Prepare to Design the Future
March 19–20, 2017: Training
March 20–22, 2017: Tutorials & Conference
San Francisco, CA

Being the first designer: How to pave the way for an awesome design team

Jenny Mullins (LearnUp Inc.)
1:15pm–1:55pm Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Building & Managing Teams
Location: Tower Salon A
Level: Beginner
Average rating: ****.
(4.00, 5 ratings)

Who is this presentation for?

  • All designers, particularly those who are or who are considering joining a company as the first designer

What you'll learn

  • Understand what to expect when you join a company as first designer
  • Discover the biggest challenges a first designer faces
  • Learn how to overcome those challenges and pave the way for an awesome design team


When joining a company as designer #1, you’re making an investment not just in the product but in the design culture. As lead designer, you are responsible for paving the way for this culture and can have a tremendous impact your company’s user experience.

However, this investment is not without its risks. As lead designers embark on this journey, they face a wide spectrum of challenges. What roadblocks will they face? How do they convince leadership to invest in design? How do they get design ahead of engineering? How do they balance design requests while staying sane? Jenny Mullins shares helpful tips and practical advice to help any current or aspiring design leader pave the way for a strong design culture with examples drawn from case studies collected from lead designers from Tile, Eaze, Microsoft, and more.

Topics include:

  • The roadblocks you’ll face
  • Convincing leadership to invest in design
  • Hiring designer #2
  • How to get feedback on your designs when you’re the only designer
  • Educating your team about what design actually is
  • Convincing engineers to bake design into a project timeline
  • Your responsibility to your future team as designer #1
  • Balancing design requests while staying sane
Photo of Jenny Mullins

Jenny Mullins

LearnUp Inc.

Jenny Mullins is the lead product designer at LearnUp, a prejob training platform that aims to reduce the skills gap for entry-level jobseekers, where she and her team build intuitive user experiences for both large corporations like Walmart and Old Navy and entry-level jobseekers. Jenny believes in the power of design to create great experiences that empower people to succeed. Previously, Jenny worked as a senior product designer at Yammer (acquired by Microsoft) and Zenefits. Prior to joining the Bay Area tech scene, she taught undergraduate design courses at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and the California College of Art (CCA). She holds a BFA in studio arts from the University of Texas at Austin and an MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA).