Jake Taylor - How soft skills can help advance your product design career


Jake Taylor's advice on using soft skills to become stronger in your discipline. Read the blog below and listen to the full episode for more excellent advice!

📢 You have the power to encourage a productive feedback session if you understand your audience and think through the potential feedback they may provide based on their position and how your design impacts them specifically.

🔥 Ask for what you want. Have discussions with your manager about where you want to go and what you want to do in your career. They won't know if you don't tell them.

👏 Meet regularly with peers and leaders within your organization asking for feedback and learning more about them. It's never a bad thing to be well known and well respected in your company.

How soft skills can help advance your product design career

In episode 10 of The Product Design Podcast, Seth Coelen interviews Jake Taylor, a Principal Product Designer outside Denver, Colorado. Jake shares his proactive approach to presenting work, receiving feedback, advancing his career, and negotiating with developers. Jake has held several positions in the UI, UX, product design space, and he has loads of advice to share!


How Jake got his start in product design

When Jake went to college, he knew that he would like to move into the digital space early on. This knowledge led him to pursue a degree in interactive web and media focused on web design and engineering. During a portfolio review, Jake was approached by a team interested in his work and ultimately led him to his first job.

His first project focused on upgrading a legacy trading application with newer styles, design patterns, and interactions. This project helped him transition from a mixed media degree to UX and product design, where he began to build the foundation of his career. During his career, he has had learned to navigate the industry changes as they happen, and he has always tied everything back to his strengths in product design.

The many roles of Jake's career

From enterprise corporate roles to freelance, startups, and back around, Jake has collected extensive experience in the product design industry. As Jake determined what kind of work environment he preferred, he worked in roles such as Web Content Developer, UX Architect, Senior UX Designer, and then Principal Product Designer. Jake even found a position helping build enterprise dashboards for space monitoring and satellites! Currently, he is working as the Principal Product Designer at JumpCloud.

Over the years, Jake has collected so much valuable advice on navigating a career in product design and how to keep work moving forward most effectively. He has also recognized the importance of soft skills and shared with us how these skills can impact a career in product design.

"Designs don't have to be perfect to get the point across."

In this article, we will focus on preparing for productive feedback sessions and proactively collecting and using feedback. By fine-tuning these soft skills, you will be better prepared to work with teams along your career path.

Top 4 tips to encourage productive feedback sessions

We have all attended meetings where no one left with the information they needed to move forward in a clear direction. Jake gave us some valuable tips to prepare for a productive feedback session which will set the course for the next phase of your project!

🧠 Know your audience. Are you presenting internally or to a client? Are you sharing designs with an engineer, an entrepreneur, or another product designer?

Understanding your audience's point of view will help you narrow down the approach to presenting your designs for feedback.

🤔 Identify what you think the feedback may be ahead of time to prepare how you would respond to any given type of feedback.

Thinking through these "gotchas" will prepare you to help direct the conversation to get the most valuable feedback from your audience.

"Ask for feedback and treat it as part of your growing and getting better process."

Ensure you have used the best design practices and principles to provide the foundation for why you made the decisions you made in your design.

If possible, having the data from user research as validation will also help tell the story and confirm the strength of your design.

🎯 Involve your development team early and often. Share work ahead of time, receive validation on the "gotchas" you have found, and then work to align with the development team before going into a formal review.

How to proactively improve your skills through feedback

It is not always easy to receive feedback, especially when it is more critical. But if you take control and ask for it to improve your skills, you are more likely to move forward in your career. Take these steps to collect the feedback you need. Then you can create a plan to leverage the feedback to improve your skills and be more prepared for annual review discussions!

💡 Create a 360 feedback loop. Set up reoccurring meetings with peers in other disciplines and departments to ask for feedback and ensure your work is on track. This practice opens up communication with other departments and will ensure you receive the feedback you need to create a plan for improving your skills.

🎭 Make a solid effort to remove your personal feelings from critical feedback. By releasing emotions, you will approach critiques more objectively, which will help you learn ways to improve your product design skills.

📂 Collect and save all feedback for immediate or long-term use. If it is critical feedback, create a plan with action steps to improve over time! If feedback is positive, save it in a "kudos" folder to be used later in review conversations.

Thank you so much, Jake!

This episode with Jake was full of precious advice for anyone in product design. We are so glad that he joined us to spread his knowledge. Listen to the complete episode on The Product Design Podcast, which includes more about Jake's impressive career path, as well as his experience with mentorship and working from home.

Don't forget to follow Jake and watch as he impacts the product design industry with his strengths and experience. You can find him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and his website!

Where to find Jake Taylor

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