At Front, we love to give our employees a platform to be heard, for them to share their experiences at Front openly, and to celebrate the unique impact they are making every day.
I had the opportunity to interview our Product Design Manager Kaitlin O'Donnell on her experience joining the team so far, upcoming challenges for the design team, and the phases of growth we're anticipating next!
"If you could learn one new professional or personal skill, what would it be?"
"To be really crazy and wild, I would say mind reading. I would benefit from this professionally and personally. Something not so crazy, I would like to build on my storytelling skills and become a better storyteller through my work."
“What’s been the most interesting day on the job so far?”
Front is a rapidly growing company, and every new employee brought on is empowered to impact Front's mission—to help people work happier. That first starts with Front's culture.
"Every day is quite different, which keeps it interesting. The first day I went into the office was probably the most interesting so far. Until then, I had felt the company culture and camaraderie on my team, but when I hadn’t met a ton of people outside my team. When I came into the office, I met so many new faces and the company really came to life."
It's challenging to maintain a vibrant workplace culture at home rather than in the office, but we strive to design a consistent work culture remotely and in the office.
"I learned so much anecdotally at lunch and in the space by talking to people on different teams and hearing about what they are working on at Front. It made me feel much more connected to people outside of my team."
“Can you describe the culture of the design team at Front?”
"The design team has a very can-do attitude. Everyone is willing to jump in and help each other out. I think part of that is that we're a smaller team, and everyone has such deep respect for each other. "
The design team has a team Slack channel. If anyone is unsure of something or if a new team member has a question, multiple people will respond right away to help out. They make sure that everyone is collaborative and tight-knit.
"For example, just last week a researcher was looking for someone last minute to take notes in a user interview, they dropped a note in the channel and someone immediately jumped in to help out. The care the team has for each other has been the most stand-out thing. I'm not sure that is as apparent in every design team.”
“What learnings are you bringing to Front from working on design at Pinterest?”
Before starting at Front, Kaitlin worked at Pinterest as a Product Design Manager. I wanted to know how her past experiences and skills would impact her current role now.
"The biggest thing I learned at Pinterest was that change is inevitable and it can be hard on a team. Pinterest changed a lot throughout the five years I was there. Knowing that change will always happen and you can’t control everything will be extremely valuable as we continue to grow at Front. I hope to bring clear expectations and goals to my team so that as changes come up we can remain aligned to what we need to do to get the job done. I also learned that having empathy for the team and their feelings that come up when change happens. Being as transparent as possible and listening to the team will be extremely important as we grow quickly.
As she joins a growing design team, she understands that change will happen and that it will be important that the team focuses on things that they can control. "As a manager, part of my role is to make sure the team feels consistency throughout the change we will go through."
“What’s your favorite Front feature so far?”
"I wish I had Front for my personal email, and I can't imagine moving to another company without it. After only five months it’s already become part of my core workflow."
Kaitlin said the ability to comment on conversations has been the feature that’s most valuable to her. She believes it's an underused feature by a lot of our customers. "I personally use comments a lot to move work forward and collaborate with my team. It helps for async communication and keeps documentation around a conversation all in one place. This has been particularly helpful as I collaborate with the recruiting team on scheduling and communicating with candidates outside of Front. We’re able to remain aligned and move quickly without having to schedule additional meetings."
“Can you give us a sneak peek at what’s next for the design team?”
Kaitlin gave us two exciting things that were top of mind for the design team.
"We are finally hiring our first dedicated design system designer who will own the design system. Their first task will be auditing where we are today and then setting up a plan for where we should head in the future. This is super exciting because it will take a lot of time off the designers who are collectively contributing to the system as they design and will give us an expert in systems design who can think holistically about the product and how we scale."
"We are also doubling down on our core product experience and what our frontline users are interacting with on a day-to-day basis. We are thinking about things like our email composer, calendar and pushing the future of email beyond what we know it today. We’re thinking of ways to be more creative and innovative in this space and there are endless opportunities for how we can benefit the frontline user and make their lives more productive."
“What are the top challenges you foresee in the coming year?”
As Front's customer base grows, both opportunities and challenges will follow. Kaitlin realizes this and believes the design team can handle the challenges ahead.
“The top challenge we have is serving all of our users and their individual needs since we serve such a broad range of customers and industries. As we continue to expand our market of customers, we will need to make sure we're focusing on the right features and the user problems with the most impact.”
“What’s your vision for the future of design at Front?”
"Making sure that we are building an intuitive and simple to use product. Which like I mentioned before is challenging for such a complex product. We want to stay true to our design principles and make sure we are incorporating those into new projects and our vision as we move forward."
Kaitlin mentioned that she cherishes her team's can-do attitude and chemistry. "As we continue to add more designers, I want the team to feel the same way—authentic, collaborative, and a tight-knit community who support each other and push each other to be better designers for our end users."
If you are interested in joining Front’s mission to help people work happier and make an impact, check out our open roles now!
Written by Jonny Parker
Originally Published: 16 December 2021