Nov 06, 2018 | by Budi Tanrim

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.

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2021

May 05 Confusing popularity and value
May 04 Objective, strategy, and tactic
May 03 Self-learning
May 01 Small actions for self-improvement
Apr 30 Slow thinker
Apr 28 Mindset in the new job
Apr 27 One-on-one guide for individual contributors
Apr 26 Team player
Apr 23 'It looks good to me'
Apr 21 Why do you work?
Apr 20 The Steve Jobs' Error
Apr 19 Design is like riding a bike
Apr 16 See your life as an experiment
Apr 14 Lead with respect
Apr 13 Lead with trust
Apr 12 My reflection on leadership
Apr 07 Five years from now
Apr 06 Design Thinking allergy
Apr 05 What should design managers do with OKR?
Apr 04 When was the last time you talked to users?
Apr 03 Three core questions for product team
Apr 01 Inspecting interface design — Exercise with heuristic
Mar 30 Inspecting interface design — HE vs. UT
Mar 29 Inspecting interface design — Overview
Mar 27 Modern product design principles for Millenials designers.
Mar 25 A confusing interface that creates fire.
Mar 23 If F1 drivers get a trophy, what's our trophy?
Mar 22 Getting it right for the first time
Mar 19 Use Peltzman effect to communicate risk
Mar 17 Be the best version of yourself
Mar 16 If you coach a designer, do you need to know all the answers?
Mar 13 Show up and practice
Mar 11 Reader question: How to deal with promotion rejection?
Mar 10 Reader question: How to measure success?
Mar 09 Product design leadership - Managing and leading
Mar 07 How to draw an owl
Mar 05 Product design leadership — Persevere
Mar 04 Product design leadership — Establish urgency
Mar 02 Product design leadership — Strategic focus
Mar 01 Product design leadership — Setting direction
Feb 26 On GUI history, learning, and writing.
Feb 25 Product design leadership — Create changes
Feb 24 Product Design Leadership series
Feb 22 Documenting is a good team’s habit
Feb 18 Have a hard time getting design feedback?
Feb 18 I'm writing a book.
Feb 16 A manager cried in front of me.
Feb 15 Should I move to the managerial role?
Feb 12 Friday diary 01: On personal development, being senior, and breaking small task.
Feb 11 Evangelizing the human-centered practice
Feb 09 Human-centered team vs. Feature-centered team – Strategic insight
Feb 08 Human-centered team vs. Feature-centered team – Strategic relationship
Feb 08 Human-centered team vs. Feature-centered team – Overview
Feb 05 Dealing with top down request
Feb 03 Every team has its unique challenges.
Feb 02 Business aware designer – Recognize your competitors
Jan 29 Business aware designer – Job to be done
Jan 27 Business aware designer – Value proposition
Jan 26 Business-aware designer - overview
Jan 25 What do product designers do?
Jan 22 Announcement for mentorship program
Jan 21 Community story: impostor syndrome
Jan 20 Should startups build a design system?
Jan 18 How I overcame my impostor syndrome
Jan 17 User metrics - Signals and Metrics
Jan 15 User metrics - Vision
Jan 14 User metrics - Overview
Jan 13 Give back to the community
Jan 12 4P: framework for choosing job
Jan 11 Take things with a grain of salt
Jan 09 Principles of good portfolio design
Jan 07 An effective product design portfolio – Constraint
Jan 06 An effective product design portfolio – Structure
Jan 05 Connect user and business with AARRR framework
Jan 05 My blog in 2021
Jan 03 Should I build the feature request from customers?

2020

Dec 30 Feature requests are stupid business activity
Dec 21 The benefit of creating a design portfolio
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
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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