How the Productboard design team is learning from the best
At Productboard, one of our core values is a relentless improvement. That means that each day, we strive to be better at what we do. Sometimes this requires us to reach out beyond our teams, even beyond the company itself, for expert guidance and advice.
This is exactly what our design team did when they asked Joshua Goldenberg to become their official design advisor. With over 25 years of experience, Joshua has headed up design teams at Palantir, Slack, and now Loom — experience our team is now tapping into on a regular basis.
I caught up with Productboard designer Zdenek Kuncar to find out how it works, what they discuss, and why this is such a unique opportunity.
So what’s it like working with a design advisor?
It’s really helping to push us to the next level. We reached out to Joshua because we want to grow and improve as designers, and that’s exactly what we’re getting from the collaboration. He’s seen and experienced so much in the design world, and we just want to absorb all that expertise.
How does the collaboration work?
We have a conference call with Joshua once a week for an hour. Discussions tend to focus on two different aspects of our work: operational and product.
For example, we’ve had sessions where we discussed how we organize our work and team, our approach to the hiring process, and our overall design strategy. We already had effective processes in place prior to teaming up with Joshua, but we’re always striving for better, and his input has helped us understand how the best companies in the world organize themselves.
One subject that came up was diversity. It’s not exactly design-specific, but we’re aware that the team needs to be more diverse going forward — not just because we value inclusion, but because diverse teams are proven to perform better.
We’ve also had sessions where we focus purely on the features we’re working on, where we organise a design critique, and Joshua offers his opinion. He’s been around hundreds of designers and worked on countless products, so his feedback is like gold to us.
Can you give an example of a particularly insightful session you’ve had?
Sure. Last month we discussed designing for growth — how best to approach it, where growth designers fit in relation to the product team, and how growth features differ from regular product features. This is a relatively new area in the design world, but Joshua has first-hand experience of making it work at Slack and Loom.
We learned so much in this session. For example, the growth team at Loom sits somewhere between the product and marketing teams, but it’s separate from both. It has its own sprint cycle, development process, and timeline. One of the ways growth designers differ from regular designers is their extraordinary focus on metrics. They focus on the metric they want to move and then experiment with ideas to make this happen.
How did this opportunity come about?
We were actively looking for ahead of design. The business was growing fast, and although we had solid processes in place, we felt that some guidance around leadership and scaling would be useful. But for whatever reason, we just couldn’t find the right person for the job, and we certainly didn’t want to rush the process. So, we thought, if the hiring process is going to take time, why not look for an external advisor who can help us right now?
How did you find Joshua?
We originally had three candidates for the role. All of them were super talented, but Joshua stood out — not only because of his vast experience but because he was such a great fit for the team. We wanted an advisor that we all felt comfortable sharing our work and ideas with, someone whom we trusted, and that’s exactly what we saw in Joshua.
How did you approach him?
Initially, Joshua was approached by Lucie Ličmanová, a recruiter at Productboard. Then, our VP of Product and Design, Andrej Danko, set up an initial call with the team. This was really just a high-level meet and greet. But we really liked him and were eager to close the deal.
We wanted to do something a bit special to show him exactly why we needed him. Originally we prepared a video, but we eventually chose to share our ideas via a Notion page titled ‘A Package for Joshua,’ where we explained in detail what we wanted his advice on, how we work, and what our company culture is all about.
Joshua loved it and agreed to become our design advisor. This was back in August, and we’ve been working with him ever since.
Is working with external advisors standard practice for design teams?
Not in the Czech Republic, but it is in the US. Although Productboard is largely based in Prague at this point, the Silicon Valley entrepreneurial spirit is very much a part of our company’s DNA. We have an office in San Francisco, and our CEO and VP of Product are based there too. They both have amazing networks, and we all get to tap into them.
For example, we travel to San Francisco fairly regularly. Last year I went three times, each time for around three weeks. While there, I got to meet some amazing designers and product managers from companies such as Figma, Slack, Groupon, Salesforce, and Facebook. The advice and inspiration I received on these trips have been priceless.
With Joshua, however, the team gets access to an experienced design leader on a weekly basis, which is an amazing opportunity for us to learn and grow.
Want to work with the best?
Last week, we raised an additional $45 million of Series B funding to further the vision of our company — to help product managers, teams, and organizations make products that matter, together.
Over the coming year, fuelled by this investment, we aim to expand our team globally. So if you are a talented product designer who wants to work with the best, why not head over to our careers page?