5 Observations of Designing at Abnormal

October 28, 2021
Abnormal stickers photo

Nearly six months ago, I joined Abnormal as a Product Designer, doubling the size of our Product Design team from one to two. In this time, we've shipped products that protect people against email threats, updated our design system, launched a new brand, and improved many processes. It’s been an exciting time to be at Abnormal, and the experience has made me a better designer.

Looking back, I'd like to reflect on five observations.

1. Abnormal is Truly Customer Obsessed

During onboarding week, I was encouraged to sit in a handful of customer meetings, which I continue to attend at regular intervals. Why? Customer feedback is invaluable. Seeing people using our applications firsthand allows us to capture moments of frustration that otherwise might be lost. Learnings from these sessions have informed our designs and translated to system enhancements, ultimately improving the product for our customers.

On my third day at work, I met with a machine learning engineer to talk about my first project. He opened the conversation with “How will our customers use this feature?” In the next project, my engineering counterpart asked me to sit in on user interviews. At weekly engineering, product, and data science demos, every presentation ends with an explanation of “why this is good for our customers,” encouraging us to always keep that customer need in everything we do. The company-wide focus on customers and their experience with Abnormal aligns teams, making it easier for designers to prioritize user experience.

2. Fast Growing Start-Ups are Fun

It’s exciting to grow with a start-up. The company and products are nimble and adaptive—we ship products, learn from them, and then iterate to provide an even better experience. Team members brainstorm improvements and jump into solving problems instead of waiting for others to address them. The challenges we face will change over time, from how to deliver high-quality design with one or two designers to how to scale the design organization.

The flip side includes the challenges of working with ambiguity, competing priorities, changing landscapes, and tight deadlines. After five months, my decision-making tendencies went from “measuring twice and cutting once” to “just do it,” highlighting how valuable velocity is at a small company. While this type of environment can be difficult for those who prefer stability and certainty, I enjoy the opportunities that present themselves in this fast-paced environment, and I know that I’m always making an impact with everything I do.

3. A Collaborative Design Team is Key

Even though I was only the second product designer at Abnormal, our team has continued to grow in the past few months. Collaborating with others in my field has been one of the highlights of working at Abnormal. It is a magic combination to have talented designers who care deeply about the products but also understand and respect other perspectives. We have passionate debates about visuals and workflows, but discussions are always underscored by the desire to understand each others' viewpoints in order to provide the best user experience.

And despite a 400% growth of the design team while working virtually, we stay connected through weekly planning meetings, asynchronous daily standups in Slack, regular critique sessions, and laughter-filled retrospectives. We are shaping the future of the design organization—from standardizing our Figma naming conventions and updating the design system, to optimizing collaboration with engineering and streamlining bug tracking. We also use regular design operation meetings to hone our crafts, by sharing the Figma tips, exploring new tools, and inviting speakers from other organizations to present on interesting topics.

4. A Remote-First Approach is Important

I joined during the COVID-19 pandemic, as did over half the company. Immediately, I felt connected to colleagues through virtual activities such as the GIF-filled weekly town hall meetings, highly anticipated weekly personal talent demos, fun Slack channels (#pets, #workout, #anime, and #bookclub, to name a few), virtual social events, and exercise challenges. For people who want to safely collaborate in person, Abnormal has offices and shared workspaces wherever the employees are, as well as informal team gatherings.

This remote-first approach enables the company to hire the best talent wherever they are. Having talented employees worldwide enables diversity in experiences and perspectives, which shows in our company culture and in the products we provide to our customers. As for me, I appreciate the flexibility of working from home, and I do not miss long commutes.

5. Supportive Leadership is a Must

One benefit of joining a startup early is that I have more opportunities to work closely with great leaders and thinkers. In my experience, the leadership team at Abnormal has been approachable and communicative. Even though some of them have decades of experience and have managed large corporate teams, they share their perspectives with respect and solicit feedback with open minds. They care about employees’ goals and aspirations, and they are open to investing in training and mentoring.

And since a good number of colleagues are aspiring start-up founders, Abnormal started a monthly “Abnormal Business School” fireside chat, which brings in outside experts to talk about leadership, management, and entrepreneurship. Moreover, the general organizational culture is transparent and positive, evident through the weekly company status emails, town halls with frank Q&As, accessible meeting notes, as well as daily company-wide shoutouts from peers and leadership.

Overall, my time at Abnormal has been incredibly enjoyable, and I've already learned so much. As the team grows, I'm looking forward to adding additional people to our team, so we can grow, learn, and provide the best possible experience for our customers, together.

Interested in working at a fast-growing startup? We’d love to have you! Check out the Careers page for open roles, and feel free to reach out to me with any questions.

Demo 2x 1

See the Abnormal Solution to the Email Security Problem

Protect your organization from the attacks that matter most with Abnormal Integrated Cloud Email Security.

Related Posts

B 1500x1500 Modern Email Attacks Webinar Series L4 R2
Our Modern Email Attacks series has wrapped! Here are some of the biggest takeaways from Chris Krebs, Troy Hunt, and Theresa Payton.
Read More
B 1500x1500 Gartner Insights L1 R1
See our commitment to providing our customers with the best possible solution and support with these reviews from Gartner® Peer Insights™.
Read More
B 11 14 22 SPM Launch Blog Graphics
Security Posture Management gives organizations insight into cloud configuration risks and gaps across user and app privileges.
Read More
B 11 14 22 SPM Launch Blog 2
Cloud email platforms enable better collaboration, but they also create new entry points, making sensitive data more accessible to attackers.
Read More
B 1500x1500 Q3 Ransomeware L1 R2
This post explores the continuation of the sharp decline in ransomware attacks as well as a few other notable data points from Q3 2022.
Read More
B 10 05 22 Cloud Email Security Platform Essentials
Learn the 7 key capabilities a cloud email security platform should have in order to address and resolve common email security challenges.
Read More
B 11 07 22 Valimail
Discover the benefits of a modern, best-of-breed solution to email security with Abnormal Security and Valimail’s New Partnership.
Read More
B 11 07 22 Vision 23 Blog
Discover the latest trends in cybersecurity as we look toward the email threats of the future in partnership with SecureWorld.
Read More
B 1500x1500 Crimson Kingsnake L2 R1
Uncovering how threat group Crimson Kingsnake uses third-party impersonation tactics to swindle organizations across the world.
Read More