Explore a Day in The Life of a Senior Design Manager

Sponsored by Squarespace

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Image courtesy of Squarespace.

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Fairygodboss
April 13, 2024 at 9:22AM UTC

Are you interested in advancing your product design career? To find out how to do this, we reached out to Katrinna Whiting, a Senior Design Manager at Squarespace.

Succeeding in this career path involves honing both hard and soft skills. For the former, Whiting emphasizes “mastering your craft and becoming a subject matter expert in product design” in order to successfully “coach and level up your team’s hard skills.” However, for those in product design management, “soft skills are equally as important,” she says. 

“Don’t disregard or overlook soft skills like listening, patience and empathy,” explains Whiting. “These values help build trust within a team and keep you open minded enough to change your ways when necessary.”

In this article, we hear a bit more from Whiting about her life as a senior product design manager, from how she starts her day to how she’s improving herself  — and how Squarespace is helping her every step of the way.

Tell us a bit about your job. What’s your current role and how long have you been in it?

I’ve been at Squarespace for a little over six months. I am a Senior Design Manager at Squarespace, specifically working on Unfold, a company Squarespace acquired two years ago. 

Unfold is an all-in-one platform for the next generation of entrepreneurs who want to be successful on social media. What this means is that our team works hard to provide cutting-edge creative tools, easy-to-use content management with our feed planner and our link-in-bio solution, Bio Sites, which helps entrepreneurs have a consistent digital presence across all social channels.

What do you find most rewarding and challenging about your work?

Collaboration is by far the most rewarding, and it can also be the most challenging! We’re all remote with an occasional in-person meeting right now. I have only met a few people on my team in person. Since I started at Squarespace in June 2021, this means that I had to meet my team entirely over video conferencing and try to build connections and trust all through pixels.

As a manager, it’s crucial for me to build trust with my direct reports and understand their day-to-day challenges and long-term goals. I’ve been trying to learn all of these through the vacuum that is video conferencing, but, with each month, I get a better and more holistic understanding. When I’m able to help any of my team progress in their goals, learn a new skill or manage their workload better, it makes all the Zoom fatigue worth it. 

Do you have  any special rituals or practices that help you prepare for the day?

I have the personal ritual of starting each day with a coffee and a three-mile walk to Fort Greene park in Brooklyn, where I watch dogs play during the early off-leash hours. My partner and I walk together, talking about the day ahead, and either listen or give advice to help each other prepare for the various challenges ahead.

After our walk, I start my daily work preparation, which consists of making my daily to-do list — I’m a bit old school and still write these by hand (I still haven’t found my perfect productivity app). I make sure that I have an agenda for each meeting that day, and I clearly write out my outstanding questions and topics that need to be covered. Throughout the day, I take notes from each meeting and use those notes to start my next day’s to-do list. 

Another professional practice I have is to sync with my team on Mondays to ensure that they know what the priorities are for the week and that they have what they need to accomplish those tasks. We use a Google Doc to help my team communicate their priorities to me and their cross-functional teammates — especially when we’re working remotely. 

What kinds of techniques or boundaries have you established to separate work and home life? What do you do to relieve stress?

When I sign off for the day, I really sign off! This means no checking email or instant messages. I’ve also got to practice what I preach with others. For example, if there are a few messages at the end of the day that I need to send, I write them out and schedule to send them in the morning. If I want to keep a separation with work after hours for myself, I must practice that with my team, too. 

To relieve stress, I lean into my hobbies and also make sure to regularly exercise. Like a lot of people during the pandemic, I picked up hobbies that can be done at home like cooking, reading and drawing. Even as the world starts to open up, I want to keep practicing these hobbies when work gets stressful since they were so soothing to me during uncertain global times, and continue to lower my stress levels even now.

Let’s talk about your company’s culture. What’s your favorite aspect of it, and how does your company help you succeed?

One of the most important tenets to Squarespace’s culture is empowering people to drive their own work. Which means that, in order to be successful, we need to build a high-trust, supportive environment. I trust that my team is able to own and be accountable for their work, which also means trusting them to speak up if they get stuck and need help. 

Teams own their work without day-to-day micromanagement from leadership. I have not only been practicing this with my team but have felt this from leadership above me, which empowers me to make decisions and prioritize things that are best for my team.

What are you trying to improve on?

Every year, communication is my number one goal. I often find that bad communication is at the heart of most challenges at work. I’m fortunate enough to work with great people who want to do good work and support each other in the process, so if we do hit a roadblock or a challenge, I often find that missed communication is at the heart of it.

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