As the head of design for Expedia Group’s Hotwire brand, I worked with the team to revamp design practice from the ground up. Learning from trial and error, and counsel from the best and brightest on the latest design leadership approaches, I’ve mapped out a platform for transforming design practices, that have transformed experiences.
What Makes Me Different
I Believe Optimism Can Change Everything.
I believe in the potential to transcend many of today’s uncertainties or limitations, with hard work, creativity, strategic focus, and smart collaboration.
I Believe in Continuous Improvement.
I believe in a continuous stream of trying new things, having the feedback loops to learn, iterate, and evolve.
I Believe in the Team.
Working with my teams, and cross-functional partners are core to my enjoyment in work, and it’s central to rallying the team to accomplish great things.
How I View My Work
Design is deeper than pixels; at its core, it’s about a better approach to problem-solving, with the aim to make peoples lives better, and organizations more effective. The leader of a Design practice and team is a driving and unifying force to ensure customers are delighted, businesses grow, and the team is challenged and satisfied.
My responsibility is to ensure:
- For the organization: Business strategy and tactics anchor in understanding the customer and their most critical problems to solve. Goals are met and exceeded.
- For the customer: Customers should inform the Product roadmap. The team knows who the target customer is, what their needs and wants are, what drives their behaviors, and what opportunities exist to serve better than the competition.
- For the team: Design should help to elevate the whole organization. Team members have a seat at the table, are challenged and coached, and are each a “bar raiser” for the customer experience quality.
Some of My Lessons Learned
I’ve come to appreciate the following principles in pursuit of leading customer experiences.
- Begin with the customer: Satisfied customers unlock business growth. Using deep customer understanding helps cut through to the best insights, faster.
- Place outcomes over outputs: Clear results should drive the tactics, rather than the other way around.
- Invest in the team: Customer experience lives or dies based on the quality of our team’s work; keep the team healthy, inspired, and challenged.
- Design without borders: Organizational borders should not dictate the end experience; incorporate cross-functional teams, to fully delivery cohesive, quality experiences.
- Normalize risk and ideation. Innovation and creativity grow businesses, provide resilience in turbulent times, and are enjoyable for team members. Innovation comes from the safety to take risks.
- Set the standard for quality and speed. Setting the quality bar is crucial, ensuring the right trade-offs are made for a quality end experience.
- Great designers are great facilitators.
More of My Toolkit
Design Thinking enables teams to discover the best, most creative and innovative solutions, rapidly, cheaply, and collaboratively. It’s about problem-solving, whether the problem to solve is a user interface or usability issue, a process or organizational issue, a service, or a product feature.
Design Thinking anchors the team’s approach in a clear understanding of the end-user, the most crucial problems to solve, the most actionable insights. It enables fast and cheap iteration, learning, and honing of ideas, exploring and validating a potential solution more cheaply, before investing in the expensive phase of coding and release.
At Expedia Group, I used Design Thinking to improve the Product Organization’s process and the culture of the Design Organization. It’s how we were able to quickly create a new design-led roadmap for bolder, better experience design.
Product Development Process
The Double Diamond is a framework for applying Design Thinking to the Product Development process in such a way that the team ensures they’re solving the right problem and solving the problem right.
Combining the Double Diamond framework with new Design Systems initiatives, the team was able to create a better balance for streams of work for rapid test and learn optimization, as well as crucial upstream research, discovery, and ideation.
We also found this a useful mental model for influencing how we structure roadmaps, teams, projects, and even roles and responsibilities – to ensure the right balance of quality and speed in Product Development.
Design Systems are the operating system by which a company delivers a cohesive, quality experience to an end-user, seamlessly across touchpoints. What should appear consistent and effortless to the end-user is made possible by the right organization of people, tools, processes, guidelines, and design that comprise a Design System.
With the guidance of Design Systems experts across Expedia.com, Hotels.com, VRBO.com, and beyond, I led the creation of the strategy, team, and direction to grow Hotwire’s first Design System.
We established a cross-functional Design System Working Group to unify Design and Engineering team members, created a fresh new global design language for Web and Mobile, and created Hotwire’s first-ever centralized UI component library.
High-performance team members are the foundation of high-performance teams. Quality of hire is paramount, but so is the day to day work of guiding, growing and engaging team members. The quality bar is only as high as the lowest level of performance, which makes performance management, and the investment in people, one of the most important aspects of any leader.
At Expedia Group, I worked hard to hire individuals who not only showed skill in design, but a natural hunger to challenge themselves, and who enjoy the feeling of winning as a team. It’s essential not only for the team but also for the Designer to have a reliable system of support, with tools such as clear career frameworks, individual development plans, regular coaching, and ongoing goal setting and tracking.
To elevate the customer experience, it has to be a whole-company effort – not merely within the Design teams. Design is problem-solving, and great designers lead cross-functional teams to apply design thinking across the business.
One of the essential tools for facilitating is cross-functional workshops, such as Brand Expression Workshops, Journey Mapping, Design Sprints, Ideation Summits, and more.
Goals and Results
Without the ability to execute, even the best strategies can only remain on paper (or that fancy presentation slide). One of the most powerful tools at our disposal is to be clear about the most critical goals, concrete measures of success, and clear roles and responsibilities – that will drive the vision and strategy.
I set Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs, for the team, and team members. OKRs are great for helping to clarify top priorities, organize around outcomes-based thinking, and to accelerate necessary conversations around trade-offs and approaches. Nothing makes a strategy real, like concrete success measures, clear accountability, and the support to make great things happen.
Accomplishing More With Less
One of the central challenges of managing Hotwire’s Design organization was the scarcity of available headcount of Expedia brands. While our team had the footprint of a major consumer marketplace with multiple product lines that we had to service, we had an extremely lean team.
100% of the team’s bandwidth was easily consumed by the day-to-day “keeping the lights on” type of work – responding to new legal requirements, feeding the optimization pipeline, UI review with developers, meetings upon meetings – which left little to no time for the necessary time and space to work on bigger picture efforts to evolve Hotwire’s design.
While I had ongoing success negotiating the addition of headcount, because of business conditions, scarcity was a given – to “pay” for the more significant experiential improvements – we had to become much better at organizing ourselves. We had to be scrappy, and make big things happen, with a small but mighty team.
To do this, I analyzed operational metrics that helped us fine-tune where there were wasted time with meetings, project churn, unclear requirements, etc. – which led to improvements in process, roles, and responsibilities. We invested in Design Systems and Design Ops, coalescing our tools and patterns to reduce “reinventing the wheel”, making it easier to bring beautiful UI to our UX ideas. We negotiated team involvement in unnecessary meetings to reclaim time and moved meetings into blocks to preserve hours of “heads-down” in the zone time. We self-organized a Design-led roadmap, negotiated time towards that work, and rallied Product Management around incorporating our concepts for an improved Hotwire experience, within the central Product roadmap.
The result of this work is represented by much within the Featured Work section of this site. We accomplished this by better organization, without significantly increasing the size of our team.