Certain points along your career path can be challenging to navigate. Deciding to take the leap into management can be challenging, as can deciding to transition into IC work after managing teams. Jess has worked as Head of Design and Director of User Experience but realized that right now, being an individual contributor fits best into her current career stage.
During this episode, Jess Brown shares her experience on both sides of this topic and how to decide which path would work best for you!
Individual contributor or manager: Which path is best?
In episode 33 of The Product Design Podcast, Seth Coelen interviews Jess Brown, Staff Product Designer at Faire. During her career, Jess has worked as the Head of Design and Director of User Experience. Still, she decided to switch up her career path and head back into working as an individual contributor.
Jess shares why she decided to return to IC after working in management and her insights on how her work experience still applies to her current role. Seth and Jess also discuss the difference between the two career paths and how you can decide which route is best for you.
How Jess got her start in product design
Jess studied math and computer science at Stanford, intending to become an engineer. During her internship, she discovered that path was not the right fit for her and realized she was taking several art classes that were not required. Jess decided to put together a portfolio and begin applying for design jobs. Her first job out of school was a hybrid role where she designed and did front-end engineering for a small startup.
After that, Jess worked at several small startups and co-founded a small company. She learned a lot from the internet and started to get a feel for what she wanted in the next phase of her career path. With an interest in fashion and tech, Jess decided to join a more established company called Rent the Runway in New York, where she could work with a larger team, have more structure and begin to hone her design craft. During her time there, she grew into a management role based on the company's needs and became the Director of Product Design.
What to expect in a management role
Since then, Jess has spent several years of her career in Director level roles and truly enjoyed leading and developing design teams. Many hidden responsibilities come with managing teams, and Jess shared some of the responsibilities you can expect if you choose to move into a management role.
“What makes a good teammate: giving people the benefit of the doubt, being patient with people, and looking to understand and resolve conflicts.”
Jess’s guidance on deciding if IC or management is for you
In her previous role, the company Jess worked for had to reduce the number of people on her team. She found herself in project work and working more closely with teams, as she had done earlier in her career. Jess realized she felt energized by this type of work and decided to move back into IC as a Staff Product Designer.
Jess shared her advice on deciding to move into management or back into IC after managing teams, so you can see what would work best for you at the current stage of your career path!
“Managing energy is very important, and the evolution of routine working from home is a continued one.”
Thank you so much, Jess!
We had a great discussion with Jess, where she brought her valuable insight into management versus IC work. Her experience provided us with fantastic advice for anyone deciding between one path or the other. We are thankful for the advice she shared that will help you make a more informed decision on your next step!
Listen to the complete episode on The Product Design Podcast, which includes a deeper dive into what Jess experienced during her time in startups and where she thinks tech will go in the future. Don't forget to follow Jess on Twitter and LinkedIn, to see what she is staying up to!
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