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D. Keith Robinson

Keith is a Product Designer for Atlassian, working on Tech Teams with a focus on developer experiences and tools. Before joining Atlassian, he worked for Salesforce on product—dev experience for Heroku and leading UX for Desk.com—and as a Principal on Salesforce platform. He’s worked in almost every capacity as a designer, spending time on the individual contributor track, as a manager and owning his own design studio back in the mid 2000’s, where he did, and saw, a bit of everything.

D. Keith Robinson

About the talk

Leading From The Middle, Lessons from the IC track

There is a strong perception that one has to move into management if they want to succeed as a leader and expand their influence to have more impact. For many individual contributors, this is a tough choice to make. As someone who’s been successful both as people leader and as a leader in an individual contributor (IC) role, Keith will show that in many ways they’re much closer than many would expect.

In addition to his own experience, Keith’s been chatting with design leaders from all around, and noticing some common trends, problems and opportunities.

IC leaders are uniquely positioned to have terrific positive impact across nearly every aspect of a business. Keith will talk through some common problems keeping them from realizing that impact. He’ll cover some lessons learned over his 20 plus year career as a designer and share a unique perspective as someone who’s currently in a leadership position as an IC, has served in a dual role more than once, and has made the switch between IC leader and people manager a few times. With each lesson, he’ll offer up a bit of actionable advice for both ICs and managers.

Some common problems design orgs face:

1. *Unclear expectations and lack of aspirational growth opportunities.* This is coupled with *Mangers, especially first time managers, aren’t well supported and often are unsure how to begin.*

Partnerships and shared responsibility are key.

2. *There is often a gap between strategy (the business) and execution.*

Building influence with a goal of empowering others is the way forward, but know when to just do the work.

3. *People skills aren’t taught early enough.*

Design is all about people, from day one and you’ll need to develop your people skills to move up and keep adding value as you go.

4. *Career ladders aren’t flexible enough to account for designers as they grow.*

Craft is much more than we think it is. There are many ways to craft - play to individual strengths and challenge for growth.

For everyone - let’s redefine craft and what it means to be a maker. There are many ways to craft, and people skills are as much a craft as anything you do with design tools.

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