Women Leaders Who Design

Ellen Kiss, the Director of our Center of Excellence in Design, hosted a prolific discussion about important topics in the design market.

“Women Leaders Who Design” was an event that took place in our headquarters on October 10th. Ellen Kiss, Director of our Center of Excellence in Design, invited female Nubank design leaders and leaders from diverse industries in the market to participate in the conversation. Even though women were the protagonists of this event, our VP of Design, Lucas Pettinati, contributed to the discussion as well.

At Nubank, women leadership is taken very seriously: in 2021, we talked about our plan to occupy half of our leadership positions with women. Today, we can say that this reality has never been closer. In the Design chapter, around 40% of the leadership is female.

Do you want to know the main discussions that took place at the event? Keep reading this article!

A conversation with women designers in leadership roles

In August, when she joined Nubank, Ellen Kiss highlighted how important design is to the company’s culture, which has 200 diverse professionals integrated in the business strategy. 

The recent exponential growth of the number of designers at Nubank brought various challenges.  With extensive experience in design leadership, Ellen came to Nubank with the goal of increasing design scalability, leveraging excellence, and raising the design impact on the business.

On October 10th, she invited Lucas Pettinati, our VP of Design, who’s very experienced in the field, having worked with huge companies, like Facebook and Google, to have a broad discussion about Design.

Together, they enlightened the minds of a new generation of women designers, who had the chance to participate in the conversation as well.

Design’s current scenario

They started the conversation talking about the evolution of Design, from its early days to its current scenario, strongly based on building digital products. Pettinati shared some of his experience, and highlighted what seems to be the uttermost ability that a designer should have, at least for him: the capacity to identify what the user needs.

“To do that, we use a lot of research and data”, he said. Kiss agreed with the importance of this ability, and pointed out that this capacity has been a demand throughout the entire history of Design: “even with the market changes, the mental model, or the design thinking process, has always been the same”.

And she goes on: “what varies is the way we adapt our competence, whether it’s for creating products, digital products, services or any new kind of creation that the future holds”. Undoubtedly, good designers can intersect empathy, methods and practice, because they need to make the user’s desires tangible and integrated with the business objectives on a recurring basis.

How can designers respond to today’s challenges?

The answer is quite simple: they need to seek professional development constantly. According to Pettinati, “10 years ago, being an excellent crafter was enough for a professional to stand out. Today, that’s basic”.

To our VP of Design, soft skills are indispensable: “you need to know how to explain why and how your design decisions are going to impact the targeted audience”. Even though many designers have great ideas, most of them need to learn how to convince businesses that their journey is worth embarking on.

In other words, as defined by Ellen Kiss, designers must develop business sense and behavioral competences: “nowadays, designers have two paths to follow. They need to understand business, strategy, results, and innovative business models, and also leadership skills, how to manage people, influence and negotiate with stakeholders, and navigate in a business environment.

Career transition and the pursuit of excellence

In general, product, content design and UX research have attracted the attention of professionals from different fields aiming to make a career shift. This is not a bad thing, but they need to be aware of how to be prepared and trained to be good crafters or leaders.

To Pettinati, paying attention to both details and processes is crucial when it comes to achieving this goal. This means that, before starting to execute anything, it’s necessary to understand the idea’s origin and, after that, create a workflow.

He gave himself as an example to illustrate this idea: “I like to do my sketches by hand. This gives me confidence. The more you can work in a low fidelity way, the faster you’ll be able to develop your idea. And, when the idea’s done, you can use the time saved to dedicate yourself to the details, which make all the difference in the world”.

Ellen agreed with him but also pointed out the importance of balancing excellence and go-to-market strategy. Designers need to be mindful that sometimes “done is better than perfect”. Considering that a product is never finished, we can launch and iterate with clients. That’s ultimately true, because no one can deny that a well-shaped plan executed right now will often be better than a perfect plan executed next month.

And what about designers leading teams?

Right now, Nubank’s applying something that, in the near future, can become a market trend: designers, more than ever, are leading teams. Said that, they need to prepare themselves to raise higher flights.

The market is always hunting for Unicorns一people with the ability to perform more than one role at the same time. Therefore, it’s important to be constantly evolving and looking for a second skill, in addition to the hard skills of design.

The future for women designers

Important topics related to women in the design market were also discussed. Ellen Kiss asked the audience what are the main challenges women face in leadership positions. From this, very important questions were raised.

“Being a woman designer adds two perceptions of competence and delivery that are still intangible for most companies”, said one of the attendants. “Especially when you work with UX, because the technology field is still dominated by men. Empowering women in technology careers remains an enormous challenge”.

Another topic discussed was becoming a leader. Ellen Kiss mentioned that maternity is a good exercise. When a woman becomes a mother, she ends up acquiring elements of leadership, such as the ability to direct, teach and developing its own patience. 

It was also said that men, when they work collaboratively, are more likely to support each other. This movement, as raised by the public, may not be healthy for the company, because it does not benefit professionalism in the corporate environment.

According to Lucas Pettinati, wishing good things is not enough to promote change, because it doesn’t happen naturally. If we want to promote more women to leadership positions, we have to become engines of change and show that anyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexuality, can be competent.

Important statements from the audience

The audience was responsible for important statements, but one of them stood out: whenever a woman is in a leadership position, the market tends to reduce them to two archetypes: the “mother”, who’s always taking care of everybody, and the “witch”, some kind of an authoritarian persona.

None of these archetypes is enough to encompass the complexities of these people’s professional performance. And reducing women to that is, undoubtedly, a reflection of what still needs to change in the corporate world.

As you can see, the discussion was very fruitful. The event was the first one from a series of meet-ups that Nubank wants to promote within the Design community. Stay tuned. 

Men are still prominent when it comes to leadership roles, even though women, most of the time, drive more results to companies worldwide. One of our main goals is to change this paradigm: here, there is already a balance between men and women in leadership positions.

Despite this, there’s still a long way to go. But one thing is for sure: Nubank will always promote equality

If you’re interested in our workflow and want to discover what is possible to do when you work in the world’s largest digital bank, come join us.

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