Design Ops Implementation
Design Leadership, Mentorship, Design Process & Strategy
My Role: Product Design Manager in collaboration with designers, product & engineering leadership, and customer-facing teams.

Building Trust

When I joined MikMak as Product Design Manager, I took time during my first few weeks of onboarding to understand the cross-functional team dynamics at the time. I was lucky in that the people I interacted with were super accommodating in sharing how they worked and improvements they wanted to see in how to best engage with the design team.

Through speaking with and learning from individuals on my team and across the organization, I set out to establish stronger processes and build upon the principles and values that MikMak is known for.

Design Ops Goals

  • Understand current processes and collaborate on ways to improve.
  • Establish a standard end-to-end design process while respecting neurodiversity.
  • Create a Product Advisory Group to establish a regular cadence of client feedback and engagement on Alpha and Beta features.
  • Create a robust research kit to empower anyone on the product team to self-start research initiatives.
  • Create design acceptance criteria and Shortcut (Jira alternative) user story templates for effortless collaboration to avoid hand-off confusion.
  • Establish relationship with Product Marketing to collaborate on total addressable market & competitor analysis and update user personas.
  • Lead a cross-team UX/UI Audit of the current MVP platform and share findings and business impacts with leadership team.

But first, how did we get here?

Before I could jump into making process changes and suggestions, I wanted to make sure that my mental models matched those of my colleagues. In order to do that, I created several mind maps in Miro and Figma and shared them with my team and others for feedback.

Through this process, I was able to engage with my new teammates in a way that built trust and opened new ways of understanding the platform and processes that weren’t historically considered.

Design Ops Principles

Three Pillars

My approach to design ops are based on three key pillars. They provide the foundation for a unified vision that the design team can grow and thrive within together.
1. Inclusive Tools & Systems

We will adopt tools that foster healthy collaboration and empower iteration and affect positive user impacts. We understand that everyone works and thinks through problems differently, so the systems for note taking, brainstorming, solution sharing, and results reporting will encourage each designer to have their own voice and unique way of UX story telling.

2. Transparency & Growth

The key to a healthy design team is trust. Mental health plays a huge role in our ability to bring our whole selves to work and the understanding that each day can bring new personal challenges. 1:1’s are centered as a safe space for designers to bring forward conversations surrounding day-to-day activities, struggles and collaborating on ways to overcome them, as well as engage in ongoing mentorship surrounding career growth and development initiatives.

3. Community & Innovation

To break from the day-to-day activities of our pods, the design team will have set times throughout the week to openly discuss design culture and ways to bring fresh ideas to the organization. This is also a time for constructive critiques on work where we encourage each other to share not only checkpoints along the end-to-end process, but also the less-seen rough stages to get a raw look at our mental models and ways of problem solving.

In Practice

With the three pillars to guide the operation of the design team, I was able to launch numerous activities to strengthen collaboration not only within the team but with others across the company.

Below are some artifacts of the pillars at work.
Design Process Standardization | Notion Doc
2-Day Figma Design Jam as Player-Coach with a Product Designer
Design Community Topics
User Personas Project Initiative
Cross-Team Platform Audit Initiative
Research Kit | Notion Doc


Fueling Design Growth & Maturity

By establishing processes for internal and external team collaboration and building trust through open communication, I was able to create a more central approach to design thinking within the organization along with the help of my team.

Design was now an integral part in all aspects of the product process cycle outside of just the design phase. This included early engagement through standardized research and persona-specific onboarding tasks vetted with customer-facing teams to how we vouch for the user through goal-oriented design reviews with the engineering team and internal stakeholders.