Dean Broadley on Building the Future of Design at Yoco - and Beyond
A comic artist by trade, a fanatical gardener after hours, and arguably one of South Africa’s authorities on Product Design, Dean Broadley wears many hats.
He is also the founder of Designing Humans, a Webby Awards judge, IxDA Global Board member and with a resumé that reads like the yellow pages of Silicon Valley tech giants, we’re delighted to have him forging the future of design at Yoco, as Head of Product Design.
Here, Dean lets us in on his approach to Product Design, and how that’ll play out as he grows our Design Team.
Product Design is a notoriously nebulous concept. For someone who has never encountered it, how would you define the practice?
To be honest, this is something that is still being written about - a lot, which tells me the industry is still figuring it out to some degree.
But, put simply, Product Design is the practice of designing tangible experiences that enable humans to achieve a goal in a meaningful, inclusive and efficient way.
It can be a hard thing to articulate in a simple way. Mostly due to the non-linear paths many people follow getting into Product Design in the first place. It requires good understanding and empathy for Human-Computer Interaction, Behavioural Science and Systems Thinking.
Many good product designers also understand and write code for prototyping or even just for reducing the translation gap between an idea and a working product in production.
You’ve worked with leading organisations to build scalable teams in ways that empower the individual and the team at large. What’s your vision for Product Design at Yoco?
My goal is to build our design team to the point where we set a new benchmark for what it means to do product design. In its entirety: including how it is understood and the mindset – for the industry at large.
It’s not just about following the rules in terms of what’s been established outside of Africa but about redefining some of those things, and the assumptions that come with them.
I want to foster an environment that actually understands and values what you can bring, so you’re challenged in the right way, not just around process and red tape.
What does that look like for someone on the Product Design team, on a more granular level?
One of the ways is to champion the person behind the job title and not just the skill set you’ve hired them for.
We do this by empowering our designers to chart out a meaningful career via a career map. As with any map, you can use it to travel to any destination, this career map is your GPS, if you will, to get there.
The path for a product designer can be confusing and nonlinear, which is why it’s important that our designers have a road map of the possibilities open to them, along with the guidance to get there.
You’re an advocate for hiring “hearts and minds”. What does that mean exactly?
We’re not hiring robots, we’re looking for people who understand the rules, but know where and when to push them. Openness and curiosity are two of the keystones of the people that we want to bring on board.
I care a lot less about technical skills than who someone is as a person because technical skills can always be learnt if the right foundational culture is already in place.
I’m trying to inject different “hearts and minds” that bring a certain level of openness, experimentation, and “non-agreeableness” - people who push a bit, but in a respectful way.
In terms of hard skills, what are you looking for in aspiring Yoco Product Designers?
We need more Product Writers, more Product Designers - people who are good at prototyping and producing things at a rapid pace that our customers can validate and understand. We need Industrial Designers too... it’s a pretty broad spectrum of skills from a technical point of view!
What’s your advice for someone who’s interested in pursuing a career in Product Design?
The most practical advice I can give anyone is simply, to make things. Product Design may be for you if you’re someone who sees problem patterns in the world, and you’re either very curious or frustrated enough about them that you’re compelled to make things that solve those problems, whether that’s an object, an artefact, communication - anything.
No matter how much you study or learn, the best design comes out of channeling your curiosity into things that solve problems.
You’ve worked with an impressive array of leading tech companies. What sets Yoco apart?
One of the reasons I joined Yoco is the chance to make a real, lasting impact.
We’re at a critical juncture where we have both the opportunity and the agency to influence the economic and social climate across the continent, through design.
Another big one for me is the opportunity to really build things from scratch with very little legacy in practice as we grow. The nature of the problems we solve are complex, interesting problems.
Broadly, Yoco offers me – and those who choose to work here – the ability to have agency over your career and ultimately, your life.
We’re a group of people who seek out ways to challenge ourselves out of our comfort zones. So if you’re thinking about joining Yoco, the question to ask yourself is, “Does this resonate with me?”.