Rian van der Merwe
Rian van der Merwe designs and builds high quality software that people love to use. He wrote a book about it called Making It Right: Product Management For A Startup World. After spending several years working in Silicon Valley and Cape Town, South Africa, he is now Product Design Director at Jive Software in Portland, Oregon. He also blogs and tweets regularly about design, technology, and software development.
Also from this author
Back in the day, when software was released (on physical media), it was considered done. In the present, some products could benefit from a limitation like that. To tie development to something immutable, such as a physical thing or a hard deadline, might just foster a sense of responsibility to design our product so it has what it takes to last a few years.
The people who determine product strategy move through a world of analysts, media, division leads, shareholders, stakeholders, monetization, and marketability. They seldom get a chance to come back to the corner where users and designers mingle. Rian van der Merwe suspects that increasing the communication distance between the decision makers and the product’s builders and users leads to a loss of perspective—and the results are products with marketable features that no one really needs.
The people who pay for enterprise software aren’t the ones who try to work in it day after day. How much has been spent on “Solutions” with an abundance of features that don’t help users get their jobs done? If design can alleviate some of that dysfunction, it doesn’t seem like a mere luxury anymore. Rian van der Merwe shares his four-step approach to redeeming the awkward rich kid no one wants to play with.
Little kids have an endless supply of Why! Why is everything the way it is? Why do people do the things they do? We grownups don’t pester each other with a relentless stream of why?, and that’s mostly good. But kids could teach us to ask why when it needs to be asked: why are only some people able to build lives they love and find fulfilling work? Does everyone truly have the same chance, or do some of us start the game already a few rolls of the dice ahead? In order to grow, we have to ask the hard questions.
We take it for granted that career progress means moving into a management role. Even people who thrive in the individual contributor role feel the pressure to join management. Shouldn’t both capacities be valued, so we can find where we genuinely fit in and do our best work? Rian van der Merwe has gone scouting up the career path and realized it’s okay to turn back and be the other, oft-overlooked but equally important half of the management/making dynamic.
The interview: the high point of the job search. Where it all comes together. How do you get to talk to the right person? What should you talk about? First off, don’t use the “Apply” form. Also, don’t think of it as a test, but a conversation both sides can learn something from.
You can find work where you do what you love, even without making a huge career zig-zag. Start now by doing what you love some of the time, and it will help you get to a place where you can do what you love most of the time.
Workspaces now include the comforts of home, and homes are filled with devices that connect us to work. It’s time to reconsider our enthusiasm for being available to deal with work any time, day or night. The balance we thought we’d find is tipped heavily toward productivity, to the detriment of exploration, inspiration, and regeneration.
Brasília is a remarkable, bizarre city. An architectural gem built to be Brazil’s “shiny citadel,” it’s now known as a violent, crime-ridden, and congested city—because the architects who designed it weren’t thinking about the millions of people who would live there. This myopia echoes across today’s web landscape as well, where we see monuments erected not for their users, but for the people who built them—and the VCs who are scouting them. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Rian van der Merwe shows us how to discover before we build.