What do you want to do in 5 years? What about 15 years? This question is hard because technology, industries, and what’s possible changes so fast. As a thought exercise, I tracked the career history of ten designers who inspire me in 2015 to help me make my own plan. I figured out it was time to rejoin a product company, continue writing, and most importantly not to worry. Because this activity was so valuable for me, I made a spreadsheet template for you!
Map Your Inspiring Designers
- On a sheet of paper, make a list of 10 designers you look up to. See how far you can get without doing deep internet research. Who comes to the top of mind?
- Make a copy of the Inspiring Designers spreadsheet template.
- Replace the “Your Name” placeholder in the document title (at the top) and spreadsheet tab (at the bottom) with your name.
- Track your personal career history. (Row 2)
- List the ten designers who inspire you. (Column A)
- Focus on Inspiring Designer #1. How are you connected to this designer? Is mentorship in the realm of possibility? (Row 3, column B)
- Why is Inspiring Designer #1 interesting to you? Not to twitter. Not to bloggers. Not to investors. To you! (Row 3, column C)
- Look up Inspiring Designer #1 on Linkedin. Track their career history in 5 year blocks. If they’re not on Linkedin, do some googling to find a resume, bio, or something close enough. The further back in history you go, the fuzzier the records will get. (Row 3, Columns D-H)
- Highlight the jobs Inspiring Designer #1 held that are interesting to you in bold.
- Repeat. (Row 3 – 12)
- What do all the designers you look up to have in common? Did they take any common themes or career paths? Are they on a similar or wildly different trajectory than you? (Row 16, column B)
- What insights can you make from these themes? Do their career paths interest you? Do you want to do something similar? What were these designers doing when you were in high school? Are you on track, behind, ahead, doing something totally different? Do you need to change direction? (Row 17, column B)
That’s it! I hope this helps you look at your own career from a new light. And a big thanks to Ofri Afek, my design manager in 2015 at Pivotal Labs. She initially suggested I make a list of ten designers I look up to. During this activity, we often talked about how careers are so much more than status updates on Linkedin. But having a view of the past can be meaningful for insights about the future. If you want to learn more about other designers and their backgrounds, check out How They Got There by Khoi Vinh.
Here’s what happened:
(2015) I discovered I look up to designers who
- identify as writers or are connected to journalism
- were head of a design or product team
- spent at least 4-years at a single product company growing their career
- were working as professional designers when I was in high school
(2015) If I want to be like these designers I
- am on track and possibly ahead of the curve
- should continue writing for fun
- should consider quitting my consulting job to join a product company
- don’t know that many female design leaders
- need a mentor!
(2017) As a result, I
- quit my consulting job
- got a job at a product company with great design leaders
- continued writing for fun
(2018) Next, I need to
- meet more female design leaders
- find a mentor