Makers Series: Be like a machine; it’ll help you scale better

Scaling is always top of mind for high-growth tech teams.

But going from a handful of employees to double digits isn’t the easiest thing to do unless you have a process in place.

Head of design at Stripe, Malthe Sigurdsson, knows this very well. He’s scaled his design team from three to 40 and is pretty much a seasoned pro at this point.

Malthe has worked as a creative director, art director, and designer. He’s been part of design teams throughout Europe and the U.S., and is a master of “how stuff works, looks, and talks.”

In our interview, Malthe provides thoughts on how to successfully scale teams and use design to solve complex problems, as well as the importance of design thinking.

How can companies successfully scale their teams?

The first thing to do is find the balance between efficiency and quality.

The second thing is that if you want to grow, then you need to recruit. The key is to turn your recruiting process into a machine, so you know exactly the types of candidates you’re looking for and the types of questions to ask.

It’s important to be really clear about the kind of team structure you want, too. Even if you’re higher up, speak with everyone on your team and figure out together what kind of people you want to hire. Ask questions like “What does our team need today? What does our team need next month? What does our team need one year from now?”

Be really buttoned up operationally. Operating in a chaotic fashion, then adding another person, will only add to the chaos rather than get things done.

Stripe Makers Series Malthe Sigurdsson

Malthe Sigurdsson and Tyler Thompson discuss layout for a Stripe Press book.

What’s your rule of thumb for effectively managing teams?

Design is a team sport. Great work isn’t done by genius designers sitting on a pedestal somewhere. It happens when designers agree about the problem they’re trying to solve and when they take an expansive look at the possible solutions to that problem.

Teams can look at all of the solutions at hand and figure out which are the strongest ones. The more you collaborate and share passions and feelings about work, the better you’re set up to get really great work done in the long term.

Why is it important to think like a designer?

Design thinking helps people find solutions to their problems.

Oftentimes, designers must reframe problems and define them differently. Many designers, especially in tech, use the mindset, “I’m not making this for myself; I’m making it for someone else.” They ask themselves questions, such as “How does this design fit into what the customer thinks?” and “Am I making this as obvious to the recipient as I possibly can?”

Design thinking means that you’re being clear about what the end recipient is supposed to get out of your work. This can be translated to products, IT, marketing, email, you name it. It’s getting rid of uncertainty and complexity for the end recipient.

Stripe Makers Series Malthe Sigurdsson

What’s one thing that helps you be your most productive self every single day?

Coffee! Just kidding (but not really). The first thing is an app called Notion that I use for my own sketchpad. The second thing is managing my email — if it takes two minutes or less, then I do it immediately. If it takes longer, then I mark it and set aside time later in the day to respond.

When it’s all over, how do you want to be remembered?

As someone who carried themselves with honesty and integrity. And who helped others along the way.

Annabel is a Marketing Communications Manager at JotForm. She’s passionate about writing and has worked in communications roles domestically and internationally. When she’s not blogging about SaaS or online forms, she enjoys international travel, loud concerts, and artisan coffee. You can reach Annabel through her contact form.

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