Never take yourself too seriously, build awesome products and enjoy the moment.
by Pablo Arce, former Senior Director of Project and Program Management, YML
Periods of change are certainly interesting. They provide an opportunity to reflect on the past as one inevitably builds a mental image of what the impending future may look like. A very significant change is about to happen in my life: after more than six years with YML, I'm moving on join my new team at Google (Google Cloud AI & Industry Solutions).
I'm saddened to leave the place that has been a home for so long. Six years in the very fast-moving field of technology (a field I feel lucky to be a part of) feels like a very long time. I am certainly proud of what I have been able to help YML achieve during my tenure here and, as I announced my move to my coworkers, reports, and management, it felt good to have a consistent feedback of appreciation for my contributions.
I have deeply cared about YML, and will continue to do so for a very long time – even if not from within the building that now proudly displays the company name on its exterior. The combination of the impending change, the conversations with my soon-to-be ex-colleagues, and the many feelings surrounding this moment in life drove me to put some thought into what it is that I appreciated so much about my time at YML, and what lessons and new tools I will bring with me into my new position. Let me try to summarize some of the conclusions running through my COVID-haired head.
Focus on the user, but tune your brain to IMPACT
User-centric design has almost become a table-stakes approach to designing applications and user interfaces. However, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy thing to do – particularly when the team needs to implement, maintain, and update said application for years.
The idea of placing the user at the center of all work while keeping the future of the application in mind has become something every team member at YML keeps at the forefront in everything we do. An even more defining characteristic of our approach is balancing this user-centricity with the business impact that any decision related to the application should address. If I walk away with anything from YML, it's that features and applications should be created to solve a business problem, a need that matters to the user and to the company (our client). YML has learned to maximize impact to both the end user and client.
Further proof of our conviction is the fact that we often “put our money where our mouth is” – by offering our clients an impact-based compensation option so that when our work proves successful — we all win. Of course, this requires understanding the tracking and measurement post-release – which is another important skill that I was able to hone at YML. I firmly believe that this combination of looking at impacting both the user and the business will be present in my approach to any future project.
Diversity of Work
Through strong work, YML forged a strong name, which in turn attracted more and bigger clients, from diverse backgrounds and verticals. In any given week I could be working on designing a user interface for a multi-screen robotic surgery platform (mind-boggling technology and opportunity coming in 2021!), developing a banking application that needed top-notch security measures, thinking about how to minimize friction for professionals buying the tools of their trade online while minimizing disruption to their operation, or how to introduce the quickest possible way to order a pizza for dinner.
Over my tenure at YML, I have been involved with over 55 different projects, and each one of them has been unique and different. This diversity, and the frequently compressed timeframe of the projects, has allowed me to strengthen my “adaptation” brain muscle – allowing me to very quickly build a deep understanding of our clients’ businesses, come up to speed with the problem they are trying to address, and think about how to solve it. This skill and training will undoubtedly continue to be an invaluable asset in my professional life. I love learning, and YML has provided me with continuous learning through project diversity.
During my time at YML, we matured in our approach to creating solutions from a “design then build” linear pattern, to a research/design/develop cycle — with iteration built in throughout. That fostered efficient collaboration and communication between Product, Design, Engineering, and Strategy – all driven by Project Management, which I feel strongly is the critical pillar of all YML work.
Collaboration through effective and timely communication is, I believe, the key to project success. At YML we’ve been able to build effective interdisciplinary bridges that help ensure that real collaboration happens – and more importantly I have understood how to help ensure this works in a repeatable way through different projects with different clients – even when we’ve had to adapt slightly to satisfy the client’s specific needs.
Furthermore, this collaboration has often spanned the world, sometimes leveraging a team located in three or four of our global locations – thousands of miles away, with up to 13 hour time-differences, and with significant cultural contrasts. None of these factors have been an impediment to great output and full dedication from the teams. Solving problems by leveraging a global workforce is exactly where I think YML shines – and the way 21st century business will be increasingly required to operate. This ability to collaborate remotely was put to the test as the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic hit and we were required to put it to practice to the extreme – with every single team member working remotely. YML didn’t miss a beat, because the systems and processes were already in place.
I entered YML as a Sr. Project Manager, and I am leaving as Sr. Director of Project & Program Management (say that title 5 times fast!). During that time, my leadership skills were developed much further than they previously had, and I was happy to meet every challenge I encountered, which lead to my continuous growth and learning.
My experience also allowed me to influence and grow the Project Management department, developing a hiring process that has resulted in a great team of committed professionals: hungry for growth and learning, providing results and ensuring the work moves ahead efficiently, and a team that gets along fantastically well, helping one-another and providing support when needed. I looked forward to 1 on 1s with my reports each week because I sincerely enjoy conversations with them: whether we are trying to solve a problem together, or talking about life outside the office walls, there is always a lens of learning and mutual respect that I sincerely appreciate.
Being able to provide leadership to this team has honestly been an honor and a learning experience that I will always cherish and continue to build on.
Understanding the Management POV
Over the last 3+ years, I’ve had the privilege to be part of the YML leadership and management team. This opportunity has given me a new lens through which to look at how a company operates and the frequently tough choices management needs to make. I have huge trust in the rest of the YML leadership team and firmly believe that they have the best intentions and abilities to continue to make YML grow and thrive.
I expect management to look very different at a very large company like Google, however, having this additional experience of how a company operates from the top will definitely help me better understand how certain decisions are reached and how the pieces fit together.
I am definitely someone who cares and appreciates personal relationships. Maybe it’s my Spanish Mediterranean blood and upbringing, maybe it’s being the youngest of four siblings and growing up looking at so many people around me, understanding how things worked from each of their angles, trying to outwit my older brothers…
Whatever the cause, the consequence is I care about people – and YML definitely has a strong cast of characters. A talented and diverse team that deeply cares about what they do, and continuously wants to push for better. The people were definitely my #1 reason to stay at YML all these years.
I will confess that I am very excited to join Google. It has been the company at the top of my list for over 15 years, and I am really happy they consider me a good match. But I also know that a big part of why they do think I will be valuable to their team comes from everything I have learned at YML, for which I will forever be thankful for.
It’s been a sincerely great experience to be part of this company. Leaving it is like moving away from your hometown, leaving friends and familiar places behind. You physically change locations, but a significant part of what is past will always be a part of you, and in this case, YML will always have a place in my heart.
Thank you YML. I can’t wait to see where you go from here.