Technical Recruiting
Technical Recruiting Playbooks: Design Hiring for Early Stage Startups

Natasha Katoni

In the second installment of Technical Recruiting Playbooks Season #2, Amplify’s Talent Partner, Natasha Katoni interviews Joshua Goldenberg, Phil Sheffield and Kathryn Gonzalez about hiring for design roles at early stage startups. 

Joshua Goldenberg

In this conversation, Joshua Goldenberg, an experienced design leader, discusses his insights on hiring and working with designers at early-stage companies. He emphasizes the importance of open-mindedness and resilience and shares that collaboration is key. Early-stage founders should focus on conveying their commitment to design excellence and the potential impact on customers to hire the best candidates. Joshua also suggests seeking designers from various backgrounds and focusing on their ability to recognize and appreciate good design, even if they lack a formal design education. Lastly, he suggests that bringing on a full-time product designer early on can reduce costs and context loss compared to outsourcing design work.

Show Notes:

  • Challenges of transitioning designers from competitive agency environments to collaborative in-house settings.
  • The purpose of highlighting design excellence as a core company value and how to show future impact to potential candidates
  • Guidance for founders on how to gather insights from designers and include them in decision making 
  • Reasons to bring on full-time product designers sooner rather than later and the benefits of reducing costs and context loss associated with outsourcing.

Phil Sheffield

In this episode, host Natasha interviews Phil Sheffield, a seasoned designer and leader who has worked at companies like Box and SingleStore. Phil shares his experiences and insights on building design teams at different stages of startup growth. He emphasizes the significance of close collaboration between design and engineering teams, as well as the value of design hackathons for fostering creativity and innovation. Phil explains the importance of having a well-rounded design team with different skill sets and diverse backgrounds. He discusses the role of user researchers in early-stage startups and the impact they can have on product development.

Show Notes:

  • Why people and company culture make a big impact when making early-stage career decisions.
  • Advice for highly technical teams and founders on attracting great designers early on.
  • How to run design hackathons to encourage collaboration and creative problem-solving.
  • Qualities to look for in potential design hires 
  • Ways to tailor hiring strategies to the specific stage and need of the company.

Kathryn Gonzalez

In this conversation, Kathryn Gonzalez discusses her experience as the first product designer and front-end engineer at DoorDash. She highlights DoorDash’s growth from a small team to a large company, and her role in shaping the design infrastructure. Kathryn emphasizes how important it is for founding designers to feel comfortable tackling greenfield projects and making an impact on the business. She points out that a successful first designer should be motivated to solve core problems, possess a generalist skill set, and work comfortably in the chaotic environment of an early-stage startup. Kathryn also shares insights into finding and hiring designers with both design and engineering skills, noting that motivation and skill alignment are crucial.

Show Notes:

  • Insight into how successful first designers are motivated to solve real problems.
  • Tips to finding and engaging designers who are also engineers, stressing the importance of signaling the value of both skills during the hiring process.
  • How flexibility and the absence of rigid titles can attract individuals who are comfortable working across different areas.