Notion

I met CEO Brett Jurgens and CTO Ryan Margoles, founders of Notion, after giving a talk on making smart home products more human at Refresh Denver. I met Ryan again as a Senior UX Designer at Slice of Lime when Notion was a part of the TechStars 2014 program. Slice was as part of TechStars mentorship program and it was a natural fit that I became their design mentor. Over the years I provided research and design service and in 2016, when Notion was ready for design leadership, I came on board full time.

Notion

Team

2 front-end devs
4 back-end devs
2 qa engineers
4 data scientists
2 product designers
1 product manager
1 product marketer
2 customer support specialists

Time

One year, 11 months

Role

Design Director

People manager

Contributions

Developed product design practice vision and strategy.
Led and worked along side product design team executing and delivering on strategy.
Implemented human-centered design and Lean UX principles to the product team.
Effective advocate for customers and users at all levels of org.
Documented and communicated design process.
Planned and managed creation of design system.
Development of product design practice guide/playbook
Helped product team understand and adopt agile software development practices, methods and rituals.

Goal

For the design team to realize its potential and connect its value to business goals, it required a strong and vocal design and user advocate focused and a focussed and empowered leader. The Design Director emerged as a title for Notion, which worked regardless of whether considered a head of design, manager, director, or VP.

Approach

As the design director for Notion I was the CEO of the design org and ultimately accountable for the team’s results. The impact of my role was the outcome of how I managed, implemented and executed design strategy, process improvement and documentation, creative direction, recruitment, scale and growth of the design and product team, defining success metrics for the design team and instilling a “design first” culture within the entire company.

Outcome

The benefit of having worked with Notion in the past as a mentor and contractor allowed me to quickly understand their product development process, customer support flow, product marketing, and sales process while quickly building strong relationships with team members. This understanding led to quick process improvements and efficiencies for the product, marketing and customers success teams.

Impact

The long-term effects of my leadership and work at Notion resulted in a successful $10 million Series A investment, building confidence in the product team that we’re building the right thing, for the right people, instilling a culture of open communication, inclusivity, collaboration and healthy debate, and instilling in the team that if “we’re not measuring success, we won’t know if we’re successful.”

A major improvement was the inclusion of customers and users in almost every part of the business. From data and analytics to surveys, to in-home research and usability testing, the design team listened to help inform business decision making and prioritize features in the interest of its customers, partners and users.