Getting everyone in the product development process on the same page requires radical transparency, empathy, and collaboration. In the Same Page event series, we get practitioners and leaders together for open conversations on exploring what it takes to build those cross-functional team relationships and how to find alignment.
In this Same Page event, Abstract CEO Kelly Watkins and Design Dept. CEO Mia Blume discuss the impact of design. Designers and design leaders have been feeling the shift around what companies now expect of design. From strategic planning to delivering on business outcomes, we’re now in a position to make real change at organizations and build better products.
Kelly Watkins Hey, Mia.
Mia Blume: Hello, good afternoon.
Kelly Watkins: Yeah. How's it going?
Mia Blume: Not too bad. Yeah. I'm excited to have this conversation with you.
Kelly Watkins: Me too. I'm really glad you're here. I know folks are jumping in. Hey, James. So, as folks are joining, if you want to jump into the chat and maybe say where you're watching from, be awesome to get a sense of where we've got folks located. "Hello from Atlanta." Cool. We're both based in the Bay Area, Mia. So, hello from the two of us from San Francisco.
Kelly Watkins: So, welcome everybody to Same Page. This event series by Abstract is really exploring design first approaches to product development. I'm Kelly Watkins, CEO at Abstract, and I am so, so excited today to be joined by Mia Blume, who is the CEO of Design Dept., also an incredible designer and design leader and design thinker. Today, we're going to be talking about how to think about the impact of design work. So many different nuances of that and I know Mia teaches and thinks a lot about this topic. So, really excited to get her perspective.
Kelly Watkins: I think we're going to open up a poll just to get a sense of what roles folks who are in the audience have in their organization. But Mia, while we're doing this poll, I'd love to turn it over to you and give you a chance to introduce yourself.
Mia Blume: Sure. So, hello everyone. Just for context. I mean, I'm trained as a graphic designer back before we had the choice to truly be a product designer and that was a formal path. I've spent my years building different products and teams across companies like IDEO and Square and Pinterest, and now we really focus on helping creative leaders figure out their paths through the education and coaching that we do. So, it's really nice to be able to support the community through that lens.
Kelly Watkins: Awesome. That's cool. Looks like we've got a heavy design contention today in our audience, which is awesome. I think that's going to be a great topic for them.
Mia Blume: Nice. We've got Portugal and the UK and Denver.
Kelly Watkins: Yeah. Folks from all over.
Mia Blume: Nice.
Kelly Watkins: Awesome. Well, I think to start out, we've been using this phrase on the Abstract side, Mia, this idea of going from outputs to outcomes, which has been kind of a shorthand. So, I was thinking maybe of talking a little bit about where this idea came from as a starting point and then just, I don't know, would love to talk from there if that works.
Mia Blume: Sounds good.
Kelly Watkins: Awesome. So, I joined the Abstract as CEO, oh gosh, like a year ago this month, just crazy how time flies. Anytime we take a new role, you're trying to spend so much time learning and I felt like the first several months in the job, which is talking to anybody that I could, talking to friends who were designers, talking to our customers, talking to design leaders, and in these conversations, everyone kept talking to me about the same thing. They kept talking about how they were feeling the shift, particularly being designers and design leaders inside of companies, how they were feeling the shift around what the business expected of design or what the business wanted from design.
Kelly Watkins: Now, when people would say things like, "Really, at one point design was like a service function and it was about the visuals that we created or the way that we executed on things. Now, the business is asking us to do strategy and to deliver on business outcomes." It just became this resounding theme that everybody talked about. So, this idea of outputs to outcomes became the shorthand for that, the shorthand of design's role inside of companies fundamentally shifting.
Kelly Watkins: Given that it's something I've observed and something that we've observed, I was curious, you I've been in this field forever, both as a designer and a design leader. Now, with all of the work you do at Design Dept., are you seeing the shift too and what companies actually want from their design teams?
Mia Blume: Oh yeah. There's a lot of different signals that I think we're noticing or seeing, maybe you heard some of these stories as well. Of course, there's the whole conversation about seat at the table, wanting designers to be there, but also designers wanting to be there. But also, if you look at the amount of design leadership roles that are open right now and not being filled, or folks are having a hard time filling, that also says something about where design fits in the organization and the importance of design, especially the number of executive roles we're seeing, which is a great thing for our community.
Mia Blume: I think also, we're constantly asking our community, "How can we better help you be effective in the things that you want to be effective in?" So many of them were saying, "Oh, I wish I knew more business acumen. I wish I knew how to talk to my PMs. I wish I knew how to really have that conversation." So, clearly there's definitely a push and pull happening at the same time.
Kelly Watkins: Yeah. One of the things that I loved that you were telling me about is over at Design Dept., you started teaching a course on business for design. Tell me more about the origin story of that course and why you built it and how does it work and function?
Mia Blume: Yeah. Well, for the last five years, we've mostly taught leadership and management practices, really straightforward, but we teach it through the lens of design, which is our special flair. But we just kept coming back to these conversations about how to have that seat? Why do people want the seat? What's actually happening at that table? And just realizing that that knowledge gap in our education and leadership development was just missing. So, it's not like I was super excited to teach business, if I have to be honest about that, and remembering all the acronyms, the language itself just is not conducive to me as a designer.
Mia Blume: But I knew how important it was to help, I believe in the power of design, I believe in what happens to our world when we get designers in those executive roles and design has more impact. So, now we teach a series called designing businesses and it's really about having those foundations of finance, strategy and how to really communicate the value of UX and design through the lens of the business. So, then we're not asking other people like our PMs or others to do the translation work for us. That's the thing that we have to stop doing to truly be valued.
Kelly Watkins: Yeah, I so agree. I'm wondering, could you share a little bit about some of the ways that you coach designers to do that? Because sometimes you think about the business side of a company and design and at first glance they seem so different in all aspects. So, how are you coaching folks in the course, or through some of the other coaching stuff that you do, how are you helping people think about what they're being asked of from their company today?
Mia Blume: Yeah. I mean, of course, there's the teaching of the basic acumen, but I think the hardest part is actually the mindset shift and coaching looks through that. So, there's this belief that, "Oh, we need to learn each other's languages and leaning into each function." And I don't disagree with that. There's a lot of empathy and importance in that cross-functional collaboration. But one mindset shift is recognizing that we all are here to serve the business. And the table, that conversation at the table is really about business.
Mia Blume: So, if we're always talking through our disciplines and how we solve things and the craft that we come from, then we're asking everyone else to do the translation work to the business perspective. So, that's just a mindset shift that yeah, we exist to serve the business. And yes, we do that by serving and creating for people. So, it's not taking away that human-centered way of thinking and being, it's just a different shift. And once you do that, a whole bunch of things start to unfold, like the way we talk about quality. Oh my gosh.
Kelly Watkins: Yeah.
Mia Blume: It's completely different when you talk about what do we mean when we say quality through that lens of the business perspective?
Kelly Watkins: I love what you said about language. I hear that so much, I hear both sides of it in the sense of design needs to learn to speak the language of the business, which I think your categorization there is right. It's lots of wonky acronyms at times, or the business needs to learn to speak the language of design. Could you maybe give an example or talk a little bit more about this mindset shift? Because it sounds like what you're saying, and correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like what you're saying is like, it's not about the language, the language doesn't matter, it's about this way of viewing the world. I'm so fascinated. I'd love to hear more about it.
Mia Blume: Yeah. I mean, there is some language, we need to understand what they mean when they say certain acronyms, but I think it's more about this understanding that we have to do some of that translation work to the framing of the business. Like if we're always making decisions through the lens of our craft and what people need, we're still missing in a critical part of how other decisions are going to be made, whether we're there or not. That includes things like business strategy, the market landscape, where we are in terms of product maturity, our financial situation, all of those things. If we can better think about solutions that address those, strategy, finance, risk tolerance, all of that stuff, then we can actually drive more fruitful conversations and hopefully get to better outcomes versus, again, waiting for someone else to do that translation work for us.
Kelly Watkins: Yeah. It's so interesting. So, my background is in marketing and one of the things that I've always, my whole career, found hard about marketing is it felt like oftentimes, in many companies, marketing was at the end of the process. So, a business strategy would get decided on, a product would get built, features would get built, engineering work would get done, all of this stuff. Then, it would be like, "All right here, marketing, do something with this."
Kelly Watkins: My belief has always been that marketing can be a partner from the very beginning. As I've come into this role, talked to folks like you and others, it's so true of design as well. Design doesn't just have to be the single step or this end of the process. But how do you think businesses can be more successful about bringing design earlier? You talked about having a seat at the table in the strategic conversations, how can that happen in a way that's truly effective and that position is designed to thrive and be successful?
Mia Blume:I mean, it's funny, because we build our organizations with all these disciplines and we believe that these disciplines add value, but the way we operate isn't always reflective of that. We kind of put everyone into this flow and whether you call it waterfall or whatever else, there's this assumption about where everyone needs to be and it's usually based on execution. Marketing is at the end, tell people about these wonderful things that we built.
But that doesn't leverage the diversity of thought and perspective and skill and experience. So, if we were more effective at bringing those cross-functional partners and teams together at the beginning, where we're figuring out what are we trying to solve and why, rather than what are we building and how are we going to tell people about it, then we would probably get to much better outcomes.
Mia Blume: Now I know that means that there's maybe more meetings or it feels harder to make decisions, but there's solutions to those problems too. If we truly believe in these cross-functional teams, then we need to behave that way. Then, for us, as the people being asked to come to that conversation, we need to be able to show up. We need to be able to partake and engage in that conversation at the right level and not just be like, "But quality," and really engage and be solution-oriented to navigating the complexities of the business.
Kelly Watkins: Yeah. I love the way you talked about that. It reminds me a lot of the importance of starting with first principles. One of my colleagues at Abstract is always really great at pointing out when a conversation is going too quickly to solutioning. Like, "We're moving too fast into implementation details, we're moving too fast into tactics. Have we really clearly articulated the why?" And I love that. I think you bringing that up is so critical, because the time that we invest in doing that pays dividends later on in the process.
Kelly Watkins: I've always felt like design, with its focus on like humans, human-centered processes, human-centered thinking is such a valuable conversation partner in those why discussions.
Mia Blume: Yeah, there's this... I talk about this around strategy, but I think it's related, which is this idea to slow down, to speed up, because I'm sure many of you have been part of projects where you get... You're building it, everyone's talking about it, you're ready to go live and then suddenly someone's like, "Wait, why are we doing this? Or how are we going to measure the success?" And because you moved so quickly into that solutions phase, that you didn't actually do the strategic work upfront, which can expedite that process and hopefully make it more successful. I think that strategy moment has to happen with all those different voices and perspectives.
Kelly Watkins: Yeah, it's so true. I wanted to go to a question that somebody in our audience has asked, which feels timely for this piece that we're talking about, would love your take on this, Mia, "What are the outward signs that a company operates kind of progressively versus this assembly line?" How can people know if they're pushing for their company to operate this way, what are some of those signs that you've seen?
Mia Blume: That's a great question, because there's always what we say and then there's the reality of how we operate. So, one of the main things I love to explore, whether it's an interview or just casual conversations about an organization is I want to know how they make decisions. That tells me a lot about how they value, different voices, how they navigate that, how they facilitate that, how they get to a point when there isn't alignment, what are the frameworks and tools they use to understand what good looks like. All of those things are baked into this critical moment of making decisions. So, we can say, "Oh, we value design," but how does design show up in that organization? And how has design involved is a whole other thing? So, that's one of the main ones that I look for and explore.
Kelly Watkins: What is the answer that a company or what's some of the things that a company would say that you would hear and be like, "Yes, they do get it." and it's not just words, it's actually something they're living.
Mia Blume: Well, if someone says, "I start off with a PRD," which is product requirements document, for those of you who have been lucky enough not to see one, usually that's a red flag to me. I'm like, "Okay, so you're starting with the prescribed solution." Okay, red flag. Or sometimes in the nicest possible way, folks will say, "Well, we don't want to disturb the designers or we don't want to disturb the engineers. So, we do this work and then we pull them in at this point in the process." I'm like, "Wait a second. That's not how it works. Disturb us. We'll find a way to make it work." So, there's a couple of different things that might show up there that make you go like, "Why is that really happening?"
Kelly Watkins: That's super helpful. Those are great tells. I've always felt similarly when folks answer about marketing, like when do marketers get involved in your process? At the end. It's like, oh, not great. You talked a little bit in that last answer, Mia, about partnership. I'm curious when you talk to teams outside of design, when you talk to product folks or engineering folks, or just general folks in the business, how do you encourage them to show up as great partners for design?
Kelly Watkins: Obviously, we've talked a lot about this shift that's taking place that design is experiencing, but the business side of a company, it has to go both ways. So, I don't know, how can they shift to work better with design? What do they need to do differently?
Mia Blume: Yeah. I mean, I think it starts with the invitation. So, hopefully you're getting at least that minimum invitation. Then I think there's the reality of a lot of these folks are facilitating conversations with us and other disciplines and their ability to effectively facilitate great conversations, especially our PMs, because they tend to play that role, if they can do that, then anyone can participate and be an effective contributor to the conversation, to the evaluation of ideas and that's so fundamental. So that's really a skillset that they need to be able to develop to bring us in, multiple disciplines into that process.
Mia Blume: The other thing is just figuring out how to design those one-on-one relationships. We call it designing alliances, but really figuring out what does this partnership mean and recognizing that often different functions have different incentives and measures of good, and to acknowledge that, and be like, "Okay, well you're measured on this metric and I'm measured on this one. So, how are we going to meet in the middle and how are we going to navigate that?" Because it is complex and hard, but it's the reality of those relationships.
Kelly Watkins: Yeah, it's so true. It brings up such a great question here for our audience on how people are measuring success. Curious if folks have a chance to jump into the poll there and tell us a little bit more about how they're measuring success in their roles. Mia, I'm curious from your perspective, as you work with designers and design leaders, many times the business is so metrics-driven in a very quantitative way, how do you encourage folks who are on the design side of the shop to really think about talking about the impact of their work?
Mia Blume: Yeah, it's tough. Because I feel like there's something that's happening right now where there's a lot of conversations where design is like, "How do we measure our impact?" Almost like trying to invent new measures. Sure, there's certainly things that we can measure around satisfaction and engagement and stuff like that. But at the end of the day, we already have the measures, it's the business. And all of these measures exist, it doesn't mean that we understand them, it doesn't mean that they're exciting to lean into sometimes, because of that disconnect around language. But we already have that.
Mia Blume: So, the question is, are we mapping our work to that in effective ways? And when we do, it's a lot easier, because people understand the value, it's direct, it's clear. Then, we're having much healthier conversations around like, "What are you trying to achieve here? We're not just trying to make things higher quality. We're trying to generate more revenues, let's talk about how we're going to get there and how are we going to measure that." Yeah.
Kelly Watkins: Yeah, James in our audience just followed up with a great question here asking, "How can you best educate forward thinking design process, design systems to clients internally, externally that don't value or understand the ROI?"
Mia Blume: Oh, this is a good one. This one comes up in all of our workshops. So, first I would say, James, let's talk about whether a design system actually makes sense for where your product and business is at. If it is, if it makes sense, if you're in the phase where investing in that is going to give dividends to the business, then we should be able to communicate that through the lens of things like, oh, we are scaling into multiple market segments or we're adding certain functionality, we're trying to shore up gaps in our user experience, because we're really about optimizing the maturity of the business and the product. Then we can translate that into specific measures and metrics that we can prove that value.
Mia Blume: But usually, the disconnect here is that we don't need a design system yet and therefore there is no ROI and it's really hard to have that conversation. So, if you're at the right moment and right place, then it's a lot easier to engage in that. But we don't have to convince them of anything.
Kelly Watkins: That's such a great answer. One of the things that I love listening to you talk, Mia, is it's just so clear of your own incredible ability to straddle the design world and the business world. I'm so curious, on a personal plane, how have you gotten to this place? For folks who are listening, who are, rightfully so, want to be just like you and be able to see the world from this first principles perspective, think strategically about the business, what does that journey look like and what are sources that you've found to inspire and educate yourself?
Mia Blume: Well, I mean, the real truth is I made a whole bunch of mistakes along the way. I argued for... Because we had design systems way back in the day. I argued for designs and systems way too early. I talked about quality in the ways that no one else understood, I made all the mistakes. But I was really fortunate that I started my career at a consultancy.
Mia Blume: So, part of that meant that I had to start learning the language of business, because our clients were the executive teams and they were like, "Why should we do this?" So, very early on, I got more comfortable starting to have those conversations or was at least exposed to them. Then, working in startups, the thing about a startup is that you only have so much money, you only have so much time to invest. And even if it seems like a lot of money that startups are raising, there's still a runway. So, you have to learn how to make really hard trade-offs and decisions and balance user needs with business needs. That's trial by fire as well.
Mia Blume: Then, I would say the thing that really crystallized it for me is actually becoming my own boss. Being you're like, "Okay. I'm designing for designers. I need a crazy, really good website, but actually it doesn't make sense for me to invest in a website right now." And having to have those really hard conversations with myself about those investments. That was the final straw I was like, "All right." But to get there.
Kelly Watkins: Related to that, when do you think is a good time in a designer's career to start on this path of really learning about the business and preparing oneself to be that voice at the table and participate in these conversations? Is this like a day one you're out of your whatever education you went through, first job, do you think it matters more for leaders versus individual designers? How do folks think about the right point to incorporate this type of stuff in their own career journey?
Mia Blume: Yeah, I think it's going to depend on each person. But I would say, if you're right out of school, you may get pulled into these cross-functional conversations and be asked to contribute. So, earlier better, but not at the cost of you being able to develop your craft. Because it's really important to find that control over your craft, whatever that is, interaction, product design, brand design, so that you can contribute to the solutions once they've been identified.
Mia Blume: So, I think there's a tipping point somewhere around mid to senior. If you're going to go down that IC or individual contributor path and you want to become a principal or staff, whatever the titles are at your company. Especially if you're going to become a manager, there's a tipping point there, where suddenly you're going to be asked to be that strategic partner and you need to be able to contribute. So, own the craft, but at some point transition to building this acumen.
Kelly Watkins : Yeah. That's awesome. Looks like another question from the audience, Mia, just on your journey. "What was the tipping point for you specifically that made you want to jump from self-employed to agency?" If that's the right order of the things went in.
Mia Blume: I actually went from startup life to starting my own business. So, I think that's about becoming my own boss. I don't know. There's a lot of things that were going on and a huge part of it was that, I was a little frustrated with some of the things that were happening in tech at the time, unrelated to business acumen, just in general. I didn't want to leave tech. I deeply believe in the value that design has and I want more designers on those executive teams. So, the question to myself was, "Okay, how am I going to help make this happen?" If I believe this needs to happen and I believe in diverse teams and all of this. Yeah. I can do it by building my own team, but maybe there's a more scalable way. So, that's how I entered into building Design Dept.
Kelly Watkins: That's awesome. I love that force multiplayer approach there of taking this one to many process of seeking change. I love that. Well, we're going to jump to a new section that we have and is called the rant wheel where we'll spin a wheel and Mia and I will rant on topics that are near and dear to our heart, but I just want to check and make sure, do we have any other questions that folks want to ask Mia before we jump into the rant wheel? Anything else folks want to get in here? All right. Why don't we spin the wheel?
Mia Blume: I love this high-tech tool we got.
Kelly Watkins: Oh man. Executive leadership archetypes. I think this is one of mine. I don't know how you feel on this one, Mia. But since becoming a CEO, this has been a huge rant of mine. I am a very introverted, nerdy person, not this magnanimous, extroverted leader. When I became a CEO, I was like, "Ah, I should read books. I should get educated. I need to learn what does it mean to do this job?" And all of the books, all the advice I think is just written to this one very narrow personality type. This is kind of magnanimous, oftentimes, white male who is just this steamroller personality.
Kelly Watkins: I don't know, the biggest complaint I've had in being a CEO is that I want us to broaden the definition of who can be in executive roles. I mean, I don't have an MBA, I'm a marketer by trade, but that doesn't mean that I can't be effective in this role. And I think across all sorts of dimensions of diversity, we have to broaden the definition of what are the archetypes of executive leadership. I don't know. I don't know if you have any thoughts on that one.
Mia Blume: I love that you're breaking the assumptions and the archetypes, because I think we do need more of that. And we've seen enough of what happens when you don't. So how do we create space for, in general, just more leaders and hopefully those leaders become those future executives to be different types of leaders? Just very tactically, in general, in tech, there's this pressure to make a decision in the meeting, in the room, in 30 minutes. What? That's ridiculous. That's not how I process information.
Kelly Watkins: Same.
Mia Blume: I'm also an introvert, even though I don't show up that way sometimes. I don't process information that way. I would much rather have a leader say, "Thank you for all of this. I'm going to go consider this deeply and I will get back to you with the decision." Rather than function of behaving and deciding in a particular way, we need more of that so that we can truly have those diverse teams. It's just we've got to break the assumptions of what good leadership looks like.
Kelly Watkins: I totally agree. I often say, "I need to sleep on that." Because I'm similar. I've got to process things. I need to like think and feel often my ways through a problem. So, yeah. I'm so with you, we got to expand this one. Should we spin the wheel one more time-
Mia Blume: Sure.
Kelly Watkins: ... and see if we can get one more rant topic? All right. Running remote companies. I know, Mia, that you just wrote an incredible essay on remote and working remote. You want to start off on this one?
Mia Blume: Sure. I mean, the first thing that happened when we all had to make that transition, everyone came to me and was like, "Well, I don't know how to be a remote manager or leader. What do I do?" And I was like, "It's the same thing." It's just there's different channels and avenues in which we're going to connect with each other, but good management is good remote management. It's all about communication and relationships and clarity.
Mia Blume: The thing about remote management is we can't rely on those happened-to-bump-into-someone conversations the informality. So, it just requires us to actually be better leaders in those ways and as employees too, that we can communicate. One of the things I hear all the time is, "People don't believe that I'm working hard or that I'm doing the things that I should do." And it behooves all of us to make the invisible visible. That was true in the office and it's just more important now, because we can't see, no one's looking over my shoulder to be like, "Oh, is Mia working?"
Mia Blume: So, these are all things that we should've been doing, but now the cracks in the way that we're working are far more exposed. So, we just need to do a better job of the clarity and the communication and being more proactive with all those things. Yeah. Was there something else that stood out to you around remote?
Kelly Watkins : Yeah. One of the things that I've... So, Abstract has been distributed since day one, so, well before me being part of the company, really started with a distributed workforce. Our team is still distributed. We have folks in the Bay Area, but we have folks all over. One of the things that I've seen and observed that's been really important is how do you create moments where trust can intentionally be built? Because we're humans, we're social creatures, face-to-face interaction. Seeing people in real life is so important, obviously COVID has made that impossible, but those dynamics are part of how we build trust. When you have people who live all over and they're avatars in Slack or avatars in Abstract, or whatever products you're using, how do you think about having really intentional rituals around trust building?
Kelly Watkins: One of the things that we have done in Abstract is we use the Donut app, which is the Slack app, I'm sure everybody knows about it. It just pairs you with a random colleague each week and you can hang out and do a Zoom call with them. On the one hand, you're like... This, it might seem frivolous of pairing people up to do 30-minute coffee chat type of stuff. But the trust building that comes out of that is so powerful, because you... In literature, they talk about flat characters versus three dimensional characters. I think those intentional trust building and relationship building things really help you see more roundedness of the people you work with, you learn about people's families or pets or hobbies, or all sorts of stuff. And I think that's so important to do with remote teams.
Mia Blume: I love those tools, because right now our basic tools, just setting up a video call or whatever it is, feels so transactional. Just to connect with you, I have to schedule the thing. So, I love some of that impromptu stuff coming back to the remote world.
Kelly Watkins: Yeah, me too. All right. Well, I wanted to shout-out process pages. For folks who looked at some of the stuff about the events online, we've been talking a lot about process and how process pages work. I think we have a couple of examples to show of ones that people have submitted just in terms of how people do process. So, everything from really cool, illustrative stuff of a much more visual journaling to more lists type of stuff. I don't know, Mia, how you think about doing process, but are you more of a visual process person or more of a text-based process person?
Mia Blume: I'm a visual thinker. That could be words on Post-its that could be sketches and flows and things, but everything needs to be visual. I'm not good at just putting it into a Google doc or whatever, and trying to make sense of things. So, I'm always drawing.
Kelly Watkins: Yeah. I'm a terrible drawer, not a designer, but there's something for me about putting pen to paper. So, I work with a notebook in front of me, and all day I'm like jotting down notes to myself or ideas or writing outlines for things before I invest in them. I love some of these examples though, some of the visual stuff in here, I think it's so cool.
Mia Blume: Yeah.
Kelly Watkins: One of the things that we're going to be doing, and our producer is going to put a link into the chat. We are giving away process page journals to folks who are participating in our events. So, I know Kelsey is going to put a link in, if you want, you can claim one. One of the things that we're asking for folks who claim one of the process pages journals is show us a picture of your process. We're going to be putting together a digital zine showing off people's process pages. So, we'd love to see some of your work and really thankful for folks who have already submitted examples already.
Kelly Watkins: Awesome. Well, I know we just have a few minutes left. Any other questions that folks have from the audience for Mia or any questions for me? I would love to make sure we get everybody's thoughts on this topic.
Mia Blume: While we wait on their questions, Kelly, maybe you can tell us a little bit more about what it's like to be A CEO from a marketing perspective.
Kelly Watkins: Yeah, certainly. I think there's been this theme in my career around storytelling and the power of story. So, I have a little bit of an untraditional background. I studied theology in college and then worked the first part of my career in the nonprofit sector. The thing I always tell people about nonprofits is you still want people to care and have a high level of interest, but you don't have a product to give them. There's nothing that they get really in return for engaging with a nonprofit other than like good feelings, positivity for making or attempting to make a change in the world. So, story mattered so much.
Kelly Watkins : As a marketer, I so believe in the power of stories, I think as human beings, that's how we try to make sense of ourselves. That's how we try to make sense of the world. And one of the most fascinating things for me becoming a CEO has been that story still matters so much. A big part of what I feel like my job is, is telling a story to our employees about why we're here and why what we're doing matters. Telling a story to our customers, telling a story to anybody who will listen about the point of view that we have at Abstract and the products we're trying to build and the stuff that we're trying to create. So I love that that's still part of what I get to do every day.
Mia Blume: That's awesome. I love to hear that. It's such a different entry point into that role.
Kelly Watkins: Certainly. Certainly. It's not a common path, there aren't very many marketers who become CEOs. It's lots of product folks, lots of finance folks, but I am hopeful that we will see more marketers become CEOs, at least that's part of my mission.
Mia Blume: Yeah.
Kelly Watkins: Cool. Well, I think it's been awesome to have you join us, Mia. Are we going to do one more poll? Awesome. Let's do one more poll, I guess thinking about final question here around how you can measure success for folks who are watching in, who decides how your success is measured, leadership, your company culture, your team, yourself? Yeah. Really curious how folks are measuring success. How do you encourage folks to measure success, Mia?
Mia Blume: Oh gosh. I mean, in some ways, all of those matter, the question is, who's driving them and what does good look like? I think that's the most important thing is knowing what good looks like. Otherwise, we're just creating artificial constructs to move numbers. You need to know what you're measuring. So, I think starting with what good looks like in each of those, and then yeah, they all matter, they all add up.
Kelly Watkins: Yeah. Lots of my team sets goals together.
Mia Blume: Nice.
Kelly Watkins: Yeah. That's awesome. Looks like we've got one more question that we've got time to get to. "Are there any books, podcasts, resources that can help designers of all experiences gain a better understanding of how to prepare themselves?" Assuming, James, this is how to prepare yourselves for more leadership and being that participant in business strategy and that side of the company, what do you encourage folks to dig into, Mia?
Mia Blume: Oh my gosh. It's hard. Because most of those books are not written for us. So, I'm going to incredibly dry and full of war and sports metaphors. But I really encourage you to try one of... I mean, I have them here because I was teaching my business course this morning, but Analysis for Financial Management. This is painful. But if you truly want to understand financial structures and how a business measure success from that perspective, that's good place to start.
Mia Blume: The other one is, this is like the cheat sheet. So, The Personal MBA, it takes a lot of these words and concepts and they're super light, they're super easy to understand, it doesn't really help that all hang together. But at least someone's throwing out some words at you and you're like, "What?" Then, this is a great resource to go to.
Mia Blume: The other thing that I think is more important than books and those types of resources is your partners, your cross-functional partners. Go have conversations and ask them, that's the most important thing is that you're learning the specifics of your contacts, your product, your business. And in doing that, the favorite exercise I have for that is to draw your business ecosystem together, not your business model, but your business ecosystem.
Kelly Watkins: I love that.
Mia Blume: Because that helps you understand all the partners and the different people and components and the value exchange from each of those, that is a really powerful way to truly understand and start that conversation.
Kelly Watkins: I love that. I remember, about mid stage in my marketing career and realizing I hadn't gone to business school and I didn't know how to read an income statement or a profit and loss statement and spending time at night after work educating myself on like, "What do these terms mean? And what are these rows in the sheet?" So, such a tedious thing for somebody like me who is not math-minded at all, but wow, so worth that investment of time.
Mia Blume: Yeah. And just learning things like parentheses are a negative number, not all designers have that context. But it's really important to learn these fundamentals.
Kelly Watkins: True. Well, I want to make sure to plug process pages one more time. Kelsey's put a link in the chat where folks can go to Printfection and order their process pages, the journal. So, would love for people to claim those journaling kits. Mia, I wanted to ask you, tell us a little bit more about what's upcoming at Design Dept., and if folks want to learn more, if they want to take workshops from you, what are you teaching and where can they sign up?
Mia Blume: Yeah. I mean, we're teaching all the things all the time. So, our most popular workshop that we are constantly doing is Design Leadership Fundamentals. So, that's for senior ICs and new managers that just don't have the internal resources to even know like, "Where do I start?" So, that's a great one and all of our workshops are public workshops. You get to meet other people in the community. So, there's a really nice moment of like, "All right, I'm not alone, we're in this together."
Mia Blume: The other one is our business workshop that we're doing right now. So that one is in the fall as well. But with all that designdept.co, you can find us, I'm all over the internet. But hopefully I'll see some of y'all in our upcoming workshops.
Kelly Watkins: Yeah. I would strongly encourage everybody to take your courses, such important things to learn. I feel like every time I've invested in myself and invested in leveling up some part of me, it's just paid back dividends. So, I've got to imagine for you and the stuff that you're teaching, just being able to see designers grow in their career has got to be so incredibly rewarding.
Mia Blume: It's so amazing. Especially when they come back and they're like, "Oh, here's my team. Let's have more conversations with my team now." And you can just truly see that evolving and spreading. So, it's really cool to see.
Kelly Watkins: It's awesome. Well, Mia, thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you to everyone who showed up. Mia and I are going to hang out for a little bit afterwards. If folks want to hang around and say hi and ask us any questions you didn't get to during the session, we are going to be back for our next Same Page on June 10th, Ellen Butters and Alyshia Olsen are going to be talking about collaborating with context, which I'm super excited about. I think it's going to be a great conversation. Obviously, it takes work to get everybody on the Same Page, but I know that we can all get there. So, thank you everybody who joined us today. Thanks for the great questions. Thank you, Mia. It was so fun and awesome to talk to you and to learn from you. Yeah, It was great.
Mia Blume: Thanks for having me, Kelly. It was really great.
Kelly Watkins: Cool. All right. Well, we're going to hang out for a little bit. If folks want to stay around and ask some questions, otherwise enjoy the rest of your day.