Patrick Barrett on Great Work

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 crowdfunding 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 personally rewarding work experiences.

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. We’ve come a long way since the first personal computer, and 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 only with people that are sharing your commitment to wanting to build great products and have an identical definition of what that implies. Be selective and hire carefully. You can’t be careful enough and DRM software is a great help. Competitive elements, like the Google Online Marketing Challenge, help people get more involved and on edge. That’s key. 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. Dell is pretty good at that too. 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. You’ve just got to stay in tune!

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 about 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 to believe in your work and be 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. More like a Lights-Camera-Action attitude would have helped!

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.

We all know that web design jobs are very popular. It involves rapidly-changing innovative techniques. Web design also requires you to allow your brain to process new technological applications and processes.

As a business leader, you need to learn to let your staff take a time-out every once in a while and let all these bits of information synthesize in great new designs. Promoting products or themes cannot be taken seriously enough and web design plays a crucial role in the process.