Shipping without bullshitting – design intern Kerkko has something to say
It was supposed to be a regular chat with a new staff member. It ended up being about onions, crappy design and the definition of good ol’ BS. Read on to learn how to minimize bull and why design alone isn’t magic.
Hi. Who are you?
Hi there! I’m Kerkko Visuri, a 23-year-old intern here at Wolt’s product team. Started a few weeks ago and looking forward to our chat.
Great. A few words about your background?
I study industrial engineering and management at Aalto University. The stuff that’s supposed to help you run big factories, projects and companies.
My favourite hobbies are running, reading books and helping grandma with IT.
I got interested in product design around 2015. I attended a workshop on creating visual presentations. During those 45 minutes I learned that design skills aren’t something you’re born with – it’s a systematic craft. One thing led to another and now I’ve worked in product development roles for the past few years.
“The team welcomed me with a ???-emoji and a project brief.”
How did you end up at Wolt?
The short story? I applied here because I wanted to learn product development. And I wanted to learn it from from the best.
This is not a typical job for a grad student from my field. I’m not interested in spending my youth in entry-level corporate jobs, so I am grateful I got the offer.
The team welcomed me with a ???-emoji and a project brief on my first day. It was then I understood that interns are regular team members here. One could call it learning by necessity.
I spent some time in customer support during the first week to learn how our business works. Did you know Wolt has a ridiculous amount of tech? It’s hard to make last-mile delivery work. But somehow we manage.
So are you a designer? A Product Owner? *gasp* a Project Manager?!
I’ll go with designer. In reality I just apply common sense to problems. Everyone in a good product team is responsible for shipping a good product, and I’ll work on whatever makes our product better. So far it’s been a mix of design, testing and overhead. Now that I’ve settled into the team, I’m getting more ownership of our corporate features too.
You have been around the office for a few weeks now. What has it been like?
My first project was to design a new functionality for our support staff. I started to play around with a few concepts. And you want to know what? My first idea sucked. So did the second one.
Okay. Anyways, we ended up with something that does the job, and the following day I started designing the UI for Wolt’s corporate admin tools. I sketched some prototypes and presented them to the team. I ran a few more iterations and got to know our React component library.
All this was three days into my internship. We focus on working, and it’s been a great way for me to learn.
Kerkko, what do you believe in?
My job is a hybrid between designing and shipping, but I’m constantly thinking about the business. Business value is more important than selecting the exact right color for a button. Disagree? Check out the financial statements of Craigslist.
I mean, things aren’t that clear-cut, but you get the idea. You said I can be honest, right?
I did. So you hate design?
Wrong. I hate bad design. Beauty doesn’t equal good design. If your product is an onion, you want all the layers to be good enough while some need to be exceptional. Sure, people buy the onion because of its looks, but it’s a wasted effort if the inside is rotten.
For example, I’m currently investigating how we can make a delivery of 30 pizzas better. The result will never be beautiful, but we need to get it right.
Design books will tell you how some process will magically fix any organization. It’s not that straightforward. You need to make the change happen, and it’s hard. The worth of a designer or PM is measured by what is shipped, not by what is designed.
Okay, we get it. You’re a designer at heart after all. What don’t you like then?
At work? Well, let’s just say a BS-free environment is a good one.
When the idea for this interview first popped up, I felt uncomfortable. I don’t want to be part of a run-of-the-mill summer trainee interview about how nice the people are, how the sun is shining and how amazing the office snack buffet is. You know that stuff already.
What’s BS to you?
Almost everything. Social media, the newspapers, and the new expensive burger place. Heck, even this blog post is probably bullshit.
Most companies spend most of their time on internal BS processes. Good ideas are watered down until they’re no longer good. Finally the marketing department passes the BS onto the customers.
I want to focus on the few things that actually make a difference. It doesn’t make sense to play things safe. Safe choices become risky in the long term, and they’re less fun to commit to.
You said you read a lot. Any tips?
Well here’s something to start with.
- Jan Carlzon – Moments of truth. Simple yet profound wisdom from a turnaround CEO.
- Seth Godin – Blog, books and podcast.
- Jari Parantainen – Pölli tästä blog. Nonconformist advice on productization.
- Farnam Street – Blog and podcast. WARNING: This one goes deep. Thinking about thinking and learning about learning.
Some design books I enjoyed recently are The Power of Moments by Dan and Chip Heath and Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley. Look them up on Amazon!
Thanks Kerkko. Nice talking to you!
Thank you, you too. See you around!