Brian Feeney

Downsizing and Continuing On

Two weeks ago, my company went through another round of layoffs. One of my direct reports was relieved of his job. He was a strong designer who was becoming more reliable by the day. In no way did he deserve to be axed. And it certainly won't help our company reach our stated goals. We invested a year and a half into him, and he repaid us by taking the job seriously and taking increasingly more initiative. It was exactly what you hope to receive out of a young designer. Another company is going to be lucky to have him. I know he'll be fine, in the end.

For the time being, I'm left to catch up on all the in-the-weeds details on projects I had delegated to him. He had been handling that work so well, I was only needed for the design direction. Now I'm catching up on a dozen BAU Jira tickets and reintegrating myself into the day to day of a couple teams he had been in. My workload has doubled, even if my responsibilities haven't changed. I am being provided some time from another UXA in the company, which I'm thankful for. I hear she's a skilled designer, but even so there's going to be weeks of onboarding her.

I'm also thankful to still have my own job. Thankful that at least one person looked at my name on a list and chose not to mark me as expendable. I mean, I don't see myself as expendable. I aim to provide far more benefit to my company than is listed in the job description. Is that apparent to the people running the budget? I don't know. Can you know? As far as I can tell, "work hard and be nice to people" remains the best career advice I've yet found. More than anything, that should put you on the good lists and keep you off the bad lists.

Before all of this happened, I was getting into another good rhythm with this site. Writing more. Posting more. I was feeling good about sharing more of my life, here. Then the layoffs put me in a mood. I wrote a few versions of this post which ended up in the digital garbage. When I'm feeling bitter, I find it's best to hit pause. Try to rebalance. Suss out what really happened and why. I now believe what my manager told me is true: it wasn't personal, it was a balance sheet issue. Executives set a new payroll limit which was lower than before. Simple. Mechanical. Capitalism doing its thing.

I'm convinced all of the recent layoffs in tech are the result of executives continuing to seethe about the wage gains workers made over the last few years. Low unemployment was giving laborers more strength in the bargaining. Wages were outpacing inflation. People with million dollar salaries hate that. A lot. The easiest fix is to increase the unemployment. Downsize the company, claim to be restructuring for future growth in a changing landscape, blah blah blah. The same as it ever was. So it goes.

March 06, 2024


The Office

WSJ Office

I've been going into the office more often, lately. Midtown is still a drag, but it's nice to see my colleagues in person.

February 10, 2024


A Small Design Success

Yesterday was one of those good days as a designer where a solution to a tricky problem falls into place, everyone is very happy with the results, and it looks good. It can be surprisingly hard to hit all three. Especially in a large organization with dozens of competing agendas.

This was for a small, repetitive piece of UI — a stack of 250px x 100px cards — each already dense with images, text, and other info. The requirement was to also include three to five new affordances; buttons for performing different actions. One of those actions would account for around 95% of the clicks, so preferably that one would be larger. After a couple dozen iterations, it all fell into place. Voilà. C'est fini.

Most of my work lately has been systems-level stuff. Cross-tooling design patterns and functionality. Or complicated workflows with numerous newsroom roles working in coordination. Or intra-department work where Editorial Tools and Consumer site design are partnering. These are all satisfying problems to solve. But there's nothing quite like the feeling when a piece of UI clicks into place right before my eyes. That's what pleases the soul of the art school student in me. Balance, weight, color, space, and purpose.

January 18, 2024