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Wal Gedeon: Product Design Lead at VMWare Tanzu Labs

Wal Gedeon joins us for this episode of Digitally Diverse. Wal shares his career journey from teaching himself design skills to becoming a delivery lead at VMware Tanzu Labs. He started with a background in product design and worked at companies like Woolies X and Goodlife Health Clubs. Wal then expanded into UI and UX design by taking courses at General Assembly. He also completed some product management training to become more well-rounded. Now at Tanzu Labs, Wal manages projects and coaches enterprise clients on building software. He discusses how Tanzu Labs helps solve modernization issues for companies undergoing digital transformation across various industries. Throughout his career, Wal has honed his skills in design, product development, and delivery leadership.

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Please note: this transcript has been automatically generated and may contain some errors. 

Thank you so much for joining us for another episode of Digitally Diverse, part of the new Tech People podcast, where we do a deep dive into the careers of some of Australia’s best designers. So today we have the privilege of having Wal Jardon. Did I say that right? Wal Zardan is fine.

Yeah. Well, is a product design leader and delivery lead for VMware at Tampzoo Labs. Thank you so much for joining us.

Thank you. Thank you for having me. Thank you so much.

So I would just love to dive straight in, and I am really curious to get a bit of an overview of your career to date, your journey today. Can you fill us in? Yeah, I mean, my career right now is being a dad. I’m on paternity leave, so.

Which has been. Thank you for inviting us in, by the way. No, thank you.

My partner, she’s taking care of our little girl while we have this chat, but no, thanks for having me. So, God, where do I start? Do I do the long version or short version? Go, go long, go long, go long. Give us the short story long.

Yeah, maybe I’ll start at the now and work my way backwards and you can cut me off when we. If I ran for too long. So.

Okay, where am I now? So I’m with VMware Tanzu Labs at the moment. My role is delivery lead. So I help run the business, work with our teams, our customers on a variety of wicked problems.

We can dig into that a little bit later, but my background is primarily in design before my role as a delivery lead, product designer, so I spent quite a few years doing that at Tanzu Labs, working in product design before moving into this sort of leadership role. So working with customers, working on a wide variety of industries and different products. So full stack, everything from user research all the way through to sort of the more detailed interaction design and delivery and iterating and stuff like that.

Over the last few years have been trying to become a little bit more t shaped. So diving into product management as well where I can and where the opportunities arose, which has just been an amazing, amazing journey because I just love building stuff, love creating experiences, love building products, getting feedback, talking to people, hearing about their problems. And yeah, I’ve been with labs in Australia for about.

God, it’s coming up to three years now, I think prior to that I was at Woolies X, so I had a little bit of a pit stop. So I’ve done two stints with labs, but in between those stints I was at Woolies X. So I had the privilege of working with the online fulfillment team.

So Tren and co over there in the teams that take care of everything. Post someone making an online order. Had a great time there while I was in Sydney.

So I’m back in Brisbane now, working remotely with my team. But I was in Sydney for a bit and got to work on the picking app that the Woolies team uses, which was super fun. So you see the people walking around with the green carts in the Woolies stores.

I helped redesign that app for that team, which was amazing. And then before that was at labs in London. So I started over there in 2019.

I think you and I might have been in London around the same time. Possibly. Probably a bit of a crossover there.

Yeah, something like that. And, yeah, that sort of been the last. God, how ever since that’s around 2019.

So last sort of three or four years of what I’ve been up to before that, I led design over at good life health clubs, so was in the health and fitness space for a bit. Definitely touching all of the spectrum of design in that role. So everything from digital through to campaign content creation, just the whole.

Everything you could possibly do, so. And then, I mean, before that, I don’t. I don’t know how deep down the rabbit hole you want to go, but probably one of the biggest things that I did sort of alongside design all of the years was.

So the last 20 odd years, worked as a dj as well and wrote music. So, yeah, I’ve really tasted the rainbow of jobs. I’ve worked in nightclubs, I’ve been a chef, I’ve been an accountant’s assistant.

I’ve done all of the bits, but now I’ve somehow found my way into digital product, which I absolutely love. Love that. I think when you have a background in other fields and other industries, you can really pick and choose what kind of learnings you then take into your current job.

Right? Yeah, 100%. 100%. You’re getting little snippets along the way that you’re bringing to the next bit, into the next bit.

And, yeah, it’s all kind of contributing to where I am now, so it’s great. Yeah. Well, I’d love to hear a little bit more about Tanzu Labs.

Can you fill us in on your current role there at the moment? I know that you’re on leave right now, but I’d love to hear what kind of problems you solve with them. Yeah, of course. I’ll give you the pitch.

Like the not too salesy pitch, but, yeah, Tanzu Lab. So we’ve been around for about 30 odd years where originally we’re pivotal labs. I think maybe some of the audience might remember us as pivotal.

But now we’ve been rebranded to Tanzu Labs as part of VMware. Essentially, we’re a software development consultancy. So we work with large organizations to solve wicked problems in the digital space and build software.

The unique thing about what we do is that we work with our customers to build software together. So we do this blended model of delivery and enablement. So customer has, we’ve got this product we want to transform or rebuild.

We’ll work with their team, not just to build it, but to kind of coach them on our way of building software, taking all our methodologies and practices and really getting them to think a little bit differently, which is cool. So, you know, we work with everywhere, from everyone from enterprise, you know, healthcare, government, fintech, even non for profit. We do a real broad mix.

So mostly large enterprise organizations. And my role as a delivery lead now was a designer in the team, but moved into a leadership role. So I more at the business level.

So I sort of work with our customers as we start to get them to come work with us, so talk to them about their problems. Having a designer background is amazing for that because that’s what I love to do as a designer. It’s like, what’s the problem? What’s it worth? Should we solve this problem? Is there another one that we should solve? So talking to customers, finding opportunities for us to work with them together as well as kind of managing those projects with the team, so managing them with the customers and the team on making sure they’re successful.

Hey, what’s blocking us? What’s stopping us, how things, what’s going well and then all the way through to like, managing teams. So I’ve got a few reports. I work with a couple of software engineers, also manage a few of our, I manage most of our product management practice here in ANZ.

And yeah, that’s mostly my day to day. From a problems perspective, a lot of us like, at the moment has been a lot of like, application transformation or modernization. So maybe a company’s got a, or an organization has got like some old, old software or some old tech, and it’s just not doing the job that it needs to do.

It’s slow, poor user experience. It’s hard to make changes or ship new features because of the way it’s been built or it’s been around for so long. So a lot of time we’re working with them to kind of rebuild, redesign those things in a lean and iterative way so they can get the new bits into the users and they can go, hey, this works, or it doesn’t work and we can change or we can keep delivering and stuff like that.

So yeah, really, really fun work. Really challenging. Like wicked problems, like really challenging things.

But I think that what’s, that excites me and the team about what we do. So hopefully that wasn’t too salesy. No, no, that was a really great overview.

And I mean, do you folks work mostly with like larger, like enterprise sized businesses or is there a bit of a range with that? In my experience, it’s been mostly with larger organizations. So most of the people we work with are organizations. So are like enterprise, maybe ASX listed or government organizations.

So really big, big orgs. But at the same time, I’ve also done some non for profit work as well. Well, so work with a very small organization.

I’ll give you an example. Healthy heads. They’re a non for profit that helps the wellbeing of truck drivers and logistics workers in Australia.

And I help build an app to try and help those people manage their stress and wellbeing and health and stuff like that, so. But the majority of who we work with are those sort of larger organizations, though. Yeah.

Cool. And yeah, what a great initiative. And you mentioned that you started with them when you were over in the UK.

Like, what was the main reason why you wanted to come back after you were at Woolies X? I wouldn’t have left if COVID hadn’t even hit. Right. I think we would have probably stayed there and we just came back to Australia to be closer to family through all of those things.

What brought me back when I came back originally was to start to be a bit more of a switch hitter. So product design, product management. So I wanted to do a little bit more and my manager at the time was like, hey, I’ll find some opportunities so you can flex into the PM space too, which just satisfies my need for learning and growth and doing different things.

As you mentioned, I’ve done a lot of stuff over the years and I still like to be a generalist that that’s what brought me back. But just also the people, we’ve got an amazing culture. You know, the, the folks that I work with, the team are just brilliant.

Like, they’re very, very, very good at what they do, but they’re just good people, too. And I really, not saying that anyone else that I was working with weren’t, but I think that’s what just drew me back was that culture, you know, we follow these principles of, you know, do the right thing, keep it simple, and always be kind. And everyone lives by that every day, especially that, always be kind.

And I think that’s just one of the reasons. But also consulting, I guess, as a consultant, you get to do a lot of different things, which is good because you get to, you know, you have diversity and range and variety of what you’re working in. Maybe don’t get to see everything through to its maturity like you do when you’re working in an organization like Woolies, etcetera.

But, God, there’s just so many reasons. But you’re glad I made the decision. And amazing support as a new dad.

You know, I’ve been on paternity leave now for about ten weeks, so. Which is just, you know, really amazing. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Oh, that’s great. So what does a typical project look like for you folks? Oh, God, so many different ways to answer question. Yeah, loaded question.

Maybe I can give you an example of, like, what. I guess an ideal scenario, I guess, for us is, and we’re pretty versatile, but the way we structure our teams, like, we follow that balance. Team model.

The tripod, I think, is you’re seeing a lot more in the industry. So rather than team sizes, you know, we have product designers or product designer, product manager, and a couple of software engineers. So tripod of roles, you know, feasibility, viability, you know, desirability.

And we would work with a client in that same model. So say we were working on redesigning a podcasting app like the one we’re using right now. Maybe it’s old and it’s slow and it doesn’t work.

The company that we were working with, we, you know, they bring a PM, a designer, and some software engineers, and we would work in, like, a pairing model. So two PM’s trying to solve a problem together, two designers, four engineers working in pairs, and we would just run at the problem together. So we’re doing that combination of building something so the context is shared between both the client and us.

So we’re not, you know, I think traditional consulting, where we build the thing and we go, here, go, here’s the thing. And they’re like, well, hang on a second. How do we get here? And how do the bits work under here, where we want to make sure the IP is there and they have that context so they can continue the work? So, yeah, that’s normally how we would staff a project, but it depends on the problem we’re trying to solve.

Like, if it’s more technical, it might be more PM engineering led. Maybe the customer doesn’t have a design team. They’re still building out that practice.

So we might help them hire designers. Maybe they don’t have a product management function, so they bring, more often than not they’ll bring a subject matter expert. So someone that has a lot of context about the problem space, maybe they’re in operations and they learn to be a product manager.

Software developers generally come from a software development background, but yeah, that’s generally how we work. And then depending on the technology that we’re building, whatever is we just kind of run out of the problem and try and find the simplest path to get a bit of value into, you know, the user’s hand so they can use it and the business can actually reap rewards. So.

But yeah, it is a bit of a loaded question because it totally depends. Totally depends. Yeah, definitely on the, on the client, on the project, I guess on the timeline as well.

And you mentioned before as well that there is, you know, obviously the build aspect of what you folks do, but then also like working with and teaching the client and working with the client on how to best roll it out and how to utilize it. Can you tell us a little bit how that works for you guys? Yeah, I mean, the simplest way of talking about it is that we follow this, I guess, process of. I do, we do.

You do. When we work together with customers and when a lot of them come in with a lot of great experience. Right.

You know, they just, you know, they’ve been doing it for a long time, particularly designers. You know, they come in there, they’re quite, you know, they’ve been doing it for a while. They.

Nobody ux, no UI research. But in those scenarios, I guess we try and do a little bit of I do, which is just showing like our way of doing it and trying something a little bit different. A lot of the time it just comes down to mindset change.

But we might show them how we would do something and so they can kind of see it, particularly if it’s someone new. And then as they feel confident they’ve seen it, sort of seen how we do things and we start to, you know, get something going or start deliver something, we would maybe work into a more of a. We do.

So we play a bit of a co pilot pilot role. So as an example, I’ll use design as an example. So we’ve kicked off an engagement and, or a project and we’re doing user research.

Maybe I’d run or one of my designers would lead the user research session. So they’d be the one running the interviews to kind of show best practices. And then maybe after a couple of user interviews, like, hey, how do you feel confident about running that interview yourself? And then they would play the lead researcher role in the, we know one of our team would play the sort of the co parlor role, the supporting, and then they’d be there to give feedback.

And then the goal is by the end is that person can do the you do where they’re just leading and then they can teach other people. Like, that’s the ideal scenario. I mean, it’s different for everyone.

Some people are way more down the, down the path as far as their experience goes, but then some people a little bit more green. So it really depends. But yeah, that’s generally how we do.

It’s like, we’ll show you a little bit how we do it. Hey, do you want to have a try of doing it this way? Keep doing stuff? And then the ideal scenario is like, they can be confident doing that thing and then hopefully coach other people within their organization about those things. Yeah, I do hear quite a lot that one part of consulting is actually the build and, you know, figuring out the solution, but then also another problem is the client and the end users actually going to pick it up.

So that implementation of like, getting them involved throughout the whole process, I feel like, would be a really great way to just get that onboarding really, really seamless and being able to almost have an evangelist on your side from the get go 100%. And I think I’ve written a few articles about this as well. Like, it’s not just, you mentioned, like, people being onboarded and involved in the process, you know, and that’s not the design of the designing the thing.

One thing is all about the whole team getting involved in that process. So engineers sitting in a user research interview session, listening in, hearing the, hearing the problems that they’re trying to, you know, that they’re having in their day to day with the way they currently do things, because when they’re actually developing, they kind of, they really get what they’re actually working on and why they’re doing it and have that sense of ownership. And often, honestly, sometimes when it comes to ideation, the engineers are the ones that are coming in and have some of the best ideas.

It’s having all of the customer team or all of the team involved in that process contributing end to end. So, yeah, really, we’re a really big advocate for that. Is it isn’t sort of the big boss saying, build this thing.

It’s like, hey, everybody contribute and work through it together and let the users kind of inform the direction of where things go. Yeah, no, I think that’s a really great way of doing things. I guess.

I would love to kind of take a step back for my next question in that I’d love to hear a bit more of your education background. Did you go to university or how did you kind of land yourself in this tech world? Oh, I love to. I love telling this story because it’s, it’s so not, I feel like it’s the most non traditional path to product design that anyone’s ever taken.

But, um. But maybe it’s not, not so uncommon. So, as I mentioned before, like, before design, I did a lot of djing and so basically running my own business.

And so part of that was, you know, you’ve got to wear so many hats, you’ve got to be the accountant, you know, you got to do, to be the bookkeeper, you’ve got to be the booking agent, you got to be the marketing person. And I ended up just starting designing my own flyers in Photoshop. Like, really badly.

Like, really, really badly. Yeah. Yeah.

But, um, in the early days was very self taught. So a lot of the stuff I would do is, you know, I was doing posters in word or paint or something like that to market myself. But then at some point, I felt like I wanted to transition a little bit more into design because I’d actually picked up a little bit of side work from a design perspective.

But it wasn’t, um, and I still felt I was missing some of the fundamentals. So my first foray into, like, higher education was I went to Shillington. Do you know Shillington College? Yep, yep.

Graphic design? Yeah. Yes. I jumped into brand.

So I did. They have an amazing three month visual design. I think it’s a certificate of design.

So I did that very intense, like, all day, every day for three months, non stop. So, um, I did that a lot of sleepless nights. Well worth the money, though.

And that really gave me the good baseline foundations to kind of take what I was doing before and put a little bit of structure to it. And then from there went into working in brand design. You know, that’s where I ended up at Goodlife health clubs.

And, and then as I moved, doing a little bit more digital stuff, started to, again, self taught, play around with tools like sketch and, and whatnot. I mean, if we went all the way back, I could say I was a developer recoding my MySpace pages back in the day. Yeah, OG days.

The OG days. Adding a background. Yeah, adding a background, you know, like, you know, trying to move stuff around the page, make my top friends look good.

I’m there with you. I remember that. Yeah, we were all there.

All there. And then. Yeah, when I moved more into, so as I’ve moved here from sort of more generalist design into UI design and into you know, full stack product general assembly.

So I did a six week intensive at GA for UX as well as a ton of things on, I mean, YouTube videos. I read a lot of articles and then from there, what else have I done over the years? God, did some courses with reforge in product management as well to kind of expand my skills there. And even the most recent thing I did was the DMBA course, which is a business, business design course.

So it’s, yeah, the business side of design. So more around, you know, the numbers and the, and the viability of solutions, which was kind of almost that middle ground between product and design. You know, like if we build this thing, what does it actually do? Is it worth building that kind of stuff? So, yeah.

Cool. Yeah, lots of stuff. Lots of like different immersives and I mean, three months is probably, it felt like a long time, I’m sure, but like shorter ish courses compared to like a three or four year degree, is that something that you would recommend to people wanting to get more into design or tech or would you, would you do things differently if you had the choice? I think it worked well for me.

I found when it comes to me learning, like there’s a sort of structure that works really well for me. So I prefer like in person content or video content over, over read material or reading material, being able to practice and apply quickly within, you know, hours or days of learning the thing worked perfectly for me. So those intensive and immersives, but also too, I think, and I’ve got a little bit of a short attention span at times.

So, you know, doing those short burst courses, I think were they just work well for myself. But other, everyone’s got things, you know, things that are different. Yeah, yeah.

I mean I’ve tried other immersives. Like before I tried design. I went and tried to do a developer bootcamp through, I think it was thankful many moons ago, but to realize that, one, I was never going to be a software developer, and two, doing that the way they structure their content wasn’t for me because it wasn’t visual, it wasn’t you know, delivered in person was very, you know, you had to read through a lot of stuff before applying things.

So would I do anything differently? Probably not. I think what I liked about the way I approached it was I did little bits and I wasn’t committing to, like, years and then suddenly realizing, which I know a lot of friends have done, they’re like, I did a three year degree and I don’t actually want to do the thing that I studied. That would be my advice for anyone, is if you try, if you’re thinking about maybe switching across, taste the rainbow a little bit.

Like, do little bits here, you know, like, these things are becoming quite inexpensive, right? Even udemy and those places you can do a six hour thing to kind of just taste what it’s like to what it would be to be a designer or product manager or software engineer. So, yeah, I feel like the range of content that is available now, and you can very easily, you’re right, even just on YouTube, like, get a taste of what it would entail and then kind of make your mind up from there. But, yeah, I think as well, it sounds to me like you are very aware with what your learning style is, which I feel like since I talked to many people on the podcast, it seems like once most people feel like they know how they best learn and how they engage with any kind of education, learning material, it makes things so much easier because you can kind of streamline how you pick up things and figure out how it works best for you.

I’m very much a visual person myself, but I do like written. I’m more of a reading person, more so than what sounds like you are. So that, I mean, and uni was really great for me.

I feel like I did really well in like, a tertiary degree. But also there is definitely some merit in some of those shorter, shorter courses as well. Yeah, no, I wholeheartedly agree.

I think, too, because that experimental approach, you know, do a little bit and then go, okay, well, what’s next? You know, what did I learn from that thing that I did and do? I want to continue. You think about the t shaped skillset of somebody. Take design as an example.

Maybe your core competency is interaction design. That’s your jam. You love designing screens, UI design systems, but then you do a little bit of user research, and maybe you’re a little bit on the strategic side.

But if in the early days, maybe do a short UX research course and a short UI course or a short product strategy thing, and you kind of work out, like, which one do I want to dive a bit deeper and become a little bit more of an expert in before trying to be an expert at all of the things and all going down one path and going, you know what I mean? I get it. I do it, but I don’t enjoy it. Or I like doing it, but I don’t get it.

You know, those kind of things. That’s. That’s what I loved about that short form learning is like, you get a little bit of a taste for it, you can apply it, and then you realize, you know what? I don’t want to do it.

Actually, I’d have no joy in this thing day to day, and I can focus on the thing that I really want to enjoy. I think that’s super important, because if you’re going to spend all that time doing something, why bother doing something that you really don’t like or really enjoy doing? So. Mm hmm.

I think I respect people a lot more when they actually do realize, oh, actually, that’s not what I thought it was going to be. I don’t gel with this as much as what I thought I would. I feel like there’s a lot of merit in standing up and saying, well, I was wrong, move on to the next thing and not get, like, super hung up on it and try and keep going with it just because you don’t want to say you were wrong.

Yeah. Yeah. It’s like designing the feature that you realize that actually isn’t going to work and keeping continuing to design that there’s just no point because it’s not going to work.

It’s so much easier just to be like, oh, yeah, it’s my bad. Yeah, fail fast, right? Fail fast and quickly. I’m curious as well.

Was there a particular, like, catalyst or a moment in time where you realized, oh, yeah, product is where I want to be, or, like, more technical side of things is where I want to be. Is there, like, a light bulb moment for you? I mean, design in general, this is a really, really weird one. So the transition design came when I was, I was actually living in Thailand.

Cool. One summer. How many countries have you lived in? Not as many.

I sound a lot more travel than I am, actually. So I was, a mate of mine was running a nightclub in Thailand, and he was like, hey, I need a dj for the summer. Do you want to come? And I went over there, and I met all of these digital nomads, and that was the kind of catalyst into design.

I was like, this could give me a lot more flexibility with what I want to do. So I’m going to go and try and do that. And going forward into, like, product design, I think what I realized at one point was, I mean, I love brand and I love, I see the value in that as part of the product.

Right. You know, branding, marketing, all those things. Absolutely love it because you’re designing communication, you’re designing a story, but so much, so much of it just gets chucked in the bin.

You know, you design a flyer and it’s like, hey, someone read it and it just, it just gets chucked away. So as I realized, like, hey, I can design this thing that evolves and changes over time and you can, you can learn quickly if it’s not going to work and move to the next thing and it can, you know, can, it can grow. That’s really what drove me to moving into more digital space because like I said, I loved designing what I was designing, but it just, you know what I mean? Like, their products evolve over time.

A flyer is a flyer and that it’s not a flyer or a brand is a brand and it can continue through time, but then maybe that didn’t work and there’s all this throwaway stuff in there. So I think that was one of the kind of drivers. But I guess also the impact, too, like, moving into something that was really changing people’s lives.

I mean, the brand stuff I was doing was definitely life changing because there was a lot around, like, people’s health. But, yeah, the digital products, like, hey, you could save someone time that allowed them to spend more time with their family or, you know, somebody that had a, you know, has some kind of disability or challenge and just made their life a little bit easier. I think that’s the impact, the potential impact that digital products can bring, especially, like, these days.

Like, there’s an app for everything, right? An app for everything to make you better or your life better or make things easier for you, especially if you’re having a really tougher average time, so. Good. Yeah, that was a long winded answer, but hopefully that made sense.

Yeah. What I’m hearing is, like, more of, like, the print and traditional design that you were doing was great, but also you felt like it was used and then it was done. Where you’re right.

Like, the digital design is so much more of an iterative process where it’s constantly improving and constantly figuring out new problems and then solving them at the same time. It’s like, yeah, it’s, it’s growing. Yeah, the products grow over time.

So that said, though, like, I thoroughly enjoyed the stuff I did from a brand perspective, because that’s a lot more storytelling. I found on that side of things where this is more like functional things that people use as an extension of themselves rather than reading a story. I think that that’s the kind of just obsessed with productivity and all those kind of things.

So I just, yeah, thoroughly enjoy it. Nice. And I guess is that storytelling piece and that problem solving piece, is that one of the main motivations for you in your career, or do you have anything else that really lights you up and inspires you? Yeah, I think from a work perspective, delivering that impact to those people in some way, shape or form, people that I work with, the people that were helping, think differently or do something differently, maybe they choose to do it that way or they don’t.

Or delivering that something to the person, the end user, right. That goes, wow. Or like, I’m so much more.

Less stressed or, you know, my life’s a little bit easier. What else lights me up? I mean, my family does, right? I’ve got my dad with two very, very young kids, and my son’s actually started saying this thing. He never gives me an answer, but he goes, I’ve got an idea.

I love hearing him say that because as a product designer, I’m like, what’s the idea? But he never tells me. I don’t know if he knows what that word actually. Oh, that’s so sweet.

He must have picked it up from somewhere. Yeah, probably. Probably for me, I’ve got.

I’m probably constantly telling my partner about different ideas. So, yeah, God, I just. So many different things.

Like, yeah, I think at the moment, you know, just seeing the impact, you know, of the work we do and the positive change, especially when you get to work on something that is really helping people that are having a really tough time. Yeah, that’s. I think that’s what really kind of gets me going.

But seeing people will have a great experience. Like, you know, designers, we create experiences, you know, and people getting joy out of using those things, whether it’s to save time or to make them happier or make them less sad. My next question is sometimes a bit of.

A. Bit of an interesting one. I’m curious if you have any, like, major challenges or speed bumps throughout your time, throughout your career.

Is there anything that comes to mind? Oh, God. Earlier in my career, maybe a couple of examples. Like, one was working on a product.

We’d run our user research, and then we’re like, four or five weeks into development, and then suddenly this new person appears, and we’re like, yeah, we’ve been working on something like that. Similar. Then all of a sudden, you’re like, how did I miss that? How did I not realize that? Or talking to one set of users about a particular problem and then someone explaining that it’s not actually as much of a problem as you think it is.

Definitely earlier in my career, I had a couple of light bulb moments. There was like, you got it wrong. You know, you got it wrong.

But you. You need to learn from those experiences, because at that moment in time, especially when it’s you and other people, you’ve made a decision. You made the decision with the information that you had on hand, and you did what you did with what you knew at the time.

You know, like, that’s the retro saying. Like, you did the best you could with the information they had in front of you. But those are gut wrenching moments, especially when you’re, you know, you’re.

You’re working with other people’s money to build something, right? You’re like, oh, my God, how did I. How did I miss that? But you got to learn from those things, because it happens, and I know a lot of people that it’s happened to. Where I remember I was chatting to someone, this isn’t my story, but another friend can’t remember the company they’re working for, but they were building a product.

And then someone else in the company, like, this is a massive organization. There was another team building the same thing. Like, and so they’re, like, in the middle of building this thing.

So it’s like, there’s these stakeholders that are not sort of communicating as well. So. But I think you just learn from those things and kind of do a bit of a retrospective and go, okay, well, what did I do that kind of maybe have.

Would have changed the path? You know, you just got to be willing to learn and embrace those frustrating moments, those gut wrenching moments, like, what did I do? Where could I have done better and not stew on it? Because, I mean, no one died. You just had to learn, and you just kind of, you know, you pivoted. Luckily, it wasn’t three years worth of work before we found that thing out.

It was only weeks. Thank God. Yeah, that would have been, I think.

Yeah. Something. And it is something that you do learn over time, right? Is realizing that, you know, as soon as you kind of uncover a mistake or realize that, you know, something’s not right here, it’s so much better just to rip the band aid off in that moment and just like, acknowledge it and you’re right.

Move on. Pivot instead of trying to push it, because. Yeah, that’s very counterproductive.

Yeah, no, 100%, I think. No, you’re right. I think another example, too was I was talking to someone about this the other day.

I was working on a product. I was very opinionated about a particular part of the design, about a particular interaction. The other members of the team were like, hey, you know, we think it’s going to work this way.

And I was like, nah, I’m the designer. I know best. This is how it works on all my other apps.

This is how it is and we’re going to do it. And, you know, I was right. Like, the users got it, but the problem that it caused was like, the other team was like, I didn’t feel like I was being heard.

You weren’t listening to our opinions. And I had this real, this moment where I was like, I know I got the design right, but actually what I got wrong was the people side of the work. Yeah, I think one of the learnings was like, you could be so opinionated about your thing and, you know, you’re right, but you’re still going to go and validate it with users.

But other people have opinions too, and they need to be heard, and also they need to be, they need to see that what they thought was not the right approach too, because there’s a learning in that itself. So, yeah, I think I learned quite quickly then was you need to make sure everyone feels included and that create that inclusive environment and that psychological safety where everyone can contribute and feel heard because it was actually like the product was very successful. But my relationship with other team members was tainted, was tarnished a little bit because of that.

So learned very quickly to make sure that let everyone be heard. And if you need to go and test something with users because someone really feels strongly about it, then that’s okay, because you might be wrong yourself. Don’t be too opinionated.

Even though you might think you are right, you can always be wrong. So, yeah, be humble in that respect. That’s super important for everyone, not just designers.

Yeah, I feel like that’s applicable to lots of other jobs. Let the data speak for itself and, you know. Yeah, yeah, love that.

So is there anything that you like to do regularly for, like, productivity or self care, especially at the moment when I’m sure you’re very busy at the moment? Like, probably one of the biggest thing that I’m prioritizing or biggest things I’m prioritizing is just my health. I find that because my work, most people that work in this industry, it’s very brain intensive, right. Thinking intensive.

And the thing that helps out the most is exercise. And I sort of went through a period where that was deprioritized and maybe not by choice. It was just, you know, I had to choose the things, you know, a couple of young kids.

But that’s probably one of the biggest things, like the self care, because it helps my motivation, my productivity. So finding time during the day to move my body, maybe meditate, just discover this awesome app called open that I’ve been trying out. There’s, like, breath work and meditation and especially sitting at my desk and, like, making sure my body is not stiff at the end of the day.

So, yeah, really trying to prioritize that, because I know when I’m not prioritizing that things become stressful or just a little bit overwhelming at times. So I think that’s one thing I’ve noticed that, you know, having. If I can have a meeting while I’m walking, like a walk and talk with for some meetings, like, hey, let’s get on the phone and get outside, or can I sneak in that ten minutes between those two meetings? Can I get on the floor and, like, you know, do some hip stretches or something like that? So just making sure that I can do that in there.

And that just feeds into motivation and productivity, I think, like, it just creates that space. Yeah, very cliche. But it’s.

It’s so true. I mean, yeah, there’s a reason why it’s a cliche, right? Is because it is important and it does work. And I guess you being a dad with a young family, I’m assuming that takes up most of your spare time, but is there anything else that you like to do on your days off or get up to? I mean, if you had.

If the camera could be tilted that way, you would see, like, this massive shelf of records that I’ve collected over the last 20 years. Nice. I mean, yeah, as a dj, which I’m trying to cull at the moment, so I’ve got my record player and my speaker set up just to the side here.

And so I’ve been going through, and I’m like, is this a forever one? Do I want to hand this down to my son or my daughter, or do I just want to, like, give it to the record store? So that’s actually been the thing I’ve been doing the most, is just, like, going through my record collection and trying to cull also because it’s just taking up so much space. I know. Blessing and a curse at how big records are.

I know, I know. They’re beautiful and like, I’ve got some on my wall that I’m trying to convert into art and stuff like that, so. But trying to do that, but, um, I mean, my kids are little and it’s like a really fun time with them, so just trying to spend as much time with them as possible.

Especially where while I’ve got this really nice long break with my paternity leave off work. So you’re getting lots of cuddles. My son’s just a, he’s a nightmare, but the funnest thing on the planet at the moment, like, he’s just so much fun.

So, yeah, trying to spend heaps of time with him and my partner and my daughter. So, yeah, yeah, quality time. Quality time.

Yeah, yeah. I also love to chat to people about some of like, the content that they consume. Is there any like really great podcasts that you love or books or blogs or any kind of thought leaders that you follow going on the kind of health self care? I just actually subscribed to YouTube Premium, which is amazing.

Like, there’s so much really good content on there and God, I’ve forgotten his name. Off top of it, I’ve just started watching all of his podcasts, but he just talks about like human evolution and like physical productivity and all the different things that you can do to kind of be that superhuman. So we’ve been getting into those kind of things, like learning about like the best type of exercise, the best time of day to do it, you know, rituals and routines.

Been really getting like a lot of stuff around there, like building, like what does my morning look like? What does an ideal morning look like? So I’ve been listing a few of those and I’ve actually been watching a lot of David Bland’s stuff again. So he did a lot of work with like value proposition design, business model generation, and I can’t remember, I can never pronounce his name right. But the guy said, you know, the business model canvas, he does a lot of really nice, interesting short videos about like, you know, stuff that I’m familiar with, but it’s just nice hearing stuff.

Other people talk about it, like assumptions, mapping workshops and all those kind of things, like work stuff. Again, like my partner always says, read some non, read some fiction, like get away from workbook. I know there’s usually lots of people that I talk to either are in consume lots of like design related or tech or work related things, or you’re the complete opposite and you just want to switch off and lots of.

Lots of fiction and lots of, you know, things just to switch off. And there’s no right or wrong answer. It’s just like, what you.

What you prefer. Yeah, you just go through, like, different stages. So, yeah, I think I’ve been doing a lot more.

It’s like more health stuff. But, I mean, if you asked me six months ago, I would have been like, you should see my Kindle. There’s like 15, you know, half finished books, which.

Which is fine because you don’t need to read them in a linear. For, you know, linear fashion. But, um, yeah, there’s a whole mix of things that I’ve been listening to.

Lots of music, lots of down tempo music, so chill stuff just to kind of keep the energy down with two wild children. Yes, I think that’s probably well needed, I guess you mentioned that you listen to some, like, thought leaders and, like, business minded people when you’re on YouTube. But did you, throughout your career, have you had any mentors that you, like, found really influential to your career? I think I’ve been really lucky over the years and my last few roles or my managers have all been just absolutely amazing.

Like, really, really, like, I haven’t. I mean, I’ve talked to a few friends and, like, oh, my boss is just so mean. Or they just, you know, power or a pain.

Right. But I think I’ve been really, really blessed. You know, my manager, Tamara, who I work with, like, absolutely amazing.

Like a really extensive PM background, leadership background, and I just. I feel like every day I spend with her, every minute I spend with her, I learned something, something new or something amazing. And the way we work was great.

Even before that, when I was at another consultancy arc, my manager there, Hannah, she’s over at Spotify now, where we’re mates, you know, we rarely talk about work, we just talk about life. But, yeah, she was just an absolute great mentor and really was the one that pushed me further down into product design and was like, we need to really give this a good, solid go. And even before that, Jay, like, my boss, just, I’ve managed to find that my mentors have also become really strong.

You know, really, they’re friends. They’re not just. They’re not mentors, they’re just mates.

I think I’ve been really lucky with that respect. So, yeah, I’ve managed. Everywhere I go, someone amazing that I get to work with teaches me something new and becomes a friend.

So. How wholesome. Yeah, I know.

I know it is. I feel like I’m getting emotional here, but they’re all just really good people. Like, high emotional intelligence.

They’re just really, really, just good energy. And I think that’s, we’d off that together. So that’s been really good.

Really, really. A good manager is just so influential on not only your career, but your, your mindset towards learning and picking new things up and being open to new ideas as well. If you can, like, see people who are, like, superior in, like, the career sense to.

To your role, picking new things up and them being open minded, it just allows everyone else to do the same. So it sounds like that that’s been your experience, too. Yeah, it’s like those people that gets worked, no matter, like, when, as I go, they’ve gone up the, you know, the people chain or I’ve gone to the people chain, they’re still the same.

Like, there’s that still that good person in there that’s just like. And the best bit is, like, when you teach them something as well, they’re like, thank you for sharing that thing with me, which is great. And it’s a two way, you know, a nice, equal relationship, so.

Yeah. And I would love to end the podcast with my favorite question that I love to ask all of my guests is that if you were to give your younger self some career advice, what would that be? I think I touched on it before. Run little experiments, try little things before diving too deep into it, especially when you’ve got big, grand ideas or you want to, you know, this.

I’m gonna be this, you know, like, just experiment with it a little bit. Probably talk to other people, too. I think that’s probably one thing that I wish I had done a little bit earlier on was, you know, talk to people that do the thing that you’re thinking about doing.

Try and connect with people that, you know, if you wanted to design, go and talk to, like, ten designers, five designers, run around to user research, like, have that conversation so you can really understand, like, what bits they love, what bits they don’t love. So you can kind of get that insight, and that applies for anything, right. If you want to be an accountant, go and talk to some accountants.

Getting that feedback loop with people that are doing it and a range of people that have just started it versus people that have been doing it for a long time. I think that would be super helpful. That’s probably the main thing that I would tell myself.

I mean, I’ve always, like, you can kind of tell in my tone, like I’m a pretty fun, easygoing person and maybe that’s come across, I don’t know. But yeah, like, stay humble and just have fun as much like there’s going to be some jobs that are, you know, it’s hard to have fun because it’s so intense or serious or life dependent on you being. But have as much fun as you can because you spend 8 hours a day, 10 hours a day, where, you know, whatever it is doing this thing, have fun doing it because life’s too short to do something that or spend your days not having fun or at least being able to walk away going, that was tough, but that was, you know, it was still fun and challenging.

So I think that would be the two things that I would say is, you know, talk to other people, try a few different things and enjoy yourself along the ride. Love that. Tied up in a neat little bow.

I’m sure you meant to do that. Yeah, yeah, something like that. Thank you so much.

No, I definitely learned a lot during this chat. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you.

Can’t wait to see what else you get up to with your current role and when you get back. Thank you. And keep, keep making this amazing podcast.

I’ve watched and listened to a few of them and they’re really, really great. And I think there’s so many amazing people in the industry that can just share little bits like those little snippets that might help someone else. So yeah, keep doing it.

It’s really, really great. That’s the game. Thanks for listening to my long winded stories today.

No, thanks for telling it.

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