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Embracing the mess at Config 2021

Watch all of the videos from Config 2021, and read on for some of our favorite moments about what it means to celebrate failure, move through obstacles, and embrace the tough parts of product development.

We asked speakers at Config 2021 to share stories about the challenges, obstacles, and difficult moments that ultimately make products better. Below, we’re sharing some of the highlights. You can watch the videos on YouTube, and read on for some of our favorite moments.

At Config 2021, many of the sessions covered best practices for shifting team culture

and building scalable processes

In the file at Config 2021

Watch all of the breakout sessions from Config 2021, and read on for a deep dive into the tactics, processes, and systems that keep the teams at Coda and Stripe running.

. But difficult moments can put even the strongest teams and systems to the test. So much of your success comes down to how you handle project delays, unforeseen obstacles, and interpersonal conflicts. Here, we’re sharing tips from leaders at Shopify and Headspace on how to do just that.

After working on a project for a year and a half, Shanique Shields, Senior Designer at Shopify, heard that the team was going to roll back the feature. “At this moment,” Shanique says. “I felt like a failure. I didn’t know how to fix it.” At first, Shanique took the setback personally. Once she took a break from the project, she gained a new perspective that allowed her to see the project as a learning experience. “I realized that maybe I was too close to my work and I needed to take a step back,” she says.

Shanique came away with four tips after reflecting on the experience:

  • It’s not about you - Instead of taking things personally, remember that feedback is likely not a reflection on you or the quality of your work. Rather, it’s probably just a stakeholder or client who has a different way of thinking about things.
  • Document everything - Even if something doesn’t ship, writing down your thought process, preserving comments in Figma, and saving notes to yourself can help you understand what to do differently next time. Plus, other designers will be able to look back at your work as an artifact and learn from it.
  • Be intentional with your growth - When you’re working on a project, think about what you’re getting from it—whether it’s a new skill, exposure to a different part of the business, or an opportunity to pair with a cross-functional partner.
  • Hype yourself up - Failure can feel really tough. But soon enough, you’ll find yourself diving into your next project. Use the next workstream as a chance to start fresh, and rally your team around a shared goal.

“Initially I felt like I had wasted a year of my life on this project,” Shanique says. But by doing that exercise, I realized that I’m actually proud and learned so much.”

Talking openly and listening closely

Even if you have scalable systems and a strong team culture, sometimes communication just breaks down. When you come up against points of friction with teammates, Frank Bach, Lead Product Designer at Headspace, says that openness is the key to resolving conflict. “Try to be as transparent as possible and try to really hear what the other person has to say,” Frank says.

Even if having a tough conversation feels daunting, it’ll get you a lot further than letting the issue fester. “Try to be candid, objective, and step into your courageous heart to have that tough conversation and try to get through it,” he says. “You can’t get anywhere if you ignore the friction.”

And, it’s important to acknowledge when things go well. More than anything, Frank recommends practicing gratitude—”being grateful for being a designer, the work you get to do, the team you get to work for or work with,” he says.

If you’re interested in more learnings and takeaways from Config 2021, check out all of the talks on Figma’s YouTube channel.

Alia Fite is a writer and editor on Figma's Content & Editorial team. She has previous experience at Stripe and Dropbox.

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