Running an effective remote design team

Around this time last year, I got an interesting call on Slack.


Automattic had recently organized its mobile teams into a new division called Hogwarts, and our new division lead Cate Huston had embraced her new identity. I was coming off of several weeks of time off after surgery to repair a nerve in my hand that I severed during a cooking accident. Feeling down and sorry for myself, I was having a hard time getting back into the rhythm of work. But I was jolted out of my inertia by the reason for Cate’s call: to talk about forming a mobile design team within Hogwarts, with me as its lead.

I love mobile design, and with a second product designer set to join Hogwarts, I knew it was the right time to start a design team. Despite having never really felt like much of a leader, I thought it made sense for me to do it. And so, the Ministry of Magic was formed. I was nervous at first, and made plenty of mistakes. But through a process of constant iteration not unlike how we make products at Automattic, I’ve gone from being a reluctant leader to an enthusiastic one. I’m far from an expert on this topic, but Hogwarts, once an organization where design was often an afterthought, has become one that has an effective design team at its center. Here’s a few of the things I’ve learned in my first year as a lead.

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