Design Leader Insights - Tutti Taygerly

January 16, 2023

Alex Smith: Hey Tutti. Thanks so much for joining the show today. 

Tutti Taygerly: So excited to be here, Alex.  Fun for us to get to chat together. 

Alex Smith: Absolutely. And yeah, to get started, can you give the audience a little bit of background and history of your experience UX? 

Tutti Taygerly: Sure thing. So design is my first career. I was a design leader and startups and design firms and large tech companies, including what was called Facebook at that time for, for 22 years.

Tutti Taygerly: And I loved it, loved working in envisioning new spaces, creating new products and I actually ended up transitioning to my second career about three and a half years ago. And right now I work with people as, as a leadership coach, supporting women, people of color, immigrants and all types of leaders in tech who want to figure out how to be become better leaders.

Alex Smith: Yeah, I think, I think that's, that's obviously great. And is that only design leaders, is that all types of leaders? 

Tutti Taygerly: It's all types of leaders. I maybe I work with about a third designers. However, I think the thread that comes through is I coach like a designer. I use the design process, which is really, you know, visioning

Tutti Taygerly: what is the life that you want to create? What do you want to be different in your life, and profession and career? And then. Like we do as designers, bigger out all the milestones, all the steps in between all the experiments that we need to run to get from here to there. So I work with more than design leaders, but everyone is drawn to me from a sense of creativity and innovation and possibility and all these design traits.

Alex Smith: What do you think are some traits that you see in the people that may be, should go into leadership and the people who shouldn't? Or is that not the right way to even think about it?

Tutti Taygerly: Alex one thing I wanted to clarify, because I think a lot about this, is that many people will think that leadership equals mangagement.

Tutti Taygerly: I'm not a leader unless I have direct reports, unless I have people reporting to me. And many of the big tech companies really have different tracks. You've got an IC track. You've got a management track. So when I use the word leader, I'm not referring to manager. I'm referring to how do you be just this best part of you that you can be in a way that you do the best work, the work that gives you the most energy you build on your strengths, you inspire the people around you and you serve really as a, as a role model, whether that's to others in your company or to the greater UX design community.

Tutti Taygerly: So I use that definition as leader. 

Alex Smith: Yeah, yeah.  A definition we should move away from it doesn't mean manager and it shouldn't, you can be a leader without having a team. I love that. So I guess to rephrase my question, how should people think about becoming a leader if they're not consider themselves one or I guess…

Tutti Taygerly: So I'll tell you a story.

Tutti Taygerly: One of the things that I was really most surprised about was when I joined Facebook and I helped with a lot of the interviewing practices. There was a time when I was running a lot of that for the family of apps. And there are some specific traits that we evaluated design leaders on, and the hard skills were the ones that you would expect.  A lot of thinking and action design, visual design, understanding of technology and the soft skills were also some of the ones that you would expect, which is communication, collaboration.

Tutti Taygerly: I think I'm missing one, but there was one that I saw on the list that I had never seen anywhere else before. And it was self-awareness. And I think that that is the key answer to your question there, because look, we're all learners. We're all trying to figure out how this is going to work. We're going to continuously iterate and keep going.

Tutti Taygerly: But I think the one key of that is self-awareness.  And what I mean by that is what is it that you're really, really good. And, you know, designers get asked this all the time, what's your superpower. What's that thing that one thing that you do that other people can't.  And it can make people really uncomfortable, especially for people who come from like, not, not the most normative background who aren't used to bragging or talking about themselves.

Tutti Taygerly: It can feel really uncomfortable and it can also feel like, oh, mine's not unique. My, my super power is empathy, but that's such a stupid thing to say because every designer is empathetic. You know, I get all of these things, but forget about that. You have your own strengths and superpowers, and it's knowing what that is.

Tutti Taygerly: And then also knowing on the other end, what's the stuff you're not that good at?. Cause we all have them. You know, what's the stuff that you're like, well, maybe I'm an introvert. Maybe I'm a quiet leader and I do not want to be waving that flag front and center. But for the expectations of some parts of your job role, you might need to get some of those up to a base minimum.

Tutti Taygerly: And that's okay because that's just understanding the expectations, but the self-awareness is knowing yourself and it's on two levels, it's both, what are your superpowers? What are the areas you want to work on?  But also on a different level, which is the stuff that you're really good at that might not be your superpower.

Tutti Taygerly: The superpower part of it, I'd say is how does it make you feel? Does it give you energy? Does it enliven you? You might not be good at it, but that's okay. Like, I am very, very good at calendar management, meticulous detail oriented machinations. Like I, I do my own books. I really don't love it. 

Alex Smith: Think that's great.  But I also think it's tough to like look inside and be like, I really enjoy this. I could be a leader in this. How do you begin to start thinking about that? If it's something that I don't know self-awareness is not always self-aware, I guess is what I’m saying.

Tutti Taygerly:  Totally. Here's the easiest exercise. Like, you know, anyone who's listening, you're a person in this world.

Tutti Taygerly: So try to have this conversation with some people.  If you have a really good relationship with your boss, say, hey, hey boss, what are three words you would use to describe me? And then you ask your best friends at work, ask your peers at work, ask some of the other designers on your team, and then you expanded it.

Tutti Taygerly: Ask, ask your siblings. Ask your mom.  Ask like friends and family.  And just kind of be a researcher triangulate and be like, hey, what does everyone give me back for this? And there's a, there's a place to start from some you may completely disagree with and that's okay. Others might just sit with you for a bit. And it's a really a quick and easy research exercise.

Alex Smith: So Tutti, one of the themes in your book is a surrounds being versus doing. Can you dive in to that a little bit? 

Tutti Taygerly: Yeah, it's, it's one of my favorite topics. And it's related to my transition out of the corporate world of tech and into becoming a leadership coach and a writer.  In tech, in corporations we have a mode where we get shit done and, and this is the doing right.

Tutti Taygerly: We all have our OKR. We have our goals. We have our one, three, five-year plan. We've got the milestones to hit. And then even on the day-to-day level, we've got our two. What's going to run down this to-do list and get this done every single day. And that's what's valued. That's what's valued in our jobs.

Tutti Taygerly: That's what's valued in this, in this culture that we live in. If we flip and think of the other side though, there's something else that we spend much less time thinking about, which is the being. And it's hard. And it’s hard identifying. I'd say like, it's the emotions. It's how we show up. It's what does that, what does that feel like?

Tutti Taygerly: How does this energetically feel? Is, are you, are you focused? Are you enjoying this? Are you having fun? And maybe one of the examples that I can give is designers are in crits all the time. The doing is the same. There's a piece of work, you're showing it, you're getting asked questions. You can move that to defend it.

Tutti Taygerly: Take two scenarios. In scenario one, the person running the crit, no nonsense. Let's get this done. We're going to go around the room. We're going to get people's feedback.  And the atmosphere that we, why did you do it this way? Can you tell me about this? Can you defend this? It's like an interrogation room.

Tutti Taygerly: You're you're, it's like you're being cross-examined by the defense attorney. That's the feeling. And we've all been in crits where that time. So it takes scenario two. Let's say the person leading the credit is very supportive, is maybe much more of a servant leader. Like if you're showing something and be like, huh, can you tell me a little bit about the thinking behind this?

Tutti Taygerly: Or it'd be like, hey, I'm really curious cause I've seen, you know, different research showing A and B, can you help me reconcile some of this stuff with what you're showing in the crit? So the atmosphere of it is it feels supportive. It feels like a safe space. It feels entirely different. Those two scenarios are two different states of being, but the actual thing you're doing, having a crit it's the same thing.

Tutti Taygerly: Does that make sense to kind of distinguish between being versus doing?

Alex Smith: Makes a ton of sense.

Alex Smith: Yeah, and I would much rather be in the second scenario I've been in both and it, one is encouraging and collaborative and one is  harsh and cold. And I think it literally changes the creative output from everyone in the room.

Tutti Taygerly: I am sure all of your listeners, you and I, we, we got the check boxes for all the doing. Is my presentation prepared? Are my prototypes solid?  Do I have my script?  But we so often fail to think about the being. So that's what I would ask people to think about when you're going into a one-on-one meeting with your skip level.

Tutti Taygerly: How do you want to be?  When you're going into a crit, when you're going into a presentation, when you're even going into a casual team meeting or stand up, how do you want to be? 

Alex Smith: I love that. How do you make time for the be when people are hopping from zoom to zoom, to zoom, how do you remind yourself? I want to be like this?

Tutti Taygerly: Yeah. One of the stories that I tell in, in, in the book and my book is called Make Space to Lead. And we'll talk about it a little bit more as a bit about my journey and also really how to, how to become more of a leader in this, like, go, go, go world of, of, of doing. But one of the first chapters really talks about the cult of busy and how our day as you're talking about is broken up into little 30 minute chunks.

Tutti Taygerly: There's just no transitions. There's nothing. It's boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. I believe that that state of jumping, jumping, jumping, isn't the most healthy or productive for us. 

Alex Smith:  Yeah it doesn't feel like it. 

Tutti Taygerly: And also where we need some buffer for context switching. So the one thing that I would encourage is, and this isn't a lot of time,

Tutti Taygerly: how about two minutes between meetings?  Stand up, stretch. Think about that. And then boom, go back into it. 

Alex Smith: Think about how you want to be in that meeting. I love that. Tutti what can maybe the audience go to find a little bit more about your book and upcoming lessons or how to get in contact?

Tutti Taygerly: Yeah, thanks for that, Alex.

Tutti Taygerly: I'm pretty easy to find on all the socials @tuttitaygerly. My website is  And one thing that your listeners might be excited about is I'm actually launching a brand new program and you can find it on the side of my book, which is But what I've been hearing from people is that they want a way to.

Tutti Taygerly: follow along and experience and experiment with the lessons of the book. So I'm launching a 12 week group training course program that actually walks through these lessons around how do you find your strengths? How do you, how do you make space? How do you do this being versus doing? And you go through with the intimate group of people that you can find out more about that

Alex Smith: Okay, great. Yeah. Thanks so much for coming on the show today. 


Tutti Taygerly: Absolutely.