Leading Ambitious Teams at Shop
Role / UX Manager | Responsibilities / leadership, strategy, career development
In spring 2020, Shopify released Shop app — an app that merged two very popular Shopify products, Arrive (a package tracker) and Shop Pay (1-click checkout).
This was Shopify’s first consumer-facing app and it took off in popularity just months after being launched. I joined the team in late 2020 as the second UX Manager.
Back in late 2020, I initially joined Shop’s product area, Core. This team focused on what was then the bread-and-butter part of the experience and the reason why many used the app: the package tracking experience. Additionally, Core also focused on growth (acquisition and onboarding).
During this initial time, the Shop team was still surprisingly small. Making up only approximately 130 out of Shopify’s 10,000 people workforce at the time. Our size, along with Shop being a standalone app, meant that it was much like working in a start-up. Super lean, scrappy and with a ton of excitement and enthusiasm for the potential of what we were building.
I was excited to inherit a team of 5 designers within Core and started off my first months building up solid relationships with each individual. The designers did not have any team-specific touch-points, so I also introduced team rituals early: 1) Design Crit and 2) Team Sync.
I knew these would be effective ways to have visibility on work, increase collaboration across Core (as the designers were relatively siloed in different mission teams) and help the designers forge an identity as a team. These rituals helped to up-level work quality through feedback and collaboration and make sure everyone had a broader view of the team's work and goals.
Although Shop’s package tracking feature was a staple part of the experience for consumers, Shop had always had a bigger goal. That goal was to become an incredible shopping destination. One where shoppers could discover and shop from new Shopify merchants and the ones they already knew and loved all in one place. To help facilitate this ambition, the Shop team had a structural shake-up.
Growth became a standalone team. I also became the UX Manager responsible for the newly-formed Merchant product area. In total, these two inidividual areas consisted of approximately 70 people across R&D (design, PM, eng, data etc).
Working across these two areas gave me an even broader view of Shop’s big picture. As part of both the Merchant and Growth leadership teams, I worked with my cross-functional peers on scaling our teams, org design, prioritisation and strategy. I was able to extend mentorship to functions like product management in Growth, enabling a junior PM to build stronger bonds with design, as well as introducing key frameworks to strengthen product discovery and prioritisation. Meanwhile, across both product areas, I worked closely to coach and guide designers working on new features while ensuring autonomy for these talented designers to drive the work.
Finding the puzzle pieces
Spotting a strong opportunity to strengthen Shop's full-speed transition to shopping destination, I drove strategy work that enabled us to explore how onboarding could support the app’s crucial change in value proposition and product experience.
This work outlined the importance of setting up the right first-time experience. On an area level, it helped align Growth towards a shared vision. It uncovered an aspirational north star grounded in research-backed hypotheses, enabling us to develop experiments to test those hypotheses and work towards the vision. Initiating this work and ultimately driving it through was a key puzzle piece in setting Shop up for success through its transition.
In reflecting on my time at Shop, I take pride in being part of the early journey of a product with high aspirations and an even more ambitious team.However, my greatest source of pride is having had the opportunity to lead my team of designers — getting to know them individually as people, helping them grow in their craft and supporting them in achieving fantastic work.
Case study available upon request.