7 brutal truths to accept as quickly as possible (to accelerate your product design career growth)

If you've been following me, you know that I talked about this as recently as last week.

I'm sharing this with you for two reasons:

  1. I'm hard at work on my upcoming book and wanted to leverage a popular post I wrote
  2. I truly believe these 7 truths are necessary to grow your design career quickly

Let's dive in.

1. Number of reps is more important than years of experience

If you want to improve your problem solving or making design decisions quickly, then practice often. Whether you're interviewing for 6 months or working on a team that only solves 1 problem every year, it's up to you to find ways to prevent stagnation.

2. There has never been a better time in history to become a designer

You can find every question and answer to improving as a designer online today. While others bemoan the rise of design content and bootcamps, you should recognize that it has never been easier to self-diagnose and prescribe your own career growth.

3. Your job is to make your company more money

Idealism in design is valid and worthwhile, but without a pragmatic plan for getting there over time, it's just another liability. Do not put yourself at odds with this goal, or else you'll find yourself feeling martyred. Use these opportunities to exercise creative problem solving.

4. Prescriptive processes are teaching instruments, not practical methods

"Design thinking" and similar processes are good for demonstrating how problems can be solved in ideal situations. They're less good for real-world work where things are messy and you must navigate dysfunction or constraints. Learn to create processes that work best for you and your team's challenges.

5. Leveling up in your career is directly related to your proficiency in communication

As you promote, you will spend more time advocating, planning, and solving for collaborative constraints than you will solving for customer problems. Your effectiveness correlates directly with your ability to influence and storytell. Learn to lead meetings, build relationships, and articulate your design decisions early and often.

6. Your body of work determines your career opportunities

Take care of the work opportunities you invest into. The more time you spend at startups, the less qualified you are to FAANG - and vice versa. Dimensions and characteristics of companies at different market stages are very different for IC roles. And while that is less true for some companies (e.g. mid-market companies achieving unicorn status), the perception of those differences can still exist during interviewing. Look for opportunities to round out your body of work or invest into roles that define your personal brand.

7. No one is coming to save you

Your career growth is your responsibility. Not your employer's, not your manager's, and not the market's. Act in your best self-interest and take accountability for where you invest your time, money, attention and energy.

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