Growing, Scaling, and Tuning: Meet Spotify’s Global Head of Design Ops

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Candice Roe

Kamdyn Moore

Spotify Design has greater than doubled in dimension in the course of the previous three years. We’ve added new design specialties we’ve by no means had, like ontologists, service designers, voice designers, design techniques engineers, and localization and accessibility specialists. We’re the biggest we’ve ever been, working each in-office and distant. As a outcome, our design operations group has had new challenges to untangle to be able to sustain with our ever-evolving, increasing design group.

That’s the place Kamdyn Moore, Spotify’s Global Head of Design Operations, comes into the image. She sat down with us to debate how her group has advanced to assist, speed up, and stabilize Spotify Design.

CANDICE: Hey, Kam. How are you doing at present?

KAMDYN: I’m nice, thanks. I’m excited to be right here doing this with you. 

CANDICE: Yes, me too. Let’s get into it. So, in one other weblog put up, you talked about attempting to elucidate to your dad what it’s that you simply do. You stated, “I create the space for teams I’m working with to do their best work possible within any given constraint.” Can you inform me somewhat bit extra about what that’s been like at Spotify currently? 

KAMDYN: I keep in mind once I stated that to my dad. Unfortunately, it did not actually assist him perceive any higher. I assume that is what I’d say to him now — I handle an unimaginable group of people that be sure that our designers have the assets, instruments, route, and organizational construction they should do what they do finest: design. In order for designers to get to that half, they want to have the ability to get right into a state of “flow”. That’s what I’m attempting to allow. 

CANDICE: What does that imply — a movement state — and the way do you assist designers get into it?

KAMDYN: A movement state is all about enabling designers to have the area they should create new experiences with out getting distracted by all this different stuff which may weigh on them. 

Given the fitting circumstances, we wish designers to turn out to be absolutely immersed of their craft to allow them to create with out being slowed down by different burdens, like context switching, mission administration duties, and even simply discovering the fitting software or useful resource you want. From an operational perspective, it additionally means ensuring there are efficient methods of monitoring design work, processes for collaborating, and guaranteeing there are constant mechanisms in place for hiring, rising, and retaining our expertise.

CANDICE: Definitely. How did you first begin desirous about getting designers into this movement state?

KAMDYN: So that is the place that phrase “constraints” is available in. I began my profession as an inside designer at an architectural agency, and one factor I realized from that have was that I used to be most profitable once I was working throughout the constraints of the job — funds, timeline, a selected shopper’s wants or aesthetic — and the way I wanted to barter what I used to be able to as a designer and what was possible. For me, that’s the place creativity and that state of movement actually lies. When you don’t have constraints, it may be onerous to drag your self again into the truth of what’s really achievable, so I like to begin there. 

CANDICE: I can see how if we didn’t have these constraints on each creativity and construction, it may shortly turn out to be chaotic. As creatives, I consider we do our greatest work when we now have a center floor.

KAMDYN: Exactly. It’s about discovering that stability. That’s what I like about design ops, and particularly, about supporting designers. There actually must be sufficient of these constraints and buildings so designers know the place they will put these freeform concepts.

CANDICE: You’ve been at Spotify for 3 years, which suggests you’ve seen a ton of progress. How has Spotify Design’s fast progress impacted your function and group? 

KAMDYN: When I joined Spotify, the design ops group went from three folks to 6 of us and we had been supporting a design group of lower than 150 folks. I began as a Lead Design Program Manager for our design system, Encore, and was introduced in to offer construction to not solely this system itself, but in addition to the group. That meant serving to to ascertain a means of working for a quickly scaling program of labor, establishing rituals, and methods to trace high-priority workstreams throughout a number of groups in order that we may finally launch the system.

Today, the product design group has greater than doubled in dimension and design ops has scaled alongside it. Encore has turn out to be an integral a part of our product improvement course of, and we now have design mission and program managers supporting all facets of the product design group — from enriching the designer expertise to enhancing our workflow effectiveness and design tooling.

CANDICE: We even have extra range in our design roles now. It’s thrilling to see all of those completely different roles represented at Spotify. 

KAMDYN: Yes — precisely. And it requires us to consider what this progress means for Spotify Design and the way our operational technique must evolve to assist it. We’re not simply larger in our variety of folks in design, however we’ve grown a lot within the complexity of our design org, forms of designers, and our wants. In some instances, we might must essentially change among the methods wherein we’ve traditionally operated.

CANDICE: I believe it goes with out saying, however our design has grown on account of Spotify’s total progress, by way of folks and merchandise provided. Can you inform me somewhat about what the corporate’s progress means for you?

KAMDYN: Spotify’s enterprise mannequin has shifted to turn out to be greater than only a music app. We’re constructing a real audio platform. We’re transferring from a two-sided market to a single cohesive expertise for everybody, no matter whether or not you’re a listener, creator, artist, or advertiser. That’s a wholly new paradigm for the person expertise, and it’s far more advanced in how we have to assist the design group. It’s radically impacted how design ops has scaled our processes throughout the corporate. We’ve moved from a centralized mannequin to a federated one, so we’re taking a look at how we are able to assist and allow every of our design groups to proceed to ship design excellence — not only for the place the enterprise is at present, however for the place the enterprise goes sooner or later.

CANDICE: What does “federated” imply in follow? How does this mannequin differ from centralization? 

KAMDYN: Now that we’re larger as a design group, my group has tailored to mirror the construction of the design org. 

We have a number of distinct design organizations (we name them mission design groups), every accountable for core facets of our product experiences, whether or not they’re constructing inside instruments, adverts merchandise, rising our person base, or creating new client and creator experiences. So, the query I ask is, “how can design ops best support and enable these teams?” If Spotify Design was centralized, we’d possible be centralized too, however we select to reflect the design org. I’ve members of my group embedded straight inside a mission design group, and others who assist applications of labor that affect each designer, no matter the place they sit within the group. Our remit touches the designer expertise, strategic design, supply, execution, and extra. This construction has actually helped my group to ship affect.

One of crucial facets of my job is to search for patterns, establish gaps and learnings, and see if there are issues that ought to be utilized elsewhere throughout the org. It’s onerous as a result of issues don’t occur in a single day — and we don’t at all times perceive all of the implications of change — however we’re at all times desirous about whether or not folks really feel like they belong, if they’re impressed of their craft, if their careers are supported, if the instruments are proper, and whether or not design is delivering excellence.

CANDICE: And since these issues differ by enterprise want and group, that’s why there isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy from design ops. 

KAMDYN: Right. So, going again to that federated mannequin we’ve launched — that’s why it’s so vital to have embedded design program managers in every design org to actually establish the objectives and desires so we are able to finest assist them. Then, we convey these learnings again and work out what will be centralized facets of design ops, and in addition work out the fitting stage of constraints throughout the board. There’s a cause Spotify’s enterprise operates as bespoke groups — we’re all specializing in what’s distinctive to our work, after which we simplify and streamline what’s widespread. 

CANDICE: I need to return to one thing you talked about earlier.I believe most individuals in design perceive that design ops helps groups with processes and tooling, however you talked about that Spotify Design Ops additionally helps planning and supply. Can you discuss how your group does that? 

KAMDYN: This is the newer facet of scaling the group, and we’re nonetheless figuring it out. We’re not completely positive what’s working finest but. When we had been a group of six, we had been centralized and centered on constructing a design neighborhood, and an id that helped set up Spotify Design as a thought chief; inspiring our designers, and recruiting and retaining top-tier expertise. We spent an incredible period of time doing this, and it’s important to our work. However, this additionally meant, from an ops perspective, we typically uncared for the enterprise affect and strategic worth of design. So, once I stepped into this function two years in the past, I needed to shift us to have a wholesome stability of neighborhood/tradition and enterprise affect. 

Since then, I’ve been working to attempt to construct out that design supply facet of issues so we now have design program managers who’ve understanding of the product improvement cycle and the design workstreams, a proximity to the design work itself, and may guarantee these items all are linked again to the enterprise. For instance, we now have firm bets — huge firm priorities — with designers from throughout a number of orgs engaged on them. Each wager has a single program supervisor guaranteeing we’re assembly the enterprise milestones and transferring towards the identical objectives. These program managers play a crucial function. But what we’ve seen is that design work turns into a single line merchandise in a mission plan.

Now, as design program managers, we perceive {that a} design line merchandise would possibly even have 5 completely different workstreams and groups inside it. We’re additionally those with the a number of ranges of visibility, so we’re usually saying “this thing is happening over here and over there” so we assist join these groups and designers. My group members have an intimate understanding of the design course of and we use that information whereas working in shut partnership with all stakeholders to assist transfer the work ahead.

CANDICE: Let’s discuss collaboration for a minute. What does your group’s collaboration course of seem like?

KAMDYN: It’s positively altering as we’ve grown. We’ve needed to give every individual on the group extra particular person focus whereas concurrently needing to supply extra visibility into work throughout all of Spotify Design. 

As far because the working fashion goes, we work in two-week sprints and solely concentrate on the highest three issues we need to obtain in that dash and we doc it in Coda. By doing this, we see patterns, connections, and alternatives for collaboration. It’s additionally vital for us to create a way of a group. Being a design program supervisor will be actually isolating, so it’s vital to me to offer my group a possibility to attach with one another and share learnings. To do that, we now have a month-to-month demo hour the place we share our screens for an hour. We can get tremendous nerdy about how we’re monitoring work and the way we are able to higher perceive prioritization and capability — identical to how designers can get in crit. We additionally do retros on the finish of each dash and have our personal quarterly planning course of. 

CANDICE: I like that your group’s rituals mirror the remainder of Spotify Design’s. So, Spotify is thought for having among the highest ranges of retention throughout the tech sector. What’s your opinion on why that’s? And, how does your group take into consideration rising retention much more throughout our design org? 

KAMDYN: I believe there are a variety of causes however a variety of it’s our firm tradition that fosters excessive ranges of autonomy and belief that you simply’re given if you be part of. We belief that you simply’re an professional in your craft / subject / perform. We stay as much as the Spotify values, typically. When I give it some thought for design particularly and the way my group contributes to it, I’m very happy with how we now have created an engaged design neighborhood, even inside a distributed office. Now, I’m questioning the place we are able to push our tradition even additional into one which breeds innovation and challenges us to be at the forefront of design. That’s the place I need to see us go subsequent. 

But with regards to attracting and retaining top-tier design expertise, we intention to ensure our designers have a shared sense of objective, understand how their work ladders as much as the bigger Spotify objectives, and that they’ve the fitting progress alternatives to evolve of their craft. 

That’s one of many causes we not too long ago revisited our profession framework; to make sure we now have clearly articulated a progress path that feels aspirational. 

CANDICE: In 2019, I attended UX London and listened to a discuss how Spotify Design was creating distinctive experiences for India. There had been a number of designers talking, all at completely different ranges, and a design supervisor. I keep in mind feeling so impressed by the speak and the illustration that they had there.

KAMDYN: Yes, we need to give all ranges of designers this chance, whether or not inside or exterior at an occasion. The extra we are able to do that, the extra we’ll be capable of develop our leaders and management expertise. And regardless of somebody’s stage at Spotify, there’s a voice and distinctive perspective that provides worth to a dialog. That’s one thing we really consider. Later this yr, we’ll have somebody presenting their work at one of many largest design techniques conferences. We need to preserve pushing our designers to indicate up and push the trade ahead. 

CANDICE:Now, we’re greater than two years into dwelling in a distributed, distant world, and whereas it’s allowed us to rent extra various designers all around the world, it additionally means we’re working an increasing number of throughout the globe. How does your group assist distributed and asynchronous work? 

KAMDYN: We do it in broad and tactical methods. When the pandemic first hit, we did a photograph Friday occasion in Slack the place we requested designers to take a screenshot of one thing they’ve been engaged on and share it. We coordinated socials like pleased hours or maker hours — no matter we may consider to take care of a way of connection. Then, Zoom fatigue began to creep in from too many digital conferences, so we tried to think about what we may do in another way to keep away from burnout and feeling overwhelmed. We even created a digital speaker collection, however we ended up placing these on the again burner as folks have began to crave extra in-person connection. 

More tactically talking, we’ve needed to rethink our assets since we now have extra designers all around the world. So we created a design toolkit with all of our group assets, hyperlinks, instruments, profession framework, and templates so it’s all simple to seek out regardless of the place or how you’re employed. We’re nonetheless iterating on tips on how to assist this sense of connection throughout a vastly distributed design group. It’s actually onerous — however that’s what additionally makes it enjoyable! 

CANDICE: Related to balancing the reference to the work itself, how do you stability priorities between bettering the design follow and the designer expertise?

KAMDYN: One factor I’ve observed in my expertise is that you’re requested to consider all the issues — the expertise, the work, the alternatives, the neighborhood. Typically, design program managers are requested to consider all of those. However, as Spotify Design grew and design ops grew, I needed to be intentional concerning the focus for every individual and discovering this stability. We have folks desirous about what designers must develop, what designers must execute, and what folks want in order that they really feel like they’re a part of a neighborhood. A unique individual is considering every of these issues. Then, we come collectively like a venn diagram to share our findings and establish the place we are able to work collectively. Dividing the main target like this enables us and designers to thrive.

CANDICE: It’s onerous to consider it, however we’re nearing the tip of 2022 already. Can you give me a sneak peek into what’s on the horizon for Spotify Design Ops subsequent yr?

KAMDYN: Each yr, I take into consideration a theme. That theme encompasses what design ops is attempting to attain for the yr. In 2021, our theme was “do less but better.” This yr, it was “look to the future and scale for impact.” 2023’s theme is “enable design excellence”. 

In addition to our theme subsequent yr, we’ll have 4 focus areas. We’ll take a look at how we elevate a Spotify designer’s expertise and talent to get into that movement state I discussed earlier; how we advance our cross-design management methods; how we push workstreams ahead, and the way we are able to higher use information to drive our actions. 

I actually love this work, it makes me so excited. It’s enjoyable to be in a spot the place you need to proceed to see that arc of change, and alter takes a very long time. We’re in a gorgeous place to see the evolution of change at Spotify and for Spotify Design. 

CANDICE: One phrase that retains coming to thoughts is empower. Everything your group is doing is empowering, not simply design, however the firm.

KAMDYN: Exactly! Holy smokes, Candice. This was enjoyable. Thank you!

CANDICE: Thank you for sitting down with me, Kam. Let’s do it once more someday! 

Hear extra from Kamdyn Moore within the “Installing Chandeliers in Bathrooms” episode of the Spotify.Design Past Lives podcast. 

Credits

Candice Roe

Senior UX Writer

Candice is the UX writing lead for the messaging group, and can be an editor of the Spotify.Design weblog. She lives in Palo Alto, CA along with her noisy bulldog.

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Kamdyn Moore

Global Head of Design Operations

Kamdyn leads design operations at Spotify and as soon as baked an award-winning key lime pie. She lives in Nyack, NY along with her spouse and son.

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