Aaina Sharma

Aaina Sharma

Senior Product Designer at Postmates

Previously, Creative Director @HelloSign and design @zendesk. Built @neemsf and @hdysta.

12 action items

Communicate your thought process in an interview

    • When interviewing, showcasing not just the solution but also how you arrived at the solution is what will set you apart in a sea of talented designers. As you start thinking about how you're going to go about doing so, consider taking a deeper look at your process, your contributions to the projects that you've worked on, and why you landed where you did. I often start off with a brain dump before I organize my thoughts into a more presentable format. A few tips on what to do pre-interview and during the interview.

    • Before the interview

      Work backwards The first step is to organize your thoughts. For this, you'll have to start with the final solution(s) and work backwards from there. Most meaty projects that are worth mentioning during an interview process are projects that have been in the making for months and sometimes, years. It can be difficult to remember all the little details. Make sure you dig up all the important aspects of a project that were a part of the process, from the project's conception to the final solution. For example, mood boards, creative briefs, sketches, scribbles, etc. Show AND tell As designers, it's important for us to not just be able to show what we can do but also talk about our work. I like to find a balance between what makes sense to show vs. tell. I usually divide it up into three parts: Conception, progress, and completion. Make sure you show your thought process for how you chose to tackle the problem. What were some of the main goals of the project? How did you think about different solutions? Which solutions were more effective than others? Why? After showcasing how I chose what to focus on, I proceed to illustrate my progress towards the final solution(s). It's helpful to tie your solutions to the initial goals that the team agreed on. This will always add more credibility to your work and you as a designer. The third and final step is to wow the interviewer with the final results. Explain a bit about how the final decision was made. What was the post-launch plan put in place? Was there any sort of testing done? How did you know that the solution you picked was better than other solutions on the table? How did you convince the decision makers?... See more

    • During the interview

      Tell a story When walking someone through your work the number one thing to remember is to be confident in yourself and be proud of your work. Walk them through your work as if you're telling them a story about your design career. Make it conversational. Pause while presenting to ask if they have any questions for you. Engage them in a dialogue as opposed to simply going through everything in one go. Conversations often lead to interesting revelations. Things that you may not have considered before. They also show the interviewer that you're eager to learn and aren't afraid to discuss topics in more detail. Talk about collaboration but don't forget to also highlight your contributions When I interview designers, I often want to understand how they collaborate with other teams and also what role they play in each project. While showcasing your work, it's important that you strike a balance between talking about your achievements as an individual designer and your moments of success as a collaborator as well. I think this is a key skill to showcase when interviewing. Lone geniuses are rare, collaborative work usually shines.... See more

Get valuable critique on your work

    • Being the only designer on a team can often leave designers second guessing themselves. Receiving valuable feedback is critical to get out of that mindset. I see it as a great opportunity to take ownership and start educating your peers about what good design means. Once your teammates start understanding what some of the goals of what you do are, it'll help them provide valuable feedback on your work. Another effective technique is to seek the help externally. You can share your work with a few trusted designer friends or reach out to people you admire on Twitter, etc.

    • Introduce a culture of solving user problems through design thinking.

      Start bringing design into every problem-solving conversation. Discuss your goals with the team, explain to them why and how you came to the conclusion that you did. Once everyone in the room has a good understanding of the problem, ask for feedback on your work. If the feedback doesn't sound substantial, ask follow up questions. Ask 'why' a few times to get to the bottom of the sentiment. There will also be times when you'll just have to let go of certain pieces of feedback that just aren't valuable enough for you to consider. And that's ok.... See more

    • Seek help externally.

      Ask designer friends if they have 30-45 minutes to spend with you to take a look at what you're working on and provide feedback. Also reach out to designers that you admire (Twitter has made this very easy!) and ask if they'd be down to meet up and talk shop. I used to be hesitant about doing this but when I actually started reaching out to folks, most people were super sweet about meeting up. So, don't be shy!... See more

    • Conduct research and usability tests

      The best way to get candid, concrete feedback is by putting your designs in front of users. This is a (relatively) fast, cheap way to gather a lot of useful feedback. There are multiple ways of going about conducting usability tests. With the number of tools that we have available to us, it's super easy to get started. Get started with tools like User Testing (https://www.usertesting.com), Full Story (https://www.fullstory.com), Lookback (https://lookback.io) to name a few. I've also found live usability tests extremely useful to be able to capture users' subtleties that you can easily miss on the tools mentioned above.... See more

Present work during a design critique

    • Design critiques can be exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. So, you've been working on a user flow or illustration for weeks and are finally ready to show it to the parties involved. You want this to go well so you can move on to the next phase, the next project, the next feature, so on. In order to do so, you'll need to make sure that you set yourself up for success so you can get what you're looking for from the design critique. I've listed a few ways of doing that below.

    • Define goals upfront

      Walking into the meeting confused about what you're trying to get out of it is not just a huge waste of time but will also leave you more baffled than you were before the meeting. Have a clear sense of what your goals for the project and for the critique meeting are. Are you just looking for feedback on the visuals? Do you want to have an open brainstorm? Is the purpose of the meeting to make a final decision? Write down your goals ahead of time so you're going in with a definitive plan. Once you're in the room, take a few minutes at the beginning of the meeting to set expectations. Reiterate the goals of the project for context. Let everyone know what you want out of the critique session. Sometimes it's also helpful to let people know what you DON'T want out of the meeting (for example, "Copy is FPO, please disregard for now."). It's a lot easier to get valuable feedback when everyone's on the same page.... See more

    • Do your research

      This mostly applies to experience design but I can see it working from other design disciplines as well. Going into a critique meeting well-informed about the topic at hand is a smart move. You're already prepared to talk about your designs, so, that's no biggie but also having a grasp on metrics and industry best practices will go a long way. Gathering a little bit of information to support your argument or decision will help with confidence, in turn making presenting your ideas a breeze. If this is a critique session in which you're trying to persuade, playing out rebuttal scenarios and having convincing arguments for them beforehand can definitely help. I've been in so many situations where I've had to defend my work and show its value (I'm sure we all have), it's the extra bit of information (metrics/best practices/past experience/usability tests, etc.) that always comes in handy.... See more

    • Go in with an open mind

      This one's obvious but oh so important. Being designers, we're used to hearing a lot of opinions about our work. All. The Time. After a while, it's easy to become defensive or tune them out because you don't think the feedback coming in is valuable. Don't fall victim to this type of thinking. Listen intently. Ask lots of questions. Turn the critique session into more of a dialogue, an open discussion where you're trying to understand where the other person's coming from when they say something "doesn't feel right" or "what if we tried a completely different approach?". Ask them why they think so and how they came to a certain conclusion. As part of the discussion, point back to the goals of the project that you outlined at the beginning of the meeting. Show them results of the A/B test that prompted you to make the decisions that you did. Having open-minded discussions like these will help you get better at making a case for your decisions and also help others see your thought process, which will then help convince them more easily.... See more

    • Document feedback

      This is something that I've leaned the hard way. In my opinion, documenting feedback is one of the most important aspects of critique sessions. If you're receiving lots of valuable feedback and there's no record of it, it's pretty much useless. You might think that you can retain it all in your head. Well, I have bad news for you: you can't. Getting involved in the discussion is an all-too-common occurrence but you have to remember to type/jot down quick notes that you'll be able to refer back to later. They will serve you well when your memory fails you 2 days later, when you decide to return to the project. Documenting feedback is also a useful habit to get into to ensure that the team is aligned on next steps. It's a good idea to send out a brief email after the meeting to highlight some of the main discussion points and next steps for visibility. Your team will love you for doing this.... See more

Conduct a successful project debrief

    • Doing a post-launch post-mortem is one of my favorite things to do as a designer because it's quickest and cheapest way to learn/grow. I've noticed a few post-mortem sessions become accusatory or just downright awkward because of the way in which they're conducted. They definitely don't have to be. A few things to keep in mind when discussing a project during a post-mortem: be direct & concise when providing feedback, focus on learnings rather than regrets, talk about the project & its attributes as opposed to individuals, i.e., don't make it personal.

    • Be direct & concise when providing feedback

      Be sure to encourage the team to provide feedback that's clear, direct, and hopefully even actionable. A good way to get valuable feedback is to ask for 2-3 things that went really well and 2-3 things that can be improved on if the team were to work on the same project all over again. Make sure someone in the room (preferably the project owner) is taking notes. Also, try to draw themes from all the feedback that you’re hearing. This will be helpful when you’re summarizing relevant points at the end.... See more

    • Focus on learnings instead of regrets

      Hindsight is 20/20. When looking back at a project, it's easy to get negative and defensive, which leads to finger-pointing. Make it clear in the beginning of the meeting that the post-mortem isn't about bringing up regrets or playing the blame game, it's about learning and growing together as a team. It's not worth the team's time discussing what the project could have been if only... It is, however, worth it to talk about how a certain situation can be handled differently in the future to ship a more successful project.... See more

    • Talk about the project & its attributes as opposed to individuals

      One of the most important things to do in the beginning of the meeting is to clearly state that this post-mortem isn’t about accusing each other, it’s about learning and growing as a team. In other words, let’s not get personal. It’s a good idea to discuss goals related to the project as opposed to who did what and why. Shift the conversation from something like ‘who was responsible for the final decision and why wasn’t the email sent in time?’ to ‘how can we get ahead of this problem in the future?’ Make the discussion about the process instead of about individuals.... See more