Why I joined RocketVisor as the Lead Designer

Spencer Schimel
Lead Designer at RocketVisor

For the past six years I’ve been a designer at early-stage companies, but I just joined the earliest-stage company in my career: a 5-person team (myself included) working out of an apartment.  Here’s why I was excited to join RocketVisor.

All my previous roles were with young, growing companies (20-60 employees), and I was the second design hire at each of them. All of these startups had some sort of design system in-place, some number of paying customers already using it, and a decent “A round” in the bank – they were looking to improve their early product and exponentially grow their users.  

I’ve always known that I wanted to one-day join a product on the ground floor (pre-design system, pre-user growth, seed funded). I’ve come to appreciate that a good designer can take an existing design system and scale it across new product features, but that it requires a great designer to create a system that is scalable across that growing product. I’ve felt ready to take on this next growth challenge and prove that ability to myself, yet I’ve always been fairly risk-averse, and I wanted to make sure it was with the right company. Given everything I’ve learned from my previous startups, I adopted a new set of questions for considering my next opportunity:

Who’s running this thing?

Looking at a company as early as RocketVisor, I thought I needed to make two important predictions about the CEO – 1. Do I think he’s the right person to make this company a success, and 2. Would I like working alongside him? (Two questions I wish I had I asked myself at some of the previous places I worked).

RocketVisor is currently building products for sales teams, and I didn’t know much about them during the interview process; I didn’t know the problems in a sales team’s workflow, and I wasn’t very familiar with all the current tools at their disposal. This made evaluating RocketVisor’s potential more difficult, but I saw clearly in Mike’s capability to build a successful company.

It seemed clear that Mike had the “right stuff.”  I was impressed that Mike had an award-winning undergraduate thesis at Princeton studying the psychology of user interface design. I could only assume a background in VC would provide a leg up in raising capital and that his time at Harvard provided plenty of best practices to follow. As a technical founder who writes code daily, Mike understands what it means to develop customer-centric products, to focus on details that matter, and to build a great product team. This seemed like a winning combination.

Do I like the company’s mission?

I wanted to join a company where the mission got me excited.   RocketVisor’s mission, emblazoned on our office wall, is “to improve the way the world works.” When you’re working at company before it has secured strong product-market fit, external motivators are harder to come by.  Instead of getting excited about quarterly metrics and press coverage, early startup employees need to be driven by something more internal: a drive to help a customer solve a problem.

While RocketVisor is today improving the way sales teams work, the company views this as a crucial step along the path to satisfying it’s bigger mission. The team has bold plans to leverage its cutting-edge technology to help teams drive better results through effective collaboration, productivity, and coaching.  It’s exciting to be on a team that is thinking big and executing small.

Can I make an impact here today?

To me, having an impact means being a part of the decision-making process, not just executing.  I could tell pretty quickly that RocketVisor’s culture of leadership is refreshingly unique. Across my conversations with the team, I saw that Mike positioned himself as the team leader, more than the team decision maker.  That difference is crucial. Everyone on the team had the trust, resources, and room to excel in their roles. Since joining the team, I’ve really enjoyed adapting to this new style.

rocketvisor design process

What was important for me to learn was how the team actually viewed this design role: they wanted a design leader, not just a Sketch/Figma ninja.  They have done a nice job thus far on product with a bit of outside help, but it needs some design love (currently in progress). More than that, the team was looking for someone who would improve the design process.  They asked me bring a user-centered approach to product decisions, not simply to polish feature ideas into ready-to-build mockups.

Working in the product team of three pretty different startups, I’ve made it a personal focus to develop the “best way” to approach high level design objectives, validate hypotheses, and work effectively with engineering – all part of a flexible and repeatable design process. As the first full-time designer at RocketVisor, I’m excited to bring this process here and fine-tune it as we grow.

How much can I learn here?

The companies where I’ve learned the most have been the companies that have pushed me out of my comfort zone.  These opportunities asked things of me that I wasn’t sure I could do very well (or necessarily wanted to do). On my second interview at RocketVisor, Mike asked me how might I approach learning about the daily process of a sales person by conducting an interview.  When I discussed my hypothetical approach of user research, he wanted more specifics, so asked me to role play with Chris (Head of Growth, in the room), as if Chris were a user I were interviewing. It caught me a bit by surprise (and was not something I’d been asked in an interview before), but that moment stood out as a sign that I would be pushed out of my comfort zone here sometimes, in the greater effort of growth and learning.

Final thoughts

For anyone thinking about making their next move, I encourage you to think about the 4 most important questions you want answered, and don’t be afraid to vet the company the same way they are vetting you. Who will you be working with, and are they the right team for the job? Do you care about the mission, and think it’s worthy of your time? What’s your core strength, and is there room for you to apply it? What’s the next growth step in your career, and can they provide you that challenge?

Now that I’ve found the right team at the right time, the real work begins. I’m excited to be stretching my design muscles, more than any company has asked of me before. My current goal is not just to make RocketVisor easy to use and beautiful, but to raise the design bar on what people can expect to see from a browser extension.

We’re hiring for software engineers too!

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