Adam Sadowski - Leadership qualities that all managers must have


We have talked a lot about how to get started in UX, but this episode dives deep into leveling up from mid-level manager to senior-level director. Adam Sadowski shares his advice on setting an early strategy to work towards as you progress in your career, how to level up along the way, and the skills you need to stand out as a potential senior-level designer. Read the article below and listen to even more great advice from Adam in the full episode!

🚫 Waiting for someone to tell you what to do?

Don’t! Show that you are proactive and ready to dive in to solve problems and elevate your team, even before you officially have a Manager or Director title. Setting yourself up with senior-level skills will get you noticed.

⁉️ Do you know how to form and ask the right questions?

As a leader, you are responsible for the team's success on all projects. You must be able to ask the right questions and set the team in the right direction so they can execute efficiently.

🤔 How strong are your leadership skills?

Can you critique your own designs before they go to team review? Are you organized enough with project details to ensure the team can get to the finish line efficiently? Can you consistently speak to a team with clear direction in a way they respect? Are you willing to take the time to invest in your team and let them know you support their growth and development? If not - start working on these skills!

Leadership qualities that all managers must have

In episode 36 of The Product Design Podcast, Seth Coelen interviews Adam Sadowski, Design Director here at UX Cabin! Adam joined our team a few months ago and has been doing fantastic work leading and mentoring the UX Cabin design team.

Adam shares what he has learned along his career path, from breaking into product design to moving up through mid-level management and then up to a senior-level role where he leads an entire design team. His advice can help you figure out what to do next to level up and set yourself on the right path for a senior-level product design leadership position. No matter where you are currently on your product design career path, there is so much to learn from this episode!

How Adam landed on a product design career path

When Adam was younger, he was interested in video games and computers. He was obsessed with the web and its endless possibilities, and reflecting on it during our chat, Adam realized he had an early interest in software without even knowing it. As a young adult, he moved back to New York and was looking for a job when his Mom gave him a contact at a small company he reached out to with a cold email to see if they needed help.

Adam was hired for a Project Coordinator role, but the role quickly changed because of his exposure to software and his computer skills. He began working on information architecture, user flow, site maps, and wireframes. Adam felt really lucky to have found his calling right away in his career, with a job that was so cross-disciplinary and required a lot of collaboration and deep thinking. He enjoys that there is always something new to do and a different approach to each project.

“Your foot in the door might not be a design role. Maybe it’s marketing, engineering, or PM. Just get in the door, develop your skills, build trust with your team and see how you can wiggle laterally toward what you are passionate about.”

Non-design skills you need to level up

As Adam has worked his way from junior designer to mid-level manager and then to director level, he has collected so much experience and advice that he shares in this episode. Here are some soft skills he believes help to separate you regardless of your experience in the industry. Collecting and becoming proficient in these skills will help you level up from junior to mid-level and then up to senior-level, depending on where you are along your career path!

🎯 Don’t wait to be told what you need to do.

Be proactive! If you can figure out what needs to be done next and arrive at discussions and meetings with ideas and solutions, you will show that you can solve the problems and take the lead.

💡 Trust your gut and intuition!

Hone in your instincts so you can trust yourself as much as you trust the word of a customer or piece of data on a report or dashboard. The more you learn about the industry and expand your skills, your instincts will be refined and can help you make better decisions.

Learn how to ask the right questions.

The questions we ask help drive our decisions and the direction we take for each project. How we form and ask those questions makes a big impact.

👉 Pro Tip: Sometimes, the questions we ask can be more helpful if the recipient understands why you are asking them. If the recipient has the proper context and understands why you are asking a specific question, they can answer it more effectively and help you make better decisions based on their response.

Bridging the gap between mid and senior-level roles

Moving from mid to senior-level roles can carry based on the organization that you are in and the expectations for each position in your company. Adam shared that, first and foremost, from a design perspective, your information architecture, visual design, and ability to prototype have to be at a much more advanced level. You may be specialized in one area where you are more skilled.

Once that set of skills is well established, Adam shares some key areas to consider improving to move to the next level in your career where you are involved in more collaboration and helping move a team towards the desired goal.

📌 Clear and consistent communication.

Practice your storytelling and public speaking since you will be leading more presentations at a senior level. You will need to be able to motivate, influence, or sometimes convince stakeholders or your team to go in a certain direction.

🗝 Organization is key.

Keeping track of everything makes you indispensable to a team. Organization and attention to detail are necessary for getting projects across the finish line when the details can get scattered. Managing a project's details, what it needs, and how to get it done is critical.

🔥 Ability to critique your own work.

You must be able to critique your work before it goes to the team review to show your ability to do the same for others on the team when you rise to a senior-level role. Show you can take a step back, realize your design is not working, and create other options that work better. In that case, you will show you are ready for the responsibility and accountability to get things right faster than in a junior or mid-level role.

👉 Invest in your team.

Investing in your team is the most important thing a leader needs to do because it shows the team that you care about the team. From their growth and development to their well-being. If the team feels cared for, they will be happier and more engaged, leading them to produce better work.

Adam Sadowski
“You have to take control of your own path and be proactive and strategic about it. You are actually a lot more in control than you think. Learn from the best, try things, experiment, think about how to get where you want to be, and work yourself backwards.”

Thank you so much, Adam!

It was fun chatting with Adam about leveling up to a leadership role in our industry. His advice was on point and practical regardless of your current position. It can help speed up your career path to a senior-level manager! Thank you so much, Adam, for sharing your tips and tricks and for all the fantastic work you have done since joining our team!

Listen to the complete episode on The Product Design Podcast, which includes a look into how Adam set himself apart when he applied for the Design Director role at UX Cabin, and his strategy for changing your career trajectory early on! Don't forget to follow Adam on LinkedIn and Twitter!

Where to find Adam

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