A Few Life(ray) Lessons by David Kim on December 30, 2019

3 Min Read

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After a short but wonderful 15 months at Liferay, I'm moving on to the next adventure, mainly to spend more time with family.

Often, I say “I have learned a lot” without really thinking about what I've learned. My colleagues at Liferay did teach me a lot, and I don't want it to be a hollow statement. So, here's A-Few things I've learned.

ACT

Talk isn't cheap. It's expensive. It costs you a lot if you don't take any follow-up action. My colleagues who take actions have reminded me of this valuable truth yet again in 2019. Of course, this does not mean that you have to follow up on all ideas. That would be a poor use of time and effort. Instead, decide on ideas you'll execute. Kill or put away the rest of them until a designated time.

Below is an example of an idea well-executed.

Design Best Practices Check Out the Design Best Practices Articles

BUILD PROCESSES

“There's method in the madness.”

Julie Zhuo

Senior Designer Process Original Article on Medium

A good solution takes a good decision-making process. I admit my design process is usually a lot more chaotic than systematic. Luckily, at Liferay, I was surrounded by designers who were much better at this. By looking at their design files (these became my textbooks) and learning about the why's behind their design decisions, I'm a better designer than I was one year ago.

A good design team is built on good processes. From asset management to career paths, our team has taught me the importance of building processes. These enable our global team to work effectively as a unified department at scale.

Take a look at our handbook.

Handbook We, Not Me

COMMUNICATE

Your work doesn't speak for itself. You do.

Many of us share our work to get feedback from other designers or product managers.

I've learned the importance of intentionally and regularly communicating your work to your team and stakeholders. This active communication allows visibility to your work. Visibility produces trust. Trust builds a team.

When you work in a team, don't be a lone wolf. Communicate well and often.

DOCUMENT

Documentation is a superpower that you don't often notice until you need it. When you're in meetings or conducting research, make a habit of taking notes. Document the key highlights from discussions, decisions made, and any ideas that came up during conversations.

Our memory is oh-so biased and limited. We tend to hear what we want to hear and remember only a fraction of what we heard.

So, document, document, document.

EXCELLENCE

Strive for excellence that stretches you.

I'm guilty of not following through the above. Often, I settle for pretty good or good enough solutions, justifying my decisions, saying it's all about iterating. That's an excuse for not striving for a level of greatness that is uncomfortable.

My fellow designers have challenged and inspired me on this matter. I often saw a high level of craftsmanship in their designs. They didn't settle for already proven easy-to-implement solutions but always looked for better ones.

Their pursuit of excellence was evident in non-design practices as well. Whether it was brewing a cup of coffee, composing music, or editing photos, they cared about the quality of their craft.

FOCUS

"The ability to concentrate intensely is a skill that must be trained.”

Cal Newport

So, train yourself to focus. Make deep work a daily routine. Design (or any creative) work requires blocks of long, uninterrupted time. These blocks don't just show up in your schedule. You have to make and protect them.

Take a moment and read Paul Graham's essay, Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule.

LASTLY

A few years ago, I wrote myself a definition of a dream job:

  1. I know why my work matters.
  2. I love what I get to do every day.
  3. I enjoy who I work with.

I've been fortunate to have had two dream jobs in my career (and many good ones in between). Being a product designer at Liferay has been the 2nd dream job. One of the three reasons that made this job a dream job was the Design Team.

Design Team Dream Team 🙌

I've learned all the above from them and with them. To this group of humble and talented makers, in the loudest way possible,

THANK YOU 🙏