Episode 16: The “Energizer”

Need some design leadership inspiration? Look no further—Natashia Tjandra is seriously crushing it!

Joe Pascavage
8 min readFeb 21, 2021

“Keep track of what gives you energy. This will be super useful in charting your career in the future.” ~Natashia Tjandra

✨ About Natashia Tjandra

Natashia is a Senior Manager of Product Design with broad experience at the intersection of design, data, technology, and marketing. Her career has led her through different disciplines in design: designing fonts and typefaces, creating 360 ad campaigns for prestigious global brands, co-running her own design consultancy, and leading design teams in the #1 global consulting management company. Currently at EA, she’s humanizing technology and the workplace while leading cross-functional design teams and developing sustainable processes. Her passion has brought her to design mentorship, she volunteers her time with ADPList and Design Buddies, and leadership in diversity and inclusion. In her spare time, Natashia shares truths and positivity in beautifully designed three words.

💡 Philosophy

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
What is unique about your personal philosophy being a design lead?


My focus is humanizing technology and the workplace; it all starts with the team/customer experience. Humanizing the workplace — empowering my team to do their best work while creating a safe environment for them to be leaders themselves. I find that by investing in people — focusing on what they’d like to achieve, creating opportunities in the areas where the team’s interests lie and giving their superpowers a place to grow — I get the best design output/highest return. It’s a win-win situation for all — high morale, high performing and highly motivated team. It also gives me, my motivation.

Humanizing technology — I’m very much influenced by Steve Jobs and his legacy; instead of asking people to retrain and learn how to use their devices, his entire career was about creating tools that adapt to the way people already think and function. The core of his product philosophy is to start with the customers first, what’s the ideal customer experience and what’s their ecosystems, and then work backwards to the technology.

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
How does that help motivate you to think forward and inspire others?


Once you shift into a design leadership position, you are now stewards of a design effort. Your job evolves into developing the next generation of amazing designers and design leaders. In my function, I’m often reflecting, experimenting, iterating and problem solving on three areas :

  1. How can I create a safe environment for the team to do their best work, fail safely, and encourage them to have confidence to be leaders themselves?
  2. How can I create the best opportunities for them? What other ways can I be their champion?
  3. What was the result of this approach, does that work? If not, what was the reason? Any other solutions?

There’s always room to improve our collaboration, documentation, and communication — not only as individuals but as a team. You may not realize it, as a design leader, the minutest of your behavior have a cascading implication. Recently, I’ve been replacing my normal speech with inclusive pronouns — from colloquial ‘you guys’ to ‘y’all’ and ‘everyone’. I’ve noticed that the team’s organically adopted the same behavior. It’s not something that I’ve expressly asked them, IT JUST HAPPENED. I am blown away, time and again, on how much I am learning everyday.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

🎯 Process

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
What does your process look like when you’re providing design leadership?


I have a base framework that I’ll adjust depending on the need, goal and timeline.

At a high level the framework is:

  1. What is the problem space and the goal?
  2. Identify gaps, get data, identify opportunity areas, and create data-informed solutions.
  3. Experiment and iterate!

✨ This approach works for both product and people related problems. I tend to UX the shit out of everything.

👩‍💻 Projects

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
What kind of projects have you been working on recently?


So many opportunities!!

My team is working on a wide range of exciting design and product design projects such as:

  1. Creating an inclusive Design System.
  2. Helping create identity systems for Black History Month and Women’s History Month.
  3. Automating sign ups and event subscription in the ecosystem of employee resource groups (ERGs) via a bot. My team won an I&D award for this effort.
  4. Reimagining help for employees and help agents.
  5. Launching org-wide programs in inclusion and diversity, amongst others.

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
How is your background playing a pivotal role in the success of these projects?


In my previous life, I was a graphic designer, and then an art director in advertising. I pivoted into product and experience design. The common thread between the different disciplines is solving business problems through design — how might we create desire and delight, and help people accomplish their goals. I’ve also gained an understanding of the indirect correlation of brand affinity to revenue; when consumers enjoy the product and experiences you’ve created, the entire organization thrives.

Eventually I got to lead cross functional teams and met mentors, sponsors and champions along the way, and have seen how having each and everyone of them leave a deep impact in my career trajectory. Their generosity, coupled with drive and resilience, helped shape who I am today as a design leader.

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
What is the most interesting or exciting project you’ve worked on?


Many years back, I worked on scaling Design Thinking. It started with the awareness that workshops can drain participants’ energy, especially people who are new to Design Thinking. We also observed high levels of disengagement which ultimately affected our revenue. The answer to our HMW question was a board game. A group of us set to creating a Design Thinking board game; the dichotomy of analog and digital appeals to me. We see a tremendous revenue impact; after every energizing workshop, the newbies walk away with a deep understanding of Design Thinking and the value it brings to corporations.

👋 People

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
What are some common misconceptions you’ve noticed people have towards design?


Design leadership is not design management; they are not the same thing. Jared M. Spool, founding principal of User Interface Engineering, wrote a really good article on this. Management is about making the team effective at their jobs, clearing roadblocks and setting the team for success to get their jobs done. Design managers can also be design leaders. Design leaders are stewards of a design effort; by pushing for a solution to fix a problem they see, designers emerge as design leaders. Any designer can be a design leader.

Another misconception I often see in tech — product and UX design is equated to making things look pretty. Visual design helps elevate your brand value, it’s also a skill that requires pure talent. However, the core of UX and product design is solving business problems through evidence, with humans in the center. Designers are not purely designers, the problems we solve require research, science, influence and business acumen.

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
How do you see design evolving over the next decade?


Inclusion and diversity has been in the forefront since the early 2020. Inclusive design will no longer be a choice, it will be normalized in our designs. Companies don’t design for inclusivity and accessibility because it’s a huge investment; sites that have been modified for accessibility can become non-compliant once an update occurs. I think there will be high demand for AI for inclusive design to automate the process so that designers can focus on creating designs and not worry about compliance.

Ethical design is gaining traction in the digital design world, with the explosive recent documentary on Netflix. As designers are more and more aware of ethical standards, product strategy and design decisions will be made through the lens of ethical frameworks. For e.g. data mining to inform ethical design decisions vs designing for profit.

More women design leaders. Given that women are the most affected by the pandemic — job cuts, and that one in four women are seriously considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce due to Covid-19, my hope is that when the pandemic is over, women who have not been affected and our allies will go on an overdrive in helping our sisters get their careers back on track and/or sponsoring each other.

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
What advice would you give to someone starting a career in this field?


Find your people and find your squad. As often as possible, meet friends and/or mentors in design and product; they can be designers, researchers, product managers, engineers, managers, hiring managers, etc. This will encourage organic mentorship, sponsorships and championships. Reach out to people you admire. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for help. Friends, mentors, your people and your squad need to know how to engage with you and help you. You have nothing to lose, on the contrary, you have everything to gain.

Keep track of what gives you energy — situations, tasks, projects, people, interactions, etc. This will be super useful in charting your career in the future. You’d want to do more of the things that give you energy; be critical. E.g. mentoring can bring you joy, does it also drain your energy? Is it equal, does it bring you more joy than it depletes?

Joe Pascavage ✍🏼
What drives you the most about your career?


Being a mentor, a sponsor and a champion. I think I’m not alone in this… It IS hard. The gains outweigh the process, it’s so rewarding when you see your team and direct reports grow, and eventually become successful in their own right.

Having a phenomenal team and exceptional people/squad and manager, who are also my mentors, sponsors and champions. I am aware of how incredibly rare this is. I am extremely fortunate as I’ve experienced this twice in my entire career — to be a part of a team and a squad that’s genuinely invested in each other’s success. They drive me to be a better design leader.

👏 Thank you for reading!

Natashia! Wow, I absolutely loved your story. You have so much to share with not only those new to the craft, but those who have also been in the game for a minute (Design Thinking board game? Tell me more!). I’m so glad our paths crossed and equally grateful to have you sharing your perspective with others. Keep being you and I can’t wait to see what you do next! You’re killin’ it!🔥

This interview with Natashia Tjandra is part of a blog series by Joe Pascavage ✍🏼 called “Get Interviewed”. If you would like to learn more about this initiative you can read about it here.

Do you want to share your story?

Send me a DM or tweet @joepascavage letting me know that you would like to “Get Interviewed”, and I’ll take it from there.