Role Models: Tania Lili, Head of Visual Design at Genius

Today’s Role Model is Tania Lili. Tania is a multidisciplinary designer from Mexico City based in New York. She got her start in design over a decade ago and has experience working in creative agencies and media/tech companies. She is currently the Head of Design at Genius in Brooklyn.

What’s your official title and how long have you been in this role?

I have been the Head of Visual Design at Genius for the past two years.

What attracted you to this role?

I love Genius so I was very excited when they contacted me to come in for an interview. I started as a Visual Designer and shortly after I was hired, Genius started moving aggressively into the experiential space and we began producing a lot of concerts and live events. My manager saw the need to bring on another designer, so we hired someone to help—a year later, I was leading a team of four full-time designers. Now we are six, so it has been pretty cool to see how we’ve grown. Even though it’s taken time, I am very proud of how our videos, editorial and social channels look.

Walk me through a typical day in your role. What activities do you engage in? What types of meetings do you join? When’s lunch?

I get to the office by 10 am, check Slack, e-mails, and make a to-do list for the day. We have design stand-up at 10:45 am. The rest of the day is usually a combination of one-on-one meetings, design strategy, and execution. Things at Genius are always changing, so my daily schedule is informed by whether we have an artist event coming up, if we’re releasing a new feature on the site, what new video series we’re launching, and so on. We have catered lunch Mondays and Fridays and have free seamless delivery from Tuesday to Thursday. We usually eat at the lunch tables in the office.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

I have experience working in-house and in agencies so I think I am pretty flexible. I also have done a ton of digital work as well as branding, print and editorial. I think that has helped me along the way cause I can definitely jump from one project to another without a problem.

I also consider myself a good listener and are very curious about stuff. That has definitely helped me keep being motivated and excited whenever a new project comes in.

What’s the most fun or creative part of your role?

I love hands-on designing so I definitely have the most fun whenever I have time to sit in front of my computer and work on a design project. I love working on editorial pieces cause we usually have creative freedom when working on those. Having the chance to work on all types of design projects from product to experiential has been truly amazing. It really pushes you creatively.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

This is the first time I have to manage a whole team of designers so that has been pretty challenging. We don’t have a project manager on the team so I am in charge of creating timelines for projects, delegating and so on. I think one of the biggest challenges is finding a balance in managing and also doing creative work. I really need to be mindful and empty my schedule somehow so that I can do at least an hour of design everyday. It is hard because there is a lot of other work to do but I love designing so I need to push myself to do it.

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 lead I am always working with other people. My day-to-day literally depends on my team. If they need feedback or are stuck I need to be available to help them at all times. The design team at Genius is always working with other teams and we have developed an internal process that has allowed us to openly collaborate with other departments by owning the creative/visual part of the projects but also letting them have an input and opinion on everything we do throughout the process.

What’s an area where you’re trying to grow in your role?

I am always trying to be a better manager. I like to give my team the autonomy to do their work and feel trusted and valued but I also try to be aware of everything that is happening and give feedback and direction. It is definitely hard to keep a balance.

Aside from technical skills, what personality traits/characteristics make for an ideal candidate in your role?

Curiosity, patience and eagerness to learn.

What skills (tech/non-tech) have you improved as a result of working in this role?

I have become a better listener. I have also learned to pick my battles and know when to let go.

In your role, what metrics define success?

There are many ways to define success in a role like this. Off the top of my head I would say seeing my team members improve their skills. Working on a video that got a ton of views. The growth of our community and follower base and realizing that Genius has adopted a design aesthetic and that other departments consider design when working on a project.

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