Design Team Reboot

Hiring Manager Design Team Manager Design Lead


Note: There's not a whole lot of visuals to show off when it comes to hiring and managing people, so be warned what follows is just a bit of text.

Several years into my tenure at DreamHost, I found myself as the last one standing after a series of designer departures. There were a number of different reasons why so many had left, both positive and negative. To be blunt, while DreamHost was a great place to work from an overall company standpoint, it didn't always know what to do or how to properly make use of design talent.

With projects across departments at a virtual standstill due to lack of design resources and the company at a loss for how to attract and retain design talent, I was asked to fill in as hiring manager to try to find, interview, and hire new designers.

Project Goals

  • Hire new designers
  • Onboard and train them
  • Run the design team well enough to make them want to stick around for a while

Project Summary

To be perfectly honest, I wasn't the first choice but the default choice to lead the rebuild of our design culture. And having been merely a UI Designer who had done mostly individual contributor work to that point, what did I know about hiring? Furthermore, once we actually got people in the building, no one had really thought about the fact that someone would have to train and manage all of them, so needless to say I had reluctantly backed into the role.

I'm not going to sit here and say I'm Design Team Manager of the year or anything, but what I will say is that in the past four-plus years, I've made recommendations to hire eleven designers. Of those, three have moved on amiably (one to a successful startup, one to Dropbox, one to Google) while the rest are still around, productive and happy to be a part of our team. But beyond that, we have a design culture now. People love their coworkers, love the company, love the work that they do. Other departments have come to count on us, to trust in the quality and timeliness of our work, and also find us extremely approachable. All of our designers are eager to work, to contribute, and to improve, and as a team we're dedicated, productive, and happy. As a manager, I don't know if there's more than I can ask for than that.