I’ve been at Auto Trader for nearly 9 years and my career has changed a great deal over that time. As with many roles, no two days are ever the same, but I’ve tried to pull out some of the things I often get up to as a Principal Product Designer.
I’m an early riser — sometimes I don’t have much choice with a 3 year old! But with the nursery runs and other responsibilities starting and finishing my day early works well for me. I like being able to use the first couple of hours of my day to really focus on detailed work, especially the high priority jobs.
The projects I’m involved in are pretty varied, so what I’m doing will change quite a bit. It could be detailed screen design (using Figma), reviewing research results from our research team or studies I’ve set up myself, or working to update user stories that I’m working on with a business analyst. Design at Auto Trader is about a lot more than the pixels, so focussing on what’s most useful for the project I’m on is key!
A really important part of my role is working closely with other people. Because I take a lead on ensuring that our customers can advertise vehicles successfully with us I’m often involved in several different things — sometimes just keeping in touch, sometimes taking an active lead.
Most teams have regular (usually daily) short standups where we talk about what we’re focussing on for the day and any issues we have or help we need. When we’re in the office, this would involve walking around from place to place and actually standing up — but they’ve been much more “sit down” these last few months!
We have our design team standup first, then I have a couple with product-related teams I’m working on. Typically these include developers, product managers, and testers as well as designers. Sometimes researchers and data analysts too, depending on the team. One of the things I really like about my role is that I work with a wide range of teams, so I’ve got to know loads of people and different parts of the business.
We have user researchers working with us as part of our teams, but user research is a team sport, so if I have something I need to learn about our users for one of my projects I’m often able to set this up myself — possibly with a bit of advice first to make sure I’m on the right track!
We have a range of tools we can use, including Qualaroo, Userzoom, ContentSquare, as well as the large amount of analytical data we have for the use of our platform. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with Qualaroo over the past few months — working with our developers to make sure we can target people effectively.
This morning I’m setting up a short “nudge” survey aimed at a small selection of dealers. It’s quite a specific question we’re asking, but it has wide ranging impacts on how we’ll design the solution, so I want to make sure we have some qualitative data to back up the qualitative insight we’ve already collected.
Developing people and helping them go on their career journey is a real passion of mine and is an important part of working at Auto Trader. Everyone is expected to identify how they can learn and grow and is supported in doing this. One of our values is also about being community-minded — so if you can help someone else out you should!
I’ve been acting as a mentor to a couple of people in the business who are interested in moving into a career in design. Mentoring can take many forms — whatever works for the people — but in this session, we’re just having an informal conversation about what they’ve been up to, what they might be missing, and what they might look into next.
I like to try and get away from the computer for a while at lunchtime and reset my day. It feels even more important for me at the moment, I can be flexible with my lunch break and fit it in around priorities but always make sure I get the time.
During the COVID situation when I’ve been at home I’ve been able to start having a riding lesson close to my house during lunchtime. I’ve owned and rode horses for many years it gives me a great buzz and so today I’m off for a half-hour training session!
This workshop is based on coming up with ideas for how to address quite a diverse set of requirements that are all related but touch many parts of our platform. In advance, I’ve spent quite a bit of time with a business analyst to understand all the touch points for the change and potential considerations, we have documented these as a resource for all the team to view and with a complex problem like this having these documented helps to make sure we’ve got everything covered.
The workshop has quite a few people in it — as well as me and the business analyst there is a product manager, a delivery person, a couple of developers, and a QA engineer. There’s a fair bit to get through, and with this being a remote session it’s important to keep the energy levels up. I’ve been told I’m an entertaining person to be around though, so hopefully it’s good fun as well as productive! One of the best things about working at Auto Trader is the people — we’re a diverse lot but everyone’s really nice so we have a lot of fun.
We’re doing a lot of recruitment currently so I’m involved in reviewing CVs and interviewing from time to time. It’s always great to meet new people who are interested in joining Auto Trader, and I really want them to have as good an experience as they can — and get the chance to demonstrate their ability.
I used to be a bit nervous about interviewing but I’ve become much more comfortable — and I love talking to people so it’s usually really interesting!
Today’s interview is a second stage one, so we’ve got a collaborative exercise to go through with the candidate, and then talking to them about a project they’ve done.
It’s been another busy but productive day.