This is it. After two weeks spent poring over your welcome packet, studying the internal Wikipedia, jotting down countless ideas and agonizing over your first-day outfit, you’re here.
Your new startup job.
A motivational mural is the first to greet you when you step off the elevator, demanding you fail harder. House music pumps through unseen speakers. The office smells like disinfectant and cologne, an amalgamation of scents at once comforting and intimidating, like walking by a luxury retail store.
A startlingly young-looking person asks you to sign in on the iPad mounted on the desk. In return, you receive your company branded hoodie. It’s official.
As you make your way through the open office, you pass a heated ping pong match and meeting rooms titled “Beyonce,” and “The World.” You wonder what brave, disruptive ideas your new team is discussing behind the transparent glass. You can almost taste the energy, a flavor not unlike free KIND bars and organic coconut water.
You picture yourself breezing into that room, scribbling a product-defining idea on the chalkboard wall and punctuating it with a joke, bathing in admiration of your colleagues. Soon, you tell yourself.
And soon comes soon enough. After finding your desk and mentally reviewing the company’s core values (#1: Have fun!), you enter your first meeting with your design lead, along with an army of UX and design researchers. You’ve got a fresh grid notebook ready. Cold brew coffee (from the in-house tap) in one hand, pen in the other.
The designers are discussing their weekends. The designers. You’re one of them now, part of the team. The room settles and the agile coach starts reading through the weekly update. KPIs are down. A lot rides on the upcoming release, which has been delayed for two quarters already. The team begins mapping out the upcoming sprint. You straighten in your seat, realizing this is your chance to make a first impression.
You raise your hand, immediately feeling like a school child. “I was thinking,” you venture, all eyes turning toward you, “we could probably increase conversions if we get their address on the second onboarding screen instead of the first.”
You’ve been using this product since its first release, and you’re brimming with ideas for improvement. In fact, you’ve wondered how the team has overlooked these low-hanging fruits, they’re so obvious to you. It’s why you decided to apply for this job in the first place; you could make a real difference here.
“Yes,” replies the lead designer. “We’ve tried that already.”
You nod your head and scratch through the idea in your notebook.
Undeterred, you jump in a few minutes later: “Have you ever considered combining these two steps? The second seems redundant.”
“Yes, we’ve considered it,” says one of the UX researchers with an almost imperceptible edge to her voice.
You share two more ideas by the end of the meeting that are quickly shot down.
It goes like this, meeting after meeting, day after day, your eager pitches (practiced late the night before on your roommate) meeting short, painful deaths the moment they enter the meeting room.
“Nice idea, but it’d require too much time and budget.”
“That’s not in our Q3 strategy, unfortunately.”
“Good thinking, maybe we’ll consider it next year for V2.”
“We don’t have the resources.”
“That’s too risky right now.”
“We’ve already tried that.”
Was it only three months ago you arrived to work an hour early every day, nearly saluting the word “hustle” painted in calligraphy on the lobby wall?
Now you trudge into meetings with the others, five minutes late. You take your seat as far from the front as possible, where you can feign participation and avoid attention from the aggressive agile coaches.
Was it so recently you attended every happy hour and Lunch & Learn, ready to connect with your team and soak up any wisdom they had to offer? Now you duck out early, eager to see any face but the ones you see every day for 10+ hours.
Even the KIND bars now taste like desperation.
In this morning’s meeting, you take your usual spot and proceed to tune out, eyes zeroed into your laptop screen, until you hear an unfamiliar voice from the front of the meeting table. The hopeful tone is jarring in the solemn room.
“I was thinking, if we removed that step it would streamline the flow considerably,” says the person connected to the raised hand.
It’s the new designer.
“We’ve already tried that,” you say without lifting your eyes from your screen.
Hi, I'm Tobias, a German designer living in New York. I'm the author of this blog, nice to meet you!