At Tulip, our founding values include Diversity & Inclusion. The Women @ Tulip Committee is a grassroots internally organized team with the purpose of showcasing the careers of exceptional women internal and external to Tulip. As part of a mini-series, we will be releasing “in conversation” interviews with some of our top talent. The purpose of the series is to highlight their career journeys, celebrate diversity in many forms, and contribute to the dialogue in the tech ecosystem.
This week, you’ll find us in conversation with Raine Qian, Director of Product Design at Tulip.
You moved to Canada at a later phase and have experienced considerable career success. What advice do you have for others who are looking to build their career profiles in Toronto tech?
Raine: First, set a goal. Without a clear goal, you will not be able to fight through discouragement and distractions. When I graduated from OCAD University, it was hard to find a design job because of the financial crisis. Many new graduates ended up looking for other jobs. But I knew if I would give up, I should have given up on the day of applying for design university, but not at this moment. I had a goal to become a design leader. With that goal, I was more patient and long term focused on my career development.
Second, continuously learn and challenge yourself. Technology never stops growing, so you shouldn’t as well. Don’t stop developing yourself at work. Only getting the given tasks done will not push you further in your roles. You can choose to do more and see it as a learning opportunity. I ‘volunteered’ to do things I actually have never done or were not confident doing earlier. I think that is the best way to push myself out of the comfort zone and to move up faster.
What are your career experiences prior to Tulip and how did they prepare you for your current role as Director of Product Design?
Raine: As a designer, I worked closely with PMs and developers to design mobile apps for over six years. I gained a solid knowledge of UX design and product development process through hands-on practice. When I became a design manager at Pivotal Labs, I started to engage clients and manage designers. I learned about the importance of selling design and building design process.
Before joining Tulip, I led product design at VarageSale. VarageSale is a family-friendly app to buy and sell new and used items locally. VarageSale users are very vocal about their experience. A small feature update would totally affect product usage. This gave me the opportunity to build a research-driven design culture, which means we validate assumptions and make decisions based on analytics and user research. Those experiences at mobile application development company and startup made me confident leading design at Tulip.
How did you hear about your role at Tulip and why did you decide to join?
Raine: When a Tulip recruiter reached out to me for this design leadership role, I did not know much about Tulip. After meeting the team, I learned about the company’s vision.
Two things at Tulip aligned to what I was looking for. First, the company is building a product that people will use daily to make life better. Tulip Apps enable store associates to improve the shopping experience for their customers. Tulip is not only impacting stores associates’ jobs but also their relationship with customers. Second, the CEO at Tulip, Ali Asaria greatly values design. The support from the CEO is crucial for me to do my job.
How would you say the Product Design team has evolved under your leadership and what have been some key team accomplishments?
Raine: It has been a fun journey! Over a year and a half, the design team has grown from one designer to a team of four. We have established the design principles, design systems, design processes and research practices.
I support an autonomous team structure and focus on building process that empowers designers to do great work. We improved the process by implementing design scoping, team critiques, user research, design sprint and design QA. The design productivity, UX quality, and UI consistency have been noticeably improved. We also see more collaboration between designer, product manager, and developer.
I’m very proud of my designers, we build the process together from scratch and they are all doing an amazing job.
Can you tell us about what your typical weekday is like both in and out of the office?
Raine: Before getting into the office, a morning coffee helps me to start a good day. Typically, 50% of my week is spent in design meetings, management meetings, and cross-department meetings. Those meetings give me visibility to design and project health. Also, these help me identify upcoming design needs and opportunities in cross-team collaboration.
For the other 50% of the week, I like to focus on planning and taking action on any issues or needs. Sometimes I roll up my sleeves to work on research and design. After work, a quick workout at the gym always helps me destress and relax.
What do you think sets apart Tulip’s product from a design perspective?
Raine: What set Tulip’s product apart is that we designed features for specific retail use cases. During our user interviews, the associates who use our apps have really appreciated the simplicity and ease of use. With Tulip apps, associates get their customer communication and online ordering done faster and easier compared to their traditional work tools. We aim to make the flow as simple as possible.
You work directly for the CEO, Ali Asaria, at Tulip. What has that experience been like? As a leader working with him directly, what have you learned about how he views the product and design process? What are some of his general philosophies?
Raine: Working with Ali has been very productive and useful in my role. I have more clarity on product direction and more context on business challenges and opportunities. This helps me to plan design priorities and create better longer-term design strategy.
In terms of leadership style and philosophies, Ali is a creative problem solver. He asks good questions to challenge your solutions and assumptions. He is also very analytical and encourages you to find the root cause of any problem. He definitely supports the design process and wants us to push UX as the core for the product development process.
Where do you see yourself in your future career and what are you doing currently at work or outside of work to further your goals?
Raine: I see myself continue to empower companies to build great products that influence people’s lives. I want to share my experiences and knowledge to influence more young designers to become leaders. Outside of work, I am learning leadership and organizational strategy by reading books and talking to other great leaders.