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Great Things Come From Great Diverse Teams (with Katie Dill)

“My role isn’t about seeing every pixel but setting the standard, getting the right people in place, seeing the big picture of where we are going and what we can accomplish.”

Updated on August 26
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Key Smash Notes In This Episode

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Based in San Francisco, Katie Dill is the VP of the design team at Lyft. Her team is a part of almost everything that Lyft creates to build a product that is reliably great and enjoyable to use. She learned design later in life, and her expertise evolved as she worked with companies and brands. She previously worked at Airbnb before she joined Lyft about a year ago.

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She was a history major and wanted to know why things are they way they are. It was when she was studying abroad in Italy when she fell in love with architecture, which became the entry to her love for design.

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Katie’s weekly priority is to make sure her design team — which is around 100 people — is happy and active to produce the best work of their lives.

The company’s ultimate goal is improve transportation in big cities, and to focus on the people, not cars. In doing some, it requires Lyft to make multiple ways of transportation enjoyable for people.

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She is excited about the scooter and bike services that are available in some big cities around the country. Katie states how these transportation services are better and hope that they are being integrated well in big cities.

Early on in her career, Katie finds things to be more fulfilling and enjoyable when she’s looking from a distance and seeing the positive impacts and actions that affect people around her. She acknowledges how there are more talented people in her design team, so she enjoys helping these people bring the ideas to life.

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Everyone at Lyft has the same passion for their mission. They all want to have a positive impact in the cities and environments around them. Lyft is not just about ride-sharing, but about getting people to use cars less through other ways of transportation, be that bikes, busses, or what have you.

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Great things come from great diverse teams. There should be diversity in every way, including skill set, thought, background, gender, and demographic. The company welcomes people from all parts of life to build their team and create efficient products and overall, a better environment.

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Onboarding new employees successfully requires clear communication on what it means to work for Lyft. New ideas are essential for company's growth, and Katie is proud of Lyft’s ability to embrace thoughts and perspectives in shaping the company's future.

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It is important for people to realize that pixels are merely a small part of the company equation and their real product and experience is 99% offline. It’s an absolute requirement that employees see beyond the pixels and thinks about Lyft's overall customer experience.

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The company always tries to learn as much as they can about a city before implementing their products. Doing research from afar is not as effective as speaking with individuals in the designated city to gain accurate and helpful insights. It's better to ask questions and to bust your assumptions early, than to find out when the product is ready, and pay a high prices.

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Agencies get to work on a lot of different things, surrounded by lots of other creative people. Companies often hire agencies to take off the edge work, something to gain an outer perspective, and to explore ideas. If you like that kind of work, it could be very fresh and exciting, but it also means you might not be fully let into their plans, and not able to contribute all of your good ideas. Often, these exploratory ideas also don't get shipped, and you need to be okay with that.

Working in-house on the other hand allows you to see projects through, and develop a deep expertise in a particular area. If you have both of these experiences, you’ll get the best of both worlds and be more impactful in each situation.

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Women have to take a part in holding a door for each other. If you are now in the position of power, you should reflect on your experience, and pay it forward. Get involved, share you experience, go to conferences, participate in talks, be seen. Your courage to be outspoken can help others to reach their goals.

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The company should understand what it’s looking for. Decide what are the must-haves for individuals to make up the team, and what are the things that can be coached and learned on the job. A diverse group of people with different backgrounds can greatly impact the industry, and it's something that every company should think about when building a team.

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Ultimately, Katie hopes to leave a positive impact for people during her time at Lyft. She hopes that the people she encounters will enjoy what she’s helped do and has benefited from it. She strongly believes that Lyft will create positive impacts in the world due to the type of people the company hires. If she helps these people amplify their talents, then nothing can hold the company back.

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