Let’s start with gender
Silicon Valley, the tech industry, Product Design – what are images that come to mind? For me, it’s men dominating these spaces. At Facebook, I was used to boardrooms filled with engineers and data scientists that were mostly men. I was used to managers and colleagues, also mostly men. Masculine energy is what filled the rooms, and inevitably distilled itself within most decisions. It became the norm, so much that I hardly noticed it by the end of my time there. Fast forward to this past Monday. I was taken aback. I was greeted by the faces of the nine other women that make up Grounded Space. Throughout the week, feminine energy ruled the space. In comparison to past experiences, I felt it was easier to get my voice heard in this room full of women.
Let’s talk about scale
Back in Menlo Park, I started my mornings by walking into one of Facebook’s open floor buildings, holding nearly 3,000 employees. Last Monday, I walked into Grounded Space Options’ humble home in Surrey, to be greeted by four others and a handful of people video calling from Grounded Space NYCH in Toronto. Immediately I felt a cozy and family atmosphere.
Let’s talk about roles
At Facebook, I wore the label of Product Designer. That meant three things: I was responsible for design strategy, interaction design, and visual design. I spent most of my time in front of the computer screen, prototyping, moving pixels, or in a boardroom defending my design choices. I worked with Engineers, Data Scientists, Researchers, Product Managers, and Content Strategists. Each role was highly specialized and each team member wore their own hat. On day one with Grounded Space, I was given a few short hours to do a load of academic research. Today, I’ve been asked to write content for a blog post. In the next week, who knows what else will come my way, or which hat I will need to wear – but I’m open to changing my style depending on team needs.
Let’s talk about process
At Facebook, numbers ruled. Data-driven design was nearly a mantra. The process was, for the most part, linear. From one week at Grounded Space, I can attest that the process is indeed cyclical. It’s messy, it’s vibrant. For the sprint, it meant starting and ending each day with creative rituals, whether that meant sketching our superhero powers, visualizing cake recipes, or learning an energizing Arabic dance from my new team member.
Let’s talk about results
How do we define success? At Facebook, success meant proof by numbers. In Grounded Space, success means re-imagining what could be in the social service space.
Two different universes – which is better?
Could Facebook use some of Grounded Space’s energy? Yes. Could Grounded Space utilize some of Facebook’s strategies? Indeed.
I think the biggest difference is between a more rational versus emotional approach to process, and thus, results. Emotional intelligence is what Grounded Space shines in. I think companies like Facebook could be more empathetic in their design approach. To get there, perhaps that means including more women and having a less linear, more cyclical, process.
In the coming months, I hope to bridge the two worlds. I hope to apply all that I learnt as a Designer at a Silicon Valley tech giant to the small team of Grounded Space.