Product Design Leadership
Over the past 20 years, I have successfully developed Design and CX capabilities for four distinct companies, each presenting its own unique set of challenges.
ENABLING A CULTURE OF CHANGE TOWARD CUSTOMER-CENTRICITY
I’ve worked alongside the people and culture teams within these enterprises to nurture a customer-centric company culture, through behaviours, practices, and standards that encourage all employees to focus on delivering outstanding customer experiences.
INNOVATION THROUGH DESIGN
This involved implementing intrinsic user-centered practices and design systems within cross-disciplinary teams – in addition, to embedding design thinking mindsets to help them continuously improve and innovate on their customer experiences.
NPS scores are the icing on the cake. My focus is on getting people out of their silos to share collective insights into customer perceptions and behaviours – enabling the company to capture the voice of the customer through both quantitative and qualitative methods.
CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE STRATEGY
For each business I helped lead the development of a CX strategy that articulated a clear vision of the experience that the company sought to create in support of the company’s brand values, culture, and products.
KEY ACHIEVEMENTS AS DESIGN LEADER
- I’ve built up and managed four sizable in-house design teams across Aotearoa and Australia.
- Many of my alumni have gone on to Design Leadership positions at Xero, Hatch, BBC, Fly Buys, Trademe, NEC
- Industry-leading CSAT scores for Powershop Mobile & Tally Trust
- A customer satisfaction score of 90% at Powershop (Consumer NZ independent survey).
- A handful of local and international awards including New Zealand International Business Awards – Winner, Excellence in Design and Gold at the Best Design Awards.
- Design and CX capability leader for over a dozen start-ups – one now valued in the hundreds of millions – backed by SilverTree Equity and Pioneer Capital.
I work hard to see the people, organisations, and brands I work with succeed.
In my role as VP of Digital Product at Tally Group, I worked across six time zones and responsible for a diverse team of 20 people, including designers, project managers, BAs, developers, testers and data scientists. In my previous job at Powershop I managed nine UX specialists, including product designers, user researchers, and graphic designers. Before that, at Provoke, I hired and directed a team of 10 UX specialists – many of who have gone on to have prominent careers.
MY PEOPLE MANAGEMENT APPROACH
I’ve had feedback from the c-suite, peers, and team members, that people management is one of my strengths. I don’t follow a formula, I follow what’s needed for the person in front of me.
Over time I’ve learned that people and teams need different styles of leadership at different times – sometimes leading the way to set clear goals and a vision, and sometimes getting out of the way so they can have their turn in the limelight.
With any new starters or staff who need support, I’ll run check-ins daily until they get on their feet. For more established staff I usually meet once a week. Then I run in-depth 1-on-1s every month where we go ovder their career goals, OKRs, feedback and any issues.
Being a people manager isn’t always rosy though. I have experience placing people into performance management, have had the very painful task of managing redundancies, and have carefully supported people back into work when their personal lives or health have gone off the rails.
I encourage you to read more on my approach to people management here – www.zefamedia.com/leadership/zefs-management-ethos/
ASK MY ALUMNI
Here’s feedback from one of my ex-crew.
Bob Medcalf (Reported to me at Provoke and then Powershop)
As my manager, Zef provided me with first class coaching and support, and as his replacement , it is by his standards that I judge my own management work on. He has an insightful, calm personality and has the ability to identify the fundamental issues in any situation and deliver a considered solution, whatever the context. Generous with his time, calm under pressure, confident in his expertise, innovative in his thinking and a pleasure to be around.
See LinkedIn for more references – https://www.linkedin.com/in/zefamedia/
At Tally Group I conducted delivery management in a number of areas.
AS VP OF PRODUCT & DESIGN
In my role at Tally, I led the strategy, design, and delivery of five products within the Digital Suite. I managed product backlogs, roadmaps, and collaborated with the sales team on potential opportunities. Jira Product Discovery was a valuable tool for managing roadmaps and initiating epics in Jira Software. The delivery process was then handled by the PMs, BAs, and Squad Leaders, who generated user stories and allocated work. I trusted them to manage the delivery in the way that worked best for their squad.
AS BRAND OWNER
In my role as the brand owner at Tally and previously at Powershop, I successfully commissioned and collaborated with various freelancers and agencies, ranging from photographers and videographers to print shops and creative agencies. Additionally, I played a key role in driving international brand strategies for Powershop’s entry into the Australian and UK markets, as well as overseeing Tally Group’s expansion across six countries.
AS DIGITAL TEAM PEOPLE MANAGER
In one of my roles at Tally, I led a team of 20 individuals grouped across three management lines. Alongside team managers, who reported directly to me, I also had two skilled UX designers as my direct reports. To encourage autonomy and a sense of ownership, I trusted them with the specifics of their deliverables while I focused on the wider strategy and milestones. I would step in when they requested or if I noticed a project deviating from its intended path.
For my direct reports, my delivery management approach, at its simplest level, boils down to this:
|I give a clear written brief||I make sure they’re on track||I empower people to succeed|
|I make sure my team understands the problem/opportunity, why it’s important for the business’s strategic objectives and how success will be measured.||I keep in touch and schedule regular catch-ups. I find ways to keep them motivated about what they are achieving. If they are facing blockers, and are stuck, I’ll work with them to unstick that problem.||I give my crew members a degree of autonomy so they are self-motivated through having a sense of ownership. It also allows people to stretch their capabilities, learn, grow, and keep getting better.|
Ownership. Collaboration. Action.
When it comes to Design Governance I thrive off having ownership and accountability – it’s a motivator for me to drive the team forward and continually help them improve. My experience spans both design and product ownership so I understand the need for collaboration and a vision to make the magic happen. I’m always striving for our A-Game but I work within constraints and the need for speed (I’m a realist).
AT TALLY GROUP (A builder of SaaS products for Utilities)
- I was instrumental in the success of two start-ups (Billcap & TallyIt) who were acquired by Agility in 2020 for over AU$25m and rebranded as Tally Group.
- Brand Owner: I spearheaded the design and coordination of the new international brand identity, ensuring its successful rollout across Australia, New Zealand, India, USA, Japan, and UAE.
- Ultimate accountability for design milestones at Tally Group, including brand rollout, marketing and product development.
- Oversight of the design and UX for SaaS, web and mobile products used by Tier 1 & 2 energy retailers in Australia, with end users in the hundreds of thousands.
AT SLEEVESUP (A startup incubator)
- A key player in the launch of and capital raise for three start-ups, all still in business.
- Built an in-house CX team from scratch. Wrote and carried out the CX strategy, undertook recruitment, team management and programme management.
- Interim Marketing Manager for one of the start-ups.
- Acting Chief Experience Officer (CXO) for Billcap (part of the SleevesUp Group)
- Instrumental in creating a collaborative workplace using Lean UX principles.
AT POWERSHOP (An energy retailer)
- 144% growth in customer numbers during my tenure.
- Built an in-house Design/UX team. Wrote and carried out the design strategy, undertook recruitment, team management and programme management.
- Initiated the production of personas, a pattern library, A/B and user testing.
- My team’s sharp focus on customer engagement boosted product purchases by 10% in 2015.
- My team contributed to Powershop’s NPS score of +45 (the industry average being -40).
- During my term, Powershop achieved a customer satisfaction score of 90% (Consumer NZ independent survey).
- I was on the strategic team that led Powershop to win a multi-million licensing deal in the UK.