This is how I work, give or take

Inspired by this I wanted to reflect on what I’m currently doing as it will be useful for me to look back on, and might be interesting for others.

Location: South London (Penge!)
Current Gig: Design lead and product owner at Lloyds Banking Group
Current mobile device: Pixel 4, terrible battery
Current computer: Macbook pro and a HP surface book (surprisingly good)
One word that best describes how you work: happy; cheesy I know but I appreciate how fortunate I am and try and face every work challenge with optimism.

First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.

  1. Studied illustration at Falmouth uni.
  2. Left with no plan and ended up working as a painter & decorator, and then a recruiter for several years.
  3. Moved into recruitment marketing which taught me how small agencies operated.
  4. Twitter happened and Brighton (where I was living) became a hotbed of digital transformation.
  5. I bugged Will McInnes until he gave me a job at NixonMcInnes, where I was able to use my creative skills alongside people skills to design and deliver digital stuff, mostly for Barclaycard. This was my first taste of service design although we never used that label.
  6. After a short spell with Brilliant Noise, I moved to London and spent two great years with We Are Friday, gaining more experience of big digital product builds. Then I fell into fintech through a chance meeting my girlfriend had while on a business trip, and starting working at Bold Rocket designing new bank prototypes; a mad time but learned a lot.
  7. Then a timely coffee with an old agency colleague led to a role in Lloyds Banking Group, four years ago; it’s been way harder than I expected but also way more rewarding (more here). I was hired to head up the service design team, and am now playing a hybrid role as a PO and design diector in the transformation part of the bank.

Take us through a recent workday.

Typical workday starts with a stand-up where I update the team on any bigger shifts in direction (the bank is a complex organisation and much of my role is helping the team navigate this), and help unblock any key issues. Then the rest of the day is an equal blend of:

  1. people stuff: I lead a fairly large team (23) made up of designers, researchers, developers and strategists. Each day i’ll have a couple of 121’s to ensure people have what they need, and to give me a sense of team mood.
  2. LBG stuff: being a bank, there’s no shortage of committees, senior stakeholders and interested sister teams to keep abreast of what we’re up to. I say no to as much as possible otherwise it’s easy to become snowblind with meetings, but it’s a continual learning curve working out what might be useful and what is noise.
  3. design stuff: I ensure I always have some sprint work assigned to me so that I don’t get lost in the politics, so a couple of hours in the day will be spent in figma and confluence. We’re working on new customer journeys so there’s a great mix of screen design, backend capability wrangling and arguing about words.

What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you live without?

nib perfection
  • I love confluence — the transparency of it is excellent, especially in a big secretive organisation like a bank.
  • The illustrator in me still likes to make visual notes and write stuff down; I believe the Staedtler 0.5 mm Pigment Liner is the finest pen ever created.
  • For music to power my day I rely on https://www.fip.fr/ — it’s the only music service you’ll ever need.

What’s your best shortcut or life hack?

Making time to cook proper food; when I commuted from London to Brighton I discovered cooking as a method of decompressing after a hectic journey. Over the years it’s remained a key part of daily routine, when I have nothing to think about other than the food in front of me.

Take us through an interesting, unusual, or finicky process you have in place at work.

Due to competing systems and legacy tech, all of the bank designers have a macbook and a PC laptop. Sharing stuff across devices is getting better with use of tools like confluence, but I have been forced to manually type long URLs (those really long nonsensical jumbles of letters & numbers) from one screen to another many times.

How do you keep track of what you have to do?

Jira is the official answer, but my dirty habit is emailing myself with important to-do items.

What’s your favourite side project?

I’m currently obsessed by pen-plotters and generative-art, but as I have neither the hardware nor the coding skills, I’m attempting to recreate the style by hand. I’m about 12 hours into the drawing below and it’s been a really meditative process; it’s based on the work of Rev Dan Catt.

What are you currently reading, or what do you recommend?

I am terrible at reading ‘work’ books as over the years I’ve found more useful inspiration in fiction. Just finished The Underground Railroad which was great, and have started reading Dune as I was gutted by the film delay.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?

Anyone else working in a big “boring” company like a bank, pharma or similar. I suspect there’s a ton of fascinating stories not being shared.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Build your network; Will told me this and I’m now incredibly lucky to count so many talented people as friends and contacts. It’s been fascinating to see where people end up working, and a real source of pride to see so many ex-colleagues and clients go on to achieve success.

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Ross Breadmore

Ross Breadmore

Mum asked for a baby, dad asked for a transformer - I was the compromise. Chief product officer at 4G Capital.