Hey Brian, care to share a little bit about yourself?
Sure thing. My name is Brian, I'm the Director of Design at Thriver. We're a company with a mission of helping organizations foster positive workplace culture and employee belonging at scale.
Things I like to do on my downtime? I read a lot, cook a great deal, and practice mixing music. But on top of all that, I love spending time with my wife and our 1 and a 1/2 year old son.
Can you tell us what you do as a Director of Design at Thriver for those who are unfamiliar?
Yeah, so as the Director of Design I oversee all design and design research operations and strategy, which translates to a few things like: developing and maintaining processes for how we work cross-functionally with other teams, ensuring design goals are tracked and aligned with business goals, providing the team with the greatest level of clarity possible on their projects, and creating a framework for each individual on the team to grow in their respective careers.
I guess you could say I design how creative teams interact with the rest of the organization in a manner that is structured, sustainable, and set up for success.
How did you decide to pursue your specific career? What pivotal moments pushed you to where you are now?
I was just thinking if I told my younger self that one day he would be in management, his response would be a scoff followed by laughter. For the first decade of my career starting in the early 2000s, I was an individual contributor at a mix of advertising and product organizations - wearing many different hats and absorbing everything I could. I was a proud generalist. It was exhilarating and so was pretty adamant about staying on the path of the contributor forever. Like any maker out there, I love to learn through creating and more often than not, breaking things in the process.
That changed when the business of design started to mature. That moment was when Apple released the first iteration of the iPhone in 2007, the world changed and the perceived value of design along with it. Consumers and businesses alike were beginning to understand that design was more than just making something look good.
That year changed everything. I began to learn everything I could about the business end of design from books, mentors, and the internet - basically anything I could find that I could learn or apply what is now universally known as design thinking to real-world problems. It was engrossing. And as time went by, I found I felt the greatest joy was through helping people comprehend that value too. And at its core, that's still what I do today.
What made you interested in your field?
Time to show my age I guess! In the late 90s there were collectives of digital artists creating mesmerizing, incredibly beautiful graphics and experiences on the web. This was a time of immense experimentation on a global level made possible thanks to the advent of CSS2 and Macromedia Flash. I have so many vivid memories of being awestruck by those experiences online. I knew right there and then what I wanted to do. I think I was 16 at the time.
Any advice on how to stand out and get hired for those starting off?
Practice speaking through story and in the language of outcomes with concision. Even if your design work was conceptual or for school, there is still a unique story there to be told and a goal you were trying to achieve. It's totally okay if an idea or project failed. What did you take away from it? What did you learn? Did you learn more about yourself in the process?
Permeate this approach in your resume, your portfolio, your presentations - heck even normal conversations with your parents (yes I did this). And if something can be said in 10 words instead of 12, go with the 10.
3 Character traits that would make someone excel in your field
Be self-aware, be curious, be humble.
Most difficult thing about your job?
Helping people break the habit of speaking in the language of solutions right off the bat. It's through no fault of anyone of course but it's something that requires constant vigilance and attention.
What would you like to say to your younger self?
Don't try to appear confident when you're not. Operate with humility in order to learn and strengthen your convictions instead.
Best advice you've received/heard?
"Nobody can tell your story better than you."
Any last thoughts, advice, or recommendations for someone who wants to be a Director of Design?
There will be times when you'll feel like you aren't deserving or good enough. It's called impostor syndrome.And I want you to know:
1) You are not alone. No matter how experienced you are, it still happens to all of us.
2) You can talk with your peers. Nobody alone has all the answers, mistakes get made so growth can happen. Share your story with your network and support one another.
3) You can trust yourself.
You graduated or were hired because of your talent and hard work. Have faith that those around you recognize your potential.Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. I post regularly about these kinds of topics and host (virtual) coffee hours for those seeking advice or guidance.
If you made it this far, thank you very much for reading!