Great design is built on the foundation of understanding values (My first week at Google)
Values are a way to help create a future we desire. With hundreds of decisions being made on a daily basis, it can be easy to attach ourselves to a few things and disregard the rest. Values influence the kinds of decisions we make and how we make them in relation to a bigger purpose. They are guiding stars that help us grow and develop a focus on the things that are truly important.
As a UX designer, values are what allow me to prioritize the feedback I receive from peers, to align my design decisions with user needs, and to ultimately create a future that enhances people’s lives, within and outside of an organization. Values is the bigger picture to creating products that encompass the bigger goal and are what hold me accountable to design for people’s needs every step in the design process. Am I designing something that is simple, useful and delightful? What kind of interactions exist in that experience?
Last week was the first week I started Google and to say that I learned a lot is an understatement. What really stuck me amongst the copious amounts of information was Google’s aspirations, products and their culture, a.k.a values.
Here are some personal tips I gathered on my first week from orientation surrounding how Google’s values shape its culture, the quality of work and the people who create it. By understanding values, it gives me encouragement to go in a direction that resonates with me or how I can apply those values to my design work.
You are empowered to do more than what is considered typically possible in an organization
Google emphasizes the amount of responsibility we have and that our decisions have the potential to affect billions of users. To widen our perspective and create products that have the power to inspire users and enable them to take action in their everyday lives, we have many resources that can help us. This can be taking classes, participating in clubs and solving big problems we are passionate about. Every employee has 20% of designated time they can use to dedicate time to work on a passion project.
Think big. Act small. Stay humble.
As employees are empowered to challenge the status quo and help others, this principle is also applied to the kinds of products we create. Our goal is to create products that help you work and play, stay organized, get answers, keep in touch, grow your business, and so much more. Google Search enables users to easily find the knowledge they want, Google Photos provides intelligent methods of organizing and storing photos so you don’t have to, etc.
Though I am encouraged to do big things, it’s important to remember where I came from and that I worked hard to get to where I are now. I am grateful to be in a position where I am given lots of responsibility on how I dictate my growth but how I can help others grow too.
If you need anything, your team is here for you
We only succeed when others succeed. I deeply believe in this value because when we support each other, it encourages us to continuously learn and challenge ourselves. This can come in different forms such as sharing your knowledge, providing constructive feedback on other people’s work in design reviews, creating/updating documentations and acknowledging your peers when they do something awesome.
This past week, I have seen e-mail threads of my design co-workers exchanging information, resources and having discussions, perpetuating the “Googley” culture. I need to remember that I am not alone and that everyone at Google is to support, learn and grow together.
Inclusivity is making people feel like they belong and that they are supported.
I also had my first 1:1 with my manager and one of the first things he said was that the team is here for me. He provided me reassurance when I was feeling overwhelmed and that he understood.
I need to remember that my manager and co-workers were once new to the company and that they probably had the same feelings as me starting out.
Life balance is important even when important things are happening
When I start out in a new place, I easily have a tendency to get overwhelmed because there are so many things to do before I even start work. For others, it can be easy to get to work because you are really eager, but from recent experience if you don’t take care of yourself, then it will be hard to consistently do work you feel good about because you don’t feel good. I recently have been trying to take better care of my overall health (check out my tips here).
You will always have work, but doing that work is futile if you don’t have energy or health to do it.
When I had my 1:1 with my manager, he kept emphasizing the importance of work- life balance, or what my teams calls it: work-life harmony. My manager told me that there won’t be a time where work and life are perfectly “balanced”, but it is a matter of being aware of how you feel and making the arrangements to de-stress if needed.
You are the steward of your own growth
Google is a flat organization and what this means is that there are few to no barriers between managers and staff level employees. As a result, there is less supervision from the organization, but increases your involvement in driving the decision making process. As a designer, this means making decisions on how I want users to navigate through an experience and the change of behavior that can occur after it.
At Google, employees are given lots of ownership to manage and control their careers. I was given lot of resources that I can decide to use to further my skills and it is ultimately up to me to decide how to utilize them.
In regards to design projects, based on my experiences from different internships, no one is going to tell you what to do or when you need to check in with someone. All of those details of when or how to get feedback is up to you. This is different from school in that you are given a set brief with the requirements and constraints to meet, but at work, you are going to need to gather information and create those metrics on your own. In other words, as well as driving your growth, you are driving your projects. With design, you are facilitating experiences that have the potential to affect the way people interact and do their work.
Here are some general tips I gathered from other employees at Google which I think are helpful in owning your project/career growth:
- Be visible- communicate! Over communicate
- Don’t be passive, volunteer to work on projects or tasks you find compelling
- Define and drive new projects or tasks
- Try new things/experiment
- Expect to break things (I don’t completely agree with this but I would preferably want to “break” things before product launch, to make sure that my solution doesn’t exclude users/aligns with the values of existing products)
- Keep learning
- Have fun
Given the amount of information I still have to process, I have begun to start prioritizing on the things that ensure me to keep a clear head and focus on work. This has come in the form of bookmarking resources that I can go back to and organizing notes surrounding things I need to do, goals and references related to work.
I have easily found that because there is so much information at Google, you aren’t able to make use of everything. An example is e-mails. Yesterday I found myself spending more time than expected reading through e-mails because everything seemed so informative and helpful. Because I knew that I could potentially get swamped in e-mails for hours, I started deleting e-mails that don’t serve me to prevent clutter in my inbox moving forward.
As a Googler just starting out, it is hard to know where, let alone how to start. There is so much rich information to take in and apply to my personal life and daily work. Putting aside the work, I wanted to emphasize the power of values and the significance of letting yourself get familiar with a new environment before taking off.
Values allow us to trust one another and work together.
For anyone starting out in their first job, by letting yourself get familiar with how things work, you develop a solid foundation to inform the decisions you make and explore the possibilities to do work that drives you rather than deep-diving into your first project. If you want to make big impact, you need to build credibility by taking on smaller tasks and succeeding on those. One of those steps is understanding and observing how values shape the decisions people make and how it is conveyed through the products.