Design: mid-year update

Market Trends

Since the start of the year, we have noticed that hiring managers have been moving past biases towards candidates coming from “name-brand” backgrounds (such as Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and Pinterest). The best hiring managers understand that the candidate pool is very competitive and recognize the need to target specific experience/skill set over “big-name brands”. Design hiring in San Francisco is still very much a candidate-driven market. Hiring IC Product Designers who have strong consumer app experience is still the most difficult roles for our clients to fill (especially if there is no immediate track to management).

Start-ups are hiring UX Researchers at an earlier stage meaning there are more opportunities than ever for candidates with this skill set. As a result competition to hire these candidates salaries are increasing, often exceeding that of Product Designers with the same years of experience. 

Coinciding with this new focus on the user experience, we are seeing a blurring of the lines between consumer and enterprise design. Many B2B teams are taking the same user-centric approach to design (think Slack) that was formerly the realm of consumer companies. Due to these greater expectations, designers now have the opportunity to have an impact on the product roadmap at a much earlier stage of the process at B2B companies. 

Companies that are the most successful at attracting top talent are those that champion design. There needs to be a buy-in for design and research, offering designers a seat at the table, and an attractive employer brand.

Hiring Trends

In the design space and in the SF Bay Area in general, we find that titles are mostly fluid--often revealing very little about what the role entails or what level of experience it requires. We would encourage clients to evaluate candidates by exploring whether or not they are an IC or leading a project, and by what their current reporting structure and level of ownership looks like.

In order for startups to be successful at hiring top design talent, they need to show that design has a ‘seat at the table’. The best way to do this is to ensure the most senior person in the design org is a peer to that of cross-functional partners like engineering and product management.  

USCIS has resumed premium processing as of March 2019. This has had a huge impact on recruitment because of decreased processing times. Employers who are open to candidates with easily transferable visas (like H-1B) have a larger and more diverse candidate pool to choose from and a potential advantage in hiring top talent. 

2020 Forecast

Due to the rise in enterprise apps having the same ‘polish’ as consumer apps we expect to see more competition the market for strong B2B designers, especially since 40% of Y Combinator’s funding went to B2B Software and Services in the 2019 Winter Batch.

It is safe to say the FinTech industry will continue to expand, particularly as users rely less on traditional banks as an intermediary in business, and more and more on decentralized asset ownership.

For candidates interested in making themselves more marketable for 2020, we’d recommend that Product Designers focus on strengthening their portfolios and making sure their projects detail the problem they are solving, their design process, iterations of their design and the impact to the business of their design work. Principal/Lead Designer candidates should strive to show ownership of projects. Candidates at the Head of Design level at start-ups generally need to show that they can be a good “player/coach” meaning they are capable of managing people, but also jumping in and rolling up their sleeves as needed. 

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