Tanner Christensen

Tanner Christensen

Lead Product Designer at Atlassian

Lead Product Designer at Atlassian. Previously at Facebook. Author, developer, never not working.

21 action items

Get value from college beyond just education

    • Aside from the education you get from formal college, the experience will also give you practice in networking with people, help you uncover methods for connecting disparate ideas, and put you directly beside perspectives you otherwise may not get such intimate exposure to. As someone who didn't go to college these are all things I had to develop on my own. College forces them onto you by the nature of how schooling works, but you'll still have to be mindful of how each of these things influences your thinking and behaviors.

    • Use it as an opportunity to easily connect with other people

      Consider not only people directly in your field of study, but anyone you may encounter on campus, in lectures, or as part of your larger class. Reach out to anyone you find interesting and get to know what they're learning, what value they get from the college experience, and their history or perspectives.... See more

    • Seek out any new and interesting ideas it presents

      Through online forums related to your college, in-person lectures, or local events, try to find ideas you may not be familiar with. The more diverse ideas you expose yourself to, the more likely you are to learn new things and—more importantly—you'll learn how to think about things outside your immediate experience or perspective.... See more

    • Open yourself to how college brings ideas and people together

      By the nature of college, many different backgrounds, beliefs, perspectives, and ideas will be coming together in a single campus or classroom. That can be intimidating to some, but as a student your goal is to learn and expose yourself to each of these things: . Find ways to embrace the variety of the college campus, classroom, and community.... See more

    • Share your own perspectives and ideas

      Using the network and community of your college to gain insights and perspectives is good, but you should also be contributing to the pool of ideas too. Find ways to connect with others who may be interested in what you have to say: join a club, write blog posts or short novels to share, engage in speaking opportunities, or mingle with fellow students at local hot spots. Be open to new and different ideas or perspectives, but also be willing to share your own too.... See more

Measure whether a design was successful or not

    • Before design is underway you'll want to make sure you have a clearly defined and expressed objective. Designing without an objective isn't really design. How you measure the success of your design is going to depend on the objective. Both qualitative (quality data such as survey responses) and quantitative (numbered data such as clicks or downloads) methods of measurement can be considered when evaluating the success of a design.

    • Define objectives up-front, before designing anything

      An objective can be to get downloads of a product, ensure users can access critical features, increase sales of a product, or even something more tangible, like winning an award.

    • Define and refine the objective with XFN partners

      If you're on a collaborative team, refine the design objectives with your XFN (or cross-functional) teammates; product or project managers, design peers, engineers, or clients/customers.

    • Check designs against the objective as you go

      As you design you'll want to check your efforts against the objective as you go. Doing so will not only ensure you stay on a productive path, but it will also enable you to make trade-offs faster (e.g. if an idea or pattern isn't going to help with your objective you can safely ignore it).... See more

    • Evaluate factors that contribute to your objective

      In addition to simply completing a design, analytics and customer surveys can help clarify if you've achieved your objective. Quantitative or qualitative data in the form of downloads, purchases, click-throughs, or customer survey responses are all good examples of metrics to look out for (depending on the objective of your work). You can also do a retrospective with your team or client to see if the objective was met and other ways you might measure the success of the designs.... See more

Provide feedback on poor leadership without negative repercussions

    • As with any feedback: the intent should always be to build awareness in an effort to improve things, never to complain. The key to feedback is building awareness, both for yourself and for your team or partners. Feedback is valuable in that is exposes gaps in knowledge either you or others might have. To build that awareness you'll need to: come to a shared understanding, be specific, ask questions, and share possible solutions. With difficult feedback you'll want to provide it in person so your intentions aren't mistranslated.

    • Define what good leadership is, together

      If your organization hasn't yet: work with leaders and their teams to define what good leadership looks like, then write it down and share it with everyone. One person's idea of leadership may be different than others, and you can't agree on what poor leadership is if you haven't first developed a shared understanding of what good leadership is.... See more

    • Be specific

      Before you provide feedback, know what it is you're explicitly referring to. Real-world examples are helpful in creating a picture of the problem in the receiver's mind. If you have several examples, or several different issues, consider focusing on the most pressing ones so the feedback can be oriented around improving it rather than overwhelming the receiver.... See more

    • Propose solutions

      Feedback without exploring solutions is simply complaining. You don't have to have the right solution or resolution to a problem when you provide the feedback, but by asking HMW—How Might We—questions you ensure action can be taken on the feedback. An example might be: "How might we ensure leaders are guiding teams but that employees feel empowered to make decisions?"... See more

    • Ask questions

      The best feedback is first investigative. Investigative feedback presents itself in a way that opens a dialog with those receiving it, rather than pointing out an issue and expecting them to immediately fix it. Statements with "I feel" or "I think" are personal and tie you to the feedback, instead what you want to do is isolate the behaviors you're seeing. If your problem is leaders are micromanaging based on their beliefs, you might try questions like: "What percentage of a leader's time do we think should be spent delegating tasks to others?"... See more

Improve your relationships with your teammates

    • To improve relationships with your teammates: invest in learning about them at an individual level: what excites them, how they think about and measure success, and what challenges they face. Your teammates are not just peers, they don't exist merely to perform on the job. They're individuals with hopes, dreams, fears, and ideas too. Some of their ideas can help you do your job, and some of your ideas may help unblock them. Building a relationship around that framework

    • Spend time together

      None of what is mentioned here is going to be possible in a single conversations. Building relationships takes time. Find ways to spend time together in order to uncover some of the tips mentioned elsewhere here: regular one-on-ones, get together after-hours, lunch or coffee breaks, or even asynchronous conversations via chat. The key to building any relationship is time: so make time.... See more

    • Learn about how they measure success

      Working as a team means moving together toward a single goal, but often when teams are new or evolving, goals can become misaligned. To better align the team—and better understand how your teammate thinks and works—talk with them about what success means to them, and how they're measured within the company. Questions like: What motivates you? What skills are most important to you in your work? How should the team be gauging our success? Where do you want to be in a year? And: How do you think I might be able to help?... See more

    • Find out what excites your teammate

      Psychologically, when we get excited about something we can hardly contain ourselves. So one of the best ways to get someone to open up (to create a strong relationship) is to find what excites them and focus conversations around that. Ask questions like: What do you do in your time off? What excited you about the job when you first joined? What are some of your favorite hobbies and how did you first get into them? When do you feel energized most?... See more

    • Explore the challenges they're facing

      Once you've uncovered a little about what motivates your teammate and how they look at or measure success, you'll want to understand some of their roadblocks too. Challenges and roadblocks faced by teammates are opportunities for others on the team to step-up and provide support, guidance, or direction. Consider asking: What's the biggest hurdle you're up against right now? What was a time you felt stuck or unmotivated? Who, if anyone, is a blocker to your work right now? Where are you facing blocks in your work?... See more

    • Repeat the same for yourself

      It's not a relationship if your teammates don't understand what excites you, how you measure success, and the challenges you're facing as well. You have to be open in sharing these things proactively too. Try not to make every conversation about you, but don't hesitate to share answers to these questions as they relate to yourself when it makes sense to do so.... See more

Have an effective 1:1

    • The value of a good one-on-one is nearly immeasurable: it's a time to sync on things in a format you can't get any other time or in any other medium. I believe a really great one-on-one is where your best work gets done. To make your one-on-one's effective: define and agree upon their purpose together, be clear about the schedule, use the time to sync on things you can't anywhere else, and work to keep things casual.

    • Define and agree upon the purpose up-front

      First-and-foremost, you'll want to set a clear agenda or purpose for the meeting. The agenda can be high-level (e.g. "Catch up on everything that happened over the last week in our lives.") or more focused (e.g. "Discuss a decision I need to make tomorrow around Project X.") The key thing is to have a clear purpose or agenda both parties understand before meeting. What do you each want to get out of the time? What would a successful sync look like? What is most valuable to the relationship? Even if the time is spent just catching each other up, that's immensely important time for teammates to have.... See more

    • Be clear about the time and recurrence

      It's not enough to agree on the purpose of the one-on-one, both people should know in-advance just how much time will be dedicated to the meeting and how often they will occur. Some people use 1:1s as a way of getting updated on work, others use it as a chance to just chat and get to know the other person, in either case the amount of time required will play a key part. Discuss and agree on how much time you'll need to fulfill the purpose of the sync, and how often you should be meeting. Consider how close your relationship is to the person: if you work very closely, weekly is a good cadence. If more casually, as far out as once a month can suffice. It will vary for every person you meet with.... See more

    • Use the time for things you can't do elsewhere

      Email, group posts, chats in Stride or Slack, these are all good ways to stay in-sync with your peers about ongoing work. What you may not have the ability to do through these mediums is sync on more personal or pressing matters; things you can't say in the other formats or things which may not be suited for those channels. Focusing on the individual, the working relationship, or things which may impact others but need to be figured-out in advance. Consider the value of any one-on-one is being able to discuss these important subjects on a micro level, without interference or the ears of a larger audience.... See more

    • Keep it casual and human

      This is my personal preference, but I think it's worth noting: one of the best parts of a one-on-one is that they're done in real-time, usually face-to-face, with the other person. Meaning: you can see the person, you can better understand what they're saying or how they're listening, and you can interject the conversation with questions or ideas on-the-fly. Keeping the conversation casual and friendly builds the working relationship and enables you (as a team) to better tackle work subjects.... See more