Aside from objective skills and work experience, I genuinely believe that in order for a group of people to work well, the ground-level principles must be, at least, in rough sync. In agreement with what Henry James Garrett argues in "This Book Will Make You Kinder" ⎯ what a sweet read, by the way ⎯ we need to explicitly lay out our fundamental root beliefs.

In doing what I preach, here are a few of the work-oriented principles that have guided me through opportunities, and challenges, helping me to position myself in this industry today.

Be a generalist

I genuinely believe that the trend of very specific roles we've been seeing over the past few years is slowly falling through the cracks. It makes the inherently fluid and multi-disciplinary process of building products waterfall-ish, which inhibits creative discussion, creates overwhelming dependencies, and reinforces not helpful authority hierarchies.

Products built by designers able to own an entire discovery-to-delivery process, without restricting themselves to get into topics x or y simply because it's "not their role", have a much higher chance of being high quality. Teams who employ very detailed roles (e.g. "UX Strategist" and "product designer", "software architect" and "software engineer", etc.) lose a rather significant time discussing the conceptual differences between these made-up ramifications instead of encouraging individuals to engage in the creative process end-to-end.

As with anything, there's nuance. It's somewhat bad, and impractical, to answer multiple different topics with the same level of confidence. So, within a certain field, generalism thrives, a lot ⎯ be it in product development as a whole (software, design, product), music (multi-instrumentalist musicians), etc.

Seek self-sufficiency

There's an important gotcha to this one, which is that we are not self-sufficient. We're deeply social animals and we depend on others to keep going. However, the pursuit of it enables so many positive outcomes that even despite its inherent impossibility, it's worth keeping on it:

  • It makes us try really hard before reaching for help. It encourages breaking out of our comfort zone and/or assigned role to accomplish by ourselves a task.
  • It helps expand our generalism, as said above.
  • It reduces depencencies.
  • It helps us value someone else's skills as we realize how much we need their help and how much effort they've put to master it. Tangentially, it shortens our ego and exercises our humbleness.

Generally, seeking self-sufficiency is a tool to personally grow and to better empathize and recognize how others enable us to live and do the things we want to do.

Be the conductor

Instead of owning something ⎯ a solution, a product, or a process ⎯ I rather conduct it. It can seem as if it's just a slight rephrasing but it honestly has had a significant impact on the way I view the product development process.

The practice of seeing yourself as a conductor is purely a tool to help others around you, working and collaborating with you, to feel the often said ownership too. It fosters an environment where folks engage because they really care about creating something that will be representative of who they are. Honestly, I have often felt that the concept of ownership is just too hard to allow that ⎯ it usually separates people instead of bringing them together.

Don't get me wrong, I know that ownership is absolutely important and have learned the hard way that the lack of it creates a lot of trouble. The conduct reframing is still acknowledging that while making room for shared ownership of collectively developed solutions.

What did you think about this article?

Did you find any typos? Did something specific get your attention? Are you curious about something I went over superficially? If yes, drop me a note somewhere! I'll be happy to connect with you.