Building a Design Culture and Celebrating UX Wins at Thomson Reuters
Senior Director of User Experience Karla Ortloff heads up global UX for legal professionals at Thomson Reuters. In July 2019, 30 members of her Minneapolis-based team participated in an in-house Facilitating Design Thinking course led by Cooper Professional Education. For our Client Spotlight series, the director shares strategies that have proven effective in fostering collaboration, incentivizing growth, and driving the design culture within a 90-person team at Thomson Reuters. (Editor’s note: this interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.) What brought you to Thomson Reuters? I’ve been in the industry for over 24 years and have worked at many different companies as a consultant and employee. Before I came to Thomson Reuters 11 years ago, I spent a significant portion of my career at Best Buy, so I had online retail in my blood. However, this was a great opportunity to be a part of a global organization that hadn’t yet built up a robust UX function. It was quite a change going from building retail sites to building web-based applications for legal professionals. I’ve loved every minute of it, mostly because I just love solving problems. It’s a complex market with unique problems, so we’re always pushing our UX skills. It’s super challenging. Can you describe the makeup of your team? My team is responsible for designing cloud-based applications for the global legal professional market. When I took over, we were fewer than a dozen people. We’ve had a lot of highs, lows, and growing pains along the way, but now we’re 90-plus people and I’m projecting more growth in the future. Our multidisciplinary team includes user experience designers, user interface designers, accessibility specialists, front-end developers, user research, and project management. The majority of our team is based out of Minneapolis, but we also have remote workers across the U.S., UK, Brazil, and Belarus. Could you share some of your strategies for incentivizing growth and encouraging collaboration? In order for us to improve our team’s perceived value and influence and improve collaboration with our stakeholders, we turned our research skills inward to find out what our internal stakeholders think about working with us. We interviewed our product managers and asked them questions like “What do you like about working on with us? Where have we been beneficial? What is your impression of us? Where can we improve?” One of the findings we found surprising is that we sometimes come across as being “above” them. I think in our eagerness to prove value and get a seat at the table we’re perceived as having an ego instead of having confidence. That was something we made a conscious effort to improve. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to celebrate every small or big UX win. We have something called #UXWins, where we share even little wins people have had. Every week we have “thanks a latte,” where people can nominate each other for doing something effective or helpful, and they get a coffee card. A culture of affirmation and appreciation is really important. A lot of the things on our “UX Bingo” card reflect the culture we have in our organization. It’s not only dealing with professional development, it’s creating a culture of appreciation, a collaborative culture. One of them was simply “have coffee with a coworker.” For “UX Coffee,” each month team members are randomly set up with another team member for a coffee date, either remote or in person, just to get to know each other. You can connect with quite a few people each year on your team by doing that. In what ways hasyour…
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