Design Leader Insights - Kevin Hawkins on Design at a Global Scale

July 14, 2023


Alex Smith: Design leader Insights is brought to you by Fuego UX, a UX research, strategy and design consultancy. Hey, Kevin, thanks so much for joining the show today.

Kevin Hawkins: Hey. Happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

Alex Smith: Yeah, no doubt. And as we get started, can you give the audience a little bit of context into your journey in UX design? 

Kevin Hawkins: Yeah, so I'm currently the Global UX Director for Glovo. It's a 90 person team of designers, researchers, content designers and localization specialists. I have been here for the last almost two years. This is my 18th year in tech, started out as a front end developer for three years, then worked as a UI designer, UI UX HCI, a lot of fun old names. Worked my way up into management, crossed over into kind of like pure product design, working my way through Capital One, PwC, And then on my way to Spain, two years ago.

Alex Smith: Tell me about the company you work at, I think, you know, maybe has a presence in the US, maybe not, but I know it's global. I want to learn about how are you designing for, like all these different cultures across Europe and the other markets you're in? I think that that can be tough for designers to kind of wrap their heads around?

Kevin Hawkins: Yeah, certainly. Yeah so we're in 25 different countries, we've merged with a parent company called Delivery Hero. So combined we are in 75 countries. So we are the third biggest delivery company globally, we compete directly with DoorDash, Uber Eats in all of their European and Asian markets. We compete with, you know, FedEx, DHL, in some cases, because of the courier, and then the same day logistics services we provide in some countries. And then manage a 90 person team out of a 5,000 person company.

Alex Smith: And like, how are you designing for the nuance of food ordering and delivery versus Spain versus the UK? And like, what are those, how are you researching the differences of what those consumers want? And expect, I guess?

Kevin Hawkins: Yeah, certainly, I think things really changed during the pandemic, I mean the industry of food, grocery delivery spiked, and was the best year for this industry in a long time. And then it can always come back down to normal levels, but people have had, you know, those habits form, so they're still pretty loyal to their products. But the real difference, as you mentioned, is like cultural. So, you know, Spain eats dinner super late at like 9:10pm. And Morocco, we close for, you know, pretty much the whole day and during the observation of Ramadan. So we really need to be very specific to the country, to the holidays,  to the traditions, the travel habits even.

Alex Smith: Yeah, that sounds like a lot of interesting data. And insights there. How do you kind of manage your team to think about that, like the data side of it?

Kevin Hawkins: Yeah, so our research team is very data centric.  Given we can't really do a one size fits all, there's really differences in our markets, like we go as far west as Portugal, and Nigeria, as far east as Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. So the things just don't apply. So the research teams go on a lot of physical trips,we rely very heavily on our customer service team or frontline workers or sales teams or account managers. And then we have really good product analytics.

Alex Smith: Yeah, and then let's talk about collaborating with other teams at the company. You have a 90 person design team, I imagine that there's an even bigger product and dev teams, how are you all staying on the same page?

Kevin Hawkins: Yeah, I mean, there's like something like 400 plus engineers, we have a pretty normal agile structure. So the designers are for the most part embedded on one maybe two teams. Research is, as of February, we did a small downsizing. They are centralized now. The research functionality is a direct, let's say, service to product leadership. So we try to kind of determine what should be in the roadmap, determine priorities, help them determine okay, our prioritization ranking, whereas designers are like direct kind of relationship with the engineers, and therefore the company is super, super, super tight. We have to do lots of QA ourselves. We're kind of unique. We don't have a QA team. So the designers are the frontline of quality assurance.

Alex Smith: Cool. And then what about like developing that product roadmap? Is that something that you all have input on insight into?

Kevin Hawkins: Yeah, I would say the product roadmap is probably the most challenging place to make impact, right? It's not so much fighting for what should be on the roadmap. It's about, hey, we have an insight or learnings of this should be done differently or redone, or they should come up in priority. I think most of the arguments that happen the most is trying to react to you know, new information and then make changes to what has been the plan for the last three or four months.

Alex Smith: Yeah, so you mentioned a research team that actually has to go to all these country's finding all these insights, how are you making sure you know, those insights get turned into usable designs?

Kevin Hawkins: Yeah, this is, I think a lot of my peers have been having this challenge, especially since UX got hit pretty hard during the tech layoffs in February. So we've all been like shifting our teams and changing ways of working and new processes. This has been the hardest one to pull off. I mean, we've been looking at and did successfully navigate getting new contracts for new software, so that there's a bit of autonomy and a bit more speed to collecting participant information, synthesizing using AI, things like that, that's great. But actually physically getting first hand experience to like to get the voice of the customer, the voice of the user into the product process has been a challenge.

Alex Smith: How are you measuring the ROI of all this like, like not only the research but the end to end design process?

Kevin Hawkins: What we've pushed for is to have very clear UX KPIs. The most important one that matters to the business that we're trying to get product to make a Northstar KPI and an OKR for the whole company is effort or friction scoring. So certain companies call it QX score, or they can use SuS, depending on whatever the platform is. But we're mostly mobile. But we're so unique per country that you can't really just do like a score for flow, and you call it a day, because the flow adapts the legal changes of the country and the language and 20 different things. We have a huge need to automate this kind of testing. You know, so we're working with AWF to see if you can get automated testing using local parameters so we can, you know, run the tests.  Run a QA test in Spain. Run a QA test in Poland. Run a QA test in Nigeria. And then we're trying to get software that can detect friction, confusion, loss-ness, you know. Certain increases in the flow. 

Alex Smith: Kevin let's switch gears here a little bit, you have a ton of advice to impart, lots of new designers entering the field today. So I'd love to hear what you'd like to tell them.

Kevin Hawkins: Yeah, certainly. So I was a professor for five years, I worked at boot camps. And you see, there's a huge influx of new designers, new researchers, UX is a growing industry, but at the same time, enough jobs for other roles, or positions that we see coming up. So I want to talk about what it takes to get a job, but also what it takes to keep a job and be happy. I mentor IC managers or managers at this point. So there's a lot of people on my team who are in management. But for ICs, there's a very large distinction from when I was an IC to now, which is companies have two tracks: you can decide to be an IC and an individual contributor for your entire career. And you go into a staff, a principal, Google has this distinguished level above principle, and you can be an IC all the way up to like almost the executive level without managing people. And that's something people need to think about earlier in their careers. Because before when I was around, that wasn't even an option. It wasn't even a choice. Like, upward movement meant management,  and happened, you know, I happen to like managing, like I happen to like mentoring and teaching and coaching and staying fresh on your software.I still do work in Figma. So I don't feel like I've lost, you know, being hands on. But some people really don't like management, I think that it's a very viable option to go to small or big companies now. And you don't have to.

Alex Smith: And what about like the data side? How can like, it's like you're an extremely technical company. And I'm sure you expect your designers to understand the insights coming from the app. How should designers approach that and learn that?

Kevin Hawkins: So I have a very funny career path, because I've hopped probably on average, every two years, two and a half years. And so my biggest thing, and I think it helps for, even if you're not a career hopper is to really learn the industry your company operates in, it isn't so much to learn how the engineering or how the code works, which is, which is you know, always a debate whether designer should code.I think designers should understand the product they worked on, not necessarily how to replace engineers.  But I think designers should also, whether you're a designer, or a researcher, a strategist, really understand why the industry works a certain way. Why certain business models work, why certain companies fail in the space. Because that's like, no indestructible knowledge that will help you whenever you go to your next job, or have a new challenge. You want to transfer within the company. Yeah, I think everyone should get a mentor like I, big shout out to the ADP List people because like, I think it's the most accessible mentorships ever been for UX and Design. So I recommend everyone try it. 

Alex Smith: Are you on there? Can people find you on there? 

Kevin Hawkins: Yes, you can find me on there. And my schedule is a little limited, but I do take out two mentors a quarter.

Alex Smith: Well, Kevin, thanks so much for sharing these insights today and coming on the show. 

Kevin Hawkins: Yeah, I love it.