Fuzzy Math typically conducts interviews in our design research process, reaching out to client stakeholders and users. But now, Mark Baldino, a Fuzzy Math co-founder, is sitting down to interview a new type of audience: UX design leaders. I sat down with Mark to talk what is coming up on this podcast, with the first episode ready to stream across platforms.
Let’s start off with a little bit more of a background on the podcast. What is the podcast about and who is the target audience?
The podcast is called UX Leadership by Design which hopefully gives away the focus area: it is a podcast by and for UX design leaders. I’m talking with, in this first season, a lot of internal design leads at bigger companies with a range of UX design team sizes. It’s really looking at how people are navigating working within a larger organization, as well as resourcing and scaling their teams while ensuring value. I’m letting the interviewees dictate the topic and keeping it challenge-and-solution focused. For example, over the course of their leadership, or even more recently, what challenges have they and their team faced? And looking at the how – what have been some strategies that have been unsuccessful and successful in this challenge? The hope is that someone who leads a design team will be able to listen in and apply solutions to a problem the very next work day.
That’s super interesting. It even sounds like this is not only for higher level internal UX leadership but could also be for anyone who leads in general.
I think it could be, I am only talking to people who are doing work in the design world but if they’re leading a project or an engagement, most of those people probably also have a people management component to their job duties. So I am touching on some of that, for example: How do you motivate your team? How do you get the right people in the right seats? How do you ensure retention? Those topics don’t have to be design specific, but as you know, designers are a special breed of folks. And so you need different tips and techniques to ensure that they can bring their best in the environment.
Yeah, that definitely makes sense, it’s interesting. So why did you choose to create a podcast focused around this space specifically?
Originally I was going to write a book in this space, and I had a hypothesis around how internal design teams scaled and grew over time. When I was doing research for this book, I did a handful of interviews. One or two of the people said “hey, while you write the book, it would be awesome if there was a podcast about this, for us and by us”. I ended up abandoning the book and I thought, well, can I do a podcast that gets something out in more timely, short snippets of 20 to 30 minute conversations? They’re not really long, but are answering some of the same questions that book was going to answer. In some ways, it was user-supported from the ground up. People who I’ve been talking to during these podcast episodes have expressed the need for conversations and advice for UX team leads; there isn’t a ton of material in this space. There’s a lot of good UX and broader design podcasts out there for designers, but are there resources that are always going to be targeted to be as niche as a design lead? I think the answer is no. My hope is that I’m serving a really narrow band of folks who are people that we work with on a day in and day out basis at our clients’ companies. Even our clients at Fuzzy Math will hopefully be able to utilize some of this.
It’s funny because I just saw a LinkedIn post covering the lack of resources out there for designers transitioning to a leadership role and the difficulties that come with that. But can you speak to some of the big challenges design leaders are facing today?
There’s a few different themes that I’m hearing, the first is around resourcing, “Do I have enough people to do the right types of activities?”. A common phrase I’ve been hearing is “the right type of person in the right seat delivering”. And, you know, we are in the middle of a global recession, so budgets are tightening up. People are being asked to do more in a bunch of different roles. There’s this sense of looking at resourcing benefits and the scaling, right? Those are two sides of the same coin, which is, given limited resourcing, how do I scale my design team? How do I still provide more services? Do I look at building an apprentice program to fill that gap? How do I use design frameworks to scale across? Then some folks are talking about, which I think is also a very common challenge, how do you demonstrate the value of UX? How do you establish value? How do you establish metrics that you can then tie into ROI? These tend to be common problems in a lot of organizations.
Super interesting. I’m curious with this podcast in mind, what does success mean to you for this first season?
That’s a great question. I would love for people who don’t know me or Fuzzy Math to find it. I’m going to do an initial series of 10 podcasts and see how it feels, how it went, and if I want to do another. Even if I get one or two, or a handful of people that reach out and say, “I found this valuable,” that’s success. I consider the people I’m interviewing to be my peers and I want to help my peers succeed. I’m really hoping that I’m building some sort of small network of folks that are connected in a way and can help each other out. Longer term success might be creating that peer group for design leads that get to talk to each other and connect. It’d be great if the genesis of that was Fuzzy Math and this podcast.
Yeah, definitely, really excited for the content that is going to come out around this. What is the posting schedule going to look like and where will they be posted?
The first episode is out now. From there, the plan is to publish bi-weekly, or twice a month. They will be published on all the major podcasting platforms, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, Stitcher, and quite a few other ones, but also will be available to watch on YouTube.
Awesome, sounds great! Thanks Mark for taking the time today to chat about this. Looking forward to the rest of the season!
Subscribe to the UX Leadership by Design Podcast on your favorite podcast hosting platform and listen in on the first episode, Creating systems to diversify and scale your UX team.