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Megan Dell – ‘What does effective human centered design leadership look like?’

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August 17, 2017
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August 17, 2017

Megan Dell – ‘What does effective human centered design leadership look like?’

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[0:00:01.3] GS: Hello and welcome to another episode of This is HCD. In this episode, we speak to the brilliant Megan Dell. A human-centered design leader based in Melbourne Australia and currently Head of UX for 99 designs. We get Megan’s perspective on what makes a good and bad leader and drill deeper into the organizational and cultural considerations that let the Human centered design methodology bloom.

Also on the podcast, we had the excellence of Tarra van Amerongen. The group design director for Sydney and Canberra for Fjord. Who join the conversation along with myself and Mark Catanzariti.

Before we jump in, however, as this podcast is recorded in Sydney CBD, I would like to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation as the traditional custodians of the land where we meet today and pay respect to their elders both past and present.

I’d also like to acknowledge any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island people who may be listening in today. Let’s jump straight in.

[0:00:49.8] GS: Hello and welcome to this is HCD podcast. Today, we’re going to be discussing what effective Human Center for Design leadership looks like. I’d like to welcome Megan Dell to the podcast.

[0:00:59.5] MD: Hi, thanks for having me.

[0:01:00.8] GS: We also have Tarra V from Fjord.

[0:01:04.0] TV: Good morning.

[0:01:04.8] GS: I’ve hopped over to Tarra’s last name because I’m struggling. How do you say your last name?

[0:01:09.2] TV: Van Amerongen.

[0:01:10.5] GS: Okay, it’s Dutch. I’m struggling with that, so I’m just going to call her Tarra V for the podcast. We also have Mark here as well who is the co-host of the podcast. Hello, Mark.

[0:01:19.9] Mark: Hello, How’s it going?

[0:01:22.4] GS: My name is Gerry Scullion. So Megan, let’s start off. Tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got into design?

[0:01:32.0] MD: I originally worked as an artist and needed to earn some money so I essentially got into this thing called design, which was applying my more creative practices into digital work. I kind of fell into the Human Center for Design through working at the call centre, of all places, and kind of worked my way through by working on the website for a big insurance company. Yeah. These days I head up UX at 99designs and I’ve worked in leadership roles in a few other big Australian companies.

[0:02:05.6] GS: Okay, excellent. Thanks, we’re overjoyed to have you here. Tarra, do you want to tell us a little bit about yourself as well?

[0:02:11.3] TV: Yeah sure, I don’t come from a design background. I actually come from a very small town in rural Canada and I went to business school to take over the family business. I’ve been doing sort of consulting and sort of digital strategy roles until about four years ago. I was flagged on an HR list for design training and two days in, I was like, “This is it, this is what I have to do,” and it was just sort of the way forward to ethically do what users really want and spend money in corporates in a more responsible way.

So, haven’t looked back since and today I run a team of 50 designers at Fjord, running Sydney and Canberra.

[0:02:45.0] GS: Right, excellent. Delighted to have you both here, it’s a super interesting topic. The people on the slack channel have been asking lots of questions and feeding into this topic so let’s kick it off.  Let’s talk a little about what an effective Human Center Design leader looks like to you Megan?

[0:03:03.1] MD: I think it’s a lot about enabling the team and setting the vision and kind of helping them get on with their work essentially. You’re championing design throughout the company. You’ve got your eyes on what the company goals are as well and you’re really helping empower the designers kind of get that done. As well as, I guess, drumming up a lot of interest and passion within the company. It’s all about human centred design and kind of getting other people really involved in that practice as well. Even if they’re not traditionally a designer.

[0:03:34.7] GS: Before we kicked off the podcast, we were chatting a little bit about, like the behaviours that a good leader displays but we also discussed a little bit about what non-design leaders look like. Rather than just thinking of human-centred design leadership, just looking pure at what does a good leader look like, what do you want from a leader?

Tell us about what your thoughts are on leadership?

[0:03:58.5] MD: Look, for me I put such great emphasis on this and this is, for me, personally something that I’m always reading old books about, listening to podcasts and watching videos. Because I think that I’ve still got a lot of room to grow in that area as well but I think you really need the passion to improve as well as constantly learning which is kind of exactly what I’m doing.

Also, like great empathy and getting to know your team as well. We were talking just before and Tarra was kind of saying how each of the designers is very different people with different motivations and passions, on the team. I think it’s kind of tapping into that. Knowing how to tail your approach to different team members.

Kind of being able to work your way through the company as well and work with other areas. Be it engineering, products, sales, marketing and being able to relate to those areas as well.

[0:04:50.9] GS: Tarra, do you want to add anything to that? What does a good leader look like as supposed to a design leader – a good leader?

[0:04:56.8] TV: Yeah, I think it’s really about finding out how to give people runway, what do they need to grow and how do you keep them in the flow. What do they need to flourish, I think that’s super important? I always think of the best boss I ever had. She said to me, I was working at a bank at the time and she said, “Tarra if your life’s goal is to be a hair dresser, I’m going to do whatever it takes to get you to be a hair dresser.”

I was like what? You know, we work in a bank, that’s not in my job description, that’s not even any role of this organization. She said, “I want you to be doing what’s best for you in the world, whatever that looks like. I also fully believe somewhere else, there’s somewhere where there’s a hair dresser who really wants to be a banker and they have a boss that’s trying to help them make the transition.”

That’s always stuck with me throughout my career, that I have people who want to be in design or want to come into the design or actually want to transition out of it. So for me, it’s finding pathways for those people, giving them what they need, giving them interesting work, opportunities, coaching and then just getting out of the way.

[0:05:53.9] GS: Okay, that’s interesting. Do you want to become a hairdresser?

[0:05:58.6] TV: No, I think my French stylist just does a good job on her own.

[0:06:02.8] GS: Very good. Let’s think about Human Center for Design like what can go wrong if you don’t have a good Human Center of Design leader and organization. What are your thoughts? Both of you, I’ll open up to you.

[0:06:15.1] MD: I think that because the design team within the wide organization is as – we were talking on Slack a little bit and it’s a kind of like a glass house for a garden that you really need to tend to and protect in a certain way. If that starts to die, I mean, it’s who is really looking after the end-user of your product and who is kind of bringing that through the organisation?

They’re really the champions of that and you kind of need that to flourish to ensure that you’re not just forgetting about, “Okay, who are we designing these things for?”

[0:06:48.6] GS: You’re speaking about the culture there, the culture of an organization, is that what you’re talking about really?

[0:06:54.2] MD: Yeah, I think so yeah.

[0:06:57.8] GS: For me personally and Tarra, feel free to stop me here, culture is the biggest thing for enabling any design methodology to succeed. I’m keen to understand your thoughts and who owns the drive for a cultural shift?

[0:07:13.0] TV: Yeah, that’s a really ambiguous thing. You can’t even say, “This is culture.” Or you have all these companies who are like, “We have a culture plan.” It’s like, well that’s sort of the result of many things happening. It’s education and you know, understanding what design is. It’s people flourishing in their work.

It’s having mechanisms and ways for design to enter in the organization and for the more sort of linear analysis people, to understand the creatives and also the other way around. Culture’s the manifestation of all of those things going right.

It’s kind of the vibe, it’s not tangible, you can’t – you can feel it but you can’t say, “That’s culture” on a piece of paper.

[0:07:48.6] GS: Yeah.

[0:07:49.1] MD: To your question about like who owns the culture, who’s responsible for it, I mean, it’s everybody, right? You want to bring in more people that embody that culture and can help just keep it going and improve on that as well.

[0:08:04.0] GS: Is it a design function like to – because we’re ultimately trying to get a human centred design and the word “design” is in there. It often falls back, in my experience, on the role of the designers to enable that culture to succeed? That’s what I’m really interested in because if you bring it forward to C level and you ask them to support you, they’re going to want to know what the ROI is.

Why should we change the cultural – what’s in it for us? Now, that’s being a little bit kind of black and white. But what are the benefits you can see out of a great design culture?

[0:08:37.8] TV: I noticed – in order to get there, I noticed that with the design teams I have to have – I often have to give them permission and empowerment. I think working in Australia, I’ve found very much permission culture like, “Can I do that?” and they’re waiting for someone to sort of bless them to do something.

Sometimes we appoint people in the studio and say right, “You’re a culture champion” and they’re like, “Well what does that mean?” I’m like, “Whatever you want to do, whether it’s a cultural activity or a push for something or something a bit left of center that shows that we’re different or creative and you’re using your creative juices to do something for the betterment of the team.”

[0:09:09.4] GS: Yeah.

[0:09:09.6] TV: To really get people to think differently or gain a new skill or prove their craft or whatever that looks like which is really quite important. What it looks like to me is that people love coming to work. I have people come back on Friday we have studio days, people come from you know, say a big corp and say, “It’s so good to be in the studio.”

What does that feel like? You know, why is it that… “I’m with my own people, we’ve got a great work environment, the tunes are pumping, there’s food in the kitchen and the barista knows my order.”

Like all of that feels good together so what does that all look like? That’s a combination of several different elements, interesting work, great people, they feel relaxed and also, there’s just that acceptance of “I’m with my crew.” Which is great.

[0:09:51.7] GS: Yeah. I think often, I hear of startups and they kept the ping pong table and they got the pool table and then they go, “Hey, we do nothing, come join us, we’ve got ping pong championships on Wednesday’s.” What are your thoughts on that kind of superficial startup culture that tends to be quite generic and cliché?

[0:10:11.8] MD: Yeah, you’re just talking through that, reminded me of – so we’ve just recently been hiring and I had to go in and adjust the information. Like the About Us with the company and take away some of that stuff about the ping pong. Because it just doesn’t – Yeah, it feels really superficial and for design and for like the HCD kind of centred company.

Like, you really want it to be a lot more meaningful and to kind of tap into “Hey, these are some of the challenges that you’re working on. Here is what the culture is like and how can we really care about our customers or the goals we’re setting out to achieve.”

I think that it’s a lot more than that like “Hey, you’ll get a shiny new MacBook” and you know, “Play ping pong at lunch time and have an awesome coffee.” People want more than that and I think anyone can just buy a table tennis table and talk about it.

[0:11:01.3] GS: Yeah, I know like, I actually – I had a really interesting, one of the most interesting coffees I had this year was with a lady called Aubrey Blanch from Atlassian and she’s the head of global diversity for the organization.

She was explaining about the care and attention to detail they go to get it represented of community fit based on each of the officers globally. I’m really interested your perspective on the importance of diversity into a culture and how that can actually enable and affect human centric design leadership.

A big question I know.

[0:11:35.4] MD: Yeah, it’s funny because it’s been on my mind because like with our design team at 99, it was actually turning into – there was going to be a lot of females in the team with this recent amount of hiring and I had to kind of stop because everyone’s saying like, “Hey, we need more women in tech.” And I kind of have to stop and think, “Well hang on, my team’s going to be dominated by females, I don’t think I want that either, I don’t think that’s a good cross range.”

I think it’s really important though, I would be looking for like older people to join the team, people with kids, if I’ve already got people with kids then I want some single people in the team. It’s just more than male, female, or the colour of your skin as well and I think that everyone will bring different life stories in the table and different ways to approach and sign nothing.

We’ve got a long way to go as well, I really like what you’re saying about your contact and how they would look at the kind of the area that they’re hiring in and go, “Okay, we’ve got like 20% of people look like this or have this kind of lifestyle or whatever. Let’s try and hire them into the team. I really love to do a bit more of them.”

[0:12:39.7] GS: Why is that important?

[0:12:41.4] MD: If you just build a team where everybody is the same, you’re going to be creating the same outcomes. You’re not going to have fresh thinking or different ways to solve the problem and there’ll be things that you just never dream about that somebody else may be really challenging for in the team – that they can bring to the table.

[0:12:57.9] GS: Tarra, what are your thoughts on that?

[0:12:59.5] TV: Yeah, it’s also really boring. I mean, if I work with just myself, someone who looked and spoke and thought like me, that would be really boring.

[0:13:06.1] GS: I think it would be great. 20 Tarra’s in the room.

[0:13:10.4] TV: That’s a nightmare. Yes, it’s people challenging thoughts but I think the conversation on diversity, I think there’s a lot more depth that can be added and obviously all the specs of a person, you know, are sort of the leading indicator that someone thinks differently and approaches things differently. It’s really important to have just different experiences and what I love is, our leadership team is very diverse, also from different countries.

We’ve got academics, we’ve got ex-consultants, we’ve got career art directors, everyone there. What I love is, there is no competition – that we’re all leaders and we all aren’t competitive with each other and we have the same skill-sets. There’s this really inherent acceptance and recognition that you have your thing and you’re the person to go to on ‘x’ and you’re really good at it.

This person’s a really good ideas person, this person’s really about getting stuff over the line. That person, they smash every client interaction and that’s what they use. So everyone gets each other’s strengths and I can go to work and still learn and if you might say, “Oh you’re sort of at the top of the pyramid of the business.” I’m always feeling like I’m the dumbest person in the room and learning and challenged everyday

As a leader, I still want that. I’m terrified of being the one who knows everything because then my journey has stopped.

[0:14:21.3] MC: When you were saying there like about being able to go to the right people, is that a non-documented thing or is that just something that people are aware of?

[0:14:30.0] TV: Yeah, I think it’s what you know, sort of want to be known for and famous for. I mean…

[0:14:33.3] MC: Within the business?

[0:14:34.4] TV: Yeah, I think – it’s funny, consulting is always a bit of a profiling yourself and results and that’s sort of one thing that I learned in my early career that this is what you want to be known for and what you want to be interested in and what you talk about and where your energy goes.

Then there’s also the work that’s assigned to you. You know, on paper, a lot of our leadership team are assigned the same things but we’re known for different things and we have different strengths and that’s really okay.

[0:14:57.7] GS: Is that something that’s discussed at the leadership level, Tarra, you’re known for being bubbly and approachable or like – is it in the categorization of people?

[0:15:06.9] TV: It’s always in the side chat, right? And the jokes in between but we also will say, “We need someone to go present, it’s you, at UX Australia.” Or you know, “We have this really tough client who can we send in that will just turn the situation around?”

In those discussions, you think, you know, “Who’s the best person for the job or who will flourish in that environment?” I have some designers, you know, leaders that will get squashed in a certain environment and others will just kick ass and take names.

[0:15:32.9] GS: Alright, if you imagine we’ve got a hypothetical business – we’re all in business together and we’re looking for the head of design. What is the behavioural stuff that we’re going to look for on that resume and also when we meet them to make sure that they can do the job? And if say the organization is like, it’s a startup, it’s in the startup space, it’s not like any organization, culture, that’s been going for 20 years or 30 years.

It’s arousing new culture. We’re designing a new culture, what is it we’re looking for in that person when they present themselves?

[0:15:59.6] MD: Because you said that it is a bit more of a startup, true as well, I assumed that you need someone who’s able to do a mix of getting in amongst it and on the tools as well as working their way through that. Being able to see above the weeds as well and look at the strategy and the vision and talk to all of the different levels of that practice as well. I don’t mean levels hierarchically, I just mean levels as in I am sitting down today and I’ve got to play with an engineer on this particular problem and interaction.

As well as I’m going to go and present to the CEO and the rest of the C Level about where we are heading in the future as well. So I think that you need someone who can kind of cross the chasm in that respect, as well as being able to relay to everybody throughout that journey as well and talk about design and kind of get them engaged and passionate about what they’re trying to achieve as well.

[0:16:54.9] TV: Yeah, I agree. I think just to add to that, I think someone needs to articulate the value of design. If you think about all our business metrics today, it’s on financials and it doesn’t have any space for customer satisfaction or their voice or being different or unique or fun or delightful. All the things that people actually care about and why they go back to brands again and again.

So if you can’t articulate what that means and really drive that business value conversation, that’s not really the whole part to not only your internal but also to external investors and clients and partners.

[0:17:28.0] GS: Yeah, the question for you Megan Dell on I guess coming from a design background you personally and then I guess going into that leadership role, what were some of the challenges? I guess being able to straddle both kinds of components. How did you grow into that?

[0:17:41.4] MD: Look it’s really tough making the transition from being someone who is the individual contributor to stepping back and giving the team that runway and trusting them to do the job as well. As well as I think yeah, in that adjustment of being the person that is always just on the tools and you’ve got your manager there to yeah like – having to learn all of the management styles of things, approach things with even more emphasis on the leadership angle as well was really challenging.

And I would also say like almost caused a bit of this like “Who am I as a person? Am I using people? I am going out for all of these coffees and not actually doing work. I’m always talking about work when I do this but…” Just a lot of very kind of conflicting feelings like throughout that period as well. I am comfortable with it now but yeah, it was a really tough transition I would say and I still find it hard at times at 99 Designs.

I do have to jump on the tools and do that stuff and I find that hard to not get too sucked into that particular project I am working on. Being able to step back and then look at the overall program of work and remember, “Well hang on, I’ve got to have one on ones with my team members and they really need me and they need me to help clear the way for them on some of their stuff.” So yeah.

[0:19:03.4] GS: Yeah, very cool. Tarra do you want anything to add to that piece?

[0:19:07.1] TV: Yeah, I think I probably in the last but six weeks I’ve stepped into more of a leadership role and again, the operations and not glazing over when I see a spreadsheet is always a different twist. I think I’ve mourned some of the things about being on the tools that I really loved. I think the favourite part of my job was telling a user story and “surprising an expert” and I’ve got my quotation bunny hands up, you can’t see it on the podcast.

But you’d have this executive who would say, “I am an expert in this and I know everything”. Well, I get a surprise and we’re giving that aha moment or make their jaw drop I was like, “Yes! I’ve done my job” and now, that realization of, “I’m never going to do another user interview. I’m never going to be able to tell that story anymore.” That’s old Tarra and new Tarra is realizing that other people need to be able to do that job.

So that’s a bit of a difficult transition but also some really great stuff in the transition of seeing people grow and giving them that opportunity and now, just meeting new clients on sort of a different level and getting them on board and on the journey, pave the way for my team to do that work. So I think the other thing is prioritization. You get at a certain point where you could do 20 things and now you can only actually do two.

So what of the two that actually matter and that choice is so crucial. I think that’s where it’s either it’s going to fall apart or it’s going to go really well, is deciding what are the two things that matter. At the end of the day, it’s always people, it’s always making sure that someone is okay that they’ve got help, that we’ve won someone over. That sort of thing. Reducing tension, putting out fires but also looking out for new opportunities. It’s always the people stuff that I find that is top of the list.

[0:20:46.3] GS: Yeah, it has to be. So we’re discussing culture here quite a bit and to make culture is the first and foremost most important thing. But how do you define the effectiveness of your culture? It’s a big question, I get asked all the time when I go when I speak to people and they hear me speak about culture and then they go, “How do we know if our culture is good or our culture is bad at the moment?” Do we have any thoughts on that? I know it’s a big question.

[0:21:12.2] MD: Well I also think that it’s almost subjective as well like if it’s good or bad culture right? Because everybody is different. I don’t know exactly how to tell if it’s good or bad. One of the things that we’ve done recently is an employee engagement survey is a way to get some kind of metric to just see how do we compare now to the previous 12 months. While we don’t have an individual metric for that, we’ve at least listened to the entire team across the world.

And we’ve got different areas where we know that we can improve or where we are really succeeding in that culture. But I will say is that team member, I think that if I’m really enjoying coming into work and I feel really energized by my work environment, the mission that we’re on people around me and things that are clicking, then for me personally I feel like we’re on the right track with the company.

[0:22:07.4] GS: It’s interesting because you’ve come from a startup background in 99 Designs and now I wouldn’t exactly call it a start-up, you’re well over a 100 and something people. But in Tarra’s world, Tarra’s in Fjord Design and it’s a little difficult. Tell me if I am wrong here because the consultants go out and they work within more difficult and sometimes non-design organizations. Tell me a little bit about that experience?

[0:22:32.5] TV: Yeah, it’s an interesting one because the first question was about “What does good culture look like?” For me personally, it’s when on Sunday night I am excited to go to work on a Monday, like a massive nerd. But I’m sort of like the one who is, “Thank God it’s Monday” people.

[0:22:44.2] GS: With your school back pack…

[0:22:45.1] TV: I mean yeah, I really like my job and I like our people and it feels like a family and a community. On Monday I look around and stand up and see you know, “Are our people jazzed up to be here?” So for me, that’s a bit of a symbol if people are going well. But we always talk about the design rule three which is design thinking, design doing and design culture. Quite often, clients bring you in because you’ve got that secret sauce that is that intangible thing they can’t put their finger on.

And anyone can make a journey map and anyone can call them self a designer but as you bring in a pod team members and they just feed off of that culture. We had a client in Melbourne where this random guy, just after the design sprint, sat with us and we were like, “Hey, don’t you need to be at your desk?” He’s like, “No I’m just going to hang with you guys.” In the end, he just joined the team and became part of us and –

[0:23:34.9] GS: He joined Fjord?

[0:23:35.6] TV: No, well he joined the project team but he didn’t want to go back to his day job. That was a really good sign of we’ve done our job of creating this sort of aura around the team and it was all to do with the space, the cadence, the way we work, what we’re producing. He found that we were doing really mattered, he’s learning new skills, the really great vibe in the team. So we’d bring that into clients. What that means are two things.

Clients are like, “This is great, I am learning from you” but what it can also mean is that designers feel drained in the sense that they bring in this culture and people are just feeding off of them and then they get slowed down. Or they’re sort of getting leeched off from the cultural aspect and they feel like, “I’m just giving and giving and giving and not always getting back.” So that’s why it’s really important for us to say, “Alright, when do we come back home?”

Fridays, how do we bring more clients and residents? And now, it is actually something I use almost as a sales pitch with clients. We’re going to select you to be a client in residence to come work in our space to feel that, to see that, to work in that environment, to have the barista know your name, to have a space, environment and tools that work for you and to be a part of that team environment working very, very differently.

Away from the corporate flex desk, a thousand email per day culture. But it’s a double edged sword. The designers feel that they give a lot and the clients are like, “This is great” so how do you find the middle ground?

[0:24:52.5] MC: Yeah, it’s kind of tough because when I hear like all the great things like barista knowing your orders, that’s a simple one, but it’s really an effective one and I love it when it happens. But if every organization in the world just buys that blue print and reproduces it, what’s it going to look like?

[0:25:08.6] TV: But they won’t because they think that’s a cost and we see it as culture and that’s a very different lens.

[0:25:14.5] GS: Yeah, okay. That’s interesting. I was playing devil’s advocate there. I’m just going to put it out there. But this is really interesting because it goes back to the ping pong table thing of where people start up a startup and they’re like, “Got to get the neon light on the wall, got to get the ping pong table going, got to get the 207mm lens,” it’s just really interesting. So look, we are coming towards the end of the topic that we’ve been discussing here.

So, Megan, I’m going to start off and ask you three quick questions that are going to be used on the all the podcasts moving forward. So you personally, what is the one professional skill that you wish you were better at?

[0:25:49.1] MD: I think it’s managing all of the things that I’ve got going at any given time. So I visualize it as a circus performer with many, many spinning plates and just trying to ensure that things don’t drop. I think as Tara was saying earlier, it’s knowing what the two things are that you have to prioritize as well. So it’s that constant juggle of all the things.

[0:26:12.4] GS: Okay, Tarra?

[0:26:13.5] TV: I think for me it’s patience. Not only patience with others on how quickly things move but also patience with myself. Every now and then my partner would put his hand on my shoulder and go, “You know you can do anything but you can’t do everything.” So I think as well making sure that I am sustainable with my energy. So in the last 48 hours, two client workshops and a podcast and teaching at Uni. You know, making sure that I’ve got enough energy left for the right things.

I mean part of that is having a medical history where I’m faced with my mortality at the age of 30 and I’ve got so much to do in this life but also just being able to say, “You know what? You don’t have to do everything and just have patience. Do the right things and prioritize and have a big of down time”.

[0:26:53.9] GS: Yeah, that’s the mindset. A lot of mindsets, the second big question here where I feel we need a drum roll. Don’t do the drum roll or everyone will be going nuts. So what is the one thing in the industry you wish you’d be able to banish?

[0:27:08.5] MD: Banish is such a strong word so –

[0:27:11.6] GS: Intentional choice of words though.

[0:27:13.6] MD: Yeah.

[0:27:14.3] GS: I didn’t want it to be like grey, I want it to be quite as black and white. Anything you want to be able to banish in the industry?

[0:27:20.5] MD: I think egos and the fear of people not knowing the answer to a question as well and trying to protect their pride, right? Because I think it’s okay to not know everything and you don’t need to have a big ego and in fact, it’s better to just be down to earth and work with other people.

[0:27:39.2] GS: Yeah, Tarra?

[0:27:42.5] TV: I’m going to flip around and say what I wish there was more of in the industry is that people were more curious. I think there’s this fear of, “You work differently and you might be hypothesis driven and I come at it from a different perspective.” It’s quite interesting that that’s met often with aggression or this judgment that it’s bad and I wish people would just be more open to go, “Well why do you think that?” and just asking that simple question because I put my heart on my sleeve, you know design is an extension of me and there’s that element of rejection or judgment or it’s not credible often from people in a corporate land which is unfortunate.

[0:28:19.9] GS: Yeah, that’s true. So one last question before we wrap this up. So what is the message you’d give to emerging human centred design talent for the future? So there’s a lot of people doing the courses or coming out and they’re are trying to get into the industry, what message can you give them for the future?

[0:28:37.3] MD: I think that it would be getting stuck in, don’t feel like you need to spend $10,000 and quit your day job and go do an individual course. You are likely to find that there are things you can do within your current day job or the life situation that you’re in where you can bring in more human centred design thinking as well. So I would say don’t feel like you need to do that really official formal learning to actually start to make a difference.

[0:29:05.0] TV: Yeah, I think it’s a craft and the more doing it the better you get. I think for me would don’t listen to the naysayers. You know when I first learned design my boss said, “You know Tara you can’t just do design. You’re going to have to do user testing and client tours,” and all of this other random stuff. The best thing I ever did was not listen and just do what I really felt passionate about and now I run a team of amazing designers.

And I am so honoured and lucky and can’t believe that that’s what I do because I was just like, no, laser focused. Don’t listen to all the people who are like, “But you have to do this and that and you have to have this on your CV” and I said, “Well cool, I know that my CV won’t get me the job. I just need to talk to someone and show how excited I am”.

[0:29:43.2] MC: Yeah, passion goes a long way. Alright, well a very big thank you, Megan Dell, for being on the podcast and also Tarra, thank you so much for being here. We really appreciate your time, we’d love to have you back at some point in the future.

[0:29:56.5] MD: Thank you.


[0:29:58.1] GS: So there you have it. I hope you found that conversation helpful. We’d love to get your feedback or thoughts on this topic and to join the conversation, go to and register to join the Slack channel where you can get in touch with me and Megan and Tarra as well. We use the Slack channel to help shape future episodes of the podcast as well as share interest in design related content every single day.

We’ve also started a book review section and are actively looking for people to review design books. So if you’ve read a design book recently, join up and tell us all about it. We’d love to potentially include your review in future podcasts. Also, we are actively looking for sponsorship for the podcast with a 100% of the sponsorship money going directly to Cara Care, an incredible NGO who helps to support children who’ve suffered abuse.

You can also donate directly to Cara Care by clicking on the dollar sign inside the media player on website. So if you’ve got any questions about sponsorship, please get in touch with me at Thanks so much, see you again soon.


John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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