Getting started at Nubank: a designer’s tale

18 days ago, I joined the Nubank's Design Team. Here's how it's been.

“Ask forgiveness, not permission.”
– Nubank’s Design Lead

Before the past eighteen days, changing jobs felt like a distant memory. I had been working as a design consultant for three years. I knew everyone in our team. I had a close relationship with my boss, still consider most of my peers good friends, and could easily navigate everything from internal processes to helping people find files and supplies in our office.

It had been an excellent opportunity to learn different design tools and experiment with them in multiple scenarios. Still, I felt like I was only taking a thin slice of a bunch of industries. I craved a deeper dive into problems I was thrilled to solve. I urged owning the results (positive and negative) that come from my decisions and knew being closer to implementation could offer me that.

And this is where Nubank came in. I have recently joined the Design Team and spent the past few weeks engaged in one fundamental activity: listening.

Here’s an overview of my experience so far.


Company Culture

Before Nubank, I had seen companies take advantage of the term ‘culture’ and wear it as a marketing tool. As a consequence, employees found themselves frustrated when things worked differently from advertised. Being transparent when communicating culture is vital for employees to know where they stand. And now, I know that the culture I was introduced to during my hiring process was indeed authentic. 

Even after such a brief time, I’ve seen Nubank’s culture influence everything from our hiring process to onboarding new people, decision making, shipping products, and interviewing users. Creating an engaging culture and maintaining it amid a fast-paced expansion is probably Nubank’s biggest laurel.

For now, I can only imagine how challenging it is to preserve a startup’s original culture as it grows.

To draw a line on how important this is to us, we now have over a thousand employees, and our CEO David still dedicates a whole hour every other week to talk about Nubank’s Culture to our new hires.

In their first few days at Nubank, all chaptersnew hires have a common agenda. Activities spin around getting to know our history, values, and benefits, as well as becoming familiar with our almost-intimidating double-height ceiling building. It’s engaging to see how even details like taking the stairs for a meeting build up culture and a healthy work environment.

Feedback

One of Nubank’s core values is that we want to build strong and diverse teams. Doing so also requires individuals to express how they feel in a mature way. In a company with so many young employees, it also means leveling up our soft skills. On my first day, I had an entire session on learning how to give and receive feedback.

The vision of feedback as a gift that helps us thrive as individuals was a good starting point to open up early and not stack a pile of sentiments towards our peers. To exchange these gifts, we have a dedicated platform so people can share their thoughts with anyone across Nubank both as private (on-the-spot) feedback or even posted as public compliments in a section called “Wall of Praise”.

Xpeer Xperience

Xpeers are our customer-service heroes and also the backbone of our service. Unlike in most companies, Xpeers are experts that have an in-depth understanding of Nubank’s products and are also organized in squads. They are real customer support and NOT a third-party company pushing products customers don’t need. 

In our first week, every new hire has their own first experience as an Xpeer. This was probably the most enlightening experience I had so far. Not only did it help me understand the different systems behind our customer-facing interface, but it also put me in their place to see how central the Xpeer role is here at Nubank.

Our customer-service heroes and also the backbone of our service: the Xpeers.

Having Xpeers close by has already proved itself as the best source of knowledge about both our clients and products. Beyond that, designers are also responsible for creating the back-office interface Xpeers use every day. Enhancing their routine can only be as compensating as improving our customers’.

Companywide events

There are two recurring company-wide events.

The first one is called Coffee-break. It happens every other week and is the only mandatory meeting at Nubank — all other meetings employees are encouraged not to attend if they find they have a more important task. The Coffee-break is where we share the accomplishments of the past weeks and align our vision for the future.

MegaDemo is a monthly review of everything that’s been shipped in the past 30 days. People show their cases in a light, laid-back presentation. It’s entertaining and great to see what different squads are up to. A few days before the Mega Demo, there’s always a “teaser” on Slack — which always happens to be very tacky .

I’ve been lucky enough to have a MegaDemo in my first week at Nubank. Catching up with what the whole company has been up to in the past month helped me a lot at situating myself — and also worked great as a conversation starter to get to know more people.

Design Team

in June 2018, we have a total of 17 designers at Nubank. Since the beginning of the year, the team has almost doubled, and we now have designers dedicated to Product, Comms, Branding, Illustration, and Research.

What surprised me since my hiring process is how these different design strands bond as a single, strong team. The reason it works so well is that as much as we are working on different projects and allocated in different squads, there’s a good part of our week dedicated to spending time together.

Every Monday starts with a creative session lead by one of us. From presenting documentaries and artists that inspire you to showing tips on how to question quantitative data, Monday mornings are when we gather to learn more and discuss topics that matter to people in our team.

Starting the week with these sessions is energizing and makes even Mondays seem way less daunting.

One of our Creative Mondays: on how visually impaired people play videogames.

Then, there are the Thursdays. Thursdays are kind of our holy day, and the entire team works from the Design Studio. During most of the day, we are working on our projects, but being physically close to each other makes it easier to ask for a second opinion.

At 4 pm, we pause whatever we’re working on for chapter updates followed by a Co-Design session. As the sun goes down, we head up to the rooftop for a team sync that may or may not end up in drinks somewhere else 😉 

My first time participating in a Co-Design.

Apart from the face-to-face interaction, we also regularly share work in progress on our design review Slack channel. Making everyone comfortable to question and suggest iterations helps to nurture a consistent, delightful experience to our users.

Challenging the status quo

During my first weeks, I’ve also taken note of many phrases I heard that boosted my confidence to challenge the status quo. Here are a few: 

“Don’t rush to become a master at any subject. Take your time and enjoy this moment to question how everything works.”
– Product Manager

“Just do it. Ask forgiveness, not permission.”
– Design Lead

“We aren’t looking to become the largest bank in the world. We’d rather be the most influential one.”
– C-level

Seeing a variety of mental models and lines of thought work together in synergy is motivating. I’ve learned a lot in a short period and know my journey here is only getting started. There’s still a lot to be done, and each day I feel more empowered to be part of our fight against complexity.

Final considerations

  • Squads can choose their tools. This helps every squad to focus on what matters: delivering. Yet, as someone who’s been participating in activities of different squads, the number of tools can be a bit too intimidating at first; 
  • Trying to catch up with the pace of my peers that were upfront only made me feel unproductive. Taking a deep breath and understanding things will take some time until I can speed up my work is working much better;
  • Working from the Design Studio is perfect for focusing on a specific task. However, being present in the squad routine is still the most important thing one can do to make their voice heard and contribute to the product vision;
  • I still have lots to learn about the product, tech, and culture at Nubank, but everyone has been patient, understanding, and keen to help. It’s comforting to have such skilled and humble co-workers.

Special thanks to Ricardo Sato for all the weekly check-ins; Mateus Peixoto for including me in every meeting and being patient with me especially in my first weeks; Gustavo Mendes for questioning everything and standing out as a great partner since our first interaction; Inácio Netto for guiding me through our back-office tools and also Lucas Neumann for introducing me to this spectacular team.

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