Product Love Podcast: Gerard Fitzgerald, VP of Product Design at Workhuman

Published Feb 5, 2020

This week on Product Love, I sat down with the VP of product design at Workhuman, Gerard Fitzgerald. Workhuman is the world’s fastest-growing social recognition and continuous performance management platform.

Gerard has over 15 years of experience in technology and development. But he doesn’t exactly have a stereotypical product design background. He was a software engineer first and worked at companies like IBM and Xbox.

Now, he’s been at Workhuman for seven years and is currently the VP of product design — a title you don’t see very often. In this week’s episode, Gerard and I talk about how he evangelized product design within his company and got a seat at the table. We also discuss trends in design.

Notable Moments

1:00 – Gerard provides an overview of his background. 

2:23 – Gerard shares his favorite experiences in his diverse work history. 

3:26 – What drew Gerard to product design? 

4:20 – Gerard talks about how the culture of Workhuman drew him there. It’s a workplace where people could bring their whole selves to work. 

5:17 – But the challenge he’s facing at Workhuman right now is the legacy stuff inside the product. Gerard talks about the challenges that come with building something new. 

6:20 – The sense of scale at Workhuman. 

7:40 – Gerard talks about product design at Workhuman and how he got a seat at the executive table. He shares that it’s about showing the impact of a project and the vision of how the product can grow with the help of design. Design can be a huge differentiator.

10:06 – Gerard shares how he evangelized product design within the company using a hackathon. Various departments, including sales and finance, came together to strategize how to bring delight to the product. Learn more about this amazing hackathon idea and why you should pitch it to your company.

12:28 – Gerard talks about implementing accessibility. They’re going to show people the value of good design.

14:00 – Product designers need to learn relationship building in order to thrive. 

14:50 – How does Gerard get product design, engineering, and product management to work together cross-functionally? 

16:15 – When it comes to design thinking, the product design team has built out the HumanUX framework, which enables the product teams to work efficiently with product designers.  

18:22 – What do customer research and interviewing look like at Workhuman? 

19:12 – Gerard looks for well-rounded designers who are optimistic. But what else is important to him? 

21:47 – Their interview process includes an activity that challenges candidates to think differently about certain scenarios. 

23:35 – What’s a trend in product and design? Gerard talks about a new role: design ops. Gerard also talks about being device-agnostic, where experiences transcend multiple screens. It seems like we’re living in the multi-screen era after all. 

26:25 – Where did Gerard learn some of his biggest lessons? At a small company in Ireland.

30:10 – How much friction can you introduce into your product before users get annoyed?

33:23 – Gerard and I talk about Youtube music videos, and how they’ve changed how we experienced ads. 

34:33 – Three words to describe Gerard.