Aline Baeck has practiced design for over 20 years and is currently Head of Design for Capital One, UK. Her previous positions include Design Lead for the Global Product Experience Group at eBay, Head of Design at Causata, a big-data software startup in London, and Innovation Leader at Intuit. She is speaking at Interact London, the capital’s leading UX, IA and design conference on 18 & 19 October at the British Museum. —
This is the second Q&A in our series where we’ll be gaining an insight into Interact London’s speakers. We asked Aline a few questions ahead of her talk ‘Design Thinking: A Designers Best Friend?’
Are you an early riser or a night owl?
Night owl! After I finished my graduate degree (while working full time in California),I was lucky enough to take a year off in London. I loved staying up until 2am every night.
What was your career break-through?
I was lucky enough to be one of twelve original “innovation catalysts” at Intuit. Our founder asked us to reinvent the company innovation and product pipeline. As we created a design-thinking program and trained our grass-roots network, I developed my leadership and innovation skills, and my ability to influence and persuade. These are key skills I’ve used in every job since then.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
I’ve been lucky enough to be at multiple founder-led companies, both start-ups and mature companies, including my current gig at Capital One. I find the continued drive and persistence of vision shown by these leaders incredibly inspirational.
Do you set career goals?
Absolutely. I took a company-sponsored class early in my career where we wrote personal mission statements. As hokey as this may sound, that activity changed the course of both my career and personal life. It gave me the focus to achieve what was important to me.
But I also organically reassess my goals as I change jobs, as I did in my recent change to Head of Design at Capital One, UK. It was through the interview process at various companies that I honed what was important to me now: a mission to change customer’s lives, in a industry that matters to people, in an environment that was ripe for design. I was lucky to find all of that at Capital One.
When did you step out of your comfort zone and be courageous, and how did it change your career?
Early on in my career, I was asked to lead a program that was failing. I agreed to the leadership role, with the provision that I could handpick a new project team (which had never been done at that company). While it felt risky at the time, my decision set the program up for success, and spawned a new product that increased NPS and earned the company significant revenue. That, as well as subsequent experiences, taught me to really assess what is needed for success and ask for it. It seems so simple now, but when you are junior, feels quite risky to do. I’m glad I learned that lesson as early as I did.
What is your killer confidence tip for work success?
“Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid”
Have you learned to say no?
Absolutely. It still requires effort on my part, but I learned long ago that saying no makes me and my company more successful.
What will the career path for young designers look like?
The faster new designers recognize that success will take influencing, collaboration, and communication skills (with a little humility sprinkled in), in addition to design skills, the more successful they will be. I also hope young designers will work in a diverse set of industries, platforms and problems – that breadth and adaptability is what helps a designer future-proof their skills.
Are more people getting into UX?
Yes. Having spent most of the last 5 years recruiting design teams at three different companies, I can attest that the number of UX designers has never seemed higher. Unfortunately, I also see the widest variation in candidate quality that I’ve ever seen.
What skills need improving in the design/UX sector?
Being attuned to business needs while still advocating for the best experience possible remains a critical skill for all designers. Too many designers end up in service to engineering or product needs rather than being a customer advocate and product/engineering partner. I ask my team to first design the experience as we know it should be. There are always people who will help descope the experience based on time and resources, but a critical purpose of a design group is to demonstrate what could be; to inspire our product and engineering partners to deliver the best experience possible, one they may not have imagined.
To be or not to be…a generalist in UX?
Yes and no. T-shaped! Enough said.
What is the next ‘big thing’ in the industry?
The pendulum is currently swinging towards designers that code, and I believe it will begin to swing back again. There are plenty of people that code in companies, and far fewer that can design. We need to continue to contribute our unique skills to any company we work for.
Bust a UX myth
Stop assuming that you are like your users. You’re not!
If you could trade places with another person for a day (real/ fictional/ dead/ alive) who would it be and why?
Leonardo da Vinci – I would make sure my flying machine actually got built, and give my notebooks to someone who wouldn’t lose them for hundreds of years.
If you missed Aline’s talk at Interact 2016, you can watch the video on our YouTuve channel.