Today’s Tech Role Model is Odes Roberts. Odes is a Designer Director and UX Designer at Almost Studios. Previously, he’s worked for companies like Verizon, Shutterstock, and Northwestern Mutual. When he’s not working, he’s trying to catch up on all of the old video games he never finished. (Looking at you, Red Dead Redemption 2.) You can find him on Instagram and Twitter as @odesr, and at almoststudios.com.
What’s your official title and how long have you been in this role?
I’m a design director. I’ve been a design director for about four years, but titles are weird because you kind of float between a lot of different responsibilities and roles. Recently, I started my own design studio while continuing to work with some of my favorite tech companies.
What attracted you to this role?
I like to be involved in the process of making things. The position I’m in allows me to not only be hands on but to also to see the bigger picture of how something works within the greater plan.
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?
My day starts with checking email and Twitter. I’m really trying to kick the habit of looking at Twitter because it’s a time suck and distracts me from leaving my apartment on time. After I check my email, I write down my plans for the day and add to my to-do list. Then I head to my studio in Bushwick. I try to schedule meetings exclusively on one or two days of the week (Monday & Thursday ) so I can focus on the work at hand.
What skills/technologies help you succeed?
Trello is a life saver. I’m a very visual person, so I have to see my list of tasks and the stages they’re at in a visual way. The Things app does the same thing but I use it in a different way. It’s a to-do list that has tons of functionality that I’m still figuring out months later. My iPad Pro also is something that has become so much of my workflow. Everything starts as a sketch or a flow of consciousness on my iPad and then makes its way to my laptop.
What’s the most fun or creative part of your design director role?
Figuring everything out is the most fun. Sometimes you’re just firing on all cylinders and there’s nothing like that feeling, that you’re working at your highest potential.
What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?
Running a studio is tough because you have to wear so many hats that aren’t just the creative parts of work. For example, you have to learn how to manage taxes and make sure you’re taking on enough work to continue to function can get at you mentally.
What teams/individuals do you work with cross-functionally? Can you give an example of a time when you collaborated with another group/individual?
I work with Adobe on various things for different parts of the Adobe ecosystem. Sometimes that process entails collaborating with 30 people. They may all do radically different things for different parts of the company but everyone has one goal. The hardest part is making sure you’re managing expectations and building trust within organizations. They need to trust you enough to help build their vision.
What’s an area where you’re trying to grow in your design director role?
Time management and being able to focus non-stop without getting distracted by things. I have ADHD, and sometimes it can be very difficult to work long hours into the night. Your focus isn’t exactly 100%.
Aside from technical skills, what personality traits/characteristics make for an ideal candidate in your role?
You need to have an even temperament to be a design director. It helps to be easygoing, be strict when it comes to attention to detail, and always be user/customer focused in all your work. It’s easy to get caught up with making the client happy while ignoring what data and the tests say. You have to be the advocate for the user.
What skills (tech/non-tech) have you improved as a result of working in this design director role?
Working on selling your ideas to an audience. It’s such a huge part of accomplishing a task easier if everyone buys into the ideas.
In your role, what metrics define success?
It depends. Sometimes it’s whether a test performed better than the control. Other times, it’s whether something earned more money or more eyes on it. My personal metrics are “Did I have fun on this project?” “Did I make a dent with this project?” “Will the client still think this is good 3-5 years down the line?” I tend to internalize a lot of these things haha.