Nov 06, 2018

Things I learned from working at Shopify

List of learnings and insights from working at Shopify.

In September 2018, I made one of the hardest decisions in my life. I decided to quit my job at Shopify to move back to Indonesia for a personal reason. Since then, people often ask how was my experience working there and what are the things that I learned.

Let me start by sharing that Canadian uses “eh?” a lot. OK, jokes aside, here are a few things that I learned from working with Shopify.


yellowstroke-canadian-girl

Come with a learning mindset

Let me start by sharing my first mistake. When I started, I was trying so hard to prove that I’m a good designer and began to give different solutions in the existing project. As a result, I focused too much on the solution and made meaningless actions that end up wasting my time with zero impact on the team. The takeaway is to come with a learning mindset, channel all your energy to gain context first, and then start thinking on how you can make an impact.

Be willing to say “I don’t know”

Well, yes, you have to be accountable. Prepare your craft skill, communicate, and get your sh*t together. However, you don’t have to be a genius. When you don’t know about something, learn to say “I don’t know but let’s find out together.” This way, not only you’ll learn something new. It will also lead you to make a better decision rather than wasting time trying to come up with a vague answer. At the end of the day, it’s a team work.

Freelance is a totally different world

If you come from a freelancer world and want to try out the full-time job. You have to understand that you are entering the whole new world. Let me clarify, it doesn’t mean a bad move. But you have to step up on some of the soft skills, like managing people’s expectation, how to solicit and to give feedback (which I was lacking on). The takeaway here is to be aware that you’re entering a different world and prepare to learn something new.

Get to know your manager

Learn and understand who is your manager if you’re an individual contributor. The report to manager relationship is essential. It’s hard to recover once the trust is damaged. I learn this in a hard way, my first manager wasn’t a bad manager per se, but we didn’t get along and my life was miserable during that time. All of my 1:1s were about me reporting what I did and what I’ll do. That’s it. Fortunately, I switched to report to the other manager and my life is like day and night compared to before. The takeaway is, build and respect the relationship.

Be comfortable with being uncomfortable

On the peers’ feedback. One of my colleague, Gil, gave me one of my favorite feedbacks I’ve received. “Budi, I love working with you,” she said. “Although, you can try to be more comfortable with being uncomfortable,” she gently added.

I was puzzled. What again? Comfortable, uncomfortable? What does she mean?

After further conversation, I slowly realize that I get stressed out whenever things move away from what we planned. I’m not comfortable being in a chaotic situation. I really love this feedback! It was direct and helpful. Now, whenever I deal with the chaotic situation, I always remember Gil’s feedback. I take a deep breath and just being aware of it.

yellowstroke

Appreciate people’s interest and passion

Don’t you love to collaborate? I have one fun trick to do it effectively. First, you gotta understand what people’s passions are and talk about it with them.

One of my favorite times was with my colleague, Jeremy. Despite known as one of the best developers in the team, he has a deep and vast understanding of Data Viz that doesn’t have anything to do with his day-to-day work. We always enjoy the brainstorming time and I love to get his perspective when it comes to Data Viz. It’s a win-win.

Share your work and get feedback often

We’re working in the complex industry. I’m a believer that all the good quality works are a result of collaboration. Get comfortable to share the unfinished work and when you do that, make sure to highlight the areas you need the feedback the most. It’s better to get feedback sooner than later, it will save times and headaches.

People are busy and they appreciate the updates

Leaders, managers, and stakeholders are busy. Unless you want them to micro-manage, you should communicate and give enough visibility. Trust me, they’ll appreciate it, many of them told me how my update really helps them. Here are a few different types of updates I usually give:

  • Daily high-level update
  • Weekly progress update on Monday and Friday
  • Ad-hoc update when necessary

As far as the content to include in the update, it actually pretty simple. You can focus on 2 things: What has been happening and what are the next steps.

yellowstroke-illustration

Prepare before presenting your work

One of the good aspects of a good designer is to be able to articulate the thinking thoroughly. When presenting our work, we often have around 15-20 minutes if you want to leave time for a discussion. Therefore, you better make every single second count. I find it really useful to practice it in front of the mirror and actually say what I have in mind loudly.

Make a decision log to have a firmer decision

There are a hundred of decisions put into the design and, to be honest, I find it really hard to keep up. For me, it’s better to have the decisions documented in a decision log and ask for the relevant people to review it before proceeding it. It will make the decision to be less ambiguous in every step and help you to focus on your work.

Shut down during the weekends or vacations

This is kind of my own personal note. Find your peace and recharge during the weekend is essential. The culture at Shopify is so great about this, everyone being respectful of the vacation time.


Take lots of pictures on the last day

I mean, I don’t know what else to do other than spend my last minutes with all the lovely people and capture the memory together. Goodbye for now and thank you, Shopify!

Budi Shopify Memory My favorite thing is the poutine cake!

Why did you leave Shopify again?

A lot of people asked me, “Budi, are you crazy? Why did you leave Shopify?” I often think about this, leaving behind a fantastic company, an excellent mentor, and free lunch seems like a crazy move for me, too. It still is.

Well, life always works in a funny way. I never thought I’ll go back to Indonesia. But, my wife wants to pursue her career and the only way for her to grow her career is by being in Indonesia. It’s time for me to give back, she has been my best supporter in the last 4 years. Her makeup work is fabulous, follow her on Instagram

Note: These are all based on my personal experience. I’m not trying to represent Shopify as a whole.

2020

2019

2018

2020

Nov 24

About self-doubt

Nov 11

Don't confuse design with artifacts

Nov 06

What if you need to find another job tomorrow?

Oct 26

Making sense of your design project by writing

Sep 30

When was the last time you reflect?

Sep 29

Methods are tools

Sep 24

How can I get a bigger project?

Sep 23

Entering product design – Chapter 7: Craft and analysis

Sep 22

Entering product design – Chapter 6: Narrow collaborator

Sep 21

Entering product design – Chapter 5: Soloist product designers

Sep 17

Entering product design – Chapter 4: Product designer key skill areas

Sep 14

Entering product design – Chapter 3: Misunderstanding of business

Sep 11

Entering product design – Chapter 2: Principles over steps

Sep 10

Entering product design – Chapter 1: Silver bullet

Sep 10

Entering product design – Overview

Sep 04

SAR: A framework for concise storytelling

Aug 27

Start your design with outcome

Aug 24

New medium post: Collaboration ground for design systems

Aug 17

Action points

Aug 13

Pulse check: Listen to your team

Aug 11

You should actively apply for a new job

Aug 10

Design systems' area of influence: Service (3/3)

Aug 04

Design systems' area of influence: Offering (2/3)

Aug 03

Design systems' area of influence: Identity (1/3)

Aug 01

My mom ran me to the hospital

Jul 29

Reader question: Do we need to build MVP for every product?

Jul 27

Reader question: Do I need formal design education?

Jul 24

Recognize assumptions

Jul 21

Sandbox for your personal growth

Jul 20

Start your week with questions

Jul 17

Specificity in feedback

Jul 15

Don't sell the design. Sell the business impact

Jul 14

Overwhelming inspiration

Jul 13

The framing trap

Jul 10

Everyone vs. Specific

Jul 09

The blind horse designer

Jul 08

Set the context in your meeting

Jul 07

Let's just try and see what happens

Jul 06

Managing expectation

Jul 05

Low UX maturity company

Jun 17

A simple exercise for career reflection

May 31

The “Coach sheet” – A paper-based system for people management

May 26

Bring calm to your remote team

Feb 13

Workshops can be more efficient than meetings

Feb 07

3 questions designers should be asking

Feb 06

Walking 1on1: A refreshing way to connect

2019

Nov 21

My hope for stubborn 'Innovators'

Jul 18

Five simple actions to help you gain more time

Apr 23

Evolving Product Experience Principles at Bukalapak

Mar 09

A framework to give better design feedback: Analyze, Discuss, Suggest

Jan 28

Making a decision is hard, here's my rule of thumb

2018

Dec 04

Essential skills for Product Designers

Nov 16

Quick life update

Nov 06

Things I learned from working at Shopify

Oct 15

About design critique

Sep 17

Common icon design problems you should avoid

Sep 06

Preface: Welcome to yellowstroke.com