Beating Your Imposter Syndrome — Designer vs. Developer #8


[MUSIC PLAYING] MUSTAFA: How does someone
know they’re not good? Or how does someone
know that they’re good? MAT: So in order to
be good at something, you need to practice that skill. But in order to judge whether
you are good at something, you just kinda need experience. So if you work in software
development for a long time and you exercise
your design skills, you can still understand
you are bad at it over time. Like, you get a more and more a
sense of just how bad you are, whereas if you actually
exercise those skills, you’ll get even more experience. And you will see how
bad you are compared to your idea of perfection. MUSTAFA: What do you think
stops developers from really wanting– because I mean,
this is a common thing. Why don’t you do design? I’m terrible at design. Or like when we
do design sprints, it’s like, you tell
people that at one point, you have to sketch. And everyone panics. I can draw. But it’s like you can
if you try a little bit. MAT: I think that is the gap
between skill and experience. If you work in
software development, you’ll come to understand
what a good design looks like just by working with
designers who are good. You will see designs that work,
see designs that don’t work. You’ll get a good
feel for what works. And then if you try that
yourself, it won’t be as good. You’ll know from your experience
that your design is not good enough, or at least feel
that it isn’t good enough. And that will put you off
from trying in the future. There’s no point. I can’t design. You know, I shouldn’t
even bother. So the thing that
a developer needs to do if they want to be able to
do the design at the same time is just practice. Just do it. Do it even though you
know that it’s bad. Because over time,
you will get good. And you might still think
you’re bad, but that’s fine. You’re in the practice
of doing it even though you think you’re bad. MUSTAFA: But at some point
in your development career– I mean, I don’t know. Do you feel you’re a good
designer, bad designer? Do you have a view of yourself? MAT: I feel like I’m
a really bad designer. And I think that’s because
I have a lot of experience and I have never personally
really taken that leap in progressing my
skills, or at least on certain kinds of design. So, like, laying
out a webpage, I know how to mechanically make
the webpage look like a design that I’ve been given. But I couldn’t
produce that design. I don’t have that
visual imagination. But I know that that’s because
I haven’t exercised that skill. And places where I have
exercised the skill in things more like user
interaction, those places I feel like
I do a better job. I know I’m not an expert. But I also know that
I’m better than it not being done by anyone,
if you know what I mean. MUSTAFA: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, again, I suppose the
thing which still frustrates me is that you’re a developer. You’ve done development
stuff for quite some time. You know the
process of learning. It’s like once you’ve
learned something, you realize that the kind
of mysticism and magic that takes to being
good at something is just time, and
time and effort. MAT: So as a developer,
like, I don’t buy that I’m not creative. Writing software is
a creative process. It just uses very
different techniques to visual design or user
interface developed design. So it’s not the creativity
that I feel that I lack. It’s just that time
served doing the designs, seeing what was wrong, and
going back and doing it, like practice,
practice, practice. MUSTAFA: So I mean, yeah, I do
agree that creativity– there is a lot creativity in coding. But it’s like, what is that
thing that can stop someone from wanting to explore? MAT: So there are
several reasons why I might or might not want
to go on to be a designer. One is just practicality. If you have a designer that
you can lean on, why not? I mean, that is a perfectly
valid choice to say, I don’t have the skills. And rather than spending
time getting those skills, I can just take someone
who does have those skills. And we can build a
symbiotic relationship. I don’t think that’s necessarily
good long-term in your career. You should have
some design skills. You should have at
least an understanding of what the designer is doing. You should do some stuff. I also know that
my time is limited. And I could spend the time
honing my craft as a developer or as a designer. And for a lot of
people, the choice will be just to stick
with what you know. It’s not even about
natural ability. I think it’s purely
about comfort zone. So yeah, I know that I will get
better as a designer if I try. And for me, it’s just been
that I’ve never particularly had the impetus to try,
at least on visual design. Then more recently, I
have been actually trying to be a better designer
in less visual things. MUSTAFA: Like the VR stuff
you’ve been working on is more interaction design. MAT: Exactly. So working with WebVR, I have
to place things in a scene so that they will make
sense to the viewer. When things could be out
of your line of sight, you need to draw
people’s attention to the correct things. You need to make sure
that it’s obvious how to interact with things. You need to design
your experience, understanding the limitations
of the hardware and things. You don’t want to have someone
spinning around too fast. You don’t want to
have someone moving too much if the headset isn’t
going to record the movement. Because there’s a lot of things
that will just make the user feel ill. So you have you have design
constraints as well as technical constraints. And you have to work to those. I guess the trick is just
to plow on when you’re bad. And it’s easier at the
beginning of your career because you don’t
understand that you are bad. MUSTAFA: And also, you’ve got so
much patience in the beginning. And at the end, you think, well,
there’s more to this stuff. MAT: You have to deal
with bad habits as well. MUSTAFA: Yeah. MAT: And I guess you also
need the feeling of safety to put yourself out
there with something that you’re pretty sure
isn’t going to be good, but to be able to put that
design out to your team and say, look, here’s
what I came up with. And we can work on
it in the future, without feeling like you’re
going to be mocked or ridiculed by your teammates. So just having a
supportive team can help. SPEAKER: Because I
think so much of design, it’s problem-solving. Right? So many people forget that. When they think of design, they
think of the finished product. But there’s so many
different stages of how you got to
that finished product.

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