Monday, February 13, 2006

"I hate all new Yahoos"

This is my favorite quote about Yahoo designers, spoken by a veteran Yahoo design manager. "I hate all new Yahoos." I repeated this quote to everyone who joined Yahoo while I was there, and tried to impart the small piece of wisdom that goes along with it.

When someone gets hired by Google/Yahoo/Microsoft/Apple it is because they are really a top designer in their field. The interview process is rigorous and, in most cases, the standards are extremely high. The experience is a little like being the smartest senior in your local high school and getting into a great college. You show up to find that everyone is just as smart as you except they've all been there longer.

I watched almost every new designer go through the process of feeling smarter than everyone, like they came to teach the company all about good design, then getting severely beaten down.

It came for me when I was working on a joint project between Yahoo Mobile and Yahoo Local. We were all in a meeting and I was the youngest/newest/least experienced person there. I was telling the room why they should listed to me. The meeting was contentious, and one of the more senior people openly challenged me on something specific to Mobile development*. I said "I know about this because I've done it before. I worked at Vodafone for 3 years, and we always did it this way." His response? "I was head of Mobile at Microsoft for 15 years."

That day I graduated from the hated class of New Yahoos.


Some things I learned from the experience:
  1. If you have to tell someone about your reputation then it isn't a reputation.

  2. Years of experience don't mean a thing, especially when the numbers are anywhere close to 3. I feel like it starts to have meaning around 10 years, but I probably think that because I have about 10 years experience.

  3. Never cite your education when trying to sell your design. You might be talking to a college dropout (like me) or someone who was a professor when you were a student.

  4. Be prepared to back up every assertion with some sort of data. If you can't back it up, start by saying "I can't back this up, but..."

  5. Stop arguing the second you know you've lost. Chances are everyone else will know before you, and if you keep selling you're point you'll look like a loser. When bested you should immediately switch to your opponent's side. You can always try to change their mind later on over a game of air hockey.
* For the record, I was right about the mobile/local thing. He said it would take one month, I said it would take at least 3, and it ended up taking 4.


Blogger Thor said...

"I feel like it [experience] starts to have meaning around 10 years..."

There does seem to be something magical about the number 10. But as you point out in your last sentence sometimes experience can be a handicap in understanding things as they are. Or seeing past why something "can't be done." Or understanding why the "safe" approach might be the most dangerous.

No amount of experience can make up for bad ideas...or no ideas!

1:30 AM, February 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Yahoo employs such "great designers" as you have said, how come all of their stuff looks completely terrible?

7:47 AM, February 23, 2006  
Anonymous Matte said...

Such wisdom.

1:23 PM, February 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you may have stumbled onto something. A new way to estimate - take the sum of each person's estimates.

2:09 PM, February 23, 2006  

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