.

It could be any problem, but one of the,
be very clear about what we were doing,

why we were doing it, and then just walk
it through step-by-step as structured as I

possibly can, and then be sure to include
the things that I've learned personally.

The things that went well, the things that
didn't go well, which I think equally as

important, the things that didn't go well,
no one really mentioned that very much

because I don't want to be embarrassed.

I don't want to be ashamed or I
don't want to kind of allude to the

things that I could have done better.

Those are the things that I'm
probably more interested in.

Cause if you're not sharing that
openly, then you're not, it's almost

like there's a, there's a little, like
lack of vulnerability happening there.

It's just like, look, no,
one's going to get anything.


So if, if you're not going to
sharing the things that you didn't

that, that didn't go well, sorry.

Then I don't think you're
being completely truthful.

and then lastly, it's going to let you
know, like I said, what are the kind

of clear results from your efforts?

If you can describe that as a
narrative and be really clear about

how your work benefited the kind of
bigger collective the organization,

then I think you're on sort of.


Christian: Well, I liked that you
took the discussion to results

because I see a lot of portfolios, not
necessarily portfolios, but gen general.

When you talk about, when you talk
with people about their design work,

very rarely, the focus is on results.

Very rarely.

The focus is on well, here's
the needle that I moved for.

The company.

Here's the.

Well, it could doesn't necessarily
have to be a financial improvement.

Not everyone works on conversion
rates and all of that, but it's some

sort of improvement because the way.

To frame.

It is even when a feature or some sort
of a request trickles down from the top.

There is a reason behind
that that's business linked.

There's something, some sort of reason
there, we need to make more money.

Or at the end of the day,
it's always about money.

We've if you truly ask, you know, you
ask why five times you're always going to

Ed: get to the bottom line.

So, and that's fine.

And that's fine by the way.

That's okay.

That's what, that's what organizations
do they make money, but I only, I

Christian: don't only think that's okay.

I think that.

That's what this whole podcast is about.

I just want to bring it out a bit more
about the fact that design is about

making money and is about keeping
organizations running smoothly.

Just like any other function
in the business does.

So should design just we do it through
design work right through, um,

Ed: absolutely.

You have to pushing pixels if you will,

Christian: but yeah.

I think sometimes it's
much more clear cut.

So if you, for example, work at an
organization and you work in the

growth team and you have to work
on a conversion rate, it's probably

much easier to put a portfolio piece
together because from the beginning

you started working with the metric.

So you can talk about that.

But what about when there is no
metric attached to a project, which

I certainly have had in the past?

Ed: Why do you do.

When there is no metric attached.



I think, I don't think I've ever
come up with that in my career.

I mean, Y and again, I'll probably
go ask why are we working on this?

If there's no kind of clear measure of
success than that, we don't know whether

what we've done is actually an improvement
or it's just we've just done it just

because, so I think if you're, if you're
working on something without a clear

metric, I would probably push for that.

That could be, I, you
know, and that could be.

Um, you know, kind of, I guess, yeah,
that could be business-related or customer

related, like you're saying, ideally
there's a kind of sweet spot in the middle

where Alexa, like somewhere in between.

Numbers without meaning behind them as a
kind of like a crying baby, you know, that

something's wrong or something's right.

But you're not really sure
why that is happening.

So just generic metrics and generic
kind of like quantitative data,

like that is useful, but it has to
be paired with qualitative data,

for help to, you know, to help us
understand why that thing is happening.

Typically the metrics that I've used.

I'm working towards something.

There's probably both at Virgin and BT.

We kind of look to these, like C-SAT MPS.

We use things like that.

This are the most common
metrics that we use.

You know, let this journey ship, or this,
sorry, this improvement should improve.

C-SAT or NPS by X percent, what, you
know, it's just like the most common

metric that people are familiar with.

But I think, I think there's plenty of
opportunity to go deeper on those metrics.

And actually talk about the things
that customers are trying to do and

tie those things into business metrics.

So let's say a customer is
trying to book a ticket, trying

to book an airplane ticket.

That's what they're trying to do.

That is the customer goal.

I want to book a ticket to go away
to Barbados or something, and then.

Customer goal will be tied to revenue,
be tied to average revenue per user.

It's like, it's really critical
to try and get that link.

I'm not saying it's easy, but I think
it's really critical to try and do that.

so it's, yeah, it's, it's a real tough
one, you know, and those and those

metrics are going to depend on what
your business values as well, so most

of the time it's probably gonna be.

Seesaw NPS, like you said, but
apple, for example, they value

ID registration as a key metric.


So at the amount of people that they can
get signed into their ecosystem, that's

the metric that they value but most of
the organizations don't yeah, maybe a

little bit behind the curve like that.

They're not really tied into that.

Customer real customer focus on it.


Some companies

Christian: have what they call a
north star, which at the end of the

day, ideally everything you're doing
should in a way or another impact

that some of my experiences is in
the business to business world where.

There is not necessarily a direct
impact because, well, first of all,

financially, you don't really have
conversion rates in many places.

Many B2B software is sold by sales teams.

So they take care of that.

But then in that case, then you
have, um, something on the customer,

you know, a customer benefit, a
framework that I've used in the past.

And I will obviously forget what all the
letters stand for, but it's called heart.

It's called the heart framework
and it's actually done by

Google or someone at Google.

And I'm one of the, I think the T
in heart stands for task success.

And that's the most, the
simplest form of benefit that

you can actually come up with.

Well, it's well, did.


This action faster now or better,
or, you know, compared to how

they were doing it previously.

And if you can prove that that
in itself is a benefit that your

design has, has helped bring about.

So it's, it's stuff like that.

Ed: Yeah.


Our heart's great.

I've used the light.

Use that before as a kind of framework,
we use something similar to BT.

We use something called E S.

it says effectiveness to just measure,
like you're saying task completion,

efficiency to measure friction and
satisfaction to measure, ease of use.

So we use this, so we use a similar
framework to help us structure data,

to help us inform design decisions.

And I think with that, Without those
kind of, without this kind of framework,

I'm a big fan of frameworks, by
the way, if there's a framework for

anything, will I will be using it.

But I think without these frameworks,
especially for things like user research

and for things like data to help kind
of inform design decisions, you're

probably going to get a mix of like
verbatim and kind of task completion.

Those two things are not necessarily
going to be complimentary unless you're

kind of objectively looking at it, using
a framework like E S . So I think at BT

last year, I think before we use this
framework, we would get like conflicted.



So a customer might be able to complete
something, but they thought like, yeah,

but I just didn't really like it like
this, you know, this it was really hard.

It was difficult to see the text.

It was, either it took them a long time.

But without that framework, without
that structure, it was difficult

to kind of score those things.

And you weren't really sure
where to go after that.

, so using that framework, using
the EES framework, enabled

us to experiment a lot more.

It allowed us to look at that
data a lot more objectively.

Christian: When you, when I was
talking earlier about some of that

work that our design leader does,
that's not really talked about

it, also, something like this.

So if you join an organization, that's
not necessarily great quantifying design,

what you might want to come in and
then either create or find a retrofit.

One of these design frameworks that
are KPI, frameworks, whatever we call

them, and then measure the impact
of your design team against that.


You know, per project, like, wait,
it's good to have an overall framework.

I remember at BG, we used
to use the NPS score.

That was everything we were
trying to do was against the NPS.

Ed: Yeah, yeah.

Yeah., it's a fairly common metric.

I mean, like, you know, I don't think.

Totally to oft I mean, you know,
MPS, I mean, you can get quite

specific with that, at Virgin we did
something quite similar and you can

get quite specific with those metrics.

Let's see satellite for a particular
journey for a particular thing.

And I do see the value in that.

But like I said, I think it's about
linking those things to like usability

and knowing that ultimately want to be
able to point to something and say, This

particular part of our experience, the
poor kind of like the poor usability in

this particular part of the experience is
directly related to this drop in revenue.


And we know that is a fact, but
having that specificity and having

that kind of focus on those things
is really hard to achieve if you're

not linking these things together.

Um, so that's, I mean, we do try and
do that, we did try and report on.

On on kind of metrics with that
kind of customer goal lens.

And that's, you know, that's
why it's so, so important.

When you look

Christian: through some of these
portfolios, how do you usually weed out

good potential candidates from the rest?

Because I know that you're not
spending 10 minutes reading

every person's portfolio, right.

, you probably have seconds.

So how do you make that decision so fast?

Ed: Well, I mean, generally alone, I
try, I try to meet everybody because.

It's really difficult to understand
what someone or who someone is

and why they do the things they do
when you're just looking at a CV.

. And also it's not
massively inclusive, right?

Some people might not feel
comfortable kind of writing a CV.

Some people might be quite illiterate.

Some people might have the, I, I
don't know what else that might stop

them from, being able to do that.


One thing I would like to try.

I haven't actually been able to try
this, but one thing I would like to

try at some point is to advertise
the jobs and there's no CV required.


Just like to meet people and just
see, see what they like, see what

motivates them and everything else.

, and then from meeting them and meet
them face to face or virtually whatever.

I think you'd be able to
ascertain kind of three qualities

that I always look out for.

And I totally rip this
off of a book called.

five dysfunctions of a team by
a guy called Patrick Lencioni,

fantastic book for anybody listening.

He wants to understand about
organizational structure and culture

and what it takes to let the pieces,
you need to build a good team.

And he depicts one of three things
like triple H it's like humility,

hunger, and honesty, right?

Like, are they humble
enough to understand.

And realize like where they are in their
career, even if they're very skilled,

no, one's really a master of their craft.

You know, like we've
all got things to learn.

We're all on the learning path.

So are they humble enough to
understand where they are in their

career and identify the things that
they need to do to move forward

of a hungry, to do those things?

Or they just got completely despondent
with the design industry and they

all actually want to move on to do
something else, or they actually

hungry to like help your organization
and really hungry to build and

design great experiences, you know?

And, and I think honest about that stuff,
you know, they are they really telling me

like, what's what what's happening here?

Or are they really telling me
why they're leaving their job?

Or are they doing those things?


I think the more honest than the
more transparent they can be with me

during those interviews, the more I
think, and the more they show that

vulnerability, the more I know that,
I've got something special here.


Um, but for leaders is a, you know,
as could look quite different.

When I'm hiring for managers or senior
managers are more looking at more the how

rather than the, what they've delivered.

Did they have any experience
kind of empowering teams?

Sometimes I can't stand the word
empowering, but I, I keep using

it as it's a really overused.

Um, but I'm hoping, you know what
I mean, but you know, how, how

are they been empowering their
teams to accomplish an outcome?

How did they leverage the
right skills across their team

to accomplish this outcome?

Are they using the right
people for the right problems?

How did they communicate progress,
blockers, successes to the wider team?

Are they bringing people
into that process?

Are they democratizing the design process?

Um, you know, are they bringing
everybody along on that journey?

These behaviors aren't really about
what they delivered, but rather

the things they did collectively
to raise the maturity of design.


So yeah, very difficult to get from a CV.

Christian: Yeah.

And I assume also difficult
to get from portfolio.

Isn't it?

It's kind of the same story.

So I know, I don't know if you have,
but I know, certainly I have in the

past said yes to some opportunities.

In hindsight, I shouldn't have said
yes to you only realize a couple of

days and you're in your new role.

Uh, well, there you go.

So how can designers make
sure they avoid that?

Is there any tips for them?

Any, any ways you try to make sure
that when you're in front of a

potential opportunity, you inquire
the right way about that role.

Ed: Let's see.

Get quick to get a really good question,
my first kind of thoughts on that, right?

When it, when you're describing.

even if you did step into a
role that you regret after the

first week that's that's okay.

It's like the world is not
going to stop spinning tomorrow.

If you kind of realize that, oh,
actually hang on I've made a mistake.

This isn't actually, for
me, you know, that's fine.

It happens.

It happens all the time.

It's happened to you.

Like you're just describing there.

Christine has happened to me as well.

I'm sure that most people you meet
throughout your career, they've

probably experienced the same thing.

Um, so my first recommendation
would be don't pay.

It's like, it happens all the time.

there's plenty of work out there.

There's plenty of opportunity and,
you know, maybe just needs a bit of

a course correction, so that's fine.

how you can avoid it.

I mean, like I said, I don't think
you'd like, you'll always be able to

avoid it, but I think that there are
some questions that I ask in interviews

to kind of help me gauge the appetite
for design in that organization.


Firstly, it's important to point out
that for anybody listening, if you go to

any organization in the world, isn't it.

It's never going to be perfect.

I've worked for a lot of companies
and they all have their good bits

and they all have their bad bits.

The things that I ask in interviews,
things like what stops design from being

heard that's like a really kind of open.

You know, that really kind of like sets
the tone of like, you know, how, how

mature are you in your organization?


Like how, like how far
does design really go?

You know, he gets some really interesting
questions out about Also things like

setting expectations, like what does
success look like for you in this role

in a month, three months, or six months
time by asking that you might find that?

Well, my expectations to completely
misaligned to what this guy or

this woman is saying, like, this
is not what I want to do at all.

There's, I mean, there's a
couple of kinds of practical.

Tips that you could take away.

Also like reaching out to people
who currently work there as well.

I know that's like such a classic, but it
is so useful that's really good reaching

out to people on LinkedIn asking them,
like, what's it like working there?

What's the appetite for design?

What are you most proud of
that you delivered recently?

I've got some pretty burning
questions for people.

When I go into interviews, you
interview them more than the interview.

Well, they should want it to
be a two-way street should be.

Yeah, absolutely, absolutely.

Should be asking them what they
like, what they're most proud of.

That's another really good one,
because you can gauge them.

Like what they're saying.

If they say something quite like, I
don't know, like we managed to get

like this HR tool working, right.

It's not right.

I'm like, why am I really
interested in that?

You know that you actually delivering
something for a customer that is

really amazing, really ambitious.

Are you talking about that then?

I'll know, you know, if
I'm more suited to that

Christian: role, there's
something that you said there and

I really want to highlight it.

Cause I, I find that we're not saying that
enough when you join a new company and you

realize this might not be it it's okay.

It's not any, it's not only okay
to, first of all, admit that it

might not be the right thing.

But I like to add on top
of that and say, it's okay.

If you can only be there for
three months and move on because

your CV doesn't matter more.

Then your happiness at work because when
you're not happy at work, you're not

doing the type of work you want to do.

You won't do great work.

I'm so convinced of this.

So I've in the past left companies
quite shortly after I joined.

And, and you know, you have
that, the societal pressure

like, oh, am I staying enough?

Here is anyone else going to hire
me now that I've only been here

for six months, seven months.

And that.

Nobody is thinking about that anymore.

If you've only been in the role for
six months, as long as you can say,

look, I've tried, it didn't work for me
for X and Y reasons, then you're fine.

So give yourself permission to
also leave if you're unhappy.

Ed: Oh, absolutely.


I couldn't honestly agree with you more.

I saw that I saw a great visualization
on LinkedIn recently and, um,

because it's gonna, it's just kind
like this infographic of like how

we used to kind of gauge success.

Of our, of our roles.


And it was kind of split into
like job title and salary.

If I've got like a really fancy
job title, I'm like VP of design or

if I'm head of design or something
like that, director of design.

And then I got a big salary
coming in, nice car, et

cetera, all that kind of stuff.

I'd say absolutely typically how
people would measure success.


But, but this, this infographic on
the bottom harvested for graphic is

like, okay, those are two things.

Yes, we need to acknowledge, but
they're only kind of two very thin

slices of a bigger a bit like a bigger
pie for want of a better phrase.

And the other things that you need
to be thinking about are things

like your own mental health.

How much time do you
spend with your friends?

How much time do you
spend with your family?

What about you yourself?

Are you like doing the things and hobbies
and the passions that you want to do?

You're like reading or running
like a good, like a passion of.

What about all of those things?

Because if you don't have time for
any of those things, and I would, I

would tell anybody, listening to this,
and I wouldn't necessarily, you know,

deem your experience, your career up
until this point, maybe as a success.

Cause if you don't have time for
friends and family and the things that

you want to do, then, then Hey, yeah.

It's time.

It's time to revisit it.

Yeah, sure.

Christian: I want to talk a bit about
design education because, um, you're

doing, you're, you're pulling some moves
or you have for a few years in that space.

You've, uh, you've created
a course for four designers.

Great reviews.

So I think I'd like to argue that, you
know, a little bit about what design

education is supposed to be like.

So let's talk, talk about it a little bit.

Ed: Go for it.

Christian: What's your take on
what's missing at the moment

when we're talking to designers.

Ed: Design education.

I mean, firstly, if anybody has seen
any of those UX club videos, I've got

some pretty funky hairdos in there.

It was like, it was filmed
a long time ago too.

So yeah, no judgment, no judgment.

Just put, yeah, just focus on the content.

Not the hairstyle.

Well, I mean, one thing that's missing
in design education, I mean, again,

I'll probably challenge you in saying, I
think it's probably broad within design.

I think this is kind of like
any role that you're working in.

I think probably one of the key
ingredients that I see missing

is what your self-awareness to
think is like the biggest thing.

I think it's probably one of the biggest
qualities that you can have if you want to

progress in your career is self-awareness.

And without that level of self-awareness
is going to be hard for anybody to design

or not to understand what they're doing
well and what they need to improve.


And it's also going to give you
perspective when thinking, you know, of

your own journey in your own career or
thinking of an organization's journey,

and they're going to in terms of design
maturity and that's super important

and big companies, because it's really
easy to lose that kind of sense.

And that kind of perspective in the
valley that you're offering that company.

So, so self-awareness is
really, really critical.

You know, it, for me, it's kind of like
the origin of a lot of threads, right?

without it, you can't tell what you
need to improve on without it, you.


What kind of social situations you
either comfortable or not comfortable

in without it you're not going to
be able to determine what it is you

actually want to do over the next
year or two years in your career.

It really just starts with self-awareness
how you get it really tough question.

But I think a good place to start is
just being a bit more vulnerable, right?

Again, easier said than done.

I'm just like, kind of going down, down
the motions of all of these kind of things

that you need to make these things happen.

But, but you know, to build that
self-awareness, you ultimately need to

be a bit vulnerable and that looks like
sharing things that you might not normally

share, being honest, constructively
and respectfully honest, like with your

peers describing how you're feeling.

Describe how you think you're doing,
how you think your peers are doing.

You know, it's just, it's
just being vulnerable.


I know like some people
would find that difficult.

But there is another great book
actually about being vulnerable.

It's called, um, daring
greatly by Brenae brown.


Fantastic book about learning about
vulnerability and the things that

you can do to do more of that.

So anybody listening, definitely
go and order that on Amazon.

Christian: So a self-aware.

That's really important.

I've heard that before and I agree.

So when it comes to, when it comes to, um,
more technical skills, design education,

what is important to learn right now?

And the reason I'm asking is because I am.

I have a bachelor's in design.

And I can tell you, I've learned almost
nothing in that, in those three and a half

years, almost nothing that I'm applying
today, because it was never really about,

about what we're talking about today,
about business, about metrics, about what

design really supposed to do about what
the impact of design is about teamwork.

All of these things that we've
talked about today are not really

tackled in design education.

So no.

Younger designers come out or want to
be designers come out and they don't

necessarily feel prepared to take
on these roles and no wonder nobody,

not, nobody would know no wonder.

They're not really hired because.

It's, uh, you, you, you might have
done a six month bootcamp and then

you join a company that needs to train
retrain you as if you're totally new.

So when you've structured your course, the
way you have, what are some of the pillars

that you focused on to make sure that
whoever gets out of this is in a better

position in front of a potential employer
than someone who doesn't do the course?


Ed: that's a really good question.

I mean, I think I've tried
to structure that UX club.

From the very beginning.

Lately I've tried to, I tried to
structure it in like a, in the

most logical, most kind of sensible
narrative that I possibly could.

And I think really that kind of
begins with firstly understanding the

problem that you're trying to solve.

I think I'd say I wouldn't have missed
it necessarily say there's like a

technical skill that you need to
learn, but I think it's an absolutely

kind of critical part of your design.

Kind of career and your, like your design,
like arsenal, if you will, is actually

understanding how I'm going to minute
what problem are we trying to solve here?

Have we dug and dug deep enough
to understand what that is?

If we'd done the five whys, if we
done gender Civ discovery workshops,

have we done all of those things?

Do we understand why
we're actually doing this?

Because half the work I see is just like,
well, we've just done it because we were

just told to do it, but we haven't really
like challenged it in any sort of way.

So the content new X club., I hope
your lessons will probably agree

that I've tried to structure it in a
way that started right there, right.

From the top, understanding what that is.

I think is a good place to start
other kind of technical skills that,

you know, get like going back to
your original question, Christian

is, is a lot of the technical skills.

I feel like a missing from most
designers that I bump into these days.

I just made a quick note of it.

And there is a module
on this in UX club.com.

it's about fidelity or like knowing
like what fidelity designed for and

when how's this, I've never seen
this it's so, so prevalent than I

have to know over the last few years,
designers just jumping straight into

high fidelity things because they
wanted to show something that's shiny.

They want to impress people.

They want to impress their peers.

They want to impress me.

They want to impress my boss.

They want to, you know, I don't know what.

The amount of people that I see do
that and the amount of time, it kind of

wastes, but just uses it is really tough.


And the amount that designers who don't
design from just basic sketches, even a

sketch in the back of a napkin, right?

You can still like offer like useful
constructive feedback and understand

the problem that you're trying to
solve and understand the solution

that you're providing a sketch on
the back of a napkin can do that.

I just don't see, it just
don't really see it anymore.

This is, which is jumping straight
to the, to the finish line adding

the icing on the cake before they've
even baked the cake, you know?

So I think more awareness of.

Of what fidelity is appropriate and win.

And, I kind of saw ages ago.

I think it's actually on that module
in my, in my course material there

there's a visualization of the kind of
different kind of visual layers that

you can add to your design depending
on what you want to actually learn.


So if you just want to learn about like
the basic kind of usability and the

basic problem that you're solving, you
could do something in low fidelity.

You could test.

Get it done by the the afternoon or
tomorrow morning or something like that.

But if you're testing that whole brand
experience and you're testing like their

kind of brand perception, then yes.


Then you need to add fidelity
and you need to kind of make it

shiny and do all of those things.

But understanding the difference between
the two is not, not a quality that I see

very much in the designers that I work.

Christian: Cool.

So we're nearing the end.

We're asking, or I'm asking
everyone at the end, the same

two questions I'll ask you.


First one is what is one soft skill that
you wish more designers would possess?

Ed: One soft skill.

Probably say listening.

I think that would probably
count for me as well.

You know, sometimes I'm a great listener.

Sometimes I'm a terrible listener
and, um, they just kind of book

dropping all over the place here,
but there's another fantastic.

But in short, basically, listeners
have heard a bit called the

coaching habit by Michael Stanier.

Michael . Right.

And he talks all about
avoiding the advice monster.

I read that book.

It really, really changed my kind of
perception of my understanding of coaching

and more focused on listening and more,
you know, the more you listen and the

more you ask questions, the more you're
going to get to the core of the problem.

And when you understand the problem
in its entirety, then you can offer

the most appropriate, relevant kind
of response since, so I say listening,

that's probably the biggest quality
that I think people would need.

Christian: And you are going to say
self-awareness cause you mentioned it

earlier and it goes to show you how
self-awareness cause you just yeah,

Ed: yeah, yeah, yeah.

There you go.


Yeah, yeah.

Listen, listening into self-awareness
do do, do more of all of those things.


Christian: The, I don't think anyone
has ever said, oh, this person is too

self-aware this person listens to, well,
now this is one of those that you can

never, you can never be too good at.

All right.

Last one.

What is one piece of advice that has
changed your career for the better?

Ed: Of course, that's
another great question.

And the first thing that Springs to
mind is something that an old colleague

of mine said to me a few years ago.

It's a quote from someone famous by,
I can't remember who it was, but the

quote is all problems with people.


When you, when you think about yourself,
if you're listening to this, you

think about yourself at work and using
like, God, this is really challenging.

Like this isn't going to plan.

What do you think the like, w
where do you think the crux or

the core of that problem is?

I bet you it's, it's just
relationships, people problems, right?

Because most people that
you work with, I think.

quite well-intended, but
expectations and things like that.

And kind of the relationships
that you have with these people

is where the work needs to happen.

And I think when you start understanding
people start getting on with people, you

understand why they're there why they do
what they do and how you can help them.

I'd like to say that most
of your problems will go.

But, but that's not totally
accurate, but I think, I think

you would get a much easier time.

So yeah, that's just, you know, that's
just always stuck with me all problems

with people, performance, really?

When you think about it and most
of the time, you know, all it takes

is something isn't working the
way it should, or expectations.

Aren't the line, just read.

Yeah, I'm kind of telling myself this
advice as well at the same time on this,

but, you know, I think it was just like
reach out and just talk to these people.


Just, just be like what's going on?

How can I help?

Like now let's do this a let you, you
probably both want the same things.

It's needs to chat about it.

Talk about it like real human beings.



Like we're supposed to.

Christian: And where can
people find more about you?

How can they get in touch with you?

Ed: Sure.


So my portfolio, I guess a Christian
will probably put it on this page,

but, um, my website is dot com.

You can reach out to me there.

If you want to email me directly, grab
some more advice, grab a second opinion

and anything more than welcome to do so
my email addresses, ed@edvinicombe com.

Otherwise you can always stalk me on
LinkedIn and Twitter handles both.

. Awesome.

Lovely to meet you at

Christian: this hour has just flown by.

So thank you so much for being part
of the design, uh, business journey.

Uh, appreciate you being here.

Awesome, man.

We'll speak soon.


Ed: Thanks Christian.


Christian: That's a wrap for today.

I hope you found this episode useful and
that you've learned something that you're

ready to implement at work tomorrow.

If you've enjoyed this.

It would mean the world to me,
if you'd share it with your

community, if you'd leave a review.

And of course, if you'd remember
to tune in for the next one, peace.

Creators and Guests

Christian Vasile
Christian Vasile
🎙️ Host & Growth Product Designer
Ed Vinicombe of BT on Running a Design Organisation and Building Relationships at Work
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