Today’s Role Model is Milan Moffatt. Milan is an NYC-based designer, educator and mentor leading all things design at SuperHi, an online code and design school for creative people. Previously, she worked at a small digital agency in Brooklyn called Ronik Design. Before that she was eating alfajores and working with early stage startups in Santiago, Chile. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, meditating, practicing yoga, and working on her side project, Type Party.
What’s your official title and how long have you been in this role?
My official title is Design Lead, and I’ve been working at SuperHi since July 2017.
What attracted you to this design lead role?
The opportunity to be one of the first employees at remote startup with a design-led approach. I met our founder, Rik, through a design community in NYC. He had recently moved to New York and was looking for people to test out his Foundation coding course. A design intern at my agency was interested, and I hadn’t coded much since college so I joined her. I became a big fangirl of SuperHi and still am.
Walk me through a typical day in your role. What activities do you engage in?
What I do every day can vary wildly, but some things I do include:
- mentoring students on design and their careers
- designing in Figma or Illustrator
- photoshoots for our course photos and some heavy Photoshop magic
- meticulous note taking (so important as a remote team!)
- having team calls to plan and catch up
- doing research and brainstorming how to solve product challenges
I split design at SuperHi into marketing, product and brand.
On a more granular level, a typical day could look like this: wake up and either work from home or head to our office in Soho, where Rik and I work. I also belong to the women’s co-working space The Wing, so sometimes I work from their DUMBO or Soho locations.
I usually start by catching up on Slack and email. Our Europe team is six hours ahead of us and our students are from 80+ countries around the world, so there’s usually a lot to catch up on!
We have a Slackbot called Geekbot that prompts everyone in the morning of their time zone to report what they did yesterday, what they plan on doing today and any ideas or blocks they may have.
When it comes to designing, I use Figma, Illustrator and sometimes Photoshop. We also use Notion, Dropbox and Google Hangouts at SuperHi.
We work in 6-week “sprints” and everyone manages their own responsibilities and cross-team dependencies, so I always know what I’m going to be working on day-to-day and weekly.
What types of meetings do you join? When’s lunch?
I have a weekly all hands team call on Tuesday mornings and a design team call every Wednesday morning. Lunch is whenever I want it to be but usually around 1pm. I am trying to eat at my desk less!
What skills/technologies help you succeed?
I’ve worked at agencies and startups in the past, so I’d consider myself a generalist with a broad skillset. My focus is on product, so I like doing research to better understand the full picture, but I also can get down and dirty in icon design or photo editing.
One of my most valuable skills is being adaptable and able to jump on any type of project. I can learn what I need to learn or figure out who to work with to get things done.
I value active listening and mindfulness when it comes to communicating with my team. As a remote team, it’s especially important to make sure everyone is on the same page and feels good about what we’re working on together. Taking notes, not hesitating to ask questions and not assuming answers are big parts of that for me.
What’s the most fun or creative part of your design lead role?
Evolving our brand. We defined our key brand values shortly after I joined: fun, practical, accessible and friendly. Our social media accounts, colors, etc. are proof of that! I stand behind our brand and love what we do at SuperHi, so every day is exciting and fun.
What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?
Definitely not knowing all of my team in person. There’s so much to be gained from working face-to-face on a daily basis. You get to know people on a different level — their mannerisms, body language, tone of voice. That’s lost in Slack, and sometimes I do wish we could all just work together in the same place! But we do a good job at making space for just chatting and connecting with our team on weekly Hangout calls and in Slack.
We just went from 5 people to 9 people this month, so we’re in the middle of an exciting time growing our team at SuperHi. Communicating effectively and getting organized will be more important than ever before.
What teams/individuals do you work with cross-functionally? Can you give an example of a time when you collaborated with another group/individual?
As a team of 5, I’ve been working with pretty much everyone for the past year and a half. That includes our CEO and founder Rik (NYC), COO Adam (London), developer Ryan (Scotland), and designer Kristen (Toronto, CA)
This month we’ve hired designer Andre (Lisbon), developer Chris (London), CXA Marivi (Stockholm) and PM Kendall (NYC)! So I’ll work with the design team and Rik and Adam to plan and execute design work, and developers to build things out. I’ll also work with Marivi on UX things and how to take customer support insights to inform design decisions.
Sometimes we work with our students on freelance projects for SuperHi, so I’ve collaboration with them on course projects and other various design work. I’ve also worked on an amazing team in London for one of our past photoshoots, shot by Celine Guiout and styled by Tobi Rose. We’ve also worked with Montreal-based illustrator Justyna Stasik, which was a lot of fun!
What’s an area where you’re trying to grow in your design lead role?
I’m growing into more of a leadership role. As we grow as a team both in general and design, I’d like to help facilitate and inspire others to succeed and do their best. I’ve been doing leadership coaching with Cap Watkins this year which has been great; he is fantastic.
I’ve been mentoring students on design and career things for the past couple years and it’s so rewarding to see others succeed, so I’ll continue doing that. I especially love helping women when it comes to career, money and negotiation.
I’ve been trying to get more into public speaking so I have some fun speaking events lined up this year. My most recent talk was at an event for creative women and non-binary folks at Desk Lunch IRL in Brooklyn. I spoke about “ways we communicate that may be undermining us in the workplace (especially when it comes to written communication like emails and Slack)”.
I’m also teaching an introduction to visual design and branding course in the next couple of months (my first full length 8-week course!)
More technically, I’m making sure the designs we work on are data-driven and researched backed, as well as how well our courses sell. We interact with our students everyday and really observe and listen to what they want and need, so launching a course that does well is always a great feeling.
Aside from technical skills, what personality traits/characteristics make for an ideal candidate in your role?
Adaptability, willingness, communicating clearly and with empathy, attention to detail and humor 🙂
What skills (tech/non-tech) have you improved as a result of working in this design lead role?
In your role, what metrics define success?
Seeing the work I do live and making an impact on SuperHi, both as a company and within our student community. It’s tough to measure how we help students, but I’ve helped several students get jobs, improve their work and succeed in their careers — that to me feels like a big success.
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