Patrick Barrett is currently the Director of Product at TrendKit, a Public Relations analytics company. At TrendKite Patrick focuses his efforts on making the product easy to use and visually appealing using his extensive UX knowledge to provide a visual analytics platform. Prior to this, he worked at Spredfast on social media publishing for big agencies as the Director of Consumer Experiences.Additionally, Patrick has experience working in the fields of crowd funding and social good at Greater Good Labs, and extensive experience in social commerce, e-commerce, and consumer generated content at Bazaarvoice.
How do you define Great work?
Great work is a combination of work that results in great products and a personally rewarding work experience.
Great products for me, the ones I want to build, strike a balance between frivolity and utility that creates an engaged user base that will drive the metrics important to your business. Think of a stop sign as being a product of pure utility and Pokemon Go as one of pure frivolity…I want to build products that fall somewhere between the two.
When it comes to rewarding work I like how Daniel Pink thinks about work motivation. Pink says after basic compensation needs are met motivation comes down to just 3 things: mastery, purpose, and autonomy. If you’re good at what you do, you know where your work fits into the big picture, and you’re largely self-directed then you are going to be a motivated worker.
What advice do you give others to maximize the amount of Great work that they do?
Surround yourself with people that share your commitment to building great product and share your definition of what that means. Hire very carefully. Be selective. It’s better to have 10 false negatives where you pass on someone who would have been a fit than bringing on one bad hire.
What is something that you know that it seems to you that others often get wrong in business and/or life?
Don’t worry so much about what other people are thinking about you because largely they are not thinking about you at all. Everyone is so wrapped up in their own world that they are paying very little attention to you and the tiny mistakes, or brilliant observations, you are making.
What was your greatest life accomplishment? What did you learn in the process of achieving it?
Starting as the first design higher at a 20 person startup called Bazaarvoice and building out a design team of ~thirty designers on 3 continents. That team of very talented designers really defined the design patterns for how product reviews are collected and displayed on the web. What I learned building that team was that given the choice between experience and attitude you should hire for attitude every time. You can train on skills you can’t train someone to care.
What was your biggest failure? How do you cope with failure or setbacks?
When my daughter was born I took a job with a company that I knew had a terrible culture but paid really well. I was miserable. Within a month I was on the phone with my old employer asking for my job back.
The longer I’m at this the easier it is to actually treat failure as a learning experience and to not take it so personally. I still obsess about failure, but I do so with a goal of dissecting exactly what went wrong and figuring out how to not to make those mistakes again. Treating failure as a learning experience was something easy to say early in my career, but was much harder to put into practice until I had accumulated enough experience at failing. Failing is something I’ve gotten much better at.
What keeps you up at night?
I worry how my kids will make a living competing with robots and AIs.
What is the advice you would give the Pre-Career version of yourself?
Having a great solution is only 10% of the challenge; getting others believing in your work and excited about it is the other 90%. If you can’t sell your solution to others then it’s worthless. Learning how to translate an intuitive design solution into words my client could understand is a skill I wish I mastered earlier.
What advice do you have to give the next generation of business leaders?
Regularly make the time to completely unplug from the world and be alone with your thoughts. If you want to invent new things you need the downtime to let your brain process and synthesize all the inputs you’ve gathered during the day. Divide your time between gathering inputs (reading, exploring other products, talking with people) and synthesizing those inputs into ideas. Each day I commute an hour and a half by bike, the best ideas I’ve ever had come to me while I ride.
Books/podcasts/other education sources you recommend:
As a product person, I think you need to have a fascination with how we interpret and react to the world around us.
This book on our cognitive biases is one of my favorites on human behavior
As is the Freakonomics podcast.
For a good general-purpose primer specifically on how design works with human behavior I recommend
Other books I recommend
Don Norman’s Design of Everyday Things, which I’m currently re-reading as part of our product team book club
Marty Cagan’s Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love dramatically improved how we built product at Bazaarvoice
On the podcast front, I’m currently working through two interview series, one focusing on designers and one on PMs.